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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mediation fails between UCSC and Tree-Sitters

Tree-sit, UCSC mediation ends without resolution

http://www.mercuryn oast/ci_11204205

J.M. BROWN - SENTINEL staff writer
Posted: 12/12/2008

Mediation between UC Santa Cruz and representatives of the Science
Hill tree-sit ended in failure late Wednesday, leaving questions
about a potential showdown when crews fell the trees, which must be
done before construction begins in the spring.

Tree-sit spokeswoman Jennifer Charles, who participated in the
mediation paid for by the university, said UCSC declined to make
concessions about development in the north end of campus.

Halting growth and its disputed environmental impacts have been the
protest's chief aim, Charles said.

The tree-sit began 13 months ago.

Charles said the university had agreed not to arrest tree sitters
willing to abandon their 75-foot high redwood perches above a parking
lot slated to be the site of a new biomedical facility.

She said the two sides also discussed concerns from demonstrators
about curtailing scientific research involving the use of animals.

"It felt productive in sharing where we were coming from," Charles
said. "It seems possible that, if given a longer amount of time, we
could have potentially reached some kind of agreement."

The two sides had agreed mediation would wrap up by the end of fall
quarter, which ends this week as students take finals.

The mediated sessions took place off campus and involved two members
of the chancellor's office and several tree-sit supporters but no
high-ranking UCSC officials, Charles said.

UCSC spokesman Jim Burns declined to say why mediation failed, but
said, "We are sorry that the discussions, which we initiated, didn't
produce a resolution. And it remains our hope that the people in the
trees will leave voluntarily. "

Charles acknowledged that tree-sitters are discussing options about
the protest's future, including leaving voluntarily, but no decision
has been reached.

Since a judge ordered the tree-sit vacated in March, both sides have
hoped to avoid a standoff that would pit law enforcement officers
against demonstrators in a high-stakes removal attempt. A tree-sit in
Berkeley ended peacefully in September after police coaxed protesters
out of an oak grove.

Political science professor Michael Urban, a tree-sit advocate, said
he was disappointed mediation failed and fears a future confrontation
between demonstrators and authorities.

"They are defending the redwoods, and they are trying to get us to
stop and think about something," Urban said. "If we at UCSC, with its
history and reputation, aren't the ones to stop and think about this,
then I don't know who might be."

Burns said tree-sitters have grossly mischaracterized the
university's expansion plans, including claims that UCSC intends to
clear-cut the north forest.

"In UCSC's 43-year history, we've developed approximately one-quarter
of the campus acreage," he said. "And, as anyone knows who has set
foot on campus, we've done it with great sensitivity to our redwood
environment. "

Contact J.M. Brown at 429-2410 or jbrown@santacruzsen

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