News

Weyerhaeuser catches flak from B.C. tribe

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

Approximately 100 people protested in and around Weyerhaeuser's corporate office in Federal Way Thursday, demanding an end to what they perceive as outmoded forest practices and poor relations with a Canadian Indian tribe.

The protest was organized by Rainforest Action Network (RAN), which had people waving signs and holding banners along South 336th Street in front of one of the company's entrances. Inside, other protesters attempted to speak during the annual shareholders meeting.

Brant Olson said RAN was able to attend because the San Francisco, Calif.-based organization holds stock in the timber company and other shareholders gave their proxies to the protesters.

Also attending was Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson, representing the Haida Nation of British Columbia. Weyerhaeuser logs on Haida land, but Williams-Davidson said the Indian tribe wanted more control over logging practices.

While the Haidas are not opposed to logging, the Federal Way-based company is cutting only the choicest cedar, according to Williams-Davidson. What's left behind is not worth logging, she said.

The Haidas and the company had been in a protracted legal battle over the logging until Canada's supreme court ruled in favor of the tribe. However, the provincial government, which was supposed to enforce the tribe's right, passed legislation walking away from the responsibility, Williams-Davidson said.

The tribe's issues need to be addressed to the provincial government, Frank Mendizabal, a spokesman for Weyerhaeuser, said.

"We think we had a good exchange over the years," Mendizabal said of the company's relationship with the Haidas.

All of the company's planned cuts are reviewed by the Haidas, and several have been put on hold or canceled because of the tribe's concerns, Mendizabal said. Most of the contractors Weyerhaeuser hires to cut timber on the tribal land are either locals or members of the nation, he added.

Logs for ceremonies, totem poles and lodges are donated by the company to the native people. Trees that have been altered for ceremonial purposes are not cut by Weyerhaeuser, according to Mendizabal.

"We've worked pretty hard with them," he said.

Protesters tried to speak at Thursday's shareholders meeting, but Weyerhaeuser officials had told shareholders earlier that time would be limited and asked for written comments. Before they could talk, Olson said, the Weyerhaeuser official leading the meeting closed the comment time.

RAN claimed it also had protests going at the New Your Stock Exchange and the Toronto Stock Exchange.

RAN has asked Weyerhaeuser for two years to change is logging practices, claiming they are dated and unsustainable. The environmental group held a smaller protest last year.

Competitors are using newer and better methods, according to Olson.

RAN's concerns are the same that Weyerhaeuser has regarding sustainable forests, recycled materials and illegal logging, Mendizabal said. Both sides have been talking over the last two years, he added.

The protesters were peaceful, which RAN touts in its press releases. Federal Way Police did arrest one protester, however, on a warrant from Denver, Colo.

Police commander Steve Neil said the Federal Way department was sent information that the suspect might attend the protest and received a picture and description of his car. The man went away peacefully. Neil said the warrant was for failing to appear in court.

According to the company's Web site, Weyerhaeuser has annual sales of $19.9 billion, operations internationally and about 55,000 employees in 18 countries. 

The company announced earnings of $239 million, and the second quarter dividend was increased 50 cents per share.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, mhalliday@fedwaymirror.com

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