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
  • FEATURES DIRECTOR - HIGH COUNTRY NEWS
    High Country News, an award-winning news organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Features Director to join our editorial...
  • GENERAL MANAGER
    The Board of UYWCD seeks a new GM to manage operations & to implement our robust strategic plan. Details at www.upperyampawater.com. EOE
  • IN TUCSON, FOR SALE: A BEAUTIFUL, CLASSIC MID-CENTURY MODERN HOME
    designed by architect David Swanson in 1966. Located a block from Saguaro National Forest, yet minutes to Downtown and the UofA campus, 3706 sqft, 6...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Friends of the San Juans is seeking a new leader guide our efforts to protect and restore the San Juan Islands and the Salish...
  • 80 ACRES
    straddles North Platte Fishery, Wyoming. Legal access 2 miles off 1-80. Call 720-440-7633.
  • DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT AND MARKETING
    High Country News seeks a Director of Product and Marketing to join our senior team during an exciting chapter of innovation and growth. This individual...
  • OWN A THRIVING MOUNTAIN GUIDE SERVICE.
    Eastern Sierra guide service for sale to person with vision & expertise to take it onwards. Since 1995 with USFS & NPS permits. Ideal for...
  • IMPROVED LOT
    Private road, hillside, views. Well, pad, septic, 99 sq.ft. hut. Dryland permaculture orchard. Wildlife. San Diego--long growing season
  • UNIQUE INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY
    Profitable off-the-grid business located 2 miles from Glacier National Park. Owner has 6 years operating experience. Seeking investor or partner for business expansion and enhancement....
  • REMOTE SITKA ALASKA FLOAT HOUSE VACATION RENTAL
    Vacation rental located in calm protected waters 8 miles from Sitka, AK via boat with opportunities to fish and view wildlife. Skiff rental also available.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Colorado Plateau Natural & Human History Field Seminars. Lodge, river, hiking options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • OJO CALIENTE COMMERCIAL VENTURE
    Outstanding location near the world famous Ojo Caliente Mineral Spring Resort. Classic adobe Mercantile complete w/living quarters, separate 6 unit B&B, metal building and spacious...