In Moscow, Idaho, you can tell it's fall when Cove/Mallard timbersale protesters start showing up for trial. In the last four years more than 100 people have argued their cases before a variety of magistrates and federal judges, and nearly all have lost. This year was no exception.


The largest trial this year involved 12 protesters accused of violating a Forest Service order closing access to a roadbuilding project in the controversial timber sale. Protesters' lawyers argued that when the agency denied permission to enter the area to anyone associated with "environmentalism," it engaged in discriminatory behavior. The lawyers had proof: In a letter to the Missoula-based Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Forest Service District Ranger Ed Wood said permission to enter the closed area would not be granted to any "self-styled environmentalist."


Wood said in court that although his words were "inappropriate," he stood by his decision. The area was closed, he added, to protect the safety of protesters. U.S. Magistrate Michael Williams apparently agreed, since he convicted all 12 protesters and issued sentences ranging from seven to 20 days in jail, as well as $500 fines for each. - Erik Ryberg