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DA won't pursue charges against timber protesters

Ashland candidate was among trio arrested at Prospect's Peak sale

The Jackson County District Attorney's Office has dropped charges against three activists arrested in connection with protests at the Peak timber sale in Prospect.

The activists include Ashland City Council candidate Eric Navickas, his brother Ryan and Brenna Bell, an attorney at the Williams office of the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center.

The three were arrested Sept. 28 for second-degree criminal trespass after violating a Forest Service closure order that blocked public access and the media to areas within the Rogue River National Forest.

According to Rachel Bridges, deputy district attorney in charge of the case, recent Oregon court decisions this year make it more difficult to prosecute cases of criminal trespass.

Our ability to prosecute these cases is limited. It used to be you only had to enter and remain on a property. Now, someone has to say 'get off,' and then the person has to refuse to leave, Bridges said.

Bridges also said she didn't feel she had sufficient facts to support the charges against Bell and the Navickas brothers.

Bell said she purposely crossed the closure line to test it, because she believed the closure to be illegal.

I think that this closure is over broad, Bell said, and I think the public has every right to be on our public lands observing the logging that's being done on our public lands. We intend to fight this closure to show that the public has a right to bear witness to the logging and the devastation done on our public lands.

Eric Navickas said he didn't intend to violate the closure but was arrested when he crossed the closure line while trying to videotape Bell's arrest.

Forest Service officials said the closure was intended to protect both the public and loggers.

Because the forest is on federal land, the activists could face federal charges should the Forest Service pursue the matter, Bridges said.

Joel King, district ranger for the Rogue River National Forest, said he was unaware of any effort to pursue federal charges.

Sean Wolfe is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 482-3456