HONEYDEW, CALIF. -- The organizers of Redwood Summer want to revive the spirit of Mississippi Summer 1964, when civil rights workers invaded the South, and a '60s flavor pervades the dusty, multicolored camp pitched in this oak grove deep in the northern California Coast Range.
An Antioch College junior in tie-dyed shirt, pants and headband greets visitors cheerfully. A woman bathes nude in Honeydew Creek while a nurse gives a class in first aid and bearded young men sitting near a message-filled bulletin board discuss who will be arrested at the next demonstration aimed at preventing the logging of the giant trees.
There is even a whiff of danger. Two of Redwood Summer's leading organizers, members of the radical environmentalist group Earth First!, were injured May 24 in Oakland when a pipe bomb exploded in the back seat of their car. Camp residents say they have had threats of one kind or another from loggers hostile to their plan to protect redwoods from heavy cutting, and they do not accept the investigators' theory that the two bombing victims were injured when a device they planned to use against the timber industry accidentally went off while they were transporting it.
But unlike the protesters who risked their lives in Mississippi a generation ago, this small swarm of environmentalists, as they pass out leaflets to tourists and picket lumber mills, appear to have the support of the majority of the state's voters. By November, they predict, support for redwoods among urban Californians will be strong enough to pass the nation's toughest anti-logging law. Loggers fear a victory might send what lately has been a booming local timber industry into another downward plunge.
"We think it's a disaster. It's forestry with a meat cleaver," said John Campbell, president of the Pacific Lumber Co., a prime target of Redwood Summer's campaign here in Humboldt County, 250 miles north of San Francisco.
The Forest and Wildlife Protection and Bond Act of 1990, what its sponsors call the Forests Forever initiative, would ban clear-cutting -- removal of more than 60 percent of timber by volume -- in most tracts larger than 2 1/2 acres. It would authorize $710 million in bonds to purchase unprotected ancient redwoods, starting with Pacific Lumber's 3,000-acre Headwaters Forest, the largest private collection of redwoods anywhere. It also would forbid logging companies to cut more trees than they grew and discourage export of raw logs.
Another November ballot initiative -- the Environmental Protection Act of 1990, known as Big Green -- would provide $200 million for redwood forest acquisition and restrict clear-cutting only in redwood forests, not all forests.
"We must have a sustainable timber industry, one that will create jobs over the long run, not one that will export our jobs overseas and destroy our forests in the process," said Natural Resources Defense Council senior attorney David Edelson in announcing his group's support of Forests Forever.
Campbell, whose huge Pacific Lumber plant sprawls beside Highway 101, 20 miles north of here, calls such talk "ridiculous." He said he employs 1,300 workers, has in the last few years invested $70 million in improved facilities, including an award-winning power plant burning mill waste, and like other California timber companies follows "the most restrictive forest protection rules in the nation."
Many of Campbell's young workers, although troubled by the 1986 junk bond takeover of Pacific Lumber by Texan Charles Hurwitz, share his distaste for the mix of idealistic newcomers and local environmentalists supporting Redwood Summer and Forests Forever. "My sister works at McDonald's," said Chris Sarvinski, employed at Pacific Lumber's hardwood chip plant. "Those people come in and say they want Big Macs, but not in Styrofoam containers. They want them wrapped in paper. Where do they think paper comes from?"
Sipping cans of beer in front of Hoby's Market a block from Pacific Lumber, Sarvinski and several friends merrily ridiculed Redwood Summer. There are enough ancient redwoods in state parks to satisfy the tourists, they said. Banning clear-cutting of the rest of the trees made as much sense to them as telling an Iowa farmer to leave his corn in the field, untouched.
"Look at that ridge," said power plant steamfitter Billy Dillard, pointing toward a hill thick with redwoods across the highway. "In 1930 that was all clear-cut, but now it's grown back."
Mindful of the affection most Californians have for trees and the environment, the Timber Association of California has placed a competing initiative on the ballot with much weaker rules against clear-cutting. Called the Global Warming and Clearcutting Reduction, Wildlife Protection and Reforestation Act of 1990 -- or the New Forestry initiative -- it would void Forests Forever if it receives more votes, even if both initiatives won majorities.
Jann Taber, a spokeswoman for the New Forestry initiative, said Forests Forever would "destroy communities and put as many as 100,000 people out of work." Redwood Summer activists deny any intention of gutting the local economy, although their literature suggests making paper out of hemp or tobacco instead of trees and says "for houses, there are many better alternatives than wood." They refer to the New Forestry initiative as "Big Stump."
Dave Ramsland, 34, a former grain market analyst in Chicago, arrived here in April with his tent and camping gear to begin what he called "a complete change of lifestyle." He had cringed at the clear-cutting he saw last year during a vacation in southwestern Oregon. He said the Earth First! effort to stop the logging made sense to him, although he rejected the use of tree spikes and other methods that could hurt loggers.
Through a murky decision-making process -- Earth First! members say they have no formal organizational structure -- tree spiking, sabotage and any other harmful tactics were ruled out for Redwood Summer. Instead, small groups have fanned out from the base camp to distribute doughnuts and chat with loggers, to march in the Mendocino Fourth of July parade with anti-clear-cutting banners and costumes and to plan for larger demonstrations, such as a planned rally and possible sit-in at the Georgia Pacific mill in Fort Bragg July 21.
This is the heart of what fad-conscious geographers sometimes call Ecotopia, the northwestern U.S. coast that has been a haven for writers, artists and others seeking simpler lifestyles, as well as those needing solitude to grow, market and consume illegal marijuana.
Only 50 people occupied the Redwood Summer base camp this past week, down from a peak of 300 when the campaign was preparing to picket the Louisiana Pacific plant in Samoa June 20. The camp is scheduled to move south into Mendocino County Tuesday to make ready for the Fort Bragg action, where more local environmentalists are expected to join. "At least we hope so," said Ed Denson, a Redwood Summer spokesman who runs a folk music record company in Alderpoint. Ramsdale said Earth First! leaders here keep in touch by telephone with movement offices in San Francisco, Santa Rosa, Ukiah, Arcata and Sylvandale -- meeting once a week to plot the summer's activities.
Redwood Summer activists plead for preservation of forests to forestall what some scientists predict will be dangerous warming of the Earth's atmosphere. "We can't go to Brazil and tell them to stop chopping down the rain forest if we're doing the same at home," said Matthew Rick, an Antioch student from St. Louis.
In the meantime, the Redwood Summer campers try to keep peace with local loggers, some of whom have begun to boycott businesses that advertise in local publications with an environmentalist emphasis.
"Most of the loggers are pretty decent people," said Ramsdale, sitting on the creek bank and looking toward the little town of Honeydew, surrounded by grassy hills that were once full of trees. "They don't want to see the forests go, but they are caught in the middle." This is their livelihood, and many logger families have fought off economic threats before.
In a significant cultural exchange, a group from the base camp ventured into town last week for a softball game against a group of loggers. Conversation stayed light; both sides enjoyed sharing the clean air and green vistas. It was fun, Ramsdale said, but once the game began, "they killed us."