Monday, September 2, 2013

Occupy Willits Bypass! Save Little Lake Valley!

A CalTrans Bypass through Little lake Valley around Willits would devour wetlands, oak savannahs, and oak forests throughout Little Lake Valley.
* Find photos, stories and campaign background at [] []
* []
* "Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters" [2530 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702] [510-548-3113] [bach (] []
* "Redwood Nation Earth First!" media contacts Freddie Long [707-459-5267], Jamie Chevalier [707-354-4796], []
* Rhizome Infoshop []
* Please sign the online petition calling for a HALT to work on the Bypass through wetlands and woodlands so that less destructive, less expensive alternatives can be put in place. These alternatives exist! SIGN the petition here [].
* ABC News story in May that graphically shows how unnecessary this $210 million project is: [].

Important Legal Note:
The case against Caltrans challenging the Bypass was set to be heard in federal court in San Francisco on June 14--this has been changed. The new date is June 21, 9 am in Judge Jeffrey White's court, Room 11, 19th floor, Federal Bldg. at 450 Golden Gate Ave., S.F. close to the Civic Center BART. This lawsuit was filed last year by the Center for Biological Diversity, EPIC, and the Willits Environmental Center.

Willits Valley taken in January 2013, just before Caltrans construction began. (Steve Eberhard/The Willits News)

Other Ecological Actions happening in the Redwood Curtain:
* "Stop Green Diamond" campaign []
* Ecology Solidarity: Save Richardson Grove! []

"National Congress of American Indians Passes Resolution Supporting Sherwood Valley Pomo Struggle with Caltrans":
The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is the leading inter-tribal organization in the country. Among other activities, the organization employs numerous full-time professional lobbyists in Washington, DC. The group passed the following resolution at its October 13-18 national convention in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The resolution calls for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to suspend funding of the Willits Bypass unless Caltrans finally addresses the grievances the Sherwood Valley Rancheria of Pomo Indians have been raising since April, calls on the US Congress to investigate Caltrans’ desecration of a major archeological site in the Little Lake wick drain fields, and asks that Caltrans halt Bypass construction in culturally sensitive areas until meaningful consultation can take place between Caltrans and Sherwood Valley representatives.
The National Congress of American Indians Resolution #TUL-13-060
TITLE: Opposition to Use of Federal Funds for Projects Harming Tribal Cultural Resources

WHEREAS, we, the members of the National Congress of American Indians of policies in order to avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse impacts on tribal lands and cultural resources; and

WHEREAS, enforcement of these laws and policies is inadequate and often results in irreparable harm to tribal cultural resources; and

WHEREAS, NCAI has been informed that the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), utilizing federal funding administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), is constructing a 5.9 mile highway bypass (Project) near the community of Willits, through the Little Lake Valley in Mendocino County, California; and

WHEREAS, this area is the aboriginal territory of the Pomo Indians and several federally-recognized tribes currently have lands located in the area and maintain historic and cultural ties to the Project lands; and

WHEREAS, during construction of the Project there have been several unexpected discoveries of archaeological and historic sites that are eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places and which may have significant cultural value to the native Pomo people; and

WHEREAS, enforcement of these laws and policies is inadequate and often results in irreparable harm to tribal cultural resources; and

WHEREAS, NCAI has been informed that the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), utilizing federal funding administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), is constructing a 5.9 mile highway bypass (Project) near the community of Willits, through the Little Lake Valley in Mendocino County, California; and

WHEREAS, this area is the aboriginal territory of the Pomo Indians and several federally-recognized tribes currently have lands located in the area and maintain historic and cultural ties to the Project lands; and

WHEREAS, during construction of the Project there have been several unexpected discoveries of archaeological and historic sites that are eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places and which may have significant cultural value to the native Pomo people; and

WHEREAS, insufficient consultation with nearby tribes, inaccurate information, factually wrong planning documents, and inadequate implementation of protective measures has led to tribal cultural resources and historic sites being substantially harmed in violation of commitments of Caltrans; and

WHEREAS, both the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the California Office of Historic Preservation have requested that Caltrans reinitiate consultation under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act with nearby tribes and develop an Memorandum of Agreement to address these issues; and

WHEREAS, as of October 1, 2013, Caltrans has refused to halt construction activities within archaeologically sensitive areas or commit to reinitiating consultation with nearby tribes as requested by at least one tribe.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that NCAI hereby requests that the FHWA and Caltrans halt construction activities within archaeologically-sensitive areas and reinitiate consultation with nearby tribes under Section 106 in order to develop a Memorandum of Agreement to allow the Project to proceed in a manner that protects tribal cultural resources and historic sites; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI strongly urges the FHWA and Congress to preclude the use of federal funds for the Project until Caltrans properly complies with its legal obligations under federal laws and policies, and complies with the requests of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the California Office of Historic Preservation; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI requests Congress to exercise its oversight responsibilities and investigate the activities that led to the harm and potential destruction of tribal cultural resources and historic properties as a result of this Project; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that this resolution shall be the policy of NCAI until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.

CERTIFICATION The foregoing resolution was adopted by the General Assembly at the 2013 Annual Session of the National Congress of American Indians, held at the Cox Business Center from October 13 – 18, 2013 in Tulsa, Oklahoma with a quorum present.

Solidarity for Will Parrish, a hero of Little Lake Valley! [link]

"3 Arrests as Tree-Sitters are "Extracted" in Willits Bypass Campaign"
2013-09-26  from the "Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters (BACH)":
The tree-sit at the northern terminus of the Caltrans Willits Bypass that has stood in the way of construction for four months has been taken down, but activists vow more actions will take place to stop or downsize Caltrans' disastrous highway project.

Two people were taken out of a large, ancient ash tree and arrested in Willits last week. A crew of 50 CHP cops using giant "cherry-picker" crane trucks brought two sitters out of the tree, and arrested a third person there documenting the police action as a journalist, but resistance to the Caltrans Bypass continues.
The four-month long tree-sit was in the last remaining grove of trees sitting in the path of Caltrans over-built highway construction of a bypass around the town of Willits in Mendocino County, California. The tree also sits at the edge of wetlands that Caltrans is draining and filling with 55,000 "wick drains" sunk into the soil and massive amounts of fill. Activists and local residents have been calling on the Army Corps of Engineers, who oversee projects involving wetlands, to enforce existing laws and to pursue Caltrans permit violations already documented.
There is a large rally and action planned for Oct. 12 in the area--details will be posted very soon.
There have been over 50 arrests for civil disobedience actions to stop the massive, expensive and unnecessary project, as well as court battles and pressure on elected officials and Gov. Jerry Brown. Opponents of the boondoggle plan are awaiting the outcome of a federal court lawsuit challenging the plan filed in May of 2012.

"Violations Rain on Caltrans as It Lumbers Forward on Destructive Path" 
2013-09-04 Update from the Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters (BACH):
Last week was a big week in the Caltrans Willits Bypass campaign, starting with a day in court. As covered in our last update, two groups had filed suit against the County of Mendocino over permits issued to allow excavation by Caltrans contractors of nearly a million cubic yards of fill being dumped on wetlands in Willits.  The fill is being dumped on the wick drains in the wetlands at the north end of Willits to make way for the boondoggle highway, and the groups charged violations of the Calif. Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA) because of a lack of review. A hearing for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) was scheduled for Wednesday 8-28, but when we showed up in court, we learned the County had revoked  the permit, saying it had been issued "in error". The truth is, they were caught, not in an error, but in an act of clear deceit, allowing contractors to do work without proper permits. But the fact that they essentially "TRO'ed" themselves meant the fill trucks were silenced.
The Notice of Non-Compliance, made public the week before is still a hot topic as Caltrans watchers wait to see what action the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) will take. The Army Corps issued the notice calling it a "serious violation" that could warrant a stop work order. City Councilwoman Madge Strong and others just made a trip to meet with ACE officials in San Francisco. ACE is mandated to assure no net loss of wetlands based on stringent conditions which are not being met by Caltrans. Further, there has been no analysis of impact of the 55,000 wick drains now in the north wetlands.
A packed City Council meeting last week heard at least 2 hours of public testimony in support of a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown (brought by Councilwoman Madge Strong) calling for a down-sizing of the project before irreparable harm takes place.
After the trucks hauling fill were shut down for a week because of the County permit revocation, they just started rolling again, hauling fill from another site to dump on the wetlands. As a result, we are likely to see more direct action soon. Stay tuned! 
There is an action camp and fairly constant activity if people are able to go and help defend the wetlands. To otherwise support and for more info see

"Caltrans Bypass Destructive Work Plows Ahead; Protests Persist, Tree-Sits and Blockades Highlight Critical Time for Wetlands" 
2013-08-19 update from the "Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters":
In the small northern California community of Willits where people have been waging a pitched battle against Caltrans plans to massively expand the capacity of Highway 101 (see previous alerts about Richardson Grove and the project in the Smith River Canyon), new chapters are unfolding.
Caltrans announced that its contractors would begin hauling fill this week to cover hundreds of acres of wick drains that have been sunk into the wetlands grounds.  Once the wick drains are covered, the tons of fill will begin squeezing the water up and out of the drains, causing irreversible damage to the wetlands. Though the fill hauling has been delayed, this represents a critical juncture that have local residents very concerned about threats to their wells and other water resources besides the tragic loss of wetlands. This project represents the largest loss of wetlands in California in 50 years.
(below: sign-painting at action camp during our visit in July)

NOTE: ABC TV broadcast a hard-hitting story earlier in August exposing the truth behind some of Caltrans’ propaganda, and arguing that the money could be better spent on Bay Area traffic solutions. If you missed it, we highly recommend you check it out at
(This is the second such exposé story by ABC; the first aired May 9:
During protests to stop the installation of the “wick drains” in July, a flurry of media interest and outrage expressed in Editorials was ignited with a reporter and photographer with the Willits News was arrested on the Caltrans construction site as he waited for his Caltrans “escort”.
In other court activity, the merits of the case against Caltrans were heard in federal court in San Francisco on June 21 when the civil suit launched by the Willits Environmental Center, EPIC and the Center for Biological Diversity had its day in court.  Judge Jeffrey White has yet to issue his ruling.
You can find ways to support this campaign plus photos, stories and campaign background at 
The stalwarts of this campaign deserve all the support you can give! If you are able to spend some time at their action camp, so much the better!

"CHP arrests journalist to stop coverage of protest" 
2013-07-26 from []:
There's a battle of wills taking place in Willits, where Caltrans has begun construction on a highway bypass around this small Mendocino County town. The bypass diverting Highway 101 has its supporters and its detractors, including a small group of protesters who have made it their mission to disrupt the construction at every opportunity.
On Tuesday, the protesters snuck onto the construction site early in the morning once again - but the only person arrested was the photographer for The Willits News, the twice-weekly local newspaper, who was there to document the latest protest.
This is clearly a tactic to discourage protesters by keeping them out of the news. It's actually an acknowledgment of Caltrans' and California Highway Patrol incompetence at controlling what happens at the site. It's wrong and it's got to stop.
The protesters cite the environmental damage they believe the construction is wreaking on the valley, its wetlands and natural beauty. They also say $200 million is too high a price for the relatively small amount of traffic that will be diverted. But Caltrans has been planning this bypass for two decades to relieve the backups on Willits streets, which the locals generally acknowledge is a serious problem.
The protests began in January to stop the initial tree clearing. They have included tree sitters, crane sitters and people chaining themselves to construction equipment. A few have been arrested.
Others disperse when told to, but they always come back. The CHP has spent at least $1 million trying to keep protesters off the construction site. It has failed miserably, so it has apparently decided to try arresting or harassing members of the media who show up to cover the protests.
Steve Eberhard, a longtime freelance photographer for the Willits News, was arrested early Tuesday as he approached the area where some protesters had chained themselves to construction equipment and others stood nearby. None of the protesters had been arrested, but as soon as Eberhard showed up he was cuffed and led away, his camera equipment taken from him.
The media has been told that unless members have a Caltrans escort, they are trespassing on the site. But Caltrans only provides escorts during "regular business hours" and sometimes not even then - especially if there's something worth photographing. The CHP, meanwhile, has told protesters that when a journalist shows up, the first arrest will be the media, presumably so that the protests will go undocumented - as if anyone with a smart phone isn't a photographer these days. The CHP has harassed journalists even when they have a Caltrans escort and even when they're in in a public right of way near the site.
And just for the record, Eberhard is a senior citizen, a retiree and a veteran. He has press credentials, including one from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office. And because Willits is in a rural and isolated area, Eberhard is just about the only visual journalist chronicling the project. Appearances by TV crews or metro area print photographers are rare.
Eberhard has been cited for trespassing. We are glad to hear the district attorney will likely dismiss the charge, as he's done for other first-time offenders in the protests - but this dismissal is necessary: The trespass law exempts people who "are engaging in activities protected by the California or United States Constitution," which Eberhard clearly was as a journalist covering a protest.
The protests are going to continue. Trying to keep the media away is pointless and self-defeating.
The CHP is normally more professional than this. When did arresting the messenger become a good way to stop crime? Let's try ending the incompetence, and the news won't look so bad.

"Stop the Willits Bypass!" 
2013-07-13 message from "EF! Humboldt":
Join Little Lake Valley in resisting Caltrans' enormous 4-lane, 6-mile, 300 millon dollar bypass. Communities in Mendocino county have been resisting this destructive plan for decades because of the extreme ecological damage and economic downfalls it would cause.
Direct action became a component in the campaign earlier this year when multiple treesits blocked work on the southern end of the bypass route. Currently, sitters are occupying trees at the northern end of the bypass “bootprint.” Work was effectively stalled for nearly two weeks beginning last month when Mendo local Will Parrish occupied a 100 foot wick drain stitching machine near the northern treesit site. The purpose of this machine is to literally drain the wetlands of Little Lake Valley before it is filled and paved over. Will has been arraigned and is facing a plethora of misdemeanor charges. Trial date is set for August 5th.
Although most bypass protest arrests have resulted in citations only, one treesitter who was violently extracted from a sit in early April is currently serving time in the Mendocino county jail on protest related charges. Send your support to our courageous comrade Reign:
Martin Reign Katz, #24500
Mendocino County Correctional Facility
951 Low Gap Road
Ukiah, CA 95482

"Daring Aerial Resupply Reaches Parched Crane-Sitter on Caltrans Tower"
2013-06-27 from "Redwood Nation Earth First!":
In an action combining daring, danger and comedy, Earth First! activists succeeded in putting a climber atop the second wick drain driver, and stringing a traverse rope to the crane-sitter who had been without food and water for a week. The bold action was carried out in broad daylight Wednesday afternoon. To get to the tower, the climber had to cross a wide belt of bare earth, guarded by 2 CHP vehicles. Later, in spite of floodlights and guards, the climber delivered his life-saving supplies over the traverse line, and then vanished into the night.
One week ago Little Lake Valley Defender and writer Will Parrish set up residence on a 2-ft wide plank halfway up one of the two 100’ towers. About 40 people entered the worksite Saturday evening to bring supplies to Parrish, who had run out of food and water and was facing cold wet weather. In a dramatic confrontation, CHP officers cut his supply rope. After a standoff of several hours, six people were arrested, including a mother and daughter who were grabbed while attempting to comply with CHP orders to leave.
Concern for Parrish’s safety after four days without food or water has been mounting, and a medical team sought permission to bring water. Communication was cut when his cell phone fell from the tower the first day. During Saturday’s resupply attempt, Parrish called down from his perch: “I’ll starve before I’ll let this machine install another wick drain.”According to Parrish, who now has a phone, “I’ve just been resupplied by a real-life superhero. The machine operator started to lower the crane with him on it, and the CHP just watched.” Bystanders and press recorded the life-threatening incident on camera and video. Carrying supplies and gear, the climber scaled the tower, and attached his safety harness about 60’ up.
CHP officers were preoccupied with the effort to extract one of their vehicles from the deep mud near the site’s entrance, about 100 yards away. The officers summoned several passing protesters to help them, apparently taking them for passersby walking their dogs. The protesters helped free the car, which then got stuck again. The patrol cars next to the machine were apparently unmanned at the time.
Surveying the sea of mud left by three days of rain, long-time Willits resident Freddie Long observed: “This is a perfect illustration of why the wick drains are such a bad idea. This should be wetland, not a freeway.”
Bypass opponents say they will stop protesting when Caltrans stops work on the current version of the bypass, which they maintain is environmentally destructive and fiscally irresponsible. Sticker price for the 6 miles of road is $210 million dollars, not counting bond interest and cost overruns, or the $300 million dollar phase 2 of the project, which Caltrans says will be necessary to bring the current project up to safety standards.
Local citizens and civic organizations have long advocated a set of cheaper, less destructive alternatives. A meeting between opponents of the current project and Caltrans head Malcom Dougherty is set for July 9th.
Photo credit: Steve Eberhard, Willits News

2013-06-26 photo showing Will Parrish, post resupply, looking really happy about his supplies, and brandishing a jug of precious water!

2013-06-24 "Will Parrish Sit Day Three: Supporters Make Dramatic Bid to Resupply…" []

MEDIA CONTACT: Warbler [707-841-0197] for questions, up-to-date info & interviews with people on the ground and in communication with Will.
Important Release of Protester's Statement and Call to Action from Little Lake Valley Defenders:
Will Parrish's action of occupying the wick drill stitcher(1) is stopping the wick drain stitcher from operating. The action began on Thursday morning, June 20, 2013. CalTrans [California Department of Transportation] trucks first discovered Will at 5:30am June 20th, when they came to begin their work day. This action is severely slowing down CalTrans from completing this drilling phase of the project. CalTrans has two of these stitchers, and now can only operate at half capacity. People who want to come out, get involved, or give support are welcome to call [707-841-0197] or [707-540-1526].
Here is Will Parrish's statement (composed with his body inside the machinery and about 45 feet above the ground):
I have put my body inside the wick drain stitcher because direct actions like these are the only thing slowing down the destruction of Little Lake Valley [Willits, CA] by CalTrans. These wetlands, as well as the other areas we are striving to protect, are defenseless without us. While I commend people who have pursued the lawsuit that was heard in federal court Friday, June 21st, I put little faith in the legal system to do the right thing. On behalf of past, present, and future generations, we must not allow such unnecessary and wasteful projects as the Willits Bypass to happen anymore. I am putting my body on the line to protect these forests, mountains, and water because I know that the forest, mountains, and water protect all of us! I know we can stop this project through continued resistance.
(1) A wick drain stitcher is about a 100 foot drill connected to an excavator body on big treads. The machine has been drilling holes, approx 80 ft. deep and inserting long fibrous wicks. The purpose of this hole drilling and wick insertion is to suck out the groundwater, bringing it to the surface so that it evaporates. It is how CalTrans plans to dry out the wetlands here. CalTrans' Willits Bypass plan calls for about 55,000 of these wicks.

"Protest Halts Willits Bypass Construction with Crane Banner Drop" 
2013-06-21 from "Redwood Nation Earth First!":
WILLITS, CA – Work was disrupted yesterday (6/20) at the Willits Bypass construction site when a protester unfurled a banner reading, “NO BYPASS” from the top of a 150 foot crane used to drain the Little Lake Valley wetlands.
Yesterday's banner drop from the crane is the latest in a series of direct actions organized by the group “Save Our Little Lake Valley” []. Past actions have included road-side rallies, multiple tree-sits, lock-downs to construction equipment, and general civil disobedience at the construction site. Go to Forestdefender's blog for a timeline and more photos of Willits Bypass protests [].
At yesterday's action and on June 12th, activists disrupted installation of wicks used to drain the wetlands. CalTrans plans to drain Little Lake Valley's wetlands with over 55,000 wicks as part of their plan to re-route Highway 101 around Willits [].
So far the CHP has not evicted the crane-sitter.
Willits residents list a number of reasons they are taking direct action to stop the construction of the Willits Bypass. Many residents are certain the re-routing of the 101 will not only destroy the wetland ecosystem of Little Lake Valley, but also fail to alleviate traffic congestion while damaging local businesses who depend on business from through-traffic.
The crane banner action happened one day before a lawsuit against CalTrans for violations of NEPA and the Clean Water Act will be heard in federal court in San Francisco. Save Our Little Lake Valley has asked for opponents of the Bypass to meet outside the Federal Courthouse in San Francisco on Friday June 21st.

"Blockades continue to Oppose Caltrans Bypass in Willits; Lawsuit Set for June 21; Put the Brakes on Caltrans! Willits Campaign Pushes Forward With Gusto" 
2013-06-12 Update from the "Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters (BACH)":
Blockades, tree-sits, hunger strikes from the branches of trees, overflow crowds at County Supervisors meetings, caravans to Sacramento, lock-downs to heavy equipment and MORE have been the order of the day of the scrappy and dedicated campaign to stop the ecologically disastrous and expensive Willits Bypass highway project! Just this morning (6-12) 30 local people entered the construction site and blocked the path of the heavy machinery, and stayed until all equipment was shut down and workers left the site. Willits City Councilwoman Madge Strong was with the group of activists.
Watch for an announcement soon of a big regional action for the wetlands and the woods!
Save Our Little Lake Valley (SOLLV) and Earth First! in Willits have been an unflinching presence in the face of Caltrans heavy machinery and have diligently lobbied state Fish and Wildlife and the Army Corps of Engineers, who permit the activity by Caltrans to follow up on violations in permits and agreements.
After many delays, caused in part by vigilant reporting to wildlife agencies by activists on the ground monitoring violations, Caltrans has been working on the destructive tasks of leveling many old oak trees, and sinking deep wicks into the wetland areas to drain the water to begin fill and construction on top of them. Activists previously locked down to the enormous piece of equipment that pounds the wicks into the ground, stopping work temporarily, but Caltans plans to drive 55,000 of these wicks 80 feet into the moist soil!
Mitigation measures are not fully funded (though it can be argued that the destruction of a wetland when California has lost over 90% of its wetlands that existed at the time of European settlement cannot be mitigated); nesting migratory birds and other wildlife have been severely disturbed, and serious threats exist to the Coho salmon population.
2013-06-12 protest:

"Action Camp for Caltrans Bypass Protests: Mendocino County"
2013-04-08 message from "Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters":
Our friends in the Willits area that we are working with opposing the Caltrans Bypass Highway just put out this Action Camp announcement. It's a beautiful time of year to go up to Willits, and there is much to do to save the wetlands and woodlands.

Call to Action! Action Camp Opens April 7-14! 
For more information and directions to camp: [707-513-9897] 
Your help is needed to sustain our nonviolent resistance to Caltran’s Bypass project through Little Lake Valley in Willits. Please join us at Action Camp.
Construction has started. On April 2, tree sitter Warbler was roughly wrested from her perch and her Ponderosa pine cut down. Tree sitters Celsius and Caspian, Falcon and Eagle have also been brutally forced from their trees. Many more large old hardwoods are being cut down every working day.
We will not back down in the face of overwhelming force and police-state tactics. Our love for the Valley is stronger than that. Please join us at Action Camp to help slow the destruction until a legal resolution can be reached.
Who? Local and out of town activists who want to protect the Valley welcome!
What? A place to meet, camp out, train and organize together for nonviolent direct action. Nonviolence, climbing, back woods training, camp care and set up Lots to do!
When? April 7-14 and after as needed. Arrive Saturday evening after the Rally for the Valley at 2-6 p.m. in Recreation Grove in Willits
Where? On a beautiful parcel just west of Willits generously donated by a local supporter
Why? To protest Caltrans’ planned destruction of Paradise to put up a Freeway Bypass.
Please no dogs as cows are in the fields. Come for any amount of time you can contribute or camp the whole week. See you there!

ALERT from the Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters
Tree-sitters Removed From Trees With a Huge Show of Force at Caltrans Bypass Site in Willits; Police Use Bean Bag Rounds on One Protester
In the early morning hours of April 2, the tree-sitter Warbler was removed from her perch by climbers and armed CHP cops and quickly thereafter, authorities  went after the other tree-sitters, sometimes violently. Warbler was in a somewhat weakened condition from her hunger strike started last week, and the climbers told her they were using "any means necessary" to remove her from the tree. She is continuing her protest hunger strike on the ground.
At least 50 CHP officers, many in riot gear, some armed, went after the other four tree-sitters. Observers documented the CHP pointing rifles directly at sitters at close range, from "cherry-picker" truck buckets high in the air. When one sitter did not get in the bucket to be lowered down, the officers fired bean bag rounds at him. While seen as a non-lethal alternative to bullets, bean bag projectiles can cause serious injury or even death.
Many people rushing to the scene showed up to support the tree-sitters, and two people from the crowd were arrested, one being dragged across the road and injured.
You can see photos of the tree-sitter extractions, including the officers with rifles trained on tree-sitters on the site of Save Little Lake Valley:
Further details, more photos and first-hand accounts can be found in the media story links pasted below. For Bay Area people, you can listen to interviews with tree-sitters in the middle of the melee on KPFA's Flashpoints show on April 2, and interviews with a tree-sitter, Caltrans, and Jeff Miller from the Center for Biological Diversity on KPFA's Up Front morning show on April 3. Both can be found on the KPFA website archives.
The campaign against Caltrans' Bypass plan continues despite the dramatic incidents of April 2. An Action Camp is being set up, elected officials are being lobbied and there is a petition to sign at https://[]
You can also find information about protesting the violence used by authorities on the Save Little Lake Valley site.
(note: We apologize for the delay in getting this breaking news out, due to personal crises.)

Media stories from April 2:
* KPFA Flashpoints w/tree sitters 4-2: []
* SF Bay Guardian 4-2 []
* WN 4-2: []
* SF Chronicle 4-2: []
* AP story in Seattle Post Intelligencer 4-2: []
* Press Dem 4-2: []
* KIEM TV 4-2: []
* KQED w/video &amp; photos 4-2: []
* KPFA Up Front, 4-3: []

"Willits bypass tree-sit protest keeps up" 
2013-04-02 by Kevin Fagan from "San Francisco Chronicle" []:
Protesters trying to block a Highway 101 bypass around the Mendocino County town of Willits entered their third month of occupying trees in front of Caltrans construction equipment Friday, with neither side showing any signs of backing down.
Borrowing a page from tree-perching protesters who tied up construction on UC Berkeley's Memorial Stadium for months in 2007-08, 24-year-old Amanda "Warbler" Senseman started the Willits demonstration Jan. 28 when she pitched camp in the limbs of a Ponderosa pine.
Three other protesters who say the freeway bypass will destroy sensitive wildlife areas have since moved into two nearby trees, and dozens of others show up daily to shout their support. On Thursday, Senseman declared that she was going on a hunger strike.
Meanwhile, Caltrans crews began their most ambitious stage of construction yet on Friday, carving out a footprint for the roadway with backhoes and removing big oaks and other trees.
The crews are able to work around the tree-sitters for now, said Caltrans spokesman Phil Frisbie, but they will probably need to tear out the occupied trees within a week or so. If that becomes necessary, he said, Caltrans will enlist the California Highway Patrol and local law enforcement.
"Our main concern is safety," Frisbie said. "We've been removing as many trees as we can near them, from a safe distance, but that can only go on so long."
The $210 million project will lay a two-lane, 6-mile bypass around the 4,800-population town, which besides being a stopover for North State travelers may be best known as the terminus of the Skunk tourist train out of Fort Bragg.
Willits leaders had clamored for decades for a new route that would take Highway 101 traffic out of their community. However, as the project drew near, that desire clashed with fears that the freeway will do more harm to the area where Caltrans intends to build it than good to Willits.
The past two weeks have seen a dozen protesters arrested for trespassing at the road site, a loud counter-demonstration by nearly 100 construction workers objecting to activist-caused delays in their work schedules, and the arrival of dozens of CHP officers to guard the area.
Senseman issued a statement saying she will starve herself until several of her demands are met, including resolution of a federal lawsuit filed last year by environmentalists seeking to force Caltrans to consider alternatives to the bypass.
"This is an obsolete project which will cause irreparable damage to our watershed, forest and community," said Senseman, who lives in Willits.
Her fellow protest organizer, Sara Grusky, said the bypass would ruin 30 acres of wetlands used by tule elk, blue heron and other wildlife, and would damage creeks where salmon spawn.
"It's a huge waste of taxpayer dollars, and there are easy alternatives that would cost a lot less," said Grusky, who runs a farm just outside of town.
Frisbie countered that the project would actually help the environment. Caltrans is restoring wetlands near the bypass to offset those where the road would be built, he said, as well as "opening up miles of additional salmon spawning areas" by unblocking local streams that now are impeded by man-made culverts.
"We keep trying to tell the protesters about all the good mitigation we are doing," Frisbie said, "but I don't know if they don't want to hear it, or don't believe it."

Amanda "Warbler" Senseman, has been a tree sitter now for 63 days at the Willits Bypass Protest. She lowered all of her food down to CHP officers and declared a hunger strike on Thursday, March 28, 2013. Photo: Steve Eberhard, Steve Eberhard/The Willits News

"Caltrans Bypass Battle Escalates as 12 activists are arrested defending trees" 
2013-03-27 from "Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters":
Caltrans has been pushing ahead with attempts to start work on their hugely destructive boondoggle highway project in Mendocino County as they bring heavy equipment into the Willits Bypass planned site, and protesters in their way have been arrested .
Their work is starting with the cutting of an oak woodland, with many old, mature trees that should be protected under the Migratory Bird Act during nesting season. Last Thursday (3-21) and again on Tuesday (3-26) activists showed up on the Caltans work site to witness and to stand in the way of tree felling. Eight people were arrested late last week and four more were arrested on Tuesday.  Three tree-sitters remained aloft, including Warbler who has been in a tall pine tree on the close to Hwy 101 since January 28.
Bypass opponents have had a continuous presence since that time.
You can view photos and get updates on the site of the new local group in Willits: []
Photos from yesterday are in the “latest updates”

On Tuesday, about 150 people showed up at the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors meeting to ask them to rescind their support of the project in favor of the community-based plan that would be much less ecologically destructive.  Only one person spoke in favor of the Bypass.  Many of the activists rushed out of the meeting when a phone call came that Caltrans’ contractors were going after the oaks with chainsaws.
Wetlands, a diminished habitat on the west coast in general, are also slated for destruction. Caltrans plans to sink giant wicks deep into the wetlands in Little Lake Valley to suck out the water, clearing the way for this unnecessary construction.  Outlet and Bechtel Creeks, both salmon-bearing streams, would be negatively affected as well. Caltrans plans to “relocate” the fish during the multi-year construction process.
If you can go up to Mendocino County and help out, more people are needed. An action camp is planned -- we’ll let you know the details.  There are many ways to support the activists there. 
PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION at []. Please contact your own Representative and express your opinions (find yours HERE []). You can use the points in our previous alerts or in the on-line petition.  

 More Information:
 “Bulldozing a freeway the size of Interstate 5 through precious wetlands would be wasteful and destructive — a four-lane road is just not needed for the traffic volumes through Willits on Highway 101,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity.
 “This is a wake-up call for Caltrans, which should be building efficient public transit and maintaining existing roads, rather than wasting our money and resources clinging to outdated visions of new freeways,” said Ellen Drell, board member of the Willits Environmental Center. “Global climate change, threatened ecosystems and the end of cheap oil are warning signs that we need to change course. The change needs to happen in every community, including here in Willits.”
 For decades, Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration have pursued a bypass on Highway 101 around Willits to ease traffic congestion. The agencies insist on a four-lane freeway and refuse to consider or analyze equally effective two-lane alternatives or in-town solutions. The current project is a six-mile, four-lane freeway bypass, including several bridges over creeks and local roads, a viaduct spanning the regulatory floodway and two interchanges. Construction would damage wildlife habitat and biological resources in Little Lake Valley, including nearly 100 acres of wetlands, and would require the largest wetlands fill permit in Northern California in the past 50 years. It would also affect stream and riparian habitat for chinook and coho salmon and steelhead trout in three streams converging into Outlet Creek, harm state-protected endangered plants (Baker’s meadowfoam) and destroy oak woodlands.
 “In a time of devastating budget cuts to health, education, social services and the state park system, Caltrans proposes to spend nearly $200 million on an unnecessary project that will seriously degrade the headwaters of the Eel River,” said Gary Graham Hughes, executive director at EPIC. “This project is completely out of touch with the needs of the natural and human communities on the North Coast.”
 “For three decades the Sierra Cub has promoted responsible transportation planning in Mendocino County, but requests to consider a two-lane alternative have been ignored by Caltrans,” said Mary Walsh with the Redwood Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We’re proud to challenge this wasteful and destructive highway project.”
 The lawsuit is against Caltrans, the Federal Highway Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for violations of the National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Water Act. It seeks a court order requiring the agencies to prepare a supplemental “environmental impact statement” that considers two-lane alternatives and addresses substantial design changes and new information about traffic volumes and environmental impacts.

 For more than half a century, Caltrans has promoted turning Highway 101 into a four-lane freeway from San Diego to the Oregon border, with a four-lane freeway bypass around Willits. Caltrans first discussed potential bypass designs and routes through Willits in 1988, but by 1995 had unilaterally discarded all non-freeway or two-lane alternatives. An environmental review for a four-lane freeway was finalized in 2006.
 The California Transportation Commission, the state funding authority, has repeatedly refused to fund a four-lane freeway, so Caltrans proposes to proceed in “phases,” grading for four lanes and constructing two lanes with available funds, then allegedly constructing two additional lanes when additional funding becomes available, a dubious prospect. Yet Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration did not draft a supplemental “environmental impact statement” to look at impacts of this changed design or consider two-lane alternatives.
 A 1998 Caltrans study found that 70 percent to 80 percent of traffic causing congestion in downtown Willits was local, and Caltrans internally conceded that the volume of traffic projected to use the bypass was not enough to warrant a four-lane freeway. Agency data showed the volume of traffic that would use the bypass did not increase from 1992 to 2005. New information shows actual traffic volumes are below what the agencies projected when they determined only a four-lane freeway will provide the desired level of service, and that a two-lane bypass will provide a better level of service than projected.
 Phase I of the project will discharge fill into more than 86 acres of wetlands and federal jurisdiction waters. Caltrans purchased approximately 2,000 acres of ranchland in Little Lake Valley to “mitigate” for loss of wetlands, but the properties already had established existing wetlands, with no ability for Caltrans to “create” new wetlands. To obtain the required wetlands fill permit under the Clean Water Act, the state and federal agencies submitted a significantly deficient “mitigation and monitoring plan” to the Army Corps to “enhance” wetlands. This plan itself alters existing wetlands and causes significant new impacts to wetlands, endangered species and grazing lands, and makes design changes that were not analyzed or disclosed in the 2006 environmental review. The Corps improperly issued the permit in February 2012.
 The Willits Bypass is the latest in a series of controversial, environmentally damaging, expensive and unnecessary highway projects Caltrans is pursuing while refusing to consider alternatives and ignoring public opposition. Last month, a federal court ordered Caltrans to redo critical aspects of its environmental analysis for a project to widen and realign Highway 101 to promote large-truck travel through the ancient redwoods of Richardson Grove State Park. Caltrans is also proposing a project on Highway 197/199 in Del Norte County that would fell protected ancient redwoods and threaten the pristine Smith River. In January, Caltrans was forced by a lawsuit to rescind project approval and cancel construction of the first phase of an $80 million highway widening “safety” project in Niles Canyon, Alameda County, that Caltrans now admits is not needed.

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