Protesters climb Oregon Capitol dome to unfurl banner against state forest logging; 5 charged

Two protesters opposed to selling Oregon state forest land broke away from a tour group Thursday, secured ropes atop the Capitol and climbed down the face of its dome to unfurl a large banner criticizing Gov. John Kitzhaber.

They and three others from a group of activists oppose state management plans for the Elliott State Forest. They were removed from the building and detained after nearly two hours.

The banner estimated by Cascadia Forest Defenders to be 20-by-40 feet read: "Kitzhaber's Legacy: Privatizing The Elliott Forest — Clearcutting For Profit."

It was removed along with the activists. The protesters were below the prominent bronze Oregon Pioneer statue atop what's referred to as the Capitol dome, which has a cylindrical exterior.

State police identified the two climbers as 22-year-old Benjamin Jones and 26-year-old Erin Michele Grady, both of Eugene. The others were 21-year-old Robert Oliver, 21-year-old Isabel Indigo Brooks and 35-year-old Peter Bryan Garcia.

All were charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing. All but Garcia were charged with recklessly endangering another person.

Kitzhaber is one of three members of the State Land Board, which manages the forest near Coos Bay.

A spokeswoman, Amy Wojcicki, said Kitzhaber was out of his office all Thursday afternoon, at meetings with Intel and the Oregon Business Association, and was unavailable for comment.

The Cascadia Forest Defenders and two other environmental groups filed a lawsuit in 2012 opposing increased logging in the Elliott State Forest, the Salem Statesman Journal reported ( ).

The lawsuit affects several thousand acres of the forest, the sale of which would generate $25.2 million for Oregon schools.

In June, the Oregon Department of State Lands recommended a smaller sale of 2,714 acres to cover maintenance costs for the forest. That proposed sale was the source of the protest Thursday morning.