|By Vince Taylor
On Saturday, August 16, the lead
article in the "Empire" section of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, by Mike
Geniella, was entitled, "Anti-logging
Activist Settles Timber Violation." The article reported on a
settlement agreement between me and the California Department of Forestry
(CDF). The agreement settled a civil action brought by CDF against me.
The message of Mr. Geniella’s story was that while I was accusing CDF
of illegally logging Jackson State Forest I was egregiously violating
timber laws on my own property.
The obvious purpose of the article, based on documents supplied to the
reporter by timber-industry representatives, was to discredit the person
who has effectively opposed logging in our largest, publicly owned, state
The article created an entirely false picture through careful selection
and organization of information, presentation of allegations as fact, and
omission of a crucial part of the settlement agreement. The article was a
skillful hatchet job designed to make me appear dishonest, unethical, and
hypocritical – none of which are supported by the facts.
Judge for yourself by reading Mr.
Geniella’s article accompanied by my
detailed comments. Read also my letter
to the editor of the Press Democrat.
You will conclude, I am certain, that an accurate and unbiased article
would have been entitled "State Ends Harassment and Settles with
Pro-Forest Activist on His Terms."
The facts cited in my letter show that CDF tardily and with gross
discrimination singled me out for prosecution. I demonstrated this to
CDF’s lawyer and pointed out that the Campaign’s lawsuits were depriving
CDF of $10-15 million of annual revenue. The lawyer apparently realized
that CDF was conducting illegal "retaliatory prosecution," because CDF
then almost immediately agreed to eliminate the proposed fines of $3,000
(which were the whole point of the civil action). They also agreed that my
inadvertent (as detailed in my letter) and minor violation of the forest
laws was fully mitigated by a permit granted by them MORE THAN A YEAR
BEFORE THEY BROUGHT CIVIL CHARGES AGAINST ME.
After spending a year and a half and many thousands of dollars in staff
and legal time trying to create a prosecutable case against me, CDF ended
up with a settlement that was exactly what they would have obtained simply
by issuing a citation and an acknowledgement that the violations had been
Mr. Geniella, whose previous biased article on Jackson Forest was the
focus of a letter-writing campaign to his editors initiated by me, was
apparently only too happy to accept a creative and inaccurate
interpretation of the settlement agreement that painted me in the worst
Mr. Geniella called me before writing the article, but at that time he
had apparently not read the documents. He started out by asking what I had
to say about the settlement agreement where I’d been fined $3,000. I told
him he was in error, and he argued with me that he had the document in his
hand. What he had was the charges initially filed against me, not the
settlement agreement which contained no fine. He finally got it straight.
Mr. Geniella did not tell me he was planning to write an article, and
obviously did not ask me to comment on the assertions he planned to make
in the article. I mistakenly (and I now know, naively) assumed he was only
reviewing the documents and that he would not print any serious charges
against me without allowing me to comment in detail. His failure to do so
continues his pattern of unprofessional and biased reporting.
Please read my letter to the Press
Democrat. If you agree that Mr. Geniella’s article was unprofessional,
inaccurate and inappropriate, please take the time to write your own
letter for publication to the letters editor of the Press Democrat:
Santa Rosa Press Democrat
P.O. Box 910
Santa Rosa, CA 9540
Fax: 707 521-5330
(include mailing address and phone number)