Activist group hits Sierra timber swap agreement; may trigger backlash

Posted: Friday, April 28, 2000

NEVADA CITY, Calif. (AP) -- A new activist group hoisted a 60-foot wide banner between two pine trees Wednesday in what it said was the first Greenpeace-style direct action against a Sierra Nevada timber company.

Sierra Pacific Industries -- California's largest timber company -- said the stunt may backfire by undermining this month's agreement to swap the threatened South Yuba River canyon land.

''If they keep up the theatrics, then they probably throw the (agreement) out,'' said Sierra Pacific District Manager Tim Feller, who negotiated the 532-acre land exchange with the federal Bureau of Land Management. ''I'm committed to it, but I'm not going to put up with this sort of harassment.''

The activist group Yuba Nation was formed less than three months ago to fight Sierra Pacific's plans to log the land near a popular South Yuba River hiking and camping area. Yuba Nation, which claims to have more than 100 members, has been training activists in civil disobedience, road blockades and dangling from endangered trees.

Sierra Pacific earlier this month agreed to delay logging in the area for eight months while it pursues the land exchange.

On Wednesday, Yuba Nation called on Sierra Pacific to give the land to the public instead of swapping it for other timber rights. Such a swap simply sacrifices one piece of property for another, said spokesman Brian Vincent.

The group drew attention to its demand by hoisting the banner along Highway 20 north of Nevada City, next to a logging road leading to the canyon timberland. Though the group invited the news media, it was careful to stay on public land to avoid trespassing on company property. Vincent said additional undisclosed activities are planned in the next two weeks.

''We want to put them on notice we're prepared to stop any logging that might take place,'' Vincent said. ''If we have to, we'll lay our bodies in the road to protect these forests ... Yuba Nation was formed to be the pit bull of environmental action for the Sierra Nevada.''

Sierra Pacific's Feller said he is mystified, since the company already agreed to protect the land if a suitable swap can be arranged. In addition, the company previously donated the land for the popular South Yuba Trail that runs through the canyon, and exchanged about 10,000 acres of pristine canyon land.

''I'm extremely disappointed in the environmental community because they're not even giving us a chance,'' Feller said. ''Nothing's good enough for these people.''

The company's land swap decision was hailed by other environmental groups. John Scull, a BLM outdoor recreation planner, said he sees no sign of the exchange agreement disintegrating. He said his agency is reviewing potential swap sites to meet a Dec. 31 deadline.

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