& the Lumber Company
Lees was teaching at a public high school and living in Portland,
Oregon, and after many years of urban life, was looking to move
out into a more remote setting. And there was this parcel of land
in the hills out past nearby Forest Grove where he was thinking
of living, but it would require getting electricity hooked up if
he really decided to buy the place.
second, even bigger stumbling block: In the forest along the road,
big gouges were leveled where trees had recently been cut and cleared.
When Herb had gone to look at the real estate, he noticed there was
a lot of garbage dumped on the side of the road leading up to the
property: sofas, appliances, tires and the like. Besides the ugly
human trash, none of the debris from cutting the trees had been cleaned
land itself felt just right ~ great view with plenty of big nature ~ but
there was this irritating matter of all the trash and the continued
logging that threatened the beauty of the forest surrounding the
decided to walk back to where he'd seen the closest neighboring
house, up the same dirt road but back a ways, and find out what
could be done about all the trash. There was a long driveway and
he knocked at the house.
would-be-neighbor came to answer. Herb introduced himself, and
learned from Mr. Murray that the neighboring land, leading up
to his property, was owned by the powerful Kentucky-Northwestern
been dumpin all kind o trash ever since they been cuttin
down those trees for pulp. Sometimes folks dump on my property too,
and I have to go haul it up to the dump mself."
loved the setting, the view, and the price was right, but he didnt
want to buy the land if the eyesore leading up to it couldnt
be fixed. Determined to find resolution, he looked up the Kentucky-Northwestern
Lumber Company. Turned out they were headquartered in Lexington,
Kentucky and had only a small regional office in Eugene.
the regional office wasnt productive, all they could do was
confirm they owned property in Oregon. He then called the main office,
and was told by a polite employee that they couldnt do anything
about trash, as they were responsible only for logging there.
figured he would need to go to the local authorities, the county
public works department for starters. "Thats private
property, Mr. Lees. We aren't responsible for hauling refuge off
of peoples personal land."
he went to the sheriffs office and spoke to the county prosecutor.
"That's the law, Mr. Lees, we cant do anything unless
the county health department reports it as a hazard."
by the dead ends and back in Portland, Herb wrote a letter to the
lumber company in Kentucky and copied it to the editor of the Beaverton
Valley News. He explained the lack of receptivity hed been met
with, and asked Kentucky-Northwestern to clean up their land since
it was an eyesore to those who lived nearby as well as irresponsible
to the environment in general. When he got the curt reply in writing
saying what hed previously been told by them on the telephone,
he sent it on to the paper with a plea for advice on how to proceed.
just so happened that the underground Earth First organization got
wind of Herbs plight. They had a lot of ongoing beefs with
the Kentucky-Northwestern Company, and decided to take this on as
their project. This meant an on-site protest, with network newsfolk
and TV cameras.
happened next was one of those media things. As luck would have
it, the day of the protest was unusually slow, as news days go,
so the major networks picked up the story and ran a long piece featuring
protesters screaming in front of the piles of trash.
in Lexington, the Kentucky-Northwestern Co. began receiving telephone
calls ranging from concerned to irate. Congressman Stan Phelan,
who was running for reelection in the Portland district of Oregon,
seized onto the news story and called a press conference at the
protest site to blast "those outsiders ruining our Oregon."
the site, Herb wasted no time approaching the congressman. Phelan
was himself astonished to see so much disrepair and devastation.
He asked his aide to check up on the lumber company's logging permits.
days later, Congressmen Phelan phoned Herb Lees with the news
that Kentucky-Northwestern hadnt bothered to renew a single
logging permit, so would he please join him for another press
conference to tell the media this company was in very hot water
and possibly faced millions of dollars in fines.
went ahead and bought the property. By the time escrow closed, Kentucky-Northwestern
had lost the adjoining land. The fines added up to more than the
total value of their property, so they cut a deal with the state
and forfeited their entire deed. Eventually the state converted
the scarred land into a beautiful open space nature reserve.
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