Forests Forever

Restore • Reinhabit • Re-enchant


All-star Team of Northern California Lawyers to Defend Mattole Septuagenarians.

Tony Serra, Omar Figueroa and Izaak Schwaiger join Rain & Zepp Firm on Controversial Forest Case

EUREKA, Calif., Oct. 7, 2019 — Renowned San Francisco attorney J. Tony Serra has joined a team of lawyers to defend four activists in their late seventies, arrested and charged in June in an act of civil disobedience to defend from logging ancient forestlands on California’s storied Lost Coast.

The property in question, Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC) forestland in the Mattole River watershed, belongs to the billionaire Fisher family of San Francisco, owners of the GAP, Old Navy and a real estate empire. The four elderly arrestees, all lifetime defenders of forest restoration, salmon and wildlife recovery, and watershed protection, were arrested by the Fishers'para-military security personnel and charged with trespassing to obstruct a business.

In addition to Serra, the attorneys of record are Omar Figueroa and Izaak Schwaiger of Sebastopol, and the Eureka firm of Rain & Zepp. Serra has defended clients in numerous high-profile cases over the years, including the recent Ghost Ship fire trial, Judi Bari vs. the FBI, Black Panther Huey Newton, Native American murder defendant Patrick Hooty Croy, the Bear Lincoln murder trial, and many others.

Figueroa has more than two decades of experience as a freedom defense lawyer, and has successfully defended numerous pro bono clients, including animal rights activists, computer hackers, and forest defenders.

Izaak Schwaiger is a civil rights and criminal defense attorney who has defended activists in the San Francisco Bay area for many years. He has won victories for homeless advocates, environmental activists, animal rights protesters, and victims of police brutality. Schwaiger has successfully prosecuted numerous federal civil rights actions against police agencies around the Bay Area.

A hearing on the defendants' Motion to Suppress is slated for Dec. 18 at 9:30am in the Humboldt County Courthouse in Eureka.

The Mattole defendants are Jane Lapiner, David Simpson, Ellen Taylor and Michael Evenson. Lapiner is a noted choreographer and, along with Simpson, founder of the Human Nature Theater Company. Simpson, past president of the Redway-based Institute for Sustainable Forestry, is currently writing comedy about climate change. He co-founded the Mattole Salmon Group (1980) of which Evenson is now board president. Evenson owns and operates The Lost Coast Ranch®, which raises organic, grass-fed beef, and, which reclaims vintage lumber from demolition projects. Taylor recently retired from the Open Door Community Health Centers after decades as a Physician’s Assistant. She is also president of the Lost Coast League, which is spearheading the fight to preserve Rainbow Ridge.

Rainbow Ridge, located primarily on HRC-owned land, contains the largest stands of unprotected, unentered coastal Douglas-fir and associated hardwood forests remaining in California. Rainbow Ridge has been the focus of over three decades of protest, beginning when MAXXAM Inc., in 1986 undertook a leveraged buyout of the then family-owned Pacific Lumber Co. The ridge lies adjacent to the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, which contains Rockefeller Forest, the world’s largest contiguous parcel of ancient redwoods.

Apart from its own unique ecological value Rainbow Ridge provides edge habitat protecting and enhancing the health of the giant redwoods and forms an important wildlife corridor to the Bureau of Land Management-managed King Range National Conservation Area on the coast nearby.

As the global climate crisis accelerates these old forests are essential to the survival of threatened and endangered species such as the Northern spotted owl, Chinook and coho salmon, Golden Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Pacific Fisher and many others.

As founder and author Bill McKibben recently wrote to the Fisher family, "It falls to few enough human beings to get to preserve what are in essence sacred groves... That Rainbow Ridge country is magical... [and if you preserve it, I would] give thanks to you and yours for making sure its remaining stands of great old trees are still there, soaking up carbon, sheltering wildlife, and reminding us what a remarkable planet we had the good fortune to be born into."


Forests Forever:
Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection
John J. Berger

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places