OLYMPIA, WA--In their opening statement before jurors Monday, defense
attorneys representing Pacific North Construction & Lumber Corp. argued that
their client was not at fault for the July 1997 rape of 30,000 acres of virgin
forest, claiming that the forest led the development company on with "an eager
and blatant display of its rich, fertile bounty."
"While, obviously, it is extremely unfortunate that this forest was raped, it
should have known better than to show off its lush greenery and tall, strong trees
in the presence of my client if it didn't want anything to happen," said lead
defense attorney Dennis Schickle, speaking before a courtroom packed with
members of the media. "It's only natural for any red-blooded American
developer to get ideas in its head when it's presented with that kind of untouched
"The bottom line is," Schickle continued, "if you're going to tease and encourage
like that, openly flaunting your abundant natural resources, don't be surprised by
Public opinion regarding the high-profile case, which is being closely watched
by timber-industry lobbyists and victims'rights groups across the U.S., is deeply
divided. While some contend that the forced ravaging of a piece of land until it
is stripped bare is never justifiable under any circumstances, others say that such
an action is understandable if the wooded area gives off mixed signals.
"The Pacific North Construction & Lumber Corp. had every reason to believe
that that forest wanted it bad," said logger Victor Duffy of Chelan, WA. "Just
look at where it was at the time of the incident: It was in a secluded, far-off
place, nearly 25 miles from the nearest road. What were those trees doing in that
kind of remote spot if they weren't looking for trouble?"
Those siding with the timber company also cite the forest's history, claiming that
it has a reputation for being easily exploited.
"Believe me, this is no virgin forest," said Frank Abbate, owner of the
Bellingham-based G&H Consolidated Timber. "It may try to pass itself off as
pristine and untouched, but I know for a fact that it has a long history of
allowing itself to be used by developers."
In his opening statement, defense attorney Schickle also pointed out that when
Pacific North loggers arrived at the forest on the day in question, its floor was
covered in alluring, fragrant flowers that were "clearly meant to attract."
"When a forest drapes itself in flora of every color and scent imaginable, it's
obviously asking for it," Schickle said. "I'm sure the plaintiff will argue that
these radiant flowers were meant to lure pollen-hungry bees, not pulp-hungry
loggers. But how was my client supposed to know this? When was it made clear
that this colorful display was meant to attract one particular species of fauna but
no other? When was it made clear that this forest was looking to satisfy the
needs of bees and bees only?"
Russell Belanger, president of the National Timber And Logging Association,
agreed. "This forest made it seem like it wanted it, then cried environmental rape
when it got it," he said. "At some point, we've got to start asking ourselves who
the real victim is in these cases: our nation's promiscuous, manipulative forests,
or the good, decent developers out there who are just trying to make an honest
living razing the land."