An activist dies in the forest

  Logging spokesmen say the death of an Earth First! activist should serve to get protesters out of the woods; Earth First! says: Not a chance.

David Chain, 24, of Austin, Texas, was killed when he was struck in the head by a falling tree Sept. 17. He'd been trying to stop logging on land owned by Pacific Lumber Co. ear Grizzly Creek in the Headwaters Forest. The area is part of 7,500 acres that the state and federal government are trying to buy to save the forest from logging.

Within hours of Chain's death, Earth First! and Pacific Lumber were each blaming the other. The company emphasized an excerpt from the Earth First! Direct Action Manual that outlines a strategy known as "cat and mouse," which several protesters were engaged in when Chain was killed. It calls for activists to occupy a timber cut while dodging loggers and law enforcement officials.

Earth First! spokespeople said the falling tree was intentionally cut so it would fall toward protesters. The group is calling for a criminal investigation.

The company claims its loggers didn't know protesters were in the area. But the San Francisco Chronicle reported Sept. 19 that a video - which protesters say they recorded shortly before the incident - shows loggers shouting obscenities at protesters at the site.

The company says Chain's death should be a lesson to protesters. "There is one sure way that these accidents can be avoided in the future. That's to stay out of the woods," says Mary Bullwinkel, Pacific Lumber's spokesperson.

In an editorial, the Sacramento Bee echoed the company, asking for tactics that keep loggers and protesters out of harm's way. But an Earth First! spokesman believes Chain's death has created a backlash against logging.

"This has galvanized a lot of support," says a protester who calls himself Squid. "We're basically going to stay there indefinitely." - Dustin Solberg