Things are heating up in the campaign to save the Jackson Demonstration State Forest. CAL FIRE, which manages the publicly-owned forest land, has drawn criticism for their mismanagement of the forest. For over a year, forest activists have held protests and have engaged in direct action to stop ongoing logging of old, large redwood trees in the forest. With the start of the winter weather limited operating period around the corner, CAL FIRE is desperate to cut as much as possible and is turning to increasingly hostile tactics. Recently, loggers have issued physical threats to forest activists and have engaged in reckless behavior, such as falling trees near forest defenders. In the face of rising tensions, CAL FIRE has seemed to encourage this bad behavior by blaming the non-violent forest defenders.
In late September, CAL FIRE called the Mendocino Trail Stewards, demanding that the group call off future protests in the forest—something that the Mendocino Trail Stewards can’t do because of the organic, grassroots nature of the demonstrations. This call was then followed by a letter threatening “criminal or civil action” against the Mendocino Trail Stewards, saying that even merely advertising a demonstration without a permit—even those planned by other individuals or groups over whom the Trail Stewards have no control—will draw a civil penalty. Seriously. You can read their threatening letter here.
CAL FIRE’s threat of using the law to punish its critics is obnoxious, both to good government and to the Constitution. Turning to the Constitution, the First Amendment is extremely clear: any limitations on free speech are subject to “strict scrutiny.” The government cannot prohibit speech based on its content, and while they may issue so-called “time-place-manner” restrictions, these must be narrowly tailored and serve a compelling governmental purpose. As demonstrated by the demand to call off protests, it is clear that it is the content that is driving the threat of enforcement. CAL FIRE is illegally using the threat of criminal and civil penalties to punish its critics.
In addition to threatened criminal and civil action, CAL FIRE employees have been seen photographing the license plates of cars legally parked within the Jackson Demonstration State Forest. The obvious intent is to send a message: we are going to come after you. Remember, this is the State of California using state power to muzzle critics. This is unacceptable.
In response to CAL FIRE’s threats, EPIC, the Mendocino Trail Stewards and the Coalition to Save Jackson State Forest have issued our own cease and desist letter. If CAL FIRE takes enforcement action against us, we will sue them for violating our First Amendment rights. You can read our letter here.
Want to help? Call Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot and Governor Gavin Newsom and demand an immediate moratorium on logging within the Jackson Demonstration State Forest.
Call Wade Crowfoot: Secretary of Natural Resources, (916) 653-5656
Call Gavin Newsom: Governor, (916) 445-2841