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Breaking the law isn't the answer

Greenpeace does itself no favors by forcing confrontation with the BLM

Greenpeace had a nice idea with its forest rescue station on the edge of a controversial timber sale west of Galice. It's too bad the group couldn't resist breaking the rules.

The international environmental organization best known for daring ocean-going protests of whaling and other threats to marine ecosystems created a splash when it set up camp here to raise awareness of logging old-growth trees. Its purpose was public education, organizers said, and protests would be a last resort.

The Bureau of Land Management, which is responsible for enforcing the rules on the land where the rescue station went up, went out of its way to accommodate the group. Camping on the BLM's Medford District is restricted to 14 consecutive days out of 90 without a special permit.

Greenpeace's two weeks would have been up last Tuesday, but Joan Resnick, acting manager of the BLM's Glendale Resource Area, gave the activists the benefit of the doubt and granted a two-week extension while their application for a special permit was processed ' providing they didn't break the law.

Apparently that wasn't good enough for Greenpeace. Last Tuesday, three activists plopped a three-ton shipping container across a road leading to another timber sale near Glendale and got themselves arrested for disorderly conduct.

Resnick justifiably responded by ordering the group to pack up and leave. Greenpeace had violated the agreement she made with them, she said.

— Insisting they hadn't violated the agreement ' although it's hard to see how they figure that ' rescue station organizers have refused to depart.

That sets up a confrontation between the activists and the public land managers. That's probably just fine with Greenpeace ' which, like many environmental activist groups, thrives on publicity ' but it's hard to see how that advances the group's stated goal of stopping logging on public lands.

The truth is that changing public policy is just hard work. Many local environmental groups have been doing that for years by demanding that the laws are followed, by working with forest managers to create better alternatives and by educating the public.

Breaking the law, however, has not created good results for environmentalists. It alienates the public and the forest managers and greatly reduces any group's moral standing for demanding that environmental laws be followed.

The BLM went out of its way to accommodate Greenpeace. For their efforts, they got a slap in the face.

The Greenpeace encampment should be dismantled and the activists removed from public lands until they prove that they are willing to work legally to make their points.

Correction

An editorial in Sunday's paper incorrectly stated that Medford teachers would pay part of their monthly health insurance premium for the first time under a new tentative contract. Teachers are paying part of the premium in the existing contract as well.