Today the Weed City Council approved an agreement which secures, in perpetuity, the City’s rights to the high quality Beaughan Springs water upon which our community has relied for more than 110 years. This is a tremendous winfor our community and the citizens who have struggled since 2016 against Roseburg Forest Products’ (RFP) efforts to take away our most important water source. Facing ongoing public pressure and negative publicity for its role in Roseburg’s “water grab,” Crystal Geyser Roxane (CG Roxane) has agreed to purchase the water rights from RFP and then transfer them to the City on highly favorable terms, terms now approved by the City. CG Roxane is also taking a number of other steps to improve its relationship with Weed, where it operates a large water bottling plant.
“This is an historic victory for everything we have been fighting for.We always said we would not rest until Weed was recognized as the rightful owner of the full 2.0cfs of water from Beaughan Springs. And now we will be. We would like to express our thanks to the Weed City Council, our City Manager Tim Rundell and CG Roxane for coming to this historic agreement, as well as to the citizens of Weed who have long supported our efforts.”
--Jim Taylor, WCWC President
The conflict arose as the pure spring water long used by communities around Mount Shasta became sought after as a valuable commodity by the international water bottling industry. Roseburg Forest Products (RFP) manipulated a lack of clarity over Weed’s rights to 2.0 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water from Beaughan Springs, from the days when we were a company-owned
town, in order to pursue its own claim to the water. In 2016 RFP pressured the Weed City Council into agreeing to a water lease agreement that reduced the City’s use of Beaughan Springs, charged almost $100,000 per year for the remaining water, and would have phased out the City’s use of the springs entirely by 2026. Water for Citizens of Weed, CA (WCWC) was formed by concerned residents, including three former mayors, respected town elders and others, to resist this threat to our community’s water. Throughout the
last five years WCWC kept the pressure up on RFP--distributing newsletters and flyers, conducting town forums, filing complaints with State agencies and the Forestry Stewardship Council, and organizing a protest at RFP’s company headquarters in Springfield, Oregon. This resulted in extensive publicity, including regional and national newspaper articles and two documentary films
After WCWC uncovered evidence showing that International Paper, the previous owner of the RFP mill, had intended to transfer the disputed water right to the City, the Weed City Council joined WCWC in a complaint to State agencies requesting an investigation. In response, RFP immediately initiated legal action—against the City of Weed, WCWC and nine individuals. Naming WCWC and the “Weed 9” in the lawsuit wasan intimidation tactic,known as a “SLAPP” (strategic lawsuit against public participation) meant to silence our opposition to RFP’s water grab. RFP appealed a December 2017 court ruling that this was indeed a SLAPP and dragged itsultimately unsuccessful effort out for three full years, eventually droppingthe suit and having to reimburse WCWC for all our legal costs.In the face of RFP’s seemingly unlimited legal resources, the City was eventually forced to concede the water right without ever having its day in court. The City then initiated an eminent domain process which, while it may have ultimately been successful, would likely have been a long and expensive process. This new agreement, while not cost-free to the City,avoids the uncertainty and expense of such a process and secures the water for our community forever
Crystal Geyser Roxane’s Role
Much evidence, including a revealing October, 2016 New York Times article that quoted the company’s founder, pointed to CG Roxane, looking to expand its water bottling operations, as the force behind Roseburg’s move to profit off of Weed’s water. As a result, CG Roxane became a secondary focus in the campaign to save Weed’s water. Last year CG Roxane was forced to withdraw a proposal for a problematic waste water leach field after WCWC-led community opposition and petitions to State agencies. Given the probable eventual success of the City of Weed’s eminent domain lawsuit, continuing to be seen as complicitin--and abeneficiaryof--Roseburg’s unethical water grabappears to have become untenable forCG Roxane, leading to this new initiative to help Weed secure ourwater.
“While not quite in the way we originally expected, this is an undeniable win for our community. There was a very strong case for this water belonging to our community all along. But, in the face of Roseburg’s legal bullying, the City was forced to concede ownership. We appreciate CG Roxane finally recognizing the City’s longstanding right to this water and cooperating in making this happen.We need to keep in mind, however, that CG Roxane only came to the table be cause of sustained community pressure.And that this agreement is not a ‘free pass’ for the company to do whatever it wants in our community in the future.”
--Bruce Shoemaker, WCWC member
Weed 9’ Water Activists Present Legal Claim Against Sacramento Law Firm for Filing Malicious Lawsuit Aimed at Silencing Free Speech
The Weed, California, community members claim Churchwell White LLP knowingly filed meritless and illegal SLAPP suit against them onbehalf of Roseburg Forest Products.Contact:Lauren Reganlregan@cldc.org(541) 687-9180April 29, 2020 (Eugene, OR) —The Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC), a nonprofit organization based in Eugene, Oregon, has filed a lawsuit in the Siskiyou County Superior Court of California, alleging that the Sacramento law firm Churchwell White LLP and two of its attorneys engaged in malicious and unlawful conduct when they filed a lawsuit against nine local activists and their community organization, Water for Citizens of Weed, California (WCWC) in May of 2017. That suit was dismissed in December 2017 under California’s anti-SLAPP law and the company was ordered to reimburse the activists and WCWC for legal fees. Such "strategic lawsuits against public participation," or "SLAPP suits," are frequently used by corporations to silence or intimidate critics.The 2017 Churchwell lawsuit (Roseburg Forest Products Company, Inc. v. The City of Weed, Siskiyou County Superior Court Case No. SC CV CV 17-00532) was filed on behalf of an out of state timber company, Roseburg Forest Products, Inc. The suit was Roseburg's response to the nine citizen activists voicing their concerns about their city losing access to a vital public spring water source to the interests of a private logging company.The Churchwell suit claimed to seek resolution to ownership issues regarding the water supply, yet neither WCWC nor the nine individuals named in the suit made any personal claim to the rights or title to the water supply —a fact known to and admitted by the law firm.Yet even with this knowledge, the firm appealed the court rulings and dragged the defendants through two more years of legal proceedings.The nine activists had participated in town meetings and taken other grassroots actions as members of WCWC, to educate their community about the threat to their water supply. After writing a letter requesting assistance from a state agency, and speaking out during a local meeting, they found themselves in court being sued by a $900 million timber company.“Several ofthese people who were sued are the elders of this town —former mayors now in their 80s and 90s, city council and planning commission members —who were trying to look out for their neighbors,” said Lauren Regan, executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center and lead attorney on the case. “They saw something wrong and they spoke up in order to protect a vital resource to every community —drinking water. They never claimed any individual rights to this spring water, and the Churchwell firm knew this. Yet they were each named individually and hauled into court simply to try and shut them up. This is the classic definition of a SLAPP suit, using the courts to drown people in litigation and silence public participation. And it’s time law firms were put on notice that they can’t simply hide behind
wealthy clients and say ‘That’s what we were hired to do.’ They cannot unleash these unethical, bullying tactics to strip away people’s First Amendment rights without repercussions.”“The terrible truth isthat, unless challenged, these tactics work.” said Jim Taylor, President of Water for Citizens of Weed California. “Think of all the people who did not get involved with this fight because they did not want to get sued by a vindictive billion-dollar timber company. Nobody has the resources to go through that. Our organization suddenly had to turn all of our energy, and our limited funds, to fight this lawsuit. We couldn’t focus on what actually mattered —protecting the water for our town. That’s the real lasting harm —to our reputations, our bank accounts, our community, and to everyone’s ability to speak up when something is wrong.”The original water dispute focused on water from Beaughan Springs. The City of Weed has depended on the water from these springs for over 110 years, since the town was founded. For example, the former Weed fire chief has stated that the gravity-fed Beaughan Springs water was essential to fighting the wildfires that ravaged the area in 2014. Since 1966, the City has had an agreement to pay one dollar per year to the International Paper company for water rights. International Paper later sold the property to Roseburg Forest Products. In 1997, when an international water bottling company came to town and spring water became a valuable commodity, Roseburg used legal bullying to intimidate the City to refrain from asserting its right to this water. Roseburg began selling water to Crystal Geyser Roxane in 1997. Then, when the old lease between International Paper and the City expired in 2016, Roseburg’s lawyers coerced the City into signing a new agreement aimed at forcing the City off its historic main source of water, so that more water could be sold to Crystal Geyser Roxane —which ships the water around the world in plastic bottles. Since then the City has been forced to pay almost $100,000 per year for water that was previously practically free, and to agree to cease its use of the water completely within ten years. WCWC and the Weed 9 activists also uncovered strong evidence that International Paper had taken steps to transfer the water right to the City in 1982.In response to this looming crisis, WCWC and the nine plaintiffs began to raise concerns within their community and alerted officials. They wrote a letter to the Scott-Shasta Watermaster District (SSWD), asking it to correct its records to define the City of Weed’s rights to the water. They also asked the Weed City Council to endorse this effort and the council agreed.One of the named defendants in this new lawsuit, Barbara A. Brenner, is a partner at Churchwell White and one of three attorneys that represented Roseburg in their suit against the Weed citizens. In previous statements, Brenner claimed “We are not punishing them for asserting things.” However, that is precisely what they did by naming the citizen activists and grassroots organization in the Roseburg suit and forcing them to defend themselves —and then appealing the court's decision dismissing the case as an unfounded SLAPP suit.The new complaint, titledWater for Citizens of Weed California et al. v. Churchwell White et al.,was filed in California Superior Court for Siskiyou County, case number CVCV20-387. The complaint was marked as filed on April 22 —but notification of the filing came today due tothe impacts of the pandemic on the court’s capacity. The complaint asserts that Churchwell White lawyers named WCWC and its members as defendants in the Roseburg suit as a way to “silence, intimidate, and prevent WCWC from engaging in conduct that is protected under the U.S. and California Constitutions
Note: Lauren Regan is not yet admitted to the California Bar, but is working with local counsel and awaiting to be admitted "pro hac vice."
872 Stringtown Avenue, Weed, CA 96094
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 19, 2019
Bruce Shoemaker, Media Liaison
Water for Citizens of Weed, California (WCWC)
Valentina Stackl, Media Liaison
Protect the Protest Task Force
The ‘Weed 9’ Water Activists Win as Logging Company Drops SLAPP Lawsuit
WEED, CALIFORNIA - In a victory for free speech, Roseburg Forest Products agreed to drop its bullying lawsuit against Water for Citizens of Weed, California (WCWC) and nine members of the Weed community who challenged the company’s efforts to control a local water source.
For several years, Roseburg pursued an aggressive campaign to deprive the City of Weed of its main water source, a spring originating on nearby Mount Shasta. The spring has provided the community with clean water for its entire 110-year existence. Roseburg planned to take away this water from the community and sell it to a private water bottling company which would then sell it abroad.
After Weed residents spoke out against the plan, Roseburg retaliated. The company sued nine residents (known as “the Weed 9”), including three former mayors of the city, one of whom is 93-years-old. Roseburg also sued the City of Weed, running up legal costs of close to $600,000 for the small town.
A court dismissed Roseburg’s lawsuit against WCWC and nine citizens in December 2017 under California’s anti-SLAPP law. In a settlement finalized this week, Roseburg, after two years of appeals and delaying tactics, finally agreed to fully reimburse the defendants for recoverable legal fees and costs and to drop its appeal of the court’s decision.
SLAPP lawsuits - or Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation - are a bullying tactic used by corporations and other entities to silence free speech, in which the corporation brings a case for the purpose of dragging its critics through expensive, time-consuming, and psychologically burdensome litigation.
While Roseburg failed in its SLAPP against local citizens, its bullying tactics against the City of Weed were more successful. In August, facing mounting legal costs, the City Council agreed to cede the disputed water rights to Roseburg. The City Council has now voted to initiate eminent domain proceedings to regain ownership of the water. Whereas the eminent domain process may secure the contested water rights for the City, it will be at considerable expense to the public, and yield an unwarranted handsome profit for Roseburg.
The First Amendment Project, a nonprofit law firm based in Oakland, California and a member of the Protect the Protest Task Force and Gary Bostwick, a private lawyer, represented WCWC and the Weed community members in the case pro bono.
Jim Taylor, President of WCWC, said, “Roseburg and its law firm Churchwell White manipulated the court system in an attempt to bully and intimidate citizens merely for exercising their right to speak out. This case also represents a failure of government to protect the public trust over private profits. Weed citizens may be absolved from this injustice, but the City of Weed must still confront the take-over of its primary water source.”
James Wheaton, Senior Counsel for the First Amendment Project, said “This lawsuit against citizens of Weed should never have happened in the first place. No one should be sued merely for speaking out on an issue of public concern. Roseburg could have ended this more than two years ago, instead of dragging out this lawsuit and disrupting the lives of these innocent activists."
Alison Friedman, Executive Director of the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable and Coordinator for the Protect the Protest Task Force, said, “While the reimbursements and end to the bullying lawsuit is a sure victory, nothing can fully compensate the WCWC and the Weed 9 for all that they endured throughout this process. Protect the Protest is committed to continuing to tell the story of these community members who stood up and spoke out for what they believed in and didn’t back down in the face of a meritless lawsuit by a corporate bully. We want everyone to know that when you speak out, Protect the Protest has your back.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
To learn about the Weed community’s struggle to protect their clean drinking water, please visit https://waterforweedca.org.
To learn how SLAPPs pose a threat to free speech, and what you can do about it, visit https://www.protecttheprotest.org.
WEED, CALIFORNIA - The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the industry body that certifies “responsible timber,” has declined to investigate a complaint filed by Water for Citizens of Weed, California (WCWC) against Oregon-based Roseburg Forest Products. The complaint arose due to Roseburg’s use of abusive tactics in its bid to force the community of Weed off its most important source of drinking water.
Jim Taylor, President of Water for Citizens of Weed, CA (WCWC), said, “Roseburg has long used its FSC certification to demonstrate that it is a responsible company. But today, we see past the facade of this greenwashing label. ‘FSC-certified’ clearly does not mean ethical or responsible. As we have said before, sustainability needs to be based on partnership with local communities, not on bullying.”
WCWC filed its complaint with the FSC on February 27th. The complaint alleged that Roseburg, which operates a lumber mill in Weed, has violated the human rights of local residents by trying to take control of the city’s primary source of drinking water, a spring on nearby Mt. Shasta, so that it can force the City off the water and then sell it to the international water bottling industry. The company has sought to intimidate the community into silence, suing nine community leaders who objected to the company’s actions. The right to raise such concerns is protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as well as being integral to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights.
In its March 25th response to the complaint, the FSC claimed that the human rights violations alleged by WCWC are “outside forestry operations.” WCWC had argued that the complaint was directly linked to Roseburg’s forestry operations, due to the fact that Roseburg also uses water from the same spring for its mill operations as well as that the whole dispute arises out of the community’s former status as a lumber mill-owned company town.
Six well-known national and regional human rights and environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, Civil Liberties Defense Center and EarthRights International, as well as a number of individuals, had written letters supporting WCWC’s complaint to the FSC,
The FSC is an international body that is charged with certifying the sustainability of timber companies’ operations around the globe. Roseburg Forest Products has touted its FSC certification as proof of its “green” credentials. However, an important part of FSC certification is supposed to include human rights and how companies treat the communities in which they operate.
The FSC’s refusal to investigate one of its favored US clients comes at a time when Roseburg is under federal investigation over its alleged involvement in the trade of illegal black-market timber from areas of high conservation importance in Africa.
Bruce Shoemaker of WCWC said, “Rather than investigating our complaint on its merits, the FSC is using a very narrow definition of “forestry operations” to avoid responsibility for its association with a company that continues to violate the rights of our community. We hope that customers of Roseburg’s products are not just assuming that the FSC label is proof that this company cares about human rights.”
Chris Lang of FSC Watch said, "As FSC-Watch has documented since 2006, FSC has an appalling record of protecting companies at the expense of local communities. FSC claims to be promoting "responsible management of the world's forests", but whenever problems with FSC-certified companies are exposed, FSC goes into cover-up mode, acting on behalf of the timber industry. FSC's failure to investigate the complaint against Roseburg is just one more example of FSC's bias in favour of corporations - at the expense of the human rights of the local community."
Weed residents demand that Roseburg take the following actions: drop its SLAPP lawsuit against Weed citizens, and honor the intention of its predecessor company – International Paper – to officially recognize the town’s rights to the spring water.
Forest Stewardship Council
Subject: Notification of decision regarding Policy for Association
complaint, Water for Citizens of Weed, California and Roseburg Forest Products.
LETTERS TO THE FOREST STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL IN SUPPORT OF OUR COMPLAINT AGAINST ROSEBURG
WATER letter of support March 2 2019
CLDC letter of support March 6 2019
Greenpeace letter of support March 7 2019
ERI letter of support March 8 2019
EPIC letter of support March 12 2019
Gubetta letter FSC March 14 2019
RAN letter of support March 14 2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 27, 2019
Bruce Shoemaker, Media Liaison
Water for Citizens of Weed, California (WCWC)
Valentina Stackl, Media Liaison
Protect the Protest Task Force
(202) 466-5188 x100
Forestry Company Faces Challenge to Its “Responsible Timber” Certification After Waging Intimidation Campaign Against Local Community
WEED, CALIFORNIA - Citizens of Weed, California filed a complaint today with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) after Oregon-based Roseburg Forest Products refused to stop its abusive tactics in a bid to privatize the community’s main source of drinking water.
The complaint alleges that Roseburg, which operates a lumber mill in Weed, has violated the human rights of local residents by trying to take control of the city’s primary source of drinking water, a spring on nearby Mt. Shasta, so that it can force the City off the water and then sell it to the international water bottling industry. The company has sought to intimidate the community into silence, suing nine community leaders who objected to the company’s actions. The right to raise such concerns is protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as well as being integral to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights.
The FSC is an international body that is charged with certifying the sustainability of timber companies’ operations around the globe. Roseburg Forest Products has touted its FSC certification as proof of its “green” credentials, even while pursuing malicious legal bullying tactics to grab the City of Weed’s water and silence community opposition. However, an important part of FSC certification involves human rights and how companies treat the communities in which they operate.
In December 2017, a California Superior court dismissed Roseburg’s lawsuit against the nine named individuals, finding that the lawsuit was an attack on these citizens’ constitutionally protected free speech. These types of intimidating “SLAPP” (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) lawsuits are bullying tactics increasingly used by corporations to silence their critics. However, Roseburg has appealed the decision and is using delaying tactics to keep the lawsuit in court for as long as possible.
Among the nine individuals named in the lawsuit by Roseburg are prominent members of the City including a 92 year-old former mayor/retired mill employee, another former mayor of the City who is also a retired mill employee, a standing member of the Weed City Council, an artist/member of the Weed Planning Commission, and a retired businessman who is currently the volunteer coordinator of the Weed Historical Lumber Museum, who was twice named Weed’s “Citizen of the Year,” was on the Weed Elementary School Board for 21 years, and was the recipient of the first Community Service Award from Weed High School.
At the same time, Roseburg is continuing to pursue a long and expensive lawsuit against the City of Weed in an effort to force the community off its main source of drinking water. It was revealed in 2016 that Roseburg plans to sell the water to Crystal Geyser Roxane, a private water company that already has a plant in town. Crystal Geyser Roxane wants more of the water supply from Beaughan Spring in order to increase its bottling and shipping of spring water to Japan and other locations.
Despite having strong legal and ethical arguments on its side, the vulnerable and economically disadvantaged City of Weed faces difficulty affording hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs as it tries to respond to Roseburg’s well-resourced legal assault. As of December, 2018, the lawsuit had cost the City of Weed more than $400,000.
In December 2018, Weed residents rallied outside of Roseburg’ headquarters in Springfield, Oregon. At the rally, they delivered a letter to Roseburg with two demands: to drop its SLAPP lawsuit against Weed citizens, and to honor the intention of its predecessor company – International Paper – to officially recognize the town’s rights to the spring water. Roseburg has so far refused to acknowledge the concerns raised by Weed residents.
Jim Taylor, President of Water for Citizens of Weed, CA (WCWC), said, “Roseburg takes great pride in portraying its products as green and sustainable. But a company that acts in this manner does not deserve those labels. We are calling on the Forest Stewardship Council to revoke the company’s certification until Roseburg begins to act in a more responsible and ethical manner. Sustainability needs to be based on partnership with local communities, not on bullying.”
Geneva Omann of WCWC said,“The United Nations and the State of California both recognize access to water as a basic human right. By trying to take away our community’s water, and then suing anyone who spoke out on the issue, Roseburg has acted with disregard for basic human rights and the well-being of our community.”
Bruce Shoemaker of WCWC said, “Roseburg Forest Products is able to sell lumber certified as green and sustainable to customers at a premium price. We would like to see customers of Roseburg’s FSC-certified forest products refrain from further purchases until our complaint over their practices is satisfactorily resolved.”
WCWC’s December 2018 letter to Roseburg Forest Products as well as the complaint that WCWC submitted today to the FSC is available below.
More info on SLAPP suits and the campaign to end them is available here: https://www.protecttheprotest.org
Here is the complaint file by WCWC against Roseburg Forest Products on
February 27, 2019 to the Forest Stewardship Council:
Copies of all nine referenced attachments are available from WCWC upon request.
On December 18, 2018 members of Water for Citizens of Weed, California hand delivered a letter to
Roseburg Forest Products at their Springfield, Oregon headquarters and asked to meet with senior management.
RFP refused to meet with us and has not provided us with any response to our letter. You can read the letter here:
Weed and Mt. Shasta Water Issues---
Groundwater extraction for commercial bottling in Weed and Mt. Shasta has received major attention this Fall. Pristine gravity fed groundwater enjoyed by the Weed residents for over 110 years is in question. A portion of the water coming from Beaughan Springs on Roseburg Forest Products land has been supplied to the City of Weed and more recently to Crystal Geyser for bottled water. Last year a local citizens' group (Weed Area Water Alliance) (WAWA) filed a Siskiyou Superior Court Complaint against Roseburg and the City of Weed alleging violations of CEQA surrounding the new Water Lease Agreement and also unfair business competition. Roseburg has been selling Crystal Geyser Roxane water for over 20 years, one third of which is sent to Japan. Crystal Geyser has stated they want the City’s entire share of waters. The WAWA complaint also claims the city owns their 2.0 cfs water rights based upon a recently discovered 1982 letter acknowledging the transfer of these rights from International Paper before Roseburg entered the picture.
Meanwhile, the citizens of another group WCWC Water for Citizens of Weed CA in May 2017 prevailed in convincing the City Council to support their request of the local Shasta and Scott Valley Watermaster District and the State Water Resources Control Board to investigate the city's water rights. A SLAPP suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) was immediately filed against the both the City of Weed and 9 citizens. The Weed Nine represented by an excellent legal team of James Wheaton and Paul Clifford of First Amendment.org won in court on December 7th. The SLAPP suit was dismissed and the citizen’s first amendment rights to petition their government were upheld in Siskiyou Superior Court, once again with Judge Karen Dixon presiding. Roseburg lost this battle, but states that they are considering next steps.
In Mount Shasta two citizen groups and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe filed an Appeal to the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors over the Planning Commission's November 2017 decision to accept a very flawed EIR on the Crystal Geyser Water Company plant. The Mount Shasta watershed has been the target of major international water bottling corporations since 1996 with Danone Waters followed by Coca Cola and now Crystal Geyser. On the south side of the mountain near McCloud, Nestle attempted unsuccessfully to place a huge straw into the volcanic aquifer providing
water to both the Sacramento River and Shasta Lake and south. As usual, little attention has been paid to plastics pollution and impacts on groundwater. One wet year does not spell the end of drought. While many north Siskiyou County residents may not give credence to global warming, the south county residents are well aware of the writing on the wall. Convincing local jurisdictions that water bottling is a dead end resource extractive path is the ongoing challenge.
As anticipated, the appeal was denied on December 12th. Attorney Marsha Burch filed the Appeal representing the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, W.A.T.E.R. (We Advocate Thorough Environmental Review and the Gateway Neighborhood Association). If allowed to proceed there are clearly inadequate protections for local wells and aquifers, air quality, traffic and local sewer infrastructure. These groups will be looking into every means to continue to defend the many unresolved issues and work for a legitimate final EIR. For more information, to make a donation, or to get involved contact: www.cawater.net