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When a Greenpeace contingent arrived in Ketchikan on their 237-foot yacht, complete with helicopter and speedboats, their reception was cool except among a few local environmentalists. Greenpeace's representative in Alaska, Melanie Duchin of Anchorage, said: "As an Alaskan and an American, I'm shocked at the way Ketchikan has reacted to our visit. The city's attempts to silence us are not typical of Alaskans, and they will not prevent us from continuing on with this tour or our efforts to protect the nation's endangered forests."
Why did Ketchikan residents resent the Greenpeace visit?
Early this summer a Montana newspaper reported more than 100 Greenpeace activists were encamped in Bitterroot National Forest, training for non-violent protests to block timber harvest in national forests.
It reported: "This summer, Greenpeace will send one of its notorious activist-piloted boats to Alaska to draw attention to unwanted logging in the Tongass National Forest."
A story out of Washington, D.C. in June quoted House Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.): "Dr. (Patrick) Moore's remarks today were a breath of fresh air. When a founding member of Greenpeace tells you that today's so-called environmental organizations have abandoned science and logic for zero-tolerance extremism, it carries a lot of weight."
In past years there were stories of Greenpeace's protests around the world. Greenpeace protesters recently blocked a train carrying U.S. corn to Mexico, alleging the corn was genetically engineered, thus unsafe.
Greenpeace is planning a visit to Liberia, not to aid the thousands of civilians killed, injured or orphaned by 10 years of civil war, but to express concern about "the last remaining tract of the Upper Guinean Rainforest."
Greenpeace claims 70 percent of the heart of Tongass National Forest has been harvested. Where it got that figure without setting foot on the ground is a mystery. The Forest Service's land management plan shows that 83 percent of Tongass timber will remain unharvested and unroaded old growth at the end of the next 120 years.
Greenpeace implies the Tongass is threatened by huge timber companies poised to clearcut the land, and claims the Tongass is the most heavily logged national forest. Both claims are absolutely wrong. Also wrong is the statement that Tongass logging was subsidized.
Greenpeace implies that salmon are threatened in the Tongass. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game Web site shows that salmon catches in Southeast Alaska since 1990 have been at record levels and game populations are good. There is even a season for taking wolves.
Without scientific experts on its staff, without even getting off their yacht to look at the woods, those people conduct a fear campaign by press release to raise money to support their gadfly lifestyle.
In the word of another Greenpeace founder Paul Watson, upset over the hijacking of the organization by radicals: "It doesn't matter what is true, it only matters what people believe to be true... .Greenpeace became a myth and a myth-generating machine."
Then on July 29, from a press conference in San Francisco, Ketchikan residents learned about the M.V. Esperanza's "Endangered Forests, Endangered Freedom Tour."
The first stop would be Ketchikan Aug. 6: "Alaska's fifth largest city and the center of the entrenched timber industry in Southeast Alaska. In the past, Greenpeace has encountered hostility from the logging community in this region. Gravina Island (just west of Ketchikan) could be the first roadless area to fall prey to large-scale industrial logging if the U.S. Forest Service successfully guts the Roadless Area Conservation Rule ... Greenpeace will join forces with local activists, community members and scientific experts throughout the Southeast Alaska region to investigate and expose environmental crimes in this endangered forest."
With Greenpeace's well-publicized background and such rhetoric aimed at Steve Seley's small Pacific Log sawmill on Gravina Island, what welcome did Greenpeace expect in Ketchikan? There are almost as many Greenpeace activists on their yacht as the 20-30 people employed at the Ketchikan area's lone timber processor.
It is unsurprising that Ketchikan Borough Assembly and the Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce passed resolutions advocating no cooperation with Greenpeace. Why cooperate with an organization that didn't come to Alaska to learn but to preach further economic restrictions based on myths?
As disagreeable as Greenpeace can be, Ketchikan residents didn't dump cold water on the Greenpeace visitors. In fact, Ketchikan's city dock was cleared between cruise ship arrivals to allow the Greenpeace vessel to tie up and take on fresh water, civilly.