After tarred-and-feathered effigies of two environmental activists were strung up in the center of Joseph, Ore., Sept. 30, the local newspaper headlined its story: "Enviros can learn a lot from a couple of dummies." Some residents then organized an economic boycott aimed at driving the two environmentalists out of town.
Were these tactics
reminiscent of the 1920s, when the Ku Klux Klan held sway in
Oregon, as the East Oregonian in Pendleton editorialized? Or was it
just a prank intended to build solidarity in hard times, as some
elected officials and organizers suggested?
Joseph these days, the answer depends on your point of
The recipients of this attention were Ric
Bailey, executive director of the Hells Canyon Preservation
Council, and Andy Kerr, executive director of the Oregon Natural
Resources Council. Both have become scapegoats for federal logging
and grazing restrictions as well as two mill closures in
Northeastern Oregon's Wallowa County,
population 7,150, sits at the base of the rugged Wallowa Mountains.
It is one of those places where the future of the West is taking
shape, as recreation and a thriving artists' community add new
threads to the now fraying economic tapestry of logging, farming
Bailey has spent 17 years in
Joseph, battling the U.S. Forest Service almost single-handedly
over logging, grazing and recreation management in Hells Canyon
National Recreation Area. Kerr, a household name in the forest
preservation movement, moved to Joseph from Portland last
In one sense, Wallowa County has
sustained more than its share of bad news. In May, Boise Cascade
Corp. closed its Joseph mill, eliminating 52 jobs. In July, a
federal appeals court ordered a halt to logging, grazing and
road-building until the Forest Service completed consultation on
protection of wild salmon. Five ranchers had to move their cows.
Then, in late October, R-Y Timber announced that
it would close its Joseph sawmill, costing the community 68 jobs.
One sawmill remains in the county, but it has laid off 60 people
Even so, Wallowa County's overall
economy, fueled by tourism and recreation, is robust, with
unemployment at just 5.3 percent.
demonstration and hanging occurred the day before a conference that
attracted 110 people to the Joseph Community Center to hear
wise-use organizers Ron Arnold, William Perry Pendley and Wayne
Hage; Republican gubernatorial candidate Denny Smith also
Dale Potter, a retired teacher and Forest
Service archaeologist who is a candidate for the Wallowa County
Court, said he organized the rally and conference "so the people of
Wallowa County could find out what they need to do to protect
themselves from the eco-environmental movement."
Potter defended the use of nooses and effigies,
with their loaded symbolism. He said he was merely responding in
kind to rhetoric from the other side.
symbols have been used for eons to make a point. Andy and Ric have
been very bold about their position. They use environmental issues
for their own agenda of social engineering and cultural cleansing."
Rick Swart, editor of the Wallowa County
Chieftain, which co-sponsored the wise-use conference, dismissed
the idea that the symbolic hanging might invite violence.
"It was kind of a special event, a publicity
stunt," Swart said. "You look at those people; not a one of them
would hurt a fly. It's more the John Wayne, hang "em high, Wild
West flavor. It let them vent."
front-page stories on logging and grazing issues make little
pretense at balance, defended the newspaper's sponsorship of the
"There's a message to be heard that
is not being heard, about people having lives and jobs and job
security. People here are not used to lights, cameras and having to
engage in debate with Andy Kerr. We wanted to send the message that
it's okay to be loggers and ranchers in a small town."
No environmentalists were invited to speak at
Soon after, a handful of local
residents reportedly attempted to organize a very personal boycott.
Merchants were encouraged to refuse Kerr and Bailey service to
drive home the message that they are not welcome in Wallowa County.
Customers were urged to boycott businesses that served the
The East Oregonian denounced the tactic in a
strongly worded editorial, saying: "Make no mistake about it.
Forcing people to leave their homes because of their political or
religious views is evil. Suggesting boycotts against small
businesses because they serve certain people deemed undesirable is
Kerr says he has been largely untouched
by the boycott. "I've had a lot of members (of Oregon Natural
Resources Council) and donors express concern. Support has been
shown both inside and outside Wallowa County."
But Bailey said he is encountering hostility
from local businesses and has to take his truck out of town to get
Joanne Harrison, the owner of a
small shopping mall where Bailey has an office, told The Oregonian
that businesses there are being boycotted because of Bailey's
presence and said she wants him out. But merchants at the mall
later denied that they were being
Bailey said he has a two-year lease
with 20 months to go and has no intention of
The demonizing of Andy Kerr also
extended to a local March of Dimes healthy baby campaign. After
Kerr agreed to be an honorary fund raiser, a number of people
refused to contribute. Nevertheless, the campaign raised nearly
twice as much money as last year.
agrees with the tactics of exclusion. Sandy Wiedemann of the Oregon
Lands Coalition said her group supports loggers, millworkers and
ranchers but does not back the boycott.
ranchers agree. "We wish they lived somewhere else," said Betty
VanBlaricom, a Wallowa County rancher. "But this is America. They
have a right to live where they want to live. We wouldn't
personally drive them out."
Bob Boswell says the entire matter has been blown out of proportion
by the news media. "This was just a little letting off of steam
that may or may not have been appropriate," he
There is room in Wallowa County for
environmentalists, Boswell said. But he believes they need to
contribute something to the community and reach out if they hope to
Since the incidents, Kerr has
become a martyr of sorts. The Portland alternative news weekly,
Willamette Week, noting that Oregon's rural economy is strongly on
the rebound even in Wallowa County, suggested that the county might
one day want to memorialize Kerr by raising a statue in his
Kerr says his feelings weren't hurt by the
effigy-hanging (-My sensitivity knob is turned all the way to the
left') and predicts it could backfire on organizers by generating
sympathy and money for the Oregon Natural Resources
His foes in Wallowa County give him
credit for far more power than he has, Kerr says. But he sees
little chance for mediation. "Intolerant people have short
attention spans. There's so much to hate and so little time."
Those who disagree with him won't even grant him
the sincerity of his point of view, that logging and livestock
grazing are not good for fish and wildlife, Kerr
"They believe I must have a scarlet agenda
to destroy their lifestyle. It's a mischaracterization of my
position, so how can we have a dialogue?"
The reporter free-lances from