BANGOR – Police arrested 11 protesters early Wednesday morning outside Wickes Lumber, where the group demanded that the company stop selling lumber harvested from an ancient Canadian rain forest.
The student activists, in cooperation with the international environmental group Greenpeace, chained themselves to three 20-foot-high metal tripods erected at Wickes’ Hammond Street entrance at about 6 a.m., according to police.
Mike Roselle, a forest campaigner for Greenpeace, said the protesters wanted the Vernon, Ill.-based lumber company to “stop dragging its feet” on its promise made one year ago to stop selling wood from endangered forests.
Roselle said the group targeted Wickes because it buys wood from International Forest Products, a Canadian company known as Interfor, which protesters say is responsible for clear-cutting in a fragile temperate rain forest in British Columbia.
Wickes president and chief operating officer David Krawczik estimated that less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the company’s sales – about $1 million – might originate with Interfor. He said the company does not purchase directly from Interfor but that local wholesalers selling to Wickes may be using Interfor products.
All of those arrested are in their teens and 20s and claim residence in Bar Harbor. They face misdemeanor charges of criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and failure to disperse.
When protesters refused to come down from their perches, Bangor firefighters used ladder trucks to retrieve the student demonstrators, authorities said. The incident delayed the opening of the store for about 21/2 hours.
There were no injuries in what police called a “totally nonviolent protest.”
All were released from Penobscot County Jail on personal recognizance bail and are scheduled to appear in 3rd District Court in March.
Rob Fish, a College of the Atlantic student and organizer with the Student Environmental Action Coalition, was among those arrested Wednesday.
He said the protesters blockaded the business to raise awareness about the plight of Canada’s temperate rain forest, the most endangered forest type on Earth, he said.
“Companies who do business with Interfor need to answer to their customers for their own role in destroying global treasures,” said Fish, 22. “Wickes’ customers have the right to know if the products they buy are fueling the destruction of our planet’s last ancient forests.”
Krawczik said Wednesday that Wickes customers should also know that the company, in a continuing effort to save forestland, has moved $250 million of its inventory in the last three years from wood products to alternative products such as vinyl siding and wood composites.
The company already has promised to phase out by the year’s end products from areas deemed to be endangered by independent parties, Krawczik said.
Ric Slaco, Interfor’s chief forester, said the demonstration is part of a misguided pattern of targeting the company, when protesters should be targeting the provincial government, which owns most of the forestlands in British Columbia and sets the rules regarding timber harvesting.
“If they want to change things they should come here to British Columbia and do it through the democracy,” said Slaco, who added that all of the company’s current forest practices have been certified as environmentally sound by independent evaluators.
Interfor officials also say shutting down timberlands in temperate rain forests would effectively shut down all logging operations in British Columbia since virtually the entire province is a temperate rain forest.
Those arrested Wednesday were: Kyla H. Hersey Wilson, 19; Tara Jenson, 18; Samuel Wustner, 19; Matthew Prescott, 19; Erin Kavanaugh, 20; Kyle M. Wolfson, 19; Meghan Riege, 20; Leah Bathen, 23; Robert Fish, 22; Chrystal R. Schreck, 21; Hannah Tidman, 20.