Since April, forest defenders have been protesting the ongoing logging in Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF). Now, they are facing threats of violence from loggers.
On October 4th, 2021, Chairman Michael Hunter of the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians entered Jackson Demonstration State Forest in order to investigate and document current ongoing logging within the Soda Gulch THP. Michael had previously been told by Secretary Wade Crowfoot that logging operations were not currently taking place within JDSF. As Chairman of the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, Michael Hunter is deeply concerned about logging occurring on state occupied lands within his ancestral territory. He entered the forest to confirm whether Secretary Crowfoot had been telling the truth that all logging operations had stopped in the forest.
Upon entering the forest, Michael was confronted by a man identifying himself as a “safety manager.” The man showed no form of identification to confirm whether he was employed by the state, the logging company, or anyone else. Despite the presence of the “safety manager,” loggers have continued to engage in dangerous behavior while protestors are nearby. With Michael Hunter present, a faller cut into a large redwood tree in a way that could have caused the tree to fall on Michael Hunter. When Hunter asked the nearby faller to please not kill him “accidentally” the man replied, “It wouldn’t be accidental.” Michael Hunter called out “safety officer, safety officer… is this safety sir?” trying to get the safety manager’s attention, but the safety manager refused to come over for several minutes. The safety officer and the faller were both clearly aware of Michael’s presence because Michael had loudly announced himself. Eventually, the “safety manager” did come over and put a stop to logging in that area, but it was well after the situation had already become extremely unsafe with direct threats having been made to Michael.
The “safety manager” Michael encountered has since been identified by other forest activists as Paul Trouette, chief executive officer for the private security firm Lear Asset Management, Inc. Lear is well known within Mendocino County for their aggressive tactics. Trouette has favorably compared himself to the Pinkertons, the notorious private detective agency that used violence to break up strikes and chase outlaws in the 19th and 20th centuries. Lear has been known to wear military fatigues and use helicopters and firearms in their work. At other similar protests within Mendocino County, Trouette has open-carried a pistol while interacting with protestors. In a statement released by Mendocino Redwood Company on October 11th, the company confirmed that they had hired unarmed “safety specialists” to observe and alert people who enter the active timber operation.
It is clear from Trouette’s background and actions within the forest that he is operating more like a security guard than a safety officer. Trouette has been seen photographing license plates of protestors. He has also approached protestors who had not given him their name and used their names in a way that implied that he had researched their lives. Trouette has also permitted the loggers to engage in dangerous behavior such as cutting into trees in the presence of loggers and leaving trees that have been mostly cut standing precariously. These are not the actions of a “safety manager.”
In another incident, masked men directly threatened a protestor. U’i Wesley is a Native Hawaiian singer who lives in Mendocino County. On October 5, 2021, she parked her car at mile marker 19.24 along Highway #20 outside of a logging gate. Paul Trouette had been in the area previously but had left about 20 minutes before the following events took place. While she was parked there, a large black truck with no license plates pulled up next to her. Two men got out of the truck. One of them was wearing a “Blue Lives Matter” mask. That man asked U’i what she was doing and whether she knew that it was dangerous to block the gate with her car. He also indicated that blocking the gate with her car was illegal.
U’i responded that she had a right to protect the peoples’ forest. The men then circled her car in a way that made U’i apprehensive. U’i decided to deescalate the situation by offering the men a PB&J sandwich. The men responded by reiterating that she shouldn’t be blocking the gate. U’i informed the men that they were making her feel threatened and that she wanted them to leave. The man with the Blue Lives Matter mask responded to this by reaching in his pocket and throwing bullet casings directly towards U’i’s face while saying, “It can get very dangerous out here, missy.” U’i shielded her face and the men got back into their truck and left.
These incidents highlight the escalating danger faced by peaceful protestors within JDSF. CAL FIRE has a responsibility to ensure the safety of people on the lands they manage. EPIC has authored a letter to Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot urging him to call for a halt to logging on the forest until CAL FIRE can ensure safety. We will continue to monitor this situation and keep you updated about the campaign to Save Jackson!