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Dealing with anger; the loggers? view

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Faced with provocative acts by environmentalist, a group of B.C. loggers has taken anger management courses to help them deal with future confrontations

This story first appeared in Logging and Sawmilling Journal

By Rick Crosby

A handful of B.C. loggers may have taken a small, but important first step towards dealing with conflict in the woods by adopting a new non-confrontational approach to protesters.

This new attitude stems from a court ruling earlier this year when five loggers working for International Forests Ltd. were given a year on probation for their role in a September 1999 attack on an environmentalist camp in the Elaho Valley. Those charged included faller Leroy Zohner, along with a grapple-yarder operator, a blaster, and two mechanics. All were required to take an anger-management course.

Things started to get our of control about noon on that September day, after approximately 90 loggers and some Interfor supervisors arrived in the Elaho Valley.

"It happened at the most northern part of Tree Farm Licence 39 where the roads were being built," explains Keith Rush, division manager for Interfor in Squamish. "They wanted to go up there in a peaceful act of solidarity to show the environmentalists that more people were being affected by the blockades than just two guys on the road crew."

Zohner, one of the loggers charged with mischief, has lived and worked in Squamish for 16 years. When the loggers went up to the Elaho, he explains, they had no plans to push the environmentalists out or say anything to them. Then they saw a protester 75 feet up a tree. "We just more or less told him to head on out," says Zohner.

The protest camp was on the south side of the Lava Creek Bridge, a half-mile from the tree sitter.

"After we finished going up and seeing the guy in the tree, everyone headed down and told the huggers to leave," Zohner continues.

There was a confrontation and a camera got thrown off a bridge. A couple of tents and sleeping bags and some camping gear were also thrown on a fire, along with boxes of potatoes and vegetables.

"There was a little bit of a dog pile at one point," says Zohner. "A woman had a camera on her. I kind of got in there late to see what was going on, but she charged me with assault. They had taken the camera off her." Darrell Wong, president of IWA-Canada Local 2171, confirms there was a lot of pressure building up on loggers working in the Elaho Valley even before the confrontation.

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