Logging opponents to protest at trustees’ meeting

Students and community members who oppose logging Robinson Forest will once again try to appeal to UK’s board members, this time with their bodies and signs before today’s Board of Trustees meeting.

Protesters will gather at noon on the first floor of Patterson Office Tower as board members pass through for the 1 p.m. meeting on the 18th floor, said Taylor Shelton, a UK Greenthumb co-coordinator. He and other demonstrators will present their opposition to the plan, which would cut about 800 acres of the Eastern Kentucky forest for a forestry research project.

“It’s to let them know we’re not going to stop,” Shelton said. “… We aren’t going to back down, we’re not going to say, ‘Oh, you are right about this.’ ”

Today’s demonstration follows months of protests, including a sit-in just outside President Lee Todd’s office in December, culminating in a presentation to members of the board during a joint committee meeting at the end of last semester.

At the December meeting, four people — two students, a member of local activist group Kentucky Heartwood, and Kentucky writer Wendell Berry — presented their rationale for why the forest should not be logged.

The December meeting did not end with any action by the board, although Todd presented written responses to the protesters explaining why the Robinson Forest plan should continue.

“After we listened the last time, actually, I feel like we’ve done our due diligence and listened to a full day of presentation,” said Board of Trustees Chairwoman Mira Ball.

Ball said she felt last month’s meeting satisfied the protesters’ request, but she would be open to further discussion if some of the board’s 19 other members wish to discuss the logging plan.

Staff trustee Russ Williams also said he would be willing to discuss Robinson Forest if “the board doesn’t feel finished with it.”

“I don’t want to shut the door on everything,” Williams said. “We have a standing action right now but, certainly, if someone wanted to bring it up and discuss it, I would be willing to bring it up and discuss it.”

Student Government President Nick Phelps, the student representative to the board, said he has addressed the Robinson Forest debate by meeting with interested student groups. However, Phelps said that because he did not vote on the 2004 decision, he would defer to other board members on further action.

“I need to have some respect for how things work,” Phelps said. “I’m not the president of the university and I’m not the chairman of the Board of Trustees.”

The University Senate has also weighed in on the Robinson Forest debate. Although the Senate voted against passing a non-binding resolution calling for the board to halt logging, it did pass a non-binding call for the board to create regulations on how it manages university land.

Today’s demonstration follows yesterday’s phone call campaign, when Brittany Zwicker, a Greenthumb co-coordinator, and others opposing the Robinson Forest logging called members of the Board of Trustees. Zwicker, a communication disorders senior, said yesterday that she had been calling board members, leaving messages on voice mails and with secretaries.

Shelton said he is not sure if the board will choose to halt logging through the demonstrations and phone calls but hopes for change.

“I can’t predict the future but I hope they continue to listen to what we have to say,” said Shelton, a geography junior. “The last meeting was better than anything we’ve gotten before, so we’re hoping that at the next meeting they’ll say, ‘Hey, that’s better than last time.’ ”