Backbone camp readies protesters for future campaigns

Activists practiced kayaking maneuvers Tuesday as part of the Localize This! Action Camp. - Leslie Brown/staff photo
Activists practiced kayaking maneuvers Tuesday as part of the Localize This! Action Camp.
— image credit: Leslie Brown/staff photo

More than 50 people are gathering at a private family home on Vashon’s west side this week, learning how to use a kayak to block construction and climb towers to make a statement.

The gathering, called “Localize This! Action Camp,” is the latest in a series of efforts to bring a new level of activism to the campaign to block further construction at the Glacier Northwest mine site on Maury Island, said Bill Moyer, executive director of The Backbone Campaign, which is sponsoring the camp.

“It would be a mistake for our community to rely solely on courts or bureaucracy to stop Glacier,” he said. “We want to make sure that if an expansion is attempted, our community can be skilled and safe in mounting a response.”

The camp comes a week after Public Lands Commissioner Peter Gold-mark told Glacier it had to “cease operations” at its pier construction site until it answered several complex questions about the environmental impact its project could have on Puget Sound.

Goldmark, a Democrat, said in a statement last week that he had “grave concerns” about the lease that his predecessor, Republican Doug Sutherland, issued to the corporation in the final weeks of his term late last year.

The corporation, which was gearing up to resume construction mid-August, is now poring over the 11-page document Goldmark and his staff sent to Glacier laying out their concerns.

“We’re still looking at it and evaluating all the different requests ... and what we’ve provided in the past,” said Pete Stoltz, Glacier’s permit coordinator. “We’re going through our process here of deciding how this is all going to come together.”

Meanwhile, at the Lo-

calize This! camp Tuesday afternoon, an expansive meadow-turned-gathering-site was sporting tepees, tents and a makeshift kitchen.

In one open-sided tent, gear to make puppetry was being assembled. In another, a group of potential protesters was gathering to discuss strategy.

And in the trees that border the meadow, a rolling landscape owned by the Dolstad family, another organizer was rappelling down a towering alder, preparing for a training session on how to climb trees and structures to unfurl banners or stop activity.

“I’m thrilled to be here,” said Jack Downey, 29, of New York, a veteran of many direct action campaigns. “It’s nice to be able to help people who are part of a larger community.”

Moyer said people from across the country, as well as several Islanders, have signed up for the camp. He’s also gotten word that the King County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI are paying attention to the gathering.

The attention is fine with him, he said.

“I want them to take us seriously,” he said.

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