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Why David Chain died.

For those who cut the trees down, logging is up there with meat packing as one of the most dangerous trades. Men die from falling limbs--"widow makers"--and trees that kick back when they go down. Chokesetters get mangled or crushed. Among those who try to keep the trees standing, on the other hand, martyrs are few. On September 17, David Chain, 24, became one of them.

He and fellow EarthFirst!ers were trying to stop logging in the Headwaters Forest, 200 miles north of San Francisco. A videotape made on the morning of the 17th recorded this exchange between a tree-faller and the EarthFirst!ers. Faller: "Get out of here! Otherwise I'll fucking make sure I got a tree coming this way." Not long thereafter one Douglas fir was put down right next to a group of protesters; then another. While fleeing, David had his head stove in by a branch from the downed tree. The faller who'd been roaring threats came up, saw what had happened and fell to his knees in prayer.

A.E. Ammons, the 52-year-old faller who put the tree down, was the party immediately responsible for Chain's death, but Pacific Lumber and Maxxam, which put Ammons in the woods that day, should be the ones facing charges and penalties.

Headwaters is the largest private holding of old-growth redwoods in the world. When Charles Hurwitz, head of Maxxam, announced a few years ago that logging would begin there, radical environmentalists put their hopes in a plan for the US government to seize the land from Hurwitz as compensation for his $2 billion looting of a Texas S&L. That fell by the wayside, and next came a proposal by former Representative Dan Hamburg to have the government buy up 40,000 acres of the entire 63,000-acre watershed for an undetermined sum. When this bill failed in the Senate, EPIC, an enviro group based in Garberville, California, formulated a strategy to tame Hurwitz by rigorous application of federal and state regs. Thousands of acres would be put off-limits to save dwindling habitat for the marbled murrelet, the Northern spotted owl and the coho salmon. Given the wasted condition of the forest after a decade of Hurwitz's onslaughts, such mandatory protections would put most of the land out of Hurwitz's reach.

Hurwitz thereupon threatened to file a "takings" suit against the government, demanding hundreds of millions for this restriction on his enjoyment of the rights and ravages of private property. The Clintonites, along with the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society, retreated immediately and argued that prudence required they give Hurwitz more than he had ever dared dream.

Enter Senator Dianne Feinstein. The California Democrat successfully lobbied Clinton into a deal whereby the Feds and the State of California would together offer Hurwitz the astounding sum of $480 million to acquire less than 10,000 acres, the minimal core area of Headwaters. Of that, only 4,500 acres consist of old-growth redwoods.

There was, however, an opportunity to lay this whole dreadful plan low. The Feds okayed their $250 million slice of the deal last year, but it still had to pass the California Assembly, where EPIC was stirring up fiscal conservatives over the huge cost to taxpayers and making enviro-minded legislators writhe at the preposterousness of a so-called Habitat Conservation Plan that would allow the company largely to liquidate the forest outside the 10,000 reserved acres, killing off 17 percent of California's marbled murrelet population in the process.

As Feinstein and Washington power lobbyist Tommy Boggs worked the phones for Hurwitz, the one group that might have stopped them, the Sierra Club made "a close judgment call." according to its director, Carl Pope, and "did not actively try to block the bill's passage but rather put its energies into improving it." Thus on September 1 the bill inched past the finishing post.

The stage was set for the fatal denouement, which the Sierra Club now brands an "outrage." Because of the deal conceded to by environmentalists and ratified by lawmakers, there is no room for regulatory inhibitions. Loggers will be sent into the woods as they have been for a century, risking life and limb and systematically eliminating the resource that has sustained them. The only restraint will be direct action by people like Chain. There is no alternative.

To Get High, Stupid.

Absent parking space for me in this week's Letters page, here's a response to Jo Ann Kawell's comments on page 2:

"Argue the facts"? I wrote in my column that she misrepresented Whiteout and challenged her to show how the book advanced a "conspiracy theory." She can't do it. In her review she supported this assertion with references to a doomsday army and an "evil empire" that came not from our book but from an advertisement for a video game. Now Kawell can't even get Whiteout's authorship right. It is by two people: Jeffrey St. Clair and me.

Kawell had a thesis, and she reinvented Whiteout to fit it. Our book isn't about how to "control domestic drug use." It's about the agendas of the state: suppression of the left abroad and control of the dangerous classes at home. There is no crude supply side/demand side antinomy. Americans like drugs, and the state sees this as an opportunity. Why else the 100-to-1 disparity in sentencing for crack versus powder cocaine? Look at who ends up in prison-mostly poor blacks and Latinos, just as poor Chinese laborers here in the late nineteenth century were expelled for smoking opium while middle-class users of opium "tonics" went unmolested.

As for those "so, so hard" questions Kawell will be addressing in her grant applications, I'll save her the trouble and the foundations their money. Why do people take drugs? to get high. And why do they want to get high? Wars, hard times in the cities and Farm Belt, a few notches up on the interest rates and, of course, the pleasures of mind alteration in all its manifold forms. Remember the great moment when Jerry Garcia somehow ended up on a Nancy Reagan-sponsored marathon on the evils of drugs? Tell us what drugs have done to you, Jerry, the interviewer asked with grim mien. Well, Jerry replied, they've been good to me.
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Title Annotation:activist who tried to prevent tree logging in California's Headwaters Forest Sep. 17, 1998
Author:Cockburn, Alexander
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:Column
Date:Oct 26, 1998
Previous Article:Vintage Galbraith.
Next Article:Mr. Lincoln's legacy.

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