Activist History

The context within which the bombing occurred demonstrates how a number of individuals and groups may have had a motive. This chronology was written before the bombing for the most part inspired by the Northcoast being treated as a resource colony like Guatemala and Nicaragua. The narrative below was written and expanded by 1993.


The years prior to 1985 saw both an in-migration of non-timber industry dependent families and a heightening of tensions between the timber dependent and non-timber dependent families. The expansion of the Redwood National Park in the late 70’s, the Recession of the early 80’s, as well as the steady pace of mill modernization, had reduced the mill workforce, even though timber and lumber production reached historical levels. The timber industry’s in-house PR plan was aimed at diverting attention from the timber industry’s planned workforce reduction placing the blame for job loss upon environmentalists and the new migrants: “outsiders and hippies”.

In the period 1981-1984 tensions around the escalation and potential, further escalation of conflict in Central America supplanted the concern about the movement against nuclear power plants. Activists began focusing non-violent blockades and occupations on local examples of militarism and official suppression of divergent opinion. These included the FBI office in Eureka and the US Navy’s “first strike” facility, the SOSUS station located at Centerville Beach, just south of Eureka, near Ferndale.

Civil Disobedience, as an art, had been developed in the Southern Humboldt region of Garberville. It had become a means of attestation rather than protestation. With the advent of the anti-marijuana CAMP raids, the focus of many of Southern Humboldt’s activists became the abuse of civil rights by the law enforcement groups involved in CAMP. The activists knew what everyone can know now that, according to Nixon’s chief of staff John Erlichman’s recent revelation that CAMP was part of the War on Drugs which was used by the federal government to punish Nixon opponents such as the ‘Hippies’ and the ‘Blacks.

1985 saw Civil Disobedience, CD, arrests at the Eureka office of the FBI, in favor of the Boland amendment, in May and June, and in August at Centerville. This was the last phase of CD’s before Earth First! began its campaigns in 1986. There had been a series of CD’s in 1983 surrounding the effort to preserve the coastal region known as the Sinkyone Wilderness in Southern Humboldt. Attention centered on the Sally Bell Grove. This CD was coupled with the filing of lawsuits by the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) to enforce existing forestry laws and regulations. Soon this became the pattern that future campaigns to protect the environment would take in Humboldt, Mendocino and elsewhere: File lawsuits against improper timber harvest plans, get a restraining order and while the lawyers talked and the wheels of Justice turned, hug the trees, block the roads and mobilize public opinion.

While Charles Hurwitz’ Maxxam was completing its takeover of the Pacific Lumber Company, the owner of the largest stands of unprotected ancient redwood forests in the world, EPIC was celebrating its recent Appeals Court victory in EPIC v Johnson where the cumulative effect of logging became an issue for the first time in court tests of the timber harvest approval process. The victory in court saved Sally Bell Grove, the subject of the first tree hugger occupation of a forest, long enough to allow the State to buy the Georgia Pacific land to add to the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. The court victory also opened the door for the future court cases which through the 90’s were ever increasing in number.


In Mid-1986 Maxxam-PL (M-PL) announced that it would be doubling its timber harvesting of old growth. Within weeks EPIC and other environmental activists began to monitor M-PL’s applications to the California Department Forestry for timber harvesting (THP’s) and to map M-PL’s old growth holdings.

EPIC remained focused upon the Sinkyone Wilderness campaign, finally, succeeding in securing the funding needed to purchase the GP lands. A newly formed EF! group based in Humboldt County began organizing in the fall under the direction of Darryl Cherney and Greg King, among others, and conducted its first demonstration in December. Cherney had arrived in Southern Humboldt in October 1985 and found a place amongst the activists in Garberville. In the December issue of the Country Activist appeared an article by King, “Trespass into Paradise”, the first eye-witness account of M-PL’s “dark forest” (now known, in part, as Headwaters). These were the large, old growth or ancient, redwood forests scheduled to be destroyed in the coming years.

WeCARE, formed in September by the indutrial timber interests and right-wing ideologues, representing the core of the local Republican Party, began its campaign to influence the US Forest Service’s planning processes to determine timber harvesting, for the rest of the century, on National Forest lands. WeCARE was the local version of groups being organized, across the Northwest, by the industry lobbyists Timber Association of California, which would capitalize on anti-environmentalist feelings in an effort to force a completion of the overharvesting of National forest lands. As would be admitted later, the various large, industrial timber owners, comprising only a portion of the timber industry, with few exceptions (PL being one) had been over-cutting their own lands, planning all the while to use the last of the national forests to fill-in the “timber gap” for the next 15 years. The gap was caused by overharvesting in prior years.

WeCARE was organized by a combination of private timber companies. M-PL’s President John Campbell was its first spokesman. Louisiana Pacific (LP)’s PR staff person, Shep Tucker, was “lent” to WeCARE for its first six months for the purpose of setting up its structure and establishing its PR tone.


1987 began with the State’s 7000 acre acquisition of GP land along the “Lost Coast” finishing a two decades long battle to remove the visually astounding and environmentally sensitive area from timber production and saving some of the last unprotected remnants of ancient forests visible from the sea, including the Sally Bell Grove. It was a great victory for EPIC and others.

A local organizing group, associated with the Sanctuary Movement, formed to protect its share of the El Salvadoreans seeking political asylum in the US. Humboldt State University’s Economic Department Dean John Grobey, believed to be ex-military intelligence, hosted a forum featuring a State Department spokeswoman whose task it was to publicly connect the Sanctuary Movement to Terrorism. Grobey’s work in the timber disputes was to present dubious studies to cover the effect of mechanization and over-cutting on job loss and to focus the blame for job loss on the expansion of the Redwood National Park. The State department visit and its calling the Sanctuary Activists “terrorists” was part of its nation-wide campaign to engage in name calling using the Reaganite term Terrorist. The FBI had been engaged in a series of break-ins and infiltrations of the movement with these acts later exposed in what is known as the Varrelli case where the CIA and FBI co-ordinated a faking of evidence against the movement using an El Salvadorean named Varrelli to make false statements. Varrelli later publicly recanted his testimony but the PR damage had been done.

Another local organizing effort was the creation of Sanctuary Forest to protect the upper Mattole valley from strip logging of its Old Growth [OG] remnants. This effort greatly affected the plans of the Eel River Sawmills (ERS) near Fortuna.

Yet one more organizing effort was associated with the Ocean Sanctuary movement protecting the coast from the growing threat of off-shore drilling. The Reagan administration was far along on its planning to lease the environmentally sensitive Northcoast to the oil industry for that purpose and a state-wide effort was underway to halt it.

From March through the Summer the battle over the Six Rivers National Forest planning raged with the main force in opposition to the WeCARE plan came from the Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC), Earth First! (EF!) and the Country Activist, a county-wide monthly publication.

NEC was focused upon the regions’ national forest, the Six Rivers National Forest (6RNF) planning process. EF! staged its first dramatic tree-sit, “Tarzan and Jane” on M-PL land. EPIC filed its first lawsuit against M-PL at the beginning of June. The signs were obvious that there was a surging environmental community. For the first time there was a coordinated campaign involving all levels of pressure and with the prospect of a statewide initiative looming in the future.

During 1987 several important local events took place. The first was at the end of April, when the often vandalized Chamber of Commerce offices in Eureka were discovered to have been entered again. This time the vandals entered the newly opened office of WeCARE. The Eureka Times Standard speculated on its front page that it was probably the environmentalists since the WeCARE membership lists were believed to be missing. No one was ever arrested and there was no certainty that anything was in fact missing. No retraction was ever printed.

The second event occurred at the LP mill in Cloverdale, Mendocino County, on May 8, when a sawblade hit a spike embedded in a log. The blade exploded into the face and neck of a millworker, George Alexander, severely injuring him. Alexander was an off-bearer, the closest human to the blade, and a position responsible for the majority of sawmill injuries. The media treatment was odd. The story ran in the Times Standard eight days after it occurred with headlines screaming that EF! was blamed. The article ran on the day EF! had planned for its first big demonstration and CD. There were 17 local arrests with tree-sits and demonstrations in 6 cities in three States where Maxxam or M-PL had offices- Ca, Tx and NY. The T/S retracted its headline three days later but the damage was done and the reaction had been swift. “Earth First! was Terrorist”. Numerous public figures decried EF!’s “terrorism” and all manner of vandalism was blamed on EF!. No official law enforcement source confirmed the spiking accusation. No arrests were made even though environmental sources named a suspect, a right-wing fanatic. Later Alexander would blame LP for the incident, citing a worn blade and the dis-functioning metal detectors. LP had been warned that the logs had been spiked. The logs were not inspected and the sawblade was sub-standard. Alexander’s later statements to private investigators brought suspicion onto the head of LP’s Western Division, Joe Wheeler, as the planner of the accident for the purpose of providing a context for defaming environmentalists.

Humboldt County Supervisor Anna Sparks, supported by LP and Simpson Timber, publicly, verbally attacked a USFS biologist for questioning the environmental effects of WeCARE’s proposal for the Six Rivers National Park harvesting. Her fellow supervisor Harry Pritchard, supported by M-PL and Eel River Sawmills, attacked bioregionalism as “everything I’m opposed to”.

In June as the Apple Maggot spray resistance, which included CD, escalated, Pritchard was pictured in the T/S as “spreading the word about EF! terrorism”, while, in fact, he was spreading lies about who was responsible for the spate of vandalism Fortuna was experiencing. Within days of Pritchard’s comments the Fortuna Beacon criticized Pritchard, calling for an end to finger pointing when no one knew who was responsible for the vandalism incidents.

The name-calling, the spiking incident and other negative press coincided with the development of a counteroffensive against the environmentalists, who had been receiving international media attention, thanks to EF! CDs and Cherney’s media efforts in their fight against the destruction of the redwood forests, with major steps being taken in June with the hiring of Hill and Knowlton by M-PL and in September and December with LP and M-PL spokespersons revealing a “united fight” against the environmentalists.

The year comes to an end with a court victory for EPIC in EPIC v PL (I) and a movement in Mendocino towards a county ballot measure on forestry reform.


The forestry reform momentum in Mendocino County brought a ballot measure to the June ballot spurring the formation of Northcoast Citizens in Humboldt County. A late January meeting of California forestry activists in Arcata, prompted by a hearing on legislation by Senator Barry Keene and Assemblyman Byron Sher, spawned a coalition aimed at a joint venture with the Sierra Club and local activists to bring additional suits and to put a State-wide initiative on a ballot in 1990.

Earth First! issued its 98,000 acre, Headwaters Wilderness Complex Proposal in January. By May, WeCARE had mailed copies of it to all landowners and assorted others to draw out as much reaction against it as they could. Their organizing culminated in the May 17 Truckers Rally to support the re-election campaign of southern Humboldt’s County Supervisor Harry Pritchard. Simultaneously the battle to save ancient forests turns to the federal courts in a suit by NEC to force the listing of the spotted owl as an endangered species. As the environmental forces began to elicit a governmental response, the industrial timber leaders began the process of dividing the workers from the rest of the community, isolating the workers and cutting off the community’s discussion of its future. Examples abound but none more ominous than the Scotia Inn, located in Pacific Lumber’s company-owned town, refusing to allow Pritchard’s opponent, John Maurer, an ex-PL employee, to hold a candidate’s cocktail party at the Inn citing “community objections that might lead to violence”. The Inn’s management privately admitted that M-PL’s pressure on management caused the refusal.

As the election approached John Campbell sent a notice to all PL employees warning of possible lay-offs if PL could get around the obstacles presented by “environmental extremists”. This followed a call for organizing against environmentalists published in the April issue of the “Logging and Sawmill Journal”

In June the Mendocino forestry reform measure lost 3-2. WeCARE mailed a right-wing tract by H L Richardson to all timber workers. The tract called environmentalists pagans lead by communists. PL and WeCARE organized a workers group called TEAM from the workers at PL and Eel River Saw Mills, forcing the workers to make contributions to the new group, which quickly began to look like a subset of the right-wing of the Republican Party.

The Country Activist distributed its analysis of the timber situation called” Timber Outlook” as a major article in its regular monthly publication. Northcoast Citizens burst on the scene with a whirlwind signature gathering campaign for the November 1988 election. In 23 days signatures were gathered to qualified three county ballot measures dealing with off-shore oil drilling, nuclear free zone creation and recycling. TEAM responded through a PL orchestrated campaign to rouse the workers to boycott the Country Activist and other publications PL saw as uncooperative to its efforts at speeding its cut of the redwoods.

The Timber Association of California, the Sacramento lobbying organization, took the offensive with an anonymous full page ad in the T/S, ostensibly from “local employees”, blaming everything on the environmentalists. TAC’s director Bill Dennison used the term “Environmental terrorists” when announcing the offensive and claimed, “We’ll never resort to violence.” In 1996 the Unabomber would kill Dennison’s successor with a bomb mailed to Dennison.

PL spokesman Dave Galitz, in an article in the Redwood Record, blamed EF! for the unfortunate death of a PL guard, in an auto accident, as the guard returned from his post in the woods where he was guarding equipment from ecotage.

In the November election the Northcoast Citizens’ measures win big. The Country Activist was easily identifiable as the progenitor of NCC.

TEAM’s boycott which began with front page coverage by the Beacon in August took shape as merchants who advertized in the Country Activist experienced a series of anonymous threatening phone calls and letters.

WeCARE sent a tract on “property rights” written by ERS’ Dennis Scott to its members and the members of Women in Timber.

Simpson’s old growth mill was closed down, environmentalists were blamed but, in one of his last benign acts, State Senator Barry Keene pointed to the rapid depletion of timber resources as the reason for the closure. LP, while secretly planning to open a mill in Mexico, closed its Potter Valley mill blaming environmental lawsuits.

As is known now, because of the 1991 exposure of internal LP memos written before the closure, the closure’s cause was overcutting combined with the mistaken belief that the timber industry could force a complete strip logging of the national forests.

This was not the only piece of truth that would await two years or more for exposure. EF! had been infiltrated and the infiltrators were hard at work.

At the end of November EF! organizers Cherney and Bari engaged in a counter-demonstration at an anti-abortion rally in Ukiah. Photos were taken of the action by Pam Davis another EF! activist and by a suspected infiltrator Irv Sutley. The next day with Davis’ camera Sutley posed Cherney and Bari with Sutley’s weapons for a series of “Tanya” style photo. Cherney and Bari thought them a joke, but near the end of the year the photos were stolen, as was discovered some two years later when they were published on the front pages of the regional newspaper following the tragic events of May 1990.

In what was to become another unfortunate unforeseen event EF! staged a December rally in Scotia named “Day of the Living Dead Hurwitz’.” Photos of this event were to become the major photos in a hit piece to affect the outcome of NCC’s 1990 campaign to shut down the major polluters in Humboldt County.


As the ability of the Environmental Movement to affect Public Policy increased, numerous industry-funded domestic organizations grew. The generic name for these groups in the Northwest and elsewhere was the Wise-use Movement. These groups were funded by industrial corporations and right-wing foundations. The following are a few of those with Hurwitz’s Pacific Lumber connections, that are identified as providing support to these groups or contracting for related services with the industrial concerns supporting these groups:

PR firms associated with domestic propaganda and dirty tricks campaigns:

Burson-Marstellar, NYC

Hill and Knowlton, Wash DC

E Bruce Harrison Co., Wash DC

Moresby Consulting, Canada

Ketchum Communications, Fla.

Think Tanks similarly associated include

Heritage Foundation

Cato Institute

Madison Group

Ainsworth Group

Private Security firms similarly associated include

Vance Security Assets Protection Team

Business Risks International

Wackenhut Corp

Dan Cor Ltd.

In an effort to affect public opinion industry groups formed and funded various private organizations for various purposes. Those which were related to the elections in Humboldt County and California (the related funders are in parens) are

Global Climate Coalition (Dupont(DP), Kaiser Aluminum)

Keep America Beautiful (Dupont, Georgia Pacific)

Accuracy in the Media (Kaiser Aluminum)

Alliance for a responsible CFC Policy (Dupont, H-K)

Business Council for Sustainable Development (Dupont)

Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise(GP,LP,PL,DP)

The Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise’s (CDFE)advisory board included Dick Cheney (Associated with H-K, ex Nixon or Reagan Sec of Defense), Charles Cushman (Wise-use) and William Simon of the Heritage Foundation. The staff was lead by Wise-use organizers Alan Gottlieb and Ron Arnold.

CDFE, based in Bellevue, Washington was founded in 1981 with Gottlieb as its President. In 1982 Floyd Brown is said to head CDFE. In 1984 Gottlieb was indicted for filing false tax returns and sentenced to a year and a day. Gottlieb was the owner of Merril Assoc. Also in 1984 Gottlieb was sued for misusing funds contributed through Gottlieb’s fundraising apparatus to the gun lobby groups.

Floyd Brown:

Merril Assoc:

Ron Arnold of CDFE said that the Timber Industry could not compete against the environmental groups.


In early January, Irv Sutley, later suspected of infiltration as part of the plot to kill Bari, anonymously mailed a photo, of Bari with a semi-automatic to the Ukiah PD accompanied by a note describing her as a communist and a drug dealer. Sutley had been married to such a person and even after 5 years of separation he occassionally visted his ex-wife and her new husband, all three leaders in the Peace and Freedom Party. Serious activists who formed the PFP had abondoned it because it was completely infiltrated by FBI and KGB – a common descriptor of long existing political groups on the ‘left.’

Humboldt County’s conflict between enviros and the timber industry showed signs of heating up With the federal courts blocking timber sales on the national forests because of declining species, the timber apologists began a campaign to spread the word about the economic effects of environmentalism.

January ended with reports of a fire at a Dixon cattle feed lot causing $3,000 in damages. The reports told of an anonymous caller who claimed EF! was responsible.

By the end of February this fire had been cited numerous times in letters and articles of proof that EF! was violent. The fire was well timed to suit the needs of the cattle industry and those in timber who needed a cause through which to attack all environmentalists. EF! had been planning a campaign to stop over-grazing in the national forests which when underway at the end of February was reported on the wire services along with the month old news of the fire.

As March began the propaganda from the right-wing grew to new heights of hysteria. Pleas for property rights, warnings of physical threats to loggers families, proclamations from WeCARE that EF! has turned to terrorist attacks citing the Dixon fire and the 1987 exploding sawblade as proof. When a mill shut down environmental extremists were blamed, editorials decried “ecotage” claiming George Alexander carried the scars of ecotage and again citing the Dixon fire. Pipe bombs exploded in small towns with no apparent motive.

TEAM expanded its boycott, sending economically threatening letters to Country Activist’s advertisers whose employees began receiving anonymous threatening phone calls. Candy Boak, leader of a group called Mothers’ Watch [an antiEF group that tried to shame Efers but lent itself to the tactics of the Wise-use version of COINTELPRO began her own letter campaign.

In mid-March the yearly logging conference featured Charles Cushman telling people to rise up and fight the preservationists.

By the beginning of May a sharp increase in anti-enviro letters was noted including one’s calling EF! terrorists, arsonists and talking about setting off nail bombs and car bombs.

In June WeCARE launched its wise-use campaign and TEAM launched its Wise-use Advocate. EF! founder, Dave Foreman is arrested in Arizona for terrorism.

As the ability of the Environmental Movement to affect Public Policy increased, numerous industry-funded domestic organizations grew. The generic name for these groups in the Northwest and elsewhere was the Wise-use Movement.


Ketchum Communications planned a campaign to defame Greenpeace for its client Clorox to defeat Greenpeace’s campaign called “Chlorine Free By ’93”. Major chlorine users also benefitted from the Ketchum campaign. These include Humboldt County, California pulp and paper manufacturers Louisiana Pacific and Simpson Pulp. Ketchum is also of interest because of its Specialized Services Group headed by its President, Herbert David Gordon. A “Herbert Gordon” has been identified as a former CIA agent and may be the same person. Gordon of Ketchum resigned in late 1990 to be replaced by Paul H. Alvarez who is now [2016] the chairman, president and chief executive.

Wackenhut conducted an investigation against an environmentalist concerned with the Alyeska pipeline. The investigation included setting up fake environmental organizations, faking various documents and attempting to compromise the morals of the whistle-blower. Ex-Wackenhut employee David Ramirez testified before Congress on this matter. Alyeska is a consortium of oil corporations which claimed it was not responsible “because the firm (Wackenhut) was a contractor responsible for its own actions.”