Posted Oct 6, 2003
Activists on Gypsy Mountain are being harassed and endangered by employees of Columbia Helicopters, an international company based in Oregon contracted by Maxxam/Pacific Lumber to fall trees and yard them with helicopters. The giant, double-propeller helicopters have become an annoying mainstay in the skies of Humboldt County since the area was opened to helicopter yarding several years ago.
Activists on the ground near the yarding zone made their presence known, both verbally and over walkie-talkies used by activists and workers alike. In a move similar to the one that brought them so much negative attention when they recklessly endangered Julia "Butterfly" Hill during her treesit in the ancient redwood known as "Luna," Columbia Helicopters circled dangerously close to treesitters in the redwood named "Aradia."
Helicopters also harassed activists on the ground. To ensure the Columbia Helicopter crew knew they were there, one activist climbed a tree and waved an orange flag from the top. Columbia responded by buzzing the treetop activist.
The activist, going by the forest name "Gizmo," descended the tree after being shaken by the menacing fly-by. Upon reaching the ground, two Columbia employees wielding plastic zip-ties (the layman's handcuffs so preferred by Pacific Lumber) chased Gizmo down the treacherously steep hillside, at one point trying to kick his legs out from underneath him. Gizmo managed to escape them, though not without minor injury.
Aside from the plastic zip-ties, Columbia took another pointer from Pacific Lumber and continued to work with people in the area, displaying a dangerous disregard for the safety of workers and activists alike. It would be easier for them to chalk it up to carelessness if it wasn't for Columbia's past mistreatment of forest activists. In addition to yarding and flying hazardously close to both people on the ground and those in the trees, activists in Freshwater received an ominous visit from one Columbia Helicopter employee last spring who boasted "I could hit 'em with my rifle," as he eyed treesitters high in old-growth redwoods.
The "Grandmother Tree," site of another treesit on Gypsy Mountain and subject of a raid by PL contracted climbers last week, is still standing but has been severely limbed.
*Photo by James Ficklin (from the Luna tree-sit)