Idaho jury hits 12 Cove-Mallard protesters hard

 

An Idaho county jury recently assessed $1.15 million in damages against 12 Earth First! protesters, one of the largest civil awards ever levied against environmental rebels.

The Oct. 30 verdict was made in connection with construction delays and $20,000 in damage to a D-8 Caterpillar tractor, a rubber-tired skidder and an excavator in the Nez Perce National Forest in the summer of 1993.

The eight-woman, four-man jury awarded the plaintiff, Highland Enterprises of Grangeville, a logging road-building contractor, about $150,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages. Highland had sought about $14 million in total damages.

Defense attorneys said they were eager to file an appeal for retrial.

D. Bernard Zaleha, a Boise attorney who represented 11 of the 12 defendants, contends that the plaintiff never linked any of the protesters to equipment damage. "There was an absolute failure to connect the two," he said. "The rest was guilt by association."

Zaleha says his clients were liable only for delays associated with three separate acts of civil disobedience in which protesters buried themselves in a road, chained themselves to a gate and sat atop wooden tripods.

Leslie Hemstreet, co-editor of the Earth First! Journal in Eugene, Ore., said the amount of the verdict was staggering. "The magnitude is so huge I can't even conceive of it."

Most of the defendants do not have jobs and will have trouble making payments, she predicted. If the defendants lose on appeal, they will be liable for damages for their lifetimes unless they file for bankruptcy protection, Zaleha said. Three filed for bankruptcy before the jury reached its verdict.

Followers of Earth First! have been protesting logging in the 78,000-acre Cove-Mallard roadless area since 1992. The densely timbered area lies adjacent to the 2.3 million-acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness and the Salmon River ecosystem. Attempts to halt logging on environmental grounds have failed in federal court so far, although one case is still pending.

Meanwhile, contractors have proceeded with building about 27 miles of dirt road and logging about 7 million board-feet of timber, roughly enough to build 700 homes.

The Idaho county lawsuit is one of a number of similar cases elsewhere in the West in which timber corporations or logging contractors have filed so-called "SLAPP" suits in hopes of halting protests, says Earth First!'s Hemstreet. SLAPP stands for Suit Litigation Against Public Participation. But she said protests will continue as long as logging goes on in the Cove-Mallard area.

"This is the biggest roadless area in the lower 48," says Karen Pickett, a defendant in the case. "If you're concerned about wildlife habitat, this is one of the most important areas in the country."

The defendants and their total share of monetary damages in the case are as follows:

* Billi Jo Barker, 30, Harmony, Maine, $100,000.

* Jake Kreilick, 35, Missoula, Mont., $100,000.

* Peggy Sue McRae, 44, Friday Harbor, Wash., $100,000.

* Karen Pickett, 46, Canyon, Calif., $100,000.

*Jennifer Prichard, 31, Moscow, Idaho, $100,000.

* Erik Ryberg, 31, Fruitvale, Idaho, $100,000.

* Robert Borden, 31, Athens, Maine, $91,666.

* Beatrix Jenness, 26, Montrose, W.Va., $91,666.

* Lawrence Juniper, 28, Bolinas, Calif., $91,666.

* Peter Leusch, 30, Driggs, Idaho, $91,666.

* Michael Vernon, 45, Athens, Maine, $91,666.

* Dana Wright, 22, Waldoboro, Maine, $91,666.

The writer works in Boise, Idaho.

High Country News Classifieds
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    ORGANIZATIONAL BACKGROUND Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) fosters community stewardship, education and awareness of our National Conservation Lands with a focus on Dominguez-Escalante, Gunnison Gorge and...
  • WYOMING STATE DIRECTOR
    Save the World ... or at least a piece of it! Join The Nature Conservancy and make a tangible and lasting impact by creating a...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR FOR AN ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCACY NON-PROFIT NEAR YOSEMITE
    Demanding, but rewarding, advocacy work on forest, water, wildland, and wildlife issues. Applicants should have experience dealing with land management planning, public speaking, grassroots organizing,...
  • NEW AGRARIAN APPRENTICESHIP
    Quivira Coalition's 2020 New Agrarian Apprenticeships in Regenerative Ranching and Farming -Apprenticeships run 4/20 - 11/20 Applications accepted 10/15/19 - 12/1/19 NAP partners with skilled...
  • PHILANTHROPY DIRECTOR
    Wilderness Workshop seeks a full time Philanthropy Director to raise funds for our team. Learn more: www.wildernessworkshop.org
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT WITH WESTERN RESOURCE ADVOCATES
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks an enthusiastic and organized problem solver to join our growing team as an Executive Assistant. The Executive Assistant is instrumental...
  • WYOMING OUTDOOR COUNCIL
    Two positions: Development Director OR Development Writer, Communications Director. Full job descriptions at https://wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org/careers.
  • CONSERVATION PROJECT MANAGER
    Great Land Trust seeks to hire a Conservation Project Manager. Position is full-time, based in Anchorage, Alaska. First review of applications will be on October...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eagle Valley Land Trust Executive Director Position Description Summary of Position: The Executive Director, working with and reporting to the Board of Directors, has overall...
  • FINANCE & LOGISTICS COORDINATOR
    The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, founded in 1928 as an independent nonprofit organization, is a biological field station located near Crested Butte, Colorado. Our primary...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    See Full Job Description
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
    Position: Development Coordinator Responsible to: Executive Director Time Commitment: 15-20 hours per week, or as otherwise agreed upon General Description: The Development Coordinator assists the...
  • EDUCATION CENTER MANAGER
    Friends of Cedar Mesa seeks a full-time Education Manager for the Bears Ears Education Center to provide day to day operational and administrative oversight. See...
  • TROUT UNLIMITED SCP SOUTHWEST REGIONAL DIRECTOR
    Seeking to hire an experienced advocate/manager to oversee the organization's sportsmen/women-driven advocacy in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Open until filled
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    for northern AZ collaborative conservation ranchlands group
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Partners are seeking an experienced and energetic Executive Director who is excited about the opportunity to lead our growing organization! A full description of the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    High Country News Seeks an Executive Director to advance its mission, grow its audience and influence, and strategically and sustainably guide the organization through a...
  • 2 PROPERTIES ON THE WESTERN EDGE OF THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Organic farm, hot springs, San Francisco River runs through both. [email protected]
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • SOCIETY FOR WILDERNESS STEWARDSHIP BOARD MEMBER
    Join the SWS board and help us broaden, diversify, and engage the wilderness community.