He nearly got away without having to face his harshest critics.
But Sen. Larry Craig’s car was pursued by an array of environmentalists, waving signs and chanting slogans, as he left his last public hearing on a bill to overhaul forest management.
“Clean water, clean air, Larry Craig, doesn’t care,” the crowd chanted as it waited for Craig at the North Idaho College Student Union Building.
About 150 to 200 protesters gathered in Coeur d’Alene City Park to march against Craig’s bill.
“This land is our land,” said speaker Jake Kreilick of the Native Forest Network before the march. “I’ll be damned to let Sen. Craig give it over to Idaho, i.e. timber corporations, to do with as they please.”
A contingent of Coeur d’Alene protesters was bolstered by a bus load from Missoula, and dozens from Moscow and the Spokane area.
Some dressed in raccoon or bear costumes. A trio of gorillas aped the “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” adage.
Others dressed as they would when using their national forests; as tree planters, rock climbers, hikers, loggers or mountain bikers.
Julian Powers of Spokane pushed a bike with protest signs and a cassette player that belted out Woody Guthrie singing, “This land is your land.”
“I want the media to tell the American public what a bad bill this is and how much Larry Craig is acting as a pimp for the timber companies,” Powers said. “It’s wrong. It’s selfish, and it’s immoral.”
The placard-pumping protesters were scolded by at least one Craig supporter leaving the hearing.
“For you to use the timber industry’s products to bash the timber industry is so sacrilege,” said JoLin Boswell of Republic, Wash., referring to the signs protesters waved. “He’s trying to start something. He’s trying to fix something.”
After the hearing, the crowd meandered back to the city band shell to listen to the Galactic Tofu Farmers, a Moscow rock band, while Craig joined about 100 timber and mill workers for an outdoor barbecue at the Woodworkers Union Hall.
Craig said the accusations that he’s trying to deny the public involvement in forest management decisions is “flat wrong.”
He also pointed out that three environmentalists representing the protesters testified at Tuesday’s hearing.
“I do not want the accusation registered that we did not listen to everyone,” he said.
At the union hall, Craig received accolades from union workers and state legislators from Idaho and Oregon. Potlatch mill worker Mike Wisdom posed for a snapshot with the congressman.
Wisdom came on a chartered bus with a number of other workers from the Potlatch mill in Lewiston.
“I’ve seen a lot of mills shut down,” Wisdom said. “I still want to keep on working.”
Flanked by a banner that read, “We can have both forests and families,” Craig urged his supporters to stick with him through what will be a long and difficult process of passing his forest reform bill.
Behind him stood a row of black caskets with the names of timber towns printed on them.
“Idahoans will not accept living without access to our public lands,” Craig said. “We’ll need your energy and your willingness to fight alongside us as we move on down the road.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
MEMO: See related story under the headline: Craig bill can’t deliver, says critic