DARBY, Mont. (AP) – About 70 environmental activists are spending the week in Montana’s Bitterroot National Forest at a boot camp for the civilly disobedient.

Greenpeace says the camp aims to arm the next generation of activists with tools to do battle against the Bush administration’s Healthy Forests Initiative – a plan they say will lead to unmitigated logging.

Participants are studying the basics of gumming up the work of progress – everything from how to safely tree-sit, thus stalling logging projects, to how to press appeals that will clog federal agencies.

“You deal with radical situations in radical ways,” Don Muller, a Sitka, Alaska, resident who was one of about 70 to sign up for the weeklong boot camp, said Wednesday. “The Bush administration has gone too far in so many ways.”

Environmentalists say the forest plan undercuts citizen input and hands millions of acres of timber over to the logging industry.

Organizers, including Greenpeace and the National Forest Protection Alliance, said they are teaching people to get involved in U.S. Forest Service decision-making by organizing at the local level and recording forest habitat conditions.

But some training does teach people how to lock themselves high in trees, blockade roads and get in the way of logging and road-building plans.

“Most of the folks are here because they caught a glimpse of what Bush’s Healthy Forests Initiative does,” said Mateo Williford, a Greenpeace worker from San Francisco.

The Bitterroot was chosen as a training ground because environmentalists say logging plans here threaten one of the nation’s largest forests. But Greenpeace said it is using the exercise to help launch a late-summer campaign against logging plans in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.

“The Tongass is going to be one of our center stages,” said Scott Paul, a Greenpeace Washington, D.C.-based forest campaign coordinator.

Paul is quick to point out the training focuses on getting involved or taking to the trees with nonviolent protest.

“I have heard zero people here advocating monkey-wrenching or property damage,” he said.

But he said nearly all the participants are ready to “subject themselves to arrest for a higher cause.”

The agency targeted by the would-be protesters said it has no problem with the group using Forest Service land to map out strategy.

“It’s why we live in America. We support people’s rights to express their views in nonthreatening and nonviolent activities,” said Bitterroot forest spokeswoman Dixie Dies. “There have been a lot of sacrifices to have those freedoms.”

She said the Forest Service has not had any trouble with the training camp, and doesn’t expect it will.

But environmentalists say they plan to roll out the newfound skills in the near future.

Paul predicts the Bush forest plan will prompt even “mild” environmental groups to take more drastic measures, and thinks that tree-sitting and road blockades are going to become more common.

“You are going to see the radicalization of the environmental community over this,” he said.



On the Net:

Greenpeace: http://www.greenpeaceusa.org/

Forest Service: http://www.fs.fed.us/

AP-ES-06-25-03 2249EDT



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