A dozen logging protesters have been convicted of breaking federal laws when they tried to stop logging in the Cove-Mallard area near Dixie during the summer.
U.S. Magistrate Mikel Williams returned the guilty verdict Wednesday, after hearing testimony from defense attorneys until 10 p.m. the previous night.
Williams rejected defense claims it was “selective prosecution” or “selective enforcement” by law enforcement agents who arrested the protesters Aug. 17 after they entered a closed area. All but one of the 12 defendants were convicted on two counts.
It was the fourth year of protests against timber sales that environmentalists claim will damage an ecologically fragile area, particularly through road building.
Williams said he could find no evidence of “outrageous government conduct” and rejected the defense claim that the order closing the forest area had to be published in the Federal Register.
Williams said the protesters had ample opportunity to learn of the closure order. He also rejected claims their First Amendment rights were violated, noting that they could have protested the logging outside the area that was closed to the public.
The disputed area is between the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and the Gospel Hump Wilderness in central Idaho. Protesters believe the Cove-Mallard area is the last unprotected habitat connecting two protected wilderness areas.
“The defendants knew of the plan (to block access to the Jack Creek timber sale) and knowingly joined in,” Williams said.
“They were in fact involved in what has been described as a protest action.”
More legal arguments were planned before sentencing.
Due to be sentenced are Karen Zelch, Jill Ondrey, Troy Jones, Sarah Willner, Gary Macfarlane, Gregory Mack, Rein Attemann, Otis Wright, Michael Bowersox, Zachary Griefen, Adams Woods and A. Mark Liiv.
Cove-Mallard Coalition spokesman Robert “Ramon” Amon said the fight will continue.
Amon said, “A good deterrent would be for the Forest Service to stop the Cove-Mallard project - it’s guaranteed we would go far, far away.”