Culling Trees For Cash at Bohmeian Grove

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Wed, 05/21/2008 - 8:27pm.

At the end of the lane across the Russian River from this north woods town, behind the "Keep Out" signs and the plainclothes security guards, lies Bohemian Grove, a mysterious summer playground of presidents, former presidents, princes, Cabinet members and titans of industry.

The most exclusive men's club in the world gathers each July for a secret conclave that begins with a nocturnal ceremony featuring torches, incantations, hooded robes of red velvet and the incineration of a coffin beneath a massive sculpture of an owl.

Immense power and staggering wealth are as deeply embedded in the traditions of the Bohemian Club as they are in the grove itself, 100 acres of old-growth redwoods spared from timber companies a century ago in the name of preservation.

Which only deepens the dismay that has greeted the club's request to the state of California for permission to log as much as 1 million board feet from the place to raise some cash.

"I guess the only thing you can say about that is how the mighty have fallen — trees to follow," said Harry Shearer, a comedic actor who made a film, "Teddy Bears' Picnic," lampooning the grove, where he was a guest in the mid-1990s.

"They've always fetishized the trees," Shearer said. "It's sort of surprising that it's gone from this object of fetishistic adoration to a cash cow."

Club President Jay Mancini said that, like so much about the Bohemians, the effort to secure a non-industrial timber management plan is widely misunderstood.

"Not secretive. We're private. And there is a difference," he said of what began in the late 1800s as a San Francisco society of journalists and writers, including Jack London. The group invited business tycoons to stay solvent, and bought the grove to spare it from the lumber companies clear-cutting to rebuild San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and fire.

In fact, fear of fire drives the effort to "selectively log" the club's 2,700 acres, Mancini said.

Forestry officials concur, and appear inclined to approve the plan, once the club transfers control of the old-growth trees to a conservation group.

Still, the local Sierra Club opposes the plan. "If anybody could afford to manage for fire danger, the Bohemian Club ought to be able to afford it, without taking down trees," chapter official Jay Holcomb said.

And a former Bohemian is foursquare opposed, with discreet funding from unnamed current members. John Hooper resigned in 2004.

"The Healthy Forests initiative in the national forests promoted by President Bush is a free license by the lumber industry to log," Hooper said. "The Bohemian Club's initiative is almost its own Healthy Forests initiative."

Naming Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, George H.W. Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton and Newt Gingrich as recent guests, Hooper said: "There's a flavor. If you were invited to a three-day weekend at the grove, it would be hard not to feel that you were surrounded by the current administration and its close cronies."

Washington Post - May 21, 2008 - posted at

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Wed, 05/21/2008 - 8:27pm.