BROOKSTON, MN– There’s frustration at a logging site in St. Louis County Wednesday night after multiple incidents of vandalism by protesters.
The logging site is within the Fond du Lac Reservation a few miles northwest of Cloquet. It’s not entirely clear why the protesters vandalized the site. But video posted on the Stop Line 3 Facebook page suggests the protesters believe the company is trying to clear a path for the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline. The company said they’re simply completing a job for the county.
County officials we spoke with Wednesday said the logging taking place in the Fond du Lac State Forest is actually a common routine. Logging companies buy land from the county to harvest timber and haul it to places like Sappi Paper Mill in Cloquet, which is where some of the logs being collected by Scheff Logging will end up. But Scheff spokespeople said that’s been a big challenge as of late.
“They have absolutely nothing to do with the Enbridge pipeline up here,” said Scott Dane, executive director of Associated Contract Loggers & Truckers of MN.
While the Enbridge easement is near the logging site, County officials we spoke with Wednesday say the logging company is simply doing a job for the county.
“Once the timber is mature and ready for harvest, then they offer it for sale and a logging company buys it from the county, comes in and harvests the timber that they’ve designated to be removed, and they haul it to Sappi Mill down the road,” said Dane.
But Scheff Logging has been struggling with protesters since early February.
“Logging equipment had been seriously vandalized with sand and water poured into the engine compartments, hydraulic hoses cut on it, wiring cut out of the equipment,” said Dane.
Leaving damages totaling more than $100,000 and more than a week of cleanup. But loggers say protesters didn’t stop there.
“A couple of days ago more of these eco-terrorists showed up on the site with banners, and walked onto the active logging site and confronted the equipment operators,” said Dane.
And on Tuesday…
“The crew got ready to leave, and as you saw from the logging road you came in on, and they put up a make-shift road block to prevent them from leaving,” said Dane.
Officials with the company said if protests like this continue, it’s only going to get worse.
“If something isn’t done about this and they continue to placate these people, it’s only going to embolden them to continue doing this kind of thing until it escalates until somebody gets hurt, or killed,” said Dane.
On Wednesday, the County Attorney’s office told us they are aware of the vandalism and will be pursuing charges against those involved. However, no arrests have been made as of yet.
The land Enbridge wants to use as part of the Line 3 route does sit close to this logging site, but the loggers insist they’re not related in any way.
We did reach out to the group “Stop Line 3” for comment and they denied being involved in that protest.