Protesters block Hamilton forest office entrance

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May 29, 2002

Protesters block Hamilton forest office entrance

HAMILTON (AP) - A man with his arms encased in drums of cement blocked the main entrance to the Bitterroot National Forest headquarters here Tuesday morning, protesting the Forest Service's decision to allow logging of burned timber in the Bitterroot.

The man was among a dozen protesters who gathered outside the office before it opened Tuesday.

"Most of them are just milling about," said Dixie Dies, a spokeswoman for the Forest Service. "But the one guy has the front doors completely blocked."

Forest Service staff were able to use a second entrance, Dies said.

The group Wild Rockies Earth First! said in a written statement that members were protesting the Forest Service's recovery plan for thousands of acres of trees burned in the Bitterroot during the summer of 2000.

The group said it had been monitoring logging activities in the Bitterroot and had concluded "that logging is destroying, not restoring, the burned areas of forest."

The group identified the man blocking the entrance as Redge Peterson. Dies said the man apparently placed his arms inside 50-gallon drums of wet cement, which then hardened and sealed his arms inside.

She said Forest Service officials had alerted local law enforcement, and the man likely would be arrested if he didn't leave.

Wild Rockies Earth First! is upset with the Forest Service's plan for recovering some of the 307,000 acres of the Bitterroot that burned in 2000.

An agreement reached in February between the agency and a coalition of groups that sued over the plan allows logging on 19 projects, totaling about 14,770. In exchange, the Forest Service agreed not to immediately pursue logging of burned trees on 19 other projects totaling about 29,000 acres.

Wild Rockies Earth First! accused the Forest Service of using the fires of 2000 as an excuse to open the area to logging, and of circumventing the regular public appeals process.

"The Forest Service saw an opportunity to maximize timber profits," the group said in its statement. "Using restoration as a smoke screen (the Forest Service) subverted the democratic process of public participation, stealing our forests."

The lawsuit over the timber harvests was filed last December after an undersecretary for the Department of Agriculture signed the recovery plan and ruled the decision off-limits to administrative appeals.
 


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