Protester starts her sentence

  On Jan. 5, a former teacher began serving a 30-day sentence for refusing to part from a 400-year-old Engelmann spruce she was trying to protect from loggers.


Joni Clark's sentence of 30 days is the stiffest penalty yet for a tree-sitter in Colorado. She was found guilty of violating the Forest Service's Special Closure Order in January 1994. Citing the First Amendment, Clark appealed the verdict.


"The tree sit was completely legal until the fifth day," she says, noting that the forest was closed only after a Denver Post photo journalist paid a visit. Under normal circumstances, a person can sit in a tree or anywhere else in a national forest for 14 days at a time.


Clark perched on a platform 50 feet up the trunk of the ancient spruce tree during the summer of 1993. She and other supporters of the group Ancient Forest Rescue were protesting the Red Mountain Timber Sale in the San Juan Mountains. Clark climbed the tree, she says, because it was in the way of a planned six-mile logging road.


On the morning of the fifth day, Forest Service officers showed up with armed special agents, Clark recalls. Other protesters were 100 yards down the road. That left her alone in the tree.


For the next eight hours, as Clark climbed higher, Special Agent Charlie Burd followed, reaching the platform she'd rigged. She then traversed the tree's canopy along a zipline connected to nearby trees. After Burd removed her platform and returned to the ground, Clark was left literally out on a limb.


When officers threatened to cut her ropes, Clark, by then exhausted and dehydrated, says she decided it was time to come down. She was shackled in leg irons and wrist manacles, put in the back of a Forest Service paddy wagon, and hauled to a jail in Colorado Springs.


Clark was released on bail the next afternoon, on condition she not return to the Rio Grande National Forest. Since her arrest, she has moved to the ski resort of Crested Butte, where she runs an environmental group. Meanwhile, Stone Forest Industries has completed its timber harvest after building 11 miles of road.


Clark is spending 30 nights in a Colorado Springs halfway house and paying $25 a day for her board. Was her civil disobedience worth it? Clark quotes a line from writer Edward Abbey: "Wilderness doesn't need any defense; only more defenders."


* Shara Rutberg


High Country News Classifieds
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING www.westernlaw.org/about-us/clinic-interns-careers The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) is a nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with a 25-year legacy of success...
  • PLANNING & BUILDING DIRECTOR
    Searching for candidates with a Bachelor's Degree in Planning, Community Development, or a related field with 7 years' experience in land use planning forums, including...
  • LAND CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    Manage, develop and implement all stewardship and land management plans and activities on both private and public lands. Guide and direct comprehensive planning efforts, provide...
  • NEWS DIRECTOR
    Based in the state capitol, Boise State Public Radio is the premier NPR affiliate in Idaho. With 18 transmitters and translators, it reaches 2/3rds of...
  • INTERNET-BASED BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Dream of owning your own business, being your own boss, working from home ... this is the one.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR MOJAVE DESERT LAND TRUST
    Organization Background: The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) is a non-profit 501(3)(c) organization, founded in 2006. Our mission is to protect the ecosystems of the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    If you are deeply committed to public service and would like to become part of our high performing, passionate and diverse team, NCAT is looking...
  • TRIPLEX .8 ACRE KANAB, UT
    Create a base in the center of Southern Utah's Grand Circle of National Parks. Multiple residential property with three established rental units and zoning latitude...
  • FORGE & FAB SHOP
    with home on one beautiful acre in Pocatello, ID. Blackrock Forge - retiring after 43 years! Fully equipped 5,500 sf shop including office, gallery and...
  • SMALL FARM AT THE BASE OF MOUNT SHASTA
    Certified organic fruit/berry/veggie/flower farm. Home, barns, garage, separate apt, more. Just under 2 ac, edge of town. Famously pure air and water. Skiing, mountaineering, bike,...
  • FOREST STEWARDSHIP PROJECT DIRECTOR
    Become a force for nature and a healthy planet by joining the Arizona Chapter as Forest Stewardship Project Director. You will play a key role...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Ranchers Stewardship Alliance is accepting applications for an Executive Director. This position will provide leadership to RSA, develop a fund raising plan, and effectively communicate...
  • EQUITY IN THE OUTDOORS COORDINATOR
    The Equity in the Outdoors Coordinator will lead community engagement, program implementation and development, and data collection for the Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement (EVOM). EVOM...
  • COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT ASSISTANT
    The Idaho Conservation League is seeking a personable individual who is passionate about conservation to join our Sandpoint Field Office. The Community Engagement Assistant will...
  • LIGHTWEIGHT FLY ROD CASES
    4 standard or custom lengths. Rugged protection for backpacking. Affordable pricing.
  • EXPERIENTIAL EDUCATION INTERN/ASSISTANT
    Actively introduce students to Experiential Education, Outdoor Recreation, and Sustainability while engaging and challenging them to learn and participate in these diverse opportunities. Room, board,...
  • ENVIRONMENTAL INVESTIGATIVE MEDIA SERVICES
    In-depth investigations of polluters, lobbyists, regulators, elected officials and others focused on environmentally damaging projects in the U.S. and internationally. We specialize in mining projects,...
  • UNDEVELOPED 40 ACRES - SOUTHWEST COLORADO
    in beautiful Montezuma County.
  • TRUCK DRIVER
    Class A & B drivers, pass all DOT requirements and clean driving record
  • MARIA'S BOOKSHOP FOR SALE
    - Thriving Indie bookstore in the heart of Durango, Colorado. General bookstore with 34-year history as a community hub for Southwest region of CO. 1800...