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With their efforts to make an honest living thwarted, the residents remaining in Happy Camp wonder whatever happened to President Clinton’s promises to help their industry and preserve their way of life.


Glorified grasshoppers and languishing loggers.

Story and photos by Barry R. Clausen

The radical eco-elitist leadership, philanthropists who fund their ultra-utopian dogma, and certain members of the media have formed an unholy alliance. The obvious goal of this religious alliance is to tear down the infrastructure of rural America and rebuild it according to their beliefs. Many of these eco-faithful believe they have transcended good stewardship and care for the environment by worshipping nature as others worship God. They are now recruiting clergymen and other religious leaders to do the same, asking them to include in their sermons and prayers, spiritual blessings for the forests.

Which organizations encourage church leaders to become involved in the “Greening of the Pulpit?” Do naive church leaders realize what their involvement is costing their fellow Americans?

On November 15, 1999 the Northern California Grantmakers and Environmental Grantmakers Association West hosted a “Special Briefing” at the Northern California Grantmakers Conference in San Francisco entitled “Religion and the Forests: Protecting our Natural World.”

The program included three “religious” speakers from California: Fred Kruger, executive director of the Religious Campaign on Forest Conservation (RCFC), Santa Rosa; Connie Hanson, founder and director of Christians Caring for Creation of Los Angeles; and Barak Gale, Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, San Francisco.

Kruger, who also claims to be a former manager for the Republican National Committee and advisor for the Clinton/ Gore Administration, stated his organization works in conjunction with White House staff members regarding parks and monument designations. “We were contacted by the White House to become involved with this issue. We get calls from the White House on major policy decisions. They called us on the 40 million acres [a monument designation]. Our response was, it ain’t enough.”

The RCFC distributed documents at the meeting claiming to have “played an indispensable role in building this bridge between religious and environmental organizations.” A primary tool of the group in this effort has been its religious declaration on forests calling for an immediate end to all cutting of ancient and old growth forests, the end of commercial logging on public land, redirection of taxpayers’ subsidies into forest restoration jobs, and prayer in the search for wisdom by churches on the spiritual value of forests.

“This declaration has been adopted by a wide variety of religious entities, including the American Baptist Churches, the Episcopal, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,” the documents state. “A close variation on this declaration was also adopted by the National Council of Churches, which represents 104 denominations and approximately 50 million people.”

The RCFC first flexed its political muscle in February 2000 with a lobby week in Washington, D.C. The event drew together 42 religious leaders from around the country and from a wide variety of denominations to speak with a common voice on forest issues. The group held a prayer breakfast with Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, and met directly with the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, the Chief of Staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and over 100 senators and representatives.

Connie Hanson stated during her presentation, “It is a proven fact that towns do better when the mills shut down.” Unknown to the meeting’s sponsors, Steve Jolley, a Northern California forester, was in attendance. Jolley asked Hanson, “What about the timber towns and the families affected by the shut-down of the mills?”

Hanson’s response was a shock to Jolley (and the two other timber industry supporters in attendance) as she casually explained that money given to the loggers helps the town and gives the loggers an opportunity to further their education. Connie Hanson’s son, Chad, is the executive director of the Pasadena-based John Muir Project, which is “dedicated to ending the timber sales program in America’s forests,” as well as a National Director of the Sierra Club.

We searched, but could not find the location in rural America where timber towns are doing better as a result of mill closures as Connie Hanson claims. The town of Happy Camp, Calif. is a good example of the reality.
Kenneth McCulley of Happy Camp, former owner of McCulley Logging which went out of business in 1997 as a result of environmental regulations, makes his statement with an old saw blade.

Driving into town, the first impression is that it has all but been abandoned. Businesses have been boarded up. “For Sale” signs hang on most of the homes and buildings. Even the local gas station is closed and for sale as a result of the local timber mill’s closing.

A few years ago Happy Camp was a thriving community of over 4,000 residents. Today, with less than 800 people, the town is doomed unless there is a change in federal forest management policies. With the exception of Karuk Tribal members, residents will be forced to move elsewhere. There are a few folks who currently drive the 65 miles to the city of Yreka in order to find employment, but even Yreka is suffering the effects of mill closures and decline in the timber industry.

All of the 105 students at Happy Camp school are on the government-sponsored free lunch program and enrollment continues to decline. People are angry with the government and the radical environmentalists at the Klamath Forest Alliance.

With their efforts to make an honest living thwarted, the residents remaining in Happy Camp wonder whatever happened to Clinton’s promises to help their industry and preserve their way of life.

Tom White, the last logger left and a life-long resident of Happy Camp, says of Hanson, “She has no grip on reality. She doesn’t understand anything about our community. We are dying a slow death.” White believes he will be able to survive for “maybe another year or so” and then he will be forced to move. “There has not been one timber sale approved in this county this year.”

Many other communities have faced similar outcomes due to the loss of the more than 350 small- and mid-sized timber mills in the West in recent years. Last May 11, Sequoia Forest Industries announced they would shut down their mill as a result of the April 15, 2000 decision by the Clinton/Gore Administration to set aside an additional 328,000 acres of national forest, declaring it a national monument.

The company began operations on July 11, 1949 and employed 105 people whose families depended on an operating mill. The company generated an annual payroll of $3.1 million. About 45 percent of its employees have been with the company 20 years or more and 58 percent of these are minorities.

Sequoia Forest Industries does not harvest the giant sequoias we all admire. The company’s timber base instead comes from the harvesting of a variety of softwood pine.

The San Francisco Daily Journal ran a story on Oct. 7, 1999 about Connie Hanson:

“For Connie Hanson,” they wrote, “going to court is an act of faith. So is just about everything else in the life of this deeply religious Southern California schoolteacher, including her passion to protect creation. Hanson and her daughter Amy are the co-directors of Christians Caring for Creation, one of the growing numbers of religious environmental groups. Another one of her children is an attorney who heads his own environmental organization.

“However the elder Hanson’s group has distinguished itself by taking a step beyond the limited political lobbying engaged in by her counterparts. The super-secular forum for its views is the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, where an attorney representing Christians Caring for Creation and the secular Center For Biological Diversity is taking on the federal government.

“The organizations filed suit in March to require designation of ‘critical habitat’ for seven threatened or endangered animals. The lawsuit has an Old Testament echo, seeking additional protection for the locust-like Zayante band-winged grasshopper, a Southern California toad and a serpent called the Alameda whipsnake. [Southwest Center for Biological Diversity vs. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, has been postponed to allow for settlement negotiations.]

“More significantly, the lawsuit also poses a general challenge to the government’s ‘systematic denial’ of habitat designated for hundreds of other species by deeming them ‘not prudent’ under the Endangered Species Act. ‘They’ve been using it as a loophole to avoid complying with the law for at least three years,’ said the group’s Berkeley attorney, Brendan Cummings. A key goal for Christians Caring for Creation and a number of other religious organizations is the anti-logging bill, which gained momentum with the co-sponsorship of a key Republican lawmaker, Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa.”

As of July 9, 2000, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is proposing to designate 10,560 acres of critical habitat in Santa Cruz, Calif. for the endangered grasshopper that Connie Hanson and Kieran Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity are worried about. This designation includes 9,950 acres of privately owned land.

This story is excerpted from Clausen’s forthcoming book “BURNING RAGE–The Growing Anger Within My Country,” available soon.

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last page update: 04.03.05