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George Russell

INTERVIEWEE: George Russell (GR)
DATE: October 7, 1999
LOCATION: Huntsville, Texas
TRANSCRIBERS: Lacy Goldsmith and Robin Johnson
REELS: 2044 and 2045

Please note that videos include roughly 60 seconds of color bars and sound tone for technical settings at the outset of the recordings. Numbers mark the time codes for the VHS tape copy of the interview. “Misc.” refers to various off-camera conversation and background noise, unrelated to the interview.

DT: My name is David Todd. I’m here for the Conservation History Association of Texas. And it’s October 7, 1999 and we’re in Huntsville, Texas and we’ve got the good fortune to be visiting with George Russell who’s a forest activist and conservationist in East Texas and we want to learn more about what he’s been doing and his concerns for the future. I wanted to thank you for spending this time with us.
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GR: Well I’m glad that you were able to come and visit with me. It—it—hopefully my mind will work well enough that I can recall some of the myriad events that have taken place over the last nearly fifty years that I have called myself an environmentalist.
DT: Maybe we can start close to the beginning of those fifty years. Can you talk about some of your childhood experiences that might have kindled an interest in the outdoors and protection of nature?
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GR: I was born in the Ozarks. My father was a vocational agriculture teacher so, you know, I was close to the soil anyway in those early days. And then I recall when I was about four years of age, I was very concerned about animals and I’d always make my daddy stop if there was a turtle in the road and I’d have to take the turtle and save the turtle. And—and my father, I guess, liked nature as well even though he was a farmer because he would catch these huge Indigo snakes and we’d keep them for pets for a while and then turn them loose. And one of my earliest experiences with a snake that would probably really have traumatized other children and made them snake haters was I had two older sisters and they would dress the snake up. And one of them was about a 6 ½ or 7 foot Indigo snake and they’d play with him in their doll house. Well one day I went to the window of the doll house and stuck my nose in to see if Mr. Snake was there. Mr. Snake thought my nose was a rat and attached his self to my nose. I did holler—holler a little bit but, you know, I never developed a fear of snakes and even, to this day, I’ll walk around where Copperheads and Water Moccasins and things are and, you know, in my bare toes and sandals and—and I’m just not afraid of them. I’m a little bit wary, you know, if I see a Copperhead or—or a Water Moccasin or something like that I’ll say, good day Mr. Snake and—and won’t you go out and look for a rat somewhere. But, even to this day, if I see a Copperhead in the evening on a highway, I’ll pull over and take a stick and chase him back into the woods so that a—a car won’t run over him. And I think people think I’m a little crazy for that. But they’ll just have to think it.
DT: Well do you think you’re just made that way? You’re hard-wired that way? Or do you think that there were early friends or relatives or teachers that helped you with that conservation interest?
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GR: I would say that basically I was hard-wired to care about nature and care about animals and care about animals and care about trees and flowers and that sort of thing. And that probably was intensified by what I just said about my father and picking up turtles and lizards and never being afraid of—of wildlife and—and always, always not liking hunters who would kill little Bambi or—or not liking Mr. McGregor who would, you know, hurt Peter Rabbit. And I have a next door neighbor right now out at our alligator ranch that I call Mr. McGregor because he doesn’t like armadillos because they dig little holes in his yard. Well I love armadillos. I’d much rather have a yard full of holes and a yard full of armadillos than just some ole pristine monoculture of grass and no armadillos. So his—his nickname is Mr. McGregor. I’m not sure he knows that, in fact, I’m sure he doesn’t. And then when I moved to Texas in 1950, I was so happy to find out that we moved to Sam Houston’s back yard because, as a child when I was like four years old, my mother bought a book about—biography of Sam Houston and I was impressed with the fact that he lived with the Indians and had a respect for nature. And when I moved to Texas in 1950, I was living in a remnant old-growth forest. Sam Houston was one of the few pioneers that didn’t just come in and hack down and totally mutilate and clear his land. And I—I have to believe that was because he gained respect for nature living with the Cherokees and made him a different sort of man. Well I grew up in Sam Houston Park and our house, which we built in 1951, is on part of Sam Houston’s yard. And I started acquiring, I have many acres of what was his old backyard now and there are still remnant old-growth trees. So I grew up in a remnant old-growth forest and in Sam Houston’s backyard which means that we went out and looked for frogs in his pond and we would—I would walk through the woods there and look for birds. And then my parents weren’t afraid of, you know, pedophiles and kidnappers and all that kind of stuff. It may have existed. I’m sure they did back then but nobody knew about it and so I was free to do almost anything I wanted to do. And this house where we’re filming was built in 1968 by my sister back in woods that I used to camp in over the weekend when I was like six and seven years of age. I’d say, “Bye mom, we’re going camping”, and just head out the woods and there are things we did that I regret like take a BB gun and shoot sparrows or cardinals and things like that and cook them and eat them.
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GR: And—but I always thought there must be something wrong with me because in East Texas, in the 1950’s, everybody killed everything that they could and it horrified me but, you know, unless you liked blood and liked to watch little feathered creatures and little warm, furry things die, then you weren’t a real man. So I had to always wonder am I a real man if I don’t enjoy killing things? So I did get a pellet gun when I was about twelve, I guess, and I decided I’ve got to prove that I’m a real man and go out in the woods and kill some things. And I went out and I killed a couple of birds and I killed a squirrel and that haunts me to this day. I just—I really regret trying to be a big, macho, blood-thirsty man, you know, I—I can still right now see the image of that poor squirrel dying. So I’ve always had an affinity toward my fellow creatures on this planet and I have attempted to inspire in others some sort of sensitivity towards nature and toward the planet. And I, you know, I can recall even as a small child sitting down in the dirt or in the grass and just getting down an inch or so away and looking at every little bug and every little worm and every little living thing. And so even today I—if a big old ant comes in the house, I’ll say hello Mr. Ant, how are you? And—and, you know, I—I’ve even saved a cockroach before. Now that’s pretty pitiful. So—but, on the other hand, I have learned to—to squash cockroaches if their population gets over-abundant. But my father having been a vocational agriculture teacher and growing up in agriculture would always be enamored with the next discovery and back I think around World War II, DDT was invented and everybody used to almost bathe in DDT because that was going to save the world from pests. And so, in the early ‘50’s, my father would always want to spray the lawn or spray the bushes or spray the vines and what I noticed, even when I was
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seven, eight years old, was after he sprayed my lizards would die and my toads wouldn’t be as healthy looking and—and so I had huge wars with my father. And he’d always want to hack down trees and plant gardens and be a farmer and I would have these—these, I wouldn’t call them philosophical debates. It would be, “Dad, don’t you ever spray again. You’re killing my lizards!” And over a period of decades, I think that I have built into him a certain sensitivity toward nature that he was not raised to have. This is his yard that you’re looking at right now and you probably won’t find many yards any more natural in an urban environment. So I don’t let him cut down anything really. And he doesn’t mow and he doesn’t spray. I don’t think he’s sprayed anything in twenty years. And, of course, I corrupted him by, and my mother, by telling them that wine was good for them. And so now they—they have not only become good environmentalists with my training by they’ve also become winos like their son.
DT: I understood that your parents were pretty self reliant, that they grew their food, they made their clothes and yours, of course. I’m wondering if you think that had any influence on your confidence that nature can take care of you, you don’t need as much commercial support as we’ve come to assume?
GR: Well I think so. I mean, I remember even in 1950 going out into the woods, we needed a lamp and there was a pine tree that a vine had grown around and it had strangled this pine tree and—and put it in a very interesting shape so we cut down that—that funny little pine tree that was about to be strangled to death anyway and I remember taking a—a drill bit about that long and I was only five or six or something, and drilling a hole all the way through this and building a lamp. So we—we built our own furniture and we didn’t go to the lumber yard and buy new lumber unless we had to. In fact, the house I live in, my father built basically by himself. And we would go to the sawmills and they would throw out scraps and so we would get the scraps and use them in the construction of this house and—and in other items. And I remember recycling nails. I would sit, when I was five or six years old, and I would pound out crooked nails that had been used, you know, in other old buildings and salvaging them. And, to this day, what I do—I’m—I’m very actively involved in real estate but I do not believe in developing even one square inch of new land. Nowhere on planet Earth do we need to develop or touch any untouched area. We do not need to pave over anything more. There is—what we tend to do, as Americans, is build for the short-term, soil our nest, blight—allow blight to creep in and then abandon that property. So I’ve been actively involved in—in rehabilitating and recycling houses and collecting antique houses and I suppose a lot of that stems from a desire to use what is there and create as little negative impact on the planet as possible in whatever pursuit I follow, including my career of—of producing educational materials for—for school children. I feel like that has probably one of the least negative impacts. I know how to make money and—but I don’t make much because I refuse to do anything—I—I have—there’s no price that—that you could pay me to destroy any part of the planet more than I destroy just by bringing—here and breathing the air and—and flushing the toilet, you know, or eating the food I—and—and consuming actually more than I do consume. And I’m not a—I’m not so much a purist that I live in a cave and—
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and don’t enjoy air conditioning in this climate but—but I think that if everyone were concerned about having as little impact, negative impact as possible, on the planet that we could probably survive as a species much longer than we will survive at our current rate of destroying the life support system of the human species by destroying the life support system of our fellow species. And I don’t mean to diverge but since we’re on that track, I think one of the questions that you normally ask is what do you see the future to be? And unfortunately I’ve had to become very cynical because I’ve spent the good part of my life attempting to educate even educated people, people with Ph.D. degrees and scientists. And I have a hard time communicating even with so-called ecologists. I talked to a forest ecologist the other day that works for the Nature Conservancy and he is working on a project with the Forest Service and working with the Forest Service. He has almost become a spokesperson for the Forest Service and the last issue of the Texas Nature Conservancy magazine, for example, just regurgitated Forest Service propaganda and—and lies. So even our scientists are becoming corrupted. And there’s so much corruption in science and on our universities and with the Forest Service that I feel like we are heading toward imminent world ecological disaster. I wish I knew what the solution was. We’re going to, at some point, as a species have to change our focus and our attitudes and our outlook toward the planet and not view every living thing as a commodity or as a dollar bill. And I’m a capitalist myself but you can have capitalism and environmental ethics at the same time. And I fear that the dollar—as long as the dollar always rules and as long as there are evil people on this planet and there are many evil people in—in positions of power that we’re going to see a continual erosion of our total life support systems and the human species ultimately will be doomed to a very, very low quality of life, along with those other species that can survive with—with humans in a—in a deteriorated, decimated planet.
DT: You said before that you’ve had difficulty teaching even educated people about these problems. How did you learn yourself? Were there teachers in high school or college or in your later life that helped you learn about the outdoors and environmental protection?
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Well I think—I think on the contrary, somehow there is some—and I don’t want to get off into some sort of spiritual thing but it is sort of interesting that if—if religion does not learn to respect and appreciate the spirituality of the planet and of all living things, then we are doomed. And I suppose that there may have been a—a religious mentor. I used to have to go to a—a vacation Bible school and there was a woman by the name of Mrs. C. C. Springfield and she—this—I guess I was about seven and we were down in Sam Houston Park where I just lived anyway, camped out and caught little fish and let them go and all those things, and she was really focused on—on nature and on, you know, God’s world or God’s creation and—and how every living creature had a place. Well I already knew that but that, at least, gave a religious justification for, you know, having an appreciation for whatever one has a belief in, whether it’s—you know, there are the creationists who think, you know, that tree wasn’t there until 4004 B.C. or something like that and you weren’t here and all that sort of stuff. But regardless of whether you believe that or you believe science or you have a belief of your own, that tree is still an extremely imp—important part of an ecosystem that is so complex that we will probably never understand it. Keep in mind we are basically a primitive people still to this day, living in an advanced technology. In other words, we have created a technology that allows us, without even knowing what we’re doing, to destroy the product of millions of years of evolution or 4004 B.C. years of—of creation. But regardless, you can take a person right now who’s illiterate, doesn’t have a junior high education and put him behind a D10 bulldozer and that person can destroy the life support system of every creature and there might be tens of thousands of species of microorganisms that we don’t know the life history of. In fact, we know that there are. So we’re destroying the items of infinite value, creatures of infinite value, plants of infinite value, to our own survival through gross ignorance and greed and total lack of respect for our planet and for our own homes. It’s no different to—to go out and clearcut a National Forest or an old-growth forest, is no different, in my mind, than going to the National Gallery of Art or to the Louve and bombing the paintings, destroying it. Those paintings that at least could be recreated, and all – and the images have been recreated. But you can’t recreate an old-growth forest. It’s basically gone forever, once it’s gone. So, our whole focus as a nation and as a world, actually, is based on punishing people for crimes, for example. Texas Department
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of Criminal Justice, I think they say about 30% of the inmate population is in there for non-violent crimes, you know, maybe some kid smoking a joint or something like that. And off they are, incarcerated. And yet who is rewarded with billions of dollars? For example, let’s look at Charles Hurwitz, Charles Hurwitz, Maxxam Corporation, Horizon Corporation. And here’s a person who’s obsessed with money, with power, and cannot focus on the wonders that he could do for our civilization. Now, who is the real criminal? This little kid that, you know, toked down on a joint? Or a man that is decimating some of the most priceless remnants of our ecological heritage, and whose loggers killed a young boy from Cold Spring, Texas, just last year, a little over a year ago. And I’ll go into one of my, I’ll call it an environmental victory. ‘Cause I’ve had very few. But I’m going to call this one that sort of a quasi-environmental victory. A number of years ago there was a – a – the Mayor of Huntsville, Jane Monday, who’s one of the types that I’ve had to fight politically, most of my life. Even as a child I was politically active. I would go to the Mayor’s house and – and tell them, “No you’re not going to be spraying for mosquitoes, no you’re not going to do this, no you’re not going to do that”. But, in – in any regard, she decided that we needed to have a mall. And so there was a beautiful forest west of Interstate 45. It was twenty acres. And, so she promoted this mall and that’s going to be the new focus of Huntsville. Well, of course, I fought it tooth and nail and, of course, I lost, because it’s hard to fight against big money in politics. So then subsequently the mall went bankrupt. And I, along with two other fellows, bought the mall, out of bankruptcy for basically pennies on the dollar. And, my
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focus there was, okay, the forest is already destroyed. Let’s buy this mall, let’s prove that, instead of abandoning this mall, which would be the American way, and building a new bigger mall somewhere else, let’s buy this mall. And let’s focus on rehabilitating it and then let’s prove to them that we can do something, or at least I can do something positive with any gain that could be made. Of course they said, “George Russell, you’re a fool, that mall is a white elephant, you’ll never make a dime.” Well, we doubled our money about three years later. And this was last year, or so, a little over a year ago we sold this mall. And it just so happens that my son took up an interest in golf for a while, until he saw how golf courses are really made at the expense of the environment. The green’s pretty, but it decimates the environment to build golf courses. And so now he’s not interested in golf because he’s a good environmentalist. But in that period where he was interested in golf he would go out to Waterwood, Texas, which is on Lake Livingston. Well, it turns out the Charles Hurwitz also owns several thousand acres at Waterwood. So there was a real pretty little peninsula out there and I inquired as to whether it would be for sale. Because it really was a remnant old-growth ecosystem even though it had been heavily harvested in 1911 and then pines removed subsequent to that, the gene pool is relatively in tact. And there are old-growth trees out there. And so it was just gorgeous and I had seen fourteen-foot alligators and bald eagles and kingfishers and pelicans and it was just absolutely wonderful. So, I started negotiating with Hurwitz and his gang. And took the profits from the sale of this mall, and bought, now it’s right at about a 1000 acres, with several miles of shore line. And I call it my alligator ranch. And so, I feel like that’s a victory of sorts to wrest a – a piece of beautiful nature that would be slated for clearcutting or destruction of some sort, or development. And my father paid for about a third of it and I paid for two-thirds of it. And so in our wills, we
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are granting conservation easements to Natural Area Preservation Association. So, at least, hopefully, as long as preservation associations are allowed by law to – to keep lands natural, then this land will be protected, hopefully, in quotes, “forever”, whatever that means. So I feel real good about that victory. You know, from being the fool buying this white elephant to making enough money to – to wrest nearly a thousand acres away from Charles Hurwitz, whose really good.
DT: Along those same lines, could you tell me about other efforts to protect East Texas forest land and in particular the effort to try and save the Big Thicket in the late 60s and into the 70s?
DT: Could you tell us about the Big Thicket?
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GR: Well, let’s go way back on the Big Thicket. Back in the early 50s, my eldest sister decided to go to school at LSU. And so we would drive to Louisiana through the Big Thicket. And that was a wonderful, wonderful experience. Lake Livingston was there. And, of course, I fought Lake Livingston. Now I own several miles of frontage on Lake Livingston, but I fought it being built, sort of like the mall deal. Because those bottom lands were so wonderful. And Highway 190 East was just a narrow, two-lane highway. And the trees were, in those days, allowed to grow right up, almost to the pavement. And you could drive from Huntsville, Texas all the way to Louisiana, almost in a tunnel. Because the canopy closed over the highway and was the most wonderful, beautiful drive. And at that time, you know, the trees that you would see would be a myriad species of Oaks and Hickories and Walnuts and Magnolias and just, it – Spanish Moss dripping down in the low areas, you know, just almost over. And there were no stock laws then, and so when you got out by Ryan(?) and Botaw(?) and all those places in the Thicket, it really was the Thicket in those days. And you didn’t want to travel at night because cows would sleep on the warm pavement at night. And these wild hogs, these razorback hogs, with their big old touches and stuff, would cross the road in big – big herds and all. And so, early on, I – I developed a real love for – for the Big Thicket. And also I grew up with a faculty which was very active, back in the 50s, in the Biology Department at Sam Houston, it was Sam Houston State Teacher’s College then, now Sam Houston State University. There was Don O’Baird. Back in the 30s, Don O’Baird had tried desperately to have a Big Thicket National Park created, a million acres back in the 30s, during the Depression. And of course, he failed. I now own Don O’Baird’s house. And Don O’Baird was living in a house that was built by the guy, George Washington Rogers, who brought Sam Houston to Huntsville. So there’s all sorts of interconnections that become very, very, you know, bizarre. I also, in the late 50s and early 60s, participated in the Christmas Bird Count. And a Mrs. J. E. Costephens would come to Huntsville every Christmas, from Fort Worth, and along with several members of the biology faculty, and we would go out and count birds. That was back when the Christmas Bird Count wasn’t quite as big as it is these days. And so I grew up, you know, going on little field trips and things with, Claude McLeod, for example. Claude McLeod was probably one of the greatest botanists and probably had more knowledge of
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plants in the Big Thicket than any other human being in history. And so, I wish I weren’t as ignorant as I am, because he would go out and in twenty minutes, he would describe every thirty seconds a new species of grass, of forb, or vine, or plant or whatever. And I – my brain doesn’t work in such a way that I can retain that sort of technical knowledge, you know. He’d spell out the Latin name in this and give a little, you know, 10-second synopsis of the life history, it was just like a machine gun. The man was absolutely brilliant. So I spent time with him and with Miss Emma Norman and with Dr. S. R. Warner. And, so, they were very, all of them were very concerned about the protection and preservation of the Big Thicket. So, during a lot of the – the period from 1963 to 1974…
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GR: From the period, from the period 1963 through about 19 – up till 1974, I was either at LSU in school, or I was at, later, the University of Colorado. And I was doing research in cultural ecology in Southern Toledo District in British Honduras … that’s in 68. And then I was in Huntsville, because Vietnam heated up. I had a fellowship for a Ph.D. and they told me I could only have one year of graduate school. Vietnam was very hot. And since I’d already had two years of ROTC, I came back to Huntsville to help run this business and finish my other two years of ROTC. So at least I could go into the Army to be shot at as an Officer. So then I was in Italy for three years, from ‘71 to ‘74. So during a lot of the years that the efforts to save the Big Thicket in that so-called little string of pearls, instead of what it should have been saved at, that million-acre block, I was sort of out of the – I was elsewhere. So I wasn’t really actively involved. I’ve always supported the efforts. And I supported it, you know, way back. And, you know, I dreamed, in fact, I dreamed, when I was a kid, I would dream about Ivory Bill Woodpeckers. That was just my one obsession, as a kid, was to see an Ivory Billed Woodpecker. And the only way I knew we would ever see Ivory Billed Woodpeckers, and there were some still alive in the – in the Thicket at that time, would be to save it in large blocks.
DT: Could you talk about the search for the Ivory Bill, if you know much about that, or the efforts to protect the Red Cockaded Woodpecker?
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GR: (talking over David) Well, the Red Cockade – the Red Cockaded Woodpecker I was absolutely involved in the efforts to protect the Red Cockaded Woodpecker. Basically, I would say, and I don’t want to cast any doubt that there were lots and lots of people who worked this effort, there were. And it was a teamwork sort of thing. But I feel like, probably, since I was right here in the midst of the Sam Houston National Forest, that had the largest Red Cockaded Woodpecker population, that Ned Fritz and I probably were the most actively involved in the law suit to protect the woodpecker. And since I did have a background in video I think that what turned the opinion of the judges in our favor was a video documentation of the decimation of the habitat of these woodpeckers. The Forest Service, at that time, was wholesale clearcutting everything but just the Cavity trees. And then the Cavity trees would be exposed to wind throw, of course they’d already been weakened because they had Red Heart disease, and also the excavation of the woodpeckers themselves. And so all it would take is just one wind storm to pop the tops off. The Forest Service knew this. The Forest Service mission was to destroy the Red Cockaded Woodpecker. Because if they could destroy the Red Cockaded Woodpecker, guess what, there wouldn’t anything in their way of their ultimate goal of the total decimation of our native forest ecosystems and then conversion to pine plantation. The Forest Service, I hate to say, even though there are lots of good employees, and there are a lot of good dedicated people who are good ecologists and environmentalists and care a lot, guess what? It’s a paramilitary force. It’s out of control. And it is absolutely dominated by the timber industry that would destroy our national forests for private gain. And those people are totally insensitive. So the Forest Service had become extremely dangerous – extremely dangerous. And is dangerous today to citizens and to democracy and to human rights. The Forest Service has who knows now, how many armed men, how many listening devices, how many hidden cameras. I can tell you horror stories if you want. Do you want to hear – do you want to hear one horror story? This goes back to RARE II, Roadless Area [Review and Evaluation] … area of – whatever, what was RARE II Roadless Area, anyway I can’t remember acronyms well. Regardless, Ned Fritz said, “Try to save the Four Notch as a Wilderness Area”. That was my mission. And I guess that was some time in the mid ‘70s or so. So I got everybody stirred up to try to save Four Notch. I mean I had high school classes that were stirred up to save Four Notch. We got thousands of signatures on petitions and on post cards. We had all sorts of media coverage. According to the RARE II Standards,
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Four Notch should have automatically declared a Wilderness Area. Well, there were lots and lots of old-growth, hardwood and second-growth pines, but old second-growth pines and probably some old-growth pines there. But huge, huge, huge basal areas and great pine density. And, you know, millions of dollars worth of pine trees. So, the Forest Service decided that they would destroy Four Notch, rather than allow it to become a Wilderness. And their henchmen, at the time, would tell bad stories about how George Russell is trying to close all the roads to farmer’s homes. You know, just lies to stir people up to want to kill me. So I had a number of de – death threats that came indirectly from the Forest Service person telling lies to harass and intimidate me. And, so it became sort of dangerous. I had to have armed personnel go with me. In other words, bodyguards to go down into the forest. ‘Cause I’d have people say, “I saw you go down road, Forest Service road 23-32”, or whatever, “a – just last Saturday at 2 o’clock and I had you in the sites of my 30-Aught-6. If I catch you back here again you’re dead”. That kind of stuff, you know. They started up W. S. Gibbs who ran Gibbs Brothers and Company that owns all the minerals under Sam Houston National Forest. And told him that George Russell was going to steal all his mineral rights. And so I got death threats from W. S. Gibbs. There was Charlie Wilson, old Timber Charlie held a hearing at the court house. And I was testifying in favor of wilderness. And before I went in to this hearing, you know, official Congressional hearing, two goons came up to me, one of whom later became the Sheriff of Montgomery County, and threatened to kill me if I testified in favor of wilderness. And this was sort of funny, it’s sort of scary but it’s also sort of funny in a way. And I started thinking, okay, I can be intimidated. And these are people who are capable of murder. We’re talking mean, mean people. Or, I – and be forever intimidated, or since we had media there, you know, channel 3, channel 9, I’m not sure what other, you know, radio and television and all, I can say that my life had
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been threatened and at least put it one the record. So that’s what I decided to do. Well, I had not pointed out who these people were. Because this was right before the hearing and I was like one of the first person to speak. So I got up and I said, “Well before I give my presentation, I would like, just for the record, to say that my life was threatened if I spoke in favor of wilderness.” And the goon, the big goon, who must have been 6’6″ and about 350 pounds that cornered me in the hall of the courthouse was so stupid, that he jumped up out of his chair and started hollering, “I didn’t not threaten to kill that man, I did not…”. Well, see no one had even pointed him out, or knew who he was. So at that time, you know, I think, some Walker County Sheriffs people went over and told him that wouldn’t be a – that would be a bad idea to kill me. So I’m still alive. That – that little – you know, up to now the death threats haven’t worked, haven’t taken hold. Well then, the Forest Service backed into a corner and basically having to make Four Notch a wilderness. Because it had thousands and thousands of Texans … had inundated its offices with requests. And the people who didn’t want it as wilderness were the – just a few goons in the timber industry and a few stirred-up county commissioners and stuff like that. So it was, I don’t know, 10 to 1, or something like that. We really outgunned them.
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So then they decided, how can they destroy Four Notch? So, there was a little Pine Beetle spot out there. And Pine Beetles are extremely easy to control with verbenone, which is a natural pheromone, and what it apparently does is it’s – tells the male Pine Beetles that the orgy is over. See the Pine Beetles will go into an area and they’ll attack say a pine tree that was struck by lightening or one that’s damaged in some way. The pine tree releases alpha-pinenes, in other words, like turpentine-like smells. And this attracts Pine Beetles that are always in the ambient environment. And they’ll go and attack that single tree and then they’ll send out, you know, these little pheromones that’ll say, “Hey, orgy going on.” And that’ll attract more Pine Beetles. And they’ll have their little sex and stuff like that, back under the bark of the tree where nobody can see them. And later the, you know, the baby beetles emerge from that tree and they’ll normally fly to the next vertical object but then again sometimes they’ll fly a mile away. But if the next pine trees are healthy and there are not millions of pine beetles, then the spot will normally just die out. And one pine tree, or two or three, or a little small cluster will die. Well, even if the population of those pine beetles gets a little bit out of control all you have to do is take this liquid verbenone and put it on little pieces of gauze or cotton and tack it to some surrounding trees, surrounding the one that had been infected with the Pine Beetles, and it sends another message that says, “Orgy’s over. No more sex. Go somewhere else to find a woman or man Pine Beetle”. And guess what. They just go off someplace and the numbers will be so few, in other words, the numbers will be dispersed. And the spot dies. And they don’t create another spot. And just to regress a little bit, I had a real hot Pine Beetle spot on some of my timber land here in Walker County. And I asked the Texas Forest Service to use verbenone to treat it, because they were all out, you got to chop them down, you got to do this, buffer cuts, you got to clearcut and you got to do this and that and the other. Well we stuck this little verbenone around…dead. Spots gone. You know, killed a few trees and that’s it. So they knew
0:45:26 – 2044
that they could use verbenone. We had been begging them to use non-invasive, non-destructive methods of treating for Pine Beetles. But, why does the Forest Service like Pine Beetles? And why does the timber industry like Pine Beetles? They don’t want them treated. Because, two-fold. Number one, if there are Pine Beetles in the National Forest, then the timber industry can buy the trees at sometimes 5 cents on the dollar. Because there’s all this fear, and if we don’t cut these big buffers and da-da-da-da. And they inundate the mills with – with, you know, millions of board feet, of really perfectly good, uninfected trees. And guess what, does the price of lumber go down by 95%? No. Right after these big Pine Beetle “epidemics”, these saw mill owners all the sudden are building million-dollar mansions. I can take you around here and show you two big million-dollar mansions that were probably built off that sort of thing. Now, that Pine Beetle spot was in Four Notch. It was small. It was moving a little bit. The Forest Service refused to treat it with verbenone. What they did, and I was an eye-witness to this, because they wanted the media involved and so I went on this little dog and po – media dog and pony show, ‘cause it’s real easy to pull the wool over the eyes of the media, ‘cause the media doesn’t have any background in ecology or science. And who are they go – who are they going to trust? George Russell, you know, some old weird woods hippy, or are they going to trust Smokey the Bear with his little hat and his little badge, his gun and all this nonsense. Or the biologists who the Forest Service hired who will do anything for a dollar. Who will distort scientific evidence. I’ve seen them get on
0:47:16 – 2044
the witness stand under oath and lie, and lie, and lie. And you lose total respect for scientists when they do that. But then again, you see what they do, they lose their jobs. Scientists without a job. So, honest scientists are often times punished. Punished severely. They lose their grant money. They lose their jobs. They get – no one will hire them. So it’s hard to be honest and be a scientist in America and that is a grave tragedy. I’m getting off on another tangent again. So lets get back to the Pine Beetle spot. Remember Pine Beetles are attracted by these turpines, the alpha pinenes. So, and they also like to move, when they emerge, the new brood, attack the next vertical object. They just fly to it and see if it’s weak, and if it’s not, you know, they’ll probably move on. So, and a spot usually moves in a – in a single direction. It’ll have what’s known as a head to it. So right at the front of this spot, where the beetle bir – broods were emerging, the Forest Service biologists took machetes and hacked into the bark of all the surrounding pine trees. Guess what that did? It said – sent a signal to these beetles – attack me, I’m wounded. It was like throwing gasoline on a fire. Here they were telling the media that the way to solve this Pine Beetle spot, to, you know, kill this Pine Beetle spot would be to check all the trees to see if there are Pine Beetles in it. And then to cut a big buffer. Okay, guess what happens when you cut a buffer. What comes up from the stump and from the logs? More turpines. So all you’re doing is calling every Pine Beetle from a mile around and it’s saying, “Orgy, orgy, orgy, orgy – you’ve never had better sex in your life. And it’s, I mean, you can do it day and night”. Now what self-respecting Pine Beetle would not want to go and have fun and party down and have all sorts of little babies? So what they did at Four Notch, is they took a little spot that could have been treated and would have killed maybe five pine trees and they wouldn’t have cut anything,
0:49:39 – 2044
because cutting more trees just ca – calls more beetles in. They first hacked all the bark off these trees, not all of it, but big gouges to make the trees say, “Hey, I’m sick, I’m wounded”. Then when the new brood of beetles came out they attacked those. Then the Forest Service said, “We have to cut a buffer”. When you cut a buffer, that releases more. And then the Pine Beetles can fly up to a mile, so if they’re going to attack the next vertical object, and then they’d go and hack into the next tree beyond the buffer. And the Forest Service, artificially created one of the biggest Pine Beetle epidemics in East Texas. And in so doing, they decimated large parts of Four Notch. But even with the Forest Service’s best efforts, the Pine Beetles only actually killed the pine trees on a small part of Four Notch. Then the Forest Service added to it by cutting more and more buffers. But even then, after the… Oh, and then, this is another fun thing. They took helicopters and the trees with emerging beetles in them, the infected trees, they took them up and flew them around over all the uninfected areas. And in so doing, those things were chained, the bark and the emerging beetles then were dispersed, not just at say 8 feet above the ground, but from maybe 3 or 4 hundred feet which would give them even more distance that they could fly. So this whole Four Notch Pine Beetle epidemic was concocted by the Forest Service, designed by the Forest Service and carried out by the Forest Service. Allright, even after that happened. Four Notch was worthy of being saved as a wilderness, because, guess what. They only took out the pine trees. That basic gene
0:51:32 – 2044
pool was still there. And, not only that, the pines as a first successional species were in overabundance anyway. So, so what – so what if a lot of the pines are gone off of some of the acreage. Well, the Forest Service didn’t like us wanting to save Four Notch, even at that date. So, they decided that they would bring in a 52-ton tree crusher to crush the rest of Four Notch, which they did. This machine had huge, huge, huge, huge wheels, I don’t know how tall, eight feet tall or whatever, with giant spikes on them. And it could roll over any tree, it could roll over this giant pine tree here. Trees this big around. In some cases there were white oak trees that were probably 36 inches in diameter, 300-year old white oak trees, that this thing could push down and crush. So day after day, week after week, the Forest Service spent our tax dollars to destroy the hard wood component, in other words, what was left. And even, they even destroyed mature pine trees. The object was to destroy the whole thing because, guess what, they don’t like short leaf pines. And in areas where there were short leaf or native loblollies, they couldn’t plant their super pines. So they even started decimating those. Well, some folks out of Austin with Earth First decided that they, the media should know what was going on, how our tax dollars were being misused to destroy one of our really wonderful Wilderness Areas in the – in the National Forest…undesignated Wilderness Areas at that time. And so, the – the Forest Service, these were just sweet little kids, one of them, a guy named Bugus Cargus(?), was probably as close to a Christ-like figure – you know, if you want to use a Biblical definition of – of somebody who is absolutely kind, absolutely loving, absolutely giving, absolutely caring. He would just, he would wear almost a little loin-cloth and go bare foot and he wouldn’t even – he wanted to have almost zero negative impact on the planet and he would like eat scraps off of people’s plates in a restaurants rather than use up new food, you know, or… So, I mean, he was just an amazing human being. And
0:54:09 – 2044
Bugus decided that he would chain his neck, with a kryptonite lock, I think it’s the first time in America that a kryptonite lock had been used in an Earth First demonstration to, or one of the first times, to this tree crusher. And he did. And James Jackson, of Cleveland, went up into a tree, in the path of the tree crusher and put up a little hammock up, way up in the limbs of this tree and began reading the Bible. And so, Forest Service goons came out and began to torture Bugus. He had a kryptonite lock, which they knew you couldn’t cut. But they took these big bolt cov – cutters and they would like twist his neck this way and twist his neck that way, knowing that they could break his neck and knowing that they were injuring him. And eventually a locksmith got it open. And I’ve never done business with that locksmith, subsequent to that, and I never would. Because that, to me that was evil to aid and abet the torture of a citizen who’s trying to save our heritage. And then James Jackson was up in the tree and I was videoing and, you know, this stuff to… But I left, but I left with James Jackson in the tree and there was a news reporter there. So the Forest Service, after most of the media had left, they took an ax and felled it toward these spikes that are this tall, sharp, razor sharp spikes on this tree crusher, to try to kill James Jackson. And, they crippled him. And he’s a land surveyor that needed to go around… I think after years of attempts to try to get some settlement from the government he got a few dollars or something, but nothing to make up for trying to destroy him and trying to destroy his life. Well, for whatever reason the Forest Service blamed me and thought that I was the brains behind this – this action – this Earth First action. Also, I think at that time we were already about to be involved in, you know, our lawsuit in Tyler, Texas. It may have been the Red Cockaded Woodpecker case. And the Forest Service, in an earlier hearing, had determined that on cross-examination, cross examining me on the witness stand, that it would hurt their case more than help it.
0:56:59 – 2044
Because my facts were factual. And I also had video proof of what I was saying. They couldn’t say, “Well, that’s just your opinion”. No, “Here judge, here’s the picture. Here’s where I am. I’m standing on this spot”. So, I think that, going back to Red Cockaded Woodpecker and some of the other law suits, the fact that I had documented on video what was actually happening, is what gave these judges, a) the education, the background and the ammunition to rule in our favor in some cases. Now, back to Four Notch. So, I became public enemy number one with the Forest Service. And some of the things I’m going to tell you I only found out very – with great difficulty through Freedom of Information. At one time, apparently, there was an office in Washington, at Forest Service headquarters dedicated just to harass George Russell. And, the Forest Service sent a man down that – Hal Glassman – to be the public information officer. Glassman’s wife apparently worked for U.S. Secret Service. No one knew where Glassman came from but he was not a public information person. It was very evident to me that his job was to harass and intimidate and misuse the media and use propaganda and orchestrate scare tactics and intimidation of citizens.
DT: When was this?
0:58:39 – 2044
GR: I wish I could remember…80s…maybe. I’m not good on years. I’m not good on years. And, so Glassman, you know, began a campaign of terror against Earth First, Sierra Club and Sierra Club activists. And, of course, a lot of that campaign of te – terror was directed against me. At one time Glassman threatened to have my house fire-bombed and my children killed, you know, because, I mean they’d burn up in a fire bombing of my house, threatened to have the IRS investigate me, told my wife that I was having sex with Barbara Duggleby(?), who was our first girl. And just, you know, a total campaign of harassment. Well, one reason that I felt like Glassman was probably, you know, on loan from Secret Service or from some other, you know, governmental agency that’s tasked with harassment or intimidating people was I’d had an experience some years before in Haiti, when we went, this was back in the 60s, my wife and I went to – to Port-au-Prince, back when Pap doc Duvalier was in – in power. Because we were interested in, you know, tropical ecology since I’ve done a lot of research in cultural ecology in British Honduras. And so, and also the Black Carib and a lot of, well, it just goes into cultural geography and anthropology and linguistics and all these things that I’ve been interested in. So we decided to go to Haiti. No one was going at that time. We were the only Americans on the – the plane. And, we land at the Port-au-Prince Airport and we were met by a little man – a little man about, just so thin and so small, in a white starch linen suit and white teeth and extremely black skin and absolutely cultured and spoke the best French. And, his name was Roblan Jolicoeur, and I know this is sort of
1:00:56 – 2044
off-base, but it’s an interesting aside. And, another thing I was interested in was – was
the problems of overpopulation and this gets back to overpopulation in Haiti. At that time you could fly over Haiti and the Dominican Republic, fly over the island of Espanola and from the air, you know, from like 20,000 feet looking down, you could absolutely, at that time, before the population of the Dominican Republican got really big, it was way under-populated, Haiti was way over-populated, and you could see the line of demarcation. It’s just like this. Desert on one side and tropical lushness on the other side, on the Dominican Republic side. I don’t know, it’s probably decimated on both sides now. But that was many, many years ago. So,…
End Tape 44
DT: George, could you continue with your story about your trip to Haiti?
0:01:16 – 2045
GR: Well, I’ll just, I will. The – the man that met us at the airport was Roblan Jolicoeur. And he was ostensibly the social editor of the Port-au-Prince Newspaper. And, so he was there to interview these Americans who, he didn’t say, dared venture into Haiti at a time when nobody was going. But, he – he did, at that time, I thought, well sure, this is really great, this guy is with the newspaper and there was a little article. You know, (in a heavy French accent) “George and Susan Russell visit Haiti …(?)… from Texas”, and all this stuff, you know, obviously it was in French. And, so then he decided he would take us under his wing and squire us around and take us various places. And he took us one night gambling up in the mountains, I think at a place called PetionVille. Now this is the bizarre part. It’s night. In Haiti the lights go out most of the time because, you know, it was very sporadic electrical current at that time. We have a chauffer. There’s almost no street lights, nothing, we’re talking mountain roads, careening around. The chauffer is wearing pitch-black sunglasses. And on some of the street corners, of course, were members of the Tom Tom Macoutes, you know, the Bogie men. And I first began to get suspicious that Roblan Jolicoeur wasn’t really nothing but a newspaper reporter when we would pass these Tom Tom Macoutes, obviously Tom Tom Macoutes ‘cause they’d be the only people on the streets, just standing at various corners and stuff and looking very grim. And this car would pass with us in it, and the Tom Tom Macoutes would stand at attention. And – and Roblan Jolicoeur is just this cute little old guy and he was just all happy – do – do – do, never said a word about it. So we go up into the mountains and this guy, I don’t know how he can see unless he’s a zombie or something. We go into the casino, we’re the only non-Haitians in the casino, and Roblan, of course we’re met at the door with an entourage, the casino owner. And – and Haiti was so interesting at that time, because it reminded me of France under Marie Antoinette. Because there was, you know, abject poverty and great wealth. You had two classes, the very wealthy and the very poor and that was it. Well, of course, at the casino it was only the very wealthy, the aristocracy that really reminded you of pre-revolutionary French aristocracy; im – you know, impeccable manners, impeccable French, probably educated at the Sorbonne, etc., etc. Lots and lots of money at the expense of the environment of the poor people there. And so he would say, “Miss Sue (that’s my wife), here, try this machine”. It was mostly just slot machines and stuff. And every time Sue would pull down a handle of which machine he’d told her to touch, she’d
0:04:34 – 2045
get a hand full of money. And so then I said to myself, “Hum, this guy’s just a little newspaper reporter in one of the poorest countries on planet earth?” So here’s the – here’s the, so afterwards we decided to go back to the hotel and all. We careened down this mountain with this guy and he obviously can’t see where he’s going, but he does, he makes it down the mountain. And we’re talking swerving around these mountain roads with no lights and dark sunglasses on. And the Presidential palace is the only building lit up where, you know, Papa Doc Duvalier lived. And we’re going down this boulevard, directly toward the Presidential palace, probably 70 miles an hour. And there are two army tanks blocking the drive toward the Presidential palace. And when we get to within a hundred yards or so, and we’re talking driving fast right toward these army tanks, and I’m sitting there like this. They just went “shew” (gesturing hands moving apart). He drives in a circle around the Presidential palace and – and then on the other side there were two other army tanks and they opened up. And we go through and then they close back. And he’s just, “Oh…da – da – da – da – da”, doesn’t say a word about it. And I don’t say a word about it. But, at that moment, I knew that Roblan Jolicoeur is more than just a reporter. And subsequently, if you read Graham Green’s novel called the Comedians, he’s in it. And, I feel like he was probably, you know, perhaps the head of the secret police or something. And so, I immediately grew suspicious of Glassman being the PR for the Forest Service, because I had experienced that sort of thing.
0:06:21 – 2045
Because the Forest Service runs its agency as though it were a corrupt military dictatorship. And so, the next step in the battle to destroy Four Notch was, we still wanted it for wilderness. Even though they had crushed it, guess what, the gene pool was still there. It was intact. It would come back. Tens of thousands of young seedlings came back per acre. It was regenerating itself, naturally. Four Notch was a very fecund area and very resilient. So the Forest Service said, “Okay, we’ve chopped it up, we’ve hacked it up, we’ve spread pine needles around, we’ve crushed it, but it’s still trying to come back”. And we said, “Okay, we’ve won it. In a hundred years you won’t even know the tree crusher was there.” So they said, “What can we do next?” So they let a contract to napalm it from helicopters. And the contract called for each area to be napalmed by creating a circle of fire from the air around whatever area was to be napalmed. And then to napalm in ever decreasing concentric circles toward the center. In other words, build a wall of fire and burn that wall of fire inward and trap – trapping any living thing in it’s path. There’s no escape. I mean, in a natural fire at least, you know, most animals and wildlife and stuff like that can sort of sense where it’s coming from, because they’ve learned how to survive, you know, genetically, if nothing else, over tens of thousands of years, and if the fire’s, you know, sort of moving along this way, the deer and the rabbits and the turtles and all that stuff will do what they can to get out of the way of the fire. But this bur – these burns were designed to destroy every living thing. So, the Forest Service was going to hold another dog and pony show for the media and then explain what they had to do this and that and the other. ‘Cause we were raising hell and telling the media how bad it was. So, the day before the dog and pony
0:08:49 – 2045
show the Forest Supervisor, not the Forest Supervisor – the District Ranger, maybe it was the Forest Supervisor, I can’t remember, told me that I could come to the dog and pony show, because I am media, and, but I had to come alone. He said, “I don’t want any demonstrators there or nothing”. I said, “Okay, you have my word. All we want to do is make sure that the media knows our side of the story, okay”. And so I agreed to come alone. Real stupid mistake. I get to Forest Service Headquarters in New Waverly and park my car and walk up to the gate and say, you know, “Where’s the press conference?” And a man meets me, armed man meets me, then another armed man. And they say, “You can’t come in.” I said, “But, I was invited. I was invited. Why can’t I come in?”… “You can’t come in. Stand here, by the side of the road and wait.” So I stood by the side of the road, poor little stupid me. You know, and I didn’t – I didn’t take a video camera or anything. I just, I came with press releases, Sierra – Sierra Club press releases telling what this napalming really would do and giving them some background to pass out to the media there, so it wouldn’t be totally one sided. So then, after they had their initial briefing, the media was going to go out in a caravan to the napalm site, and just see, and I’m sure whatever site that was they weren’t going to make it look bad and not let them see, you know, the carcasses of the dead animals and whatnot. So, I was standing where I was told to stand. And, you know, one of the media cars slowed down and said, “What’s your name?” I said, “George Russell”, and handed the guy a press release, standing by the side of the road. And Billy Ball(?), who was the head of the Forest Service goons in Texas, we’re talking about armed goons, assaulted me and put me under arrest for handing out press releases. He said I was blocking a federal roadway.
0:11:12 – 2045
But I was standing where I was told to stand. Whole thing a total set up. So I could either, you know, pay the penalty, have a black mark on my record, and then since I was scheduled to testify against the Forest Service again in court, and who knows, again and again and again, there would be this convicted federal criminal. How can you believe George Russell? So I knew why they had done it. But I was too stupid and naive to believe that they would do something like that. Even though, you know, they had tortured Bugus Cargus and they had tried to kill James Jackson. You know, I really, it was naïve. And I should have had a group, a entourage to videotape what was going on. Well, the Forest Service, it turns out, was videotaping the whole thing for their own internal files. But guess what, they didn’t want to release that videotape. And it took, at least, over a year I think before I finally got a copy of the videotape, which proved that I wa – hadn’t done anything. So I felt real confident. I’ll go to court in Houston, I’ll tell the judge, you know, the facts, what the deal is. Hey, this is America, I’m standing where they told me to stand, I’m handing out press releases, I was invited to be there. And, this was another very bizarre thing. There was a big docket. So, here are all these people who really had been bad and there’s this kindly old gentleman-like guy and these people would come up and say they, just silly things, like maybe somebody was drunk and abandon his car in the – a – a – where the ambulance goes at the veteran’s hospital or something like that.
(misc. – shooting in background)
0:12:59 – 2045
And, he’s say, “Oh now, you just promise not to do that again”. I mean all these crimes, he’s just slap their hand or just give them a little ten dollar fine or some little nonsense. So I was feeling real confident. I say the judge is probably going to give me a medal. So then, the courtroom’s about empty by that time, and a bunch of federal prosecutors go up and start whispering to the judge and take him aside and da – da – da. And, I mean, the atmosphere changes. The judge is no longer the kindly grandfather, he’s a stern, mean guy. He didn’t even want to hear my side of the story. Convicted. I’m a federal criminal. So that was a total set up. Then the Forest Service, Hal Glassman, sent out press releases about…
(misc. – dog barking)
0:14:03 – 2045
…about George Russell, you know, convicted of this crime, dada- da – dada – da – da, to try to damage and destroy my reputation. Well that was real stressful. You know, I had to worry about my defense at that point. I either had to, you know, pay the penalty, and I think, they only fined me but it could have been a year in federal penitentiary and da – da – da – da. So that was extremely stressful. Because you start, here I was a good little boy in civics, a good little boy scout, always taught to believe in flag and America, here I’d served my country honorably on – in the Vietnam era – four years active duty. And all of the sudden I’m a federal criminal for passing out press releases in the United States of America. So, it took many, many months and a terrible amount of stress. And, Judge Lynn Hughes in the Federal District Court in Houston, who I think was a – a Regan appointee, if I’m not mistaken, very conservative Republican appointee overturned the conviction. And said, “Hey”, I mean even he could see this is American, “Hey, this guy’s only handing out press releases, why’d you arrest him?”, basically. Well then, that had cost me probably a million dollars. Plus – plus my hair started turning white at that time. Because it’s very stressful to have lived through a period of having federal officials threaten to fire bomb your house and, you know, harassing you; constant harassment. So that’s sort of the Four Notch story. Then, finally, you know, to get it overturned, I finally got the videotape which proved my innocence and proved that they had set the whole thing up. And, but guess what, civil rights laws don’t apply to Forest Service law enforcement. Did you know that? They don’t apply. They’re immune. The Forest Service is a para-military force that is totally out of control. There’s no Congressional oversight. They operate goon squads. I f–learned also, finally, and I’ve only learned bits and pieces of what really they were probably doing ‘cause they, you know, black out stuff when they finally, you know, reluctantly send you information. But, apparently there were 30, a force of 30-something armed men flown in from all over the South just to harass me. They set up military command posts before this napalming exercise. They knew, I know people who lived out in the National Forest area, they closed public roads. They even harassed citizens in their homes. They knew every citizen who lived out there. This is real scary. They knew who to let pass, because they may live in an in-holding, and they knew who not to let pass, if they said they didn’t belong. Not only were these men carrying 357 Magnums, there’s me. I said I’d come alone. I came alone. 357 Magnums to harass George Russell by himself. But they were to be locked and loaded. Now, see how dangerous I am. So, it’s extremely, extremely evil and wrong for the Forest Service: a) to destroy our natural and our national heritage, and b) it’s even more, or just as evil to harass citizens, falsely arrest citizens, threaten citizens and injure
0:17:52 – 2045
citizens. But they do it. Because it’s, there’s greed at the highest ranks. And, the Forest Service is very much like the Pentagon. As you’re probably aware the national media exposes, from time to time, you know, billion-dollar overruns on garbage that’s technologically obsolete, airplanes that don’t fly, etc., etc. And, also the fact that, say the General that was on the Acquisitions Committee that went to Congress and said how bad we needed it or, you know, the evil world menace will destroy America and so Congress will vote a billion dollars for some obsolete piece of garbage. Then all of the sudden the guy, this General retires and he’s the Vice President in the Military Industrial Complex pulling in a couple hundred grand a year, plus his military pension. Same thing happens in the Forest Service. These Forest Supervisors and Rangers and people who line the pockets, really, of the timber industry at the tax payer expense. You know, there’s a loss of, what is it, a half billion dollars a year, in – in – in losses in revenue, at the expense of the tax payer and the American people and our future and our heritage. Guess where these people tend to go. They start to work for the same lumber companies that they sold the lumber too. The same lumber companies where the Forest Service would like hide their eyes when the streams were being pillaged, or where the a – endangered species habitat was being destroyed by – and it’s always an accident and they didn’t mean to do it. But let me tell you they do mean to do it and they do it on purpose. When we finally did get a little tiny Wilderness Area in this, in Sam Houston National Forest, in Little Lake Creek, right before it was officially designated, the District Ranger himself got on a bulldozer and ran that bulldozer back and forth on a fern bed of a species of fern that I was told was the largest community of that type anywhere in East Texas. Intentional
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destruction. They intentionally destroyed the National a – a- Champion Long Leaf Pine Tree. We discovered the National Champion Long Leaf Pine Tree in – in Upland Island. The Forest Service decided that they would cut down all the pine trees around it. We said, “If you cut down all the big pine trees around it, it’ll blow down in the next wind storm. The only reason it’s been able to survive all these years is all these trees have grown up together in a forest. We’ve seen it time and time and time again.” So guess what. They chopped down the trees and the top blew off of it. At Four Notch we had the National Champion Hercules Club; Prickly Ash and they ran over it and smashed it. We had the State Champion Sweet Beet, they chopped it down. I mean, they intentionally go out of their way to destroy endangered species habitat. And now they’re using the Red Cockaded Woodpecker. We, the Red Cockaded Woodpecker and the environment lost in court even though it was a technical victory. And I told Ned Fritz at the time, I said, “Ned, they’re going to use – they’re still going to continue to destroy the woodpecker and they’re going to continue to over cut the woodpecker’s habitat. Mark my word.” Fritz now believes me. You know, we’re – we’re trying to go back to court to show them what happened. What they were doing in the past is clearcutting right up to the edges of the colonies themselves. Well, you know what that did. That meant that the woodpeckers couldn’t feed their young. They’d have to fly across these clearcuts, expose themselves to predation from hawks and ea – owls and whatnot. Plus, they burn up their energy flying, you know, two or three hundred yards maybe to get to a pine tree to find a bug to hall back to their young and guess what, can’t do it. So then the Forest Service, after we won, decided that there were too many pine trees in the Red Cockaded Woodpecker colonies. And they would need to cut most of them down or bring the basal area down to
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60. Well, in the old-growth pine forest the basal areas were way above 100. And the reason the Red Cockaded Woodpecker survived so well and why there were more of them in Sam Houston National Forest than in any other national forest was not only were there huge pine tress in great abundance, but there were also lots of hardwoods. And Red Cockaded Woodpeckers also feed off of hardwoods. The only place that a hardwood might interfere with a woodpecker is if the hardwood limb or stem grows right in front of the cavity and the poor woodpecker can’t get into his hole. So there might be an occasion where you could help a woodpecker by cutting a limb off a hardwood tree or just something that would take about five minutes; maybe, on occasion cutting a hardwood tree down that was blocking their flight path, or something like that. Well the Forest Service, once again, their scientists who work for them or for the Department of Agriculture, their so-called experts, figured out a way of making the courts believe that these woodpeckers could only survive if they cut down all the hardwood trees. Destroy that, that’s what the Forest Service has been trying to do for years anyway, destroy the hardwoods. So they’re winning again. Burn every year or two years or three years at about ten to a hundred times the natural fire frequency, which does, guess what, kills the hardwoods. And, they didn’t – they wanted to harvest. They were able to harvest more
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trees out of these woodpecker colonies and the woodpecker forging areas than if they had been clearcutting. Because they said the basal area is too high and that’s going to attract Pine Beetles. So they go in and they have decimated these ecosystems ostensibly to protect the Red Cockaded Woodpecker. Their numbers have not increased. If anything their numbers are going – continuing to decline. Because they are systematically destroying Red Cockaded Woodpecker habitat and, not only that, they are destroying the entire native forest ecosystems. And they have paid goons, who are scientists, who get up and testify that that’s the right thing. But, guess what, they’ve never done any scientific studies. They’ve never done any replicate studies. They’ve never followed any sort of scientific principals. They’ve never shown any scientific evidence. But, they’ve got the credentials and they’re on the payroll and they get up and spout their lies. And guess what loses. The forest, the tax payers, our future and the woodpecker. So the war against the forest continues and continues and continues. For example, there’s ostensibly moratoriums on cutting in the national forests. Judge Schell’s court in Beaumont, once again our video tapes, you know, saved the day. We could show Judge Schell and educate him even though he’s in a courtroom and not in the forest. If these trials took place on the land, guess what, we could swish them every time. But they take place in federal courtrooms. So the only way to take the Judge to the forest is to take the forest to the Judge. And – and that’s the beauty of video, is you can do that. And so Judge Schell was convinced that the Forest Service was violating several laws and – and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, probably the most conservative appeals court in
America, even upheld Judge Schell. Which is just an amazing victory. But it’s further proof at how absolutely out of control the Forest Service is. How absolutely evil, as an empire, they are. So, the Forest Service says, at that point, ‘Now how do we continue to chop down and decimate the forest?’ So there was a windstorm, I think last year some time, and, yes, there were areas where a lot of pine trees were blown down. But there were also vast areas that the Forest Service said were heavily damaged and therefore they needed to go through and do salvage logging. Where, guess what, maybe a limb was blown out here or maybe one top out of a tree over there. In other words, the kind of damage that we get in this back yard every once in a while. We hadn’t chopped down all the trees just because a limb blows out. I went to another dog and pony show with the Forest Supervisor, this was about a year ago, to some of the ostensibly damaged areas. And standing right there with the Forest Supervisor the man would tell me it’s heavily damaged when there isn’t any damage. These are pathological, pathological liars. And so the Forest Service went in, they got Al Gore who is supposed to be a friend of the environment and who is nothing more than a political whore like everybody else, to turn—overturn any laws protecting the—the forest, any ecological laws protecting the forest and let without any oversight or any control, let them come in and do this so-called salvage logging. And they did terrible, terrible damage. So we’re in a war of attrition, not matter what the courts say about them violating on law, they’re like an amoeba and they can transform any law or any statute or any effort to control them into their camp just like they’re using the Red Cockaded Woodpecker to destroy the forest, they use pine beetles to destroy the forest, they use windstorms to destroy the forest, because their ultimate goal is the wholesale conversion of every commercially available acre that will grow a pine tree, its conversion to pine clones. It’s called Nazi forestry. And even the Nazis, the post-Nazis in Germany have learned through their mistakes in the Black Forest, it was suffering extensive die-outs because of over-control, over-management, over-planting of singles, of monocultures, etc. Depletion of soils, the Nazis that started that kind of forestry, they’re not doing as much Nazi forestry but now the Americans are. And so once in—and you can fly over the National Forest and you see these horrible little
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rows and rows and rows and rows of their super pines and very little else. So the only salvation of our National Forest really is to get them out of every acre. You can’t give them a chainsaw for any reason. You—you give them an inch and they take a mile and we don’t need to harvest one tree out of the National Forest for any job. We can create five times the jobs we have now in timber by utilizing the product correctly that is removed from private timberlands. No acre in the world should ever be clearcut for any valid, scientific, silvicultural purpose. There is no reason to ever clearcut that I know of unless, of course, you are clearcutting in an—an alien species or something like that that totally decimated—but that wouldn’t be clearcutting a—a native forest. In other words, no native forest should or could—or is needed to be clearcut. Item two, we burn up and destroy and crush and napalm and allow to rot literally billions of board feet of lumber every year and we destroy our earlier infrastructures. When we were talking about recycling houses, every day in this town, houses that were built with perfectly good material from the old-growth forests, in other words, houses from the 1890’s and 1880’s and 1870’s and 1860’s and 1910, etc., etc. where, say, the flooring has a hundred years of growth in one inch, lumber you can’t buy today, rip it up, haul it to the city dump, burn it,
bury it. So you wouldn’t lose any jobs if you took those people who are working to destroy our forests and you allowed them to recycle forest products now, you’d create jobs and you’d save the forest and the economy would still be healthy and we wouldn’t be living in caves. You can have your cake and eat it too. You can have a wholesome environment. You can have a high quality of life. You can have everything if you just use some common sense and greed is not allowed to completely take over and just plain evil and that is just to keep people from having something evil—evil people will destroy. Just like our school board in—in—in Huntsville right now….yes…
DT: I’d like to hear about your exploits with some of the water agencies. If you could tell about Rockland Dam…
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GR: Rockland Dam was one of my big adventures. Are you—are we still rolling?
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GR: Rockland Dam was a—a fun adventure. I guess I first started working with Ned Fritz when I came back from Italy in ’74 shortly thereafter and—and Fritz was working against the channelization of the Trinity River for a barge canal. And, of course, I had opposed Lake Livingston and the water hustlers and the crazy dam builders and the destroyers of our bottomland hardwood forests, you know, basically as long as I can remember, as far back as I can remember. So there was going to be a hearing about Rockland Dam some place in East Texas, I can’t even remember and—and the water hustlers were just ready for Rockland Dam to be built. And this thing had been going on for years and years, pumping more and more and more money into Rockland Dam and—and the champion of Rockland Dam, of course, was old Timber Charlie Wilson. And I’d been giving Charlie fits at that time and I can tell you some real wild stories about Mickey Leeland and Bob Eckhardt and Congressman John Siberling and—and all these people that I had to deal with in Congress and the—in those days I would testify at various Congressional hearings and—and I’d go to Washington and I had more time to devote to that sort of thing. But regardless there was a hearing about, you know, Rockland Dam and whether it should be built and the Corps of Engineers was there to give their dog and pony show. Well the Colonel of the Corps, you know, just presented this dam as the most wonderful thing in the world like people in the Corps of Engineers are prone to do. In other words, nothing but bald-faced lies and so, at that time, the—the emotion in the room and there was—it was a packed room, I don’t remember, seemed like several hundred people, were sort of, I think, believing him. And it just something clicked in my reptilian mind and it was my turn to speak and I got up and have had, in the past, an ability to, I suppose, turn the multitudes toward good and away from evil. I’ve lost a lot of that ability but back then I had that oratorial spirit and I began to talk their—their East Texas language and talk about their pride and their environment and their lands and their ancestors and about greed and water hustlers and evil and that was my egg-sucking dog speech and for whatever reason, I—I said and I pointed to that Colonel and I said, that Colonel right over there is nothing but an egg-sucking dog. And I got those people stirred up to the point that I thought they were going to lynch that poor old Colonel. And he got scared. I mean, I—I turned the tide. And believe it or not, now I’m sure I had help from others and I don’t like to just toot my horn alone because I couldn’t have accomplished anything without a whole infrastructure of dedicated Sierrans and—
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and Audubon people and Earth First people, etc., etc. So, you know, I don’t want to take credit where it’s not due but I do feel like, that for whatever reason, that extemporaneous egg-sucking dog speech got those people so pissed off at the Corps of Engineers that Charles Wilson, for the first time in history, had that—plans for that dam deactivated. You know how these things live forever and ever and ever. Now in the last year, they’ve talked about bringing it back to life because we have—now have a—a—a Congressman that’s worse than Charles Wilson now. And gosh I wish I could even rem—I can’t even—he makes me so mad—Ch—Turner—Jim Turner. Now I’ll tell you a story about Jim Turner. See I got Charlie Wilson sort of turned on our side. He even campaigned paddling a canoe in the Big Thicket and talking about the environment and Charlie—and—and it took—it took harassment. James Jackson and others and myself followed him around wherever he went and harassed the hell out of him. And we also got some of his buddies on our side like old Mickey Leeland. And I’ll tell you Mickey Leeland’s story because I really did like Mickey Leeland. He’s a very, very intelligent person and, you know, filled with good humor and all. And so we sent a volunteer into his congressional district in Houston and he represented just a lot of poor people and a lot of
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minority people but we also knew that those people loved and respected the forest. They were first-generation urban dwellers or second-generation urban dwellers whose roots were in East Texas. And most of them were too poor to have a $10,000, you know, stag lease or something on the X, Y, Z ranch or what-have-you or to lease some land from Champion or who—whoever. Their hunting land, when they returned home to visit their grandma or so out in rural Walker County or rural San Jacinto County was a National Forest. That was the people’s hunting land and they didn’t like clearcutting. They didn’t like to go back home and see the place where they grew up in their youth and used to walk the creek bottoms and shoot a squirrel for dinner or, you know, have some venison on the table, to see those decimated and turned into pine plantations. So we really had a very easy time in Mickey Leeland’s district convincing those folks that wilderness was a good idea. And Mickey even called me up and said, “Okay, halt. George, it’s enough. I’ve got all the letters I need, you know. You know, I—I’ve got all the letters I need. I—I—I’m convinced.” Well we had old Bob Eckhardt working too because we couldn’t—Timber Charlie had said at the time, they’ll never be one acre of wilderness in—in East Texas. So we had a, you know, pretty much an uphill battle because it’s very seldom that a Congressman outside of another Congressman’s district will interfere in—in that Congressman’s district. And then we had, I guess, old John Bryant—I can’t even remember all the players—I can tell you some John Bryant stories when we tried to—John was trying to take over the speakership of the Texas House and I went around with him visiting rich people trying to get money so that we could take that over and—I could tell you political stories for hours but anyway, so then Ned and I went up to Washington to talk to Mickey because we wanted Mickey to cross Charlie and—or
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convince Charlie to file that bill. And Mick—then Mickey was happy to see us and Ned this and Ned that and we were dancing around in his office and it was just the three of us—remind me I got to tell you a—a Jim Hightower story in just a second—and we said okay now Mickey, all the people in—in your district or at least the majority, you know, the letters were outnumbering them 50 to 1 or something like that—wilderness—will you file that wilderness bill? And Mickey started acting ethnic on purpose, of course, because he was a highly educated and, you know, really a fun and great guy and he was saying, oh you know Mr. Ned, oh you know, you know, that wilderness be bad. You know us darkies are scared of snakes. And I—can you believe that? And he wouldn’t file the bill. Well Mickey and Charlie were just like that and I don’t want to cast any aspersions on Mickey’s memory or anything but let’s put it this way, the story was the reason that Mickey wouldn’t file the bill, and this is a story and—and I hope, you know, and I don’t mean anything bad like—but Mickey apparently liked the female form and the female figure and Charlie was one of the biggest known womanizers. He wasn’t af—he—he didn’t lie about it like our President, you know, or he’d say, yeah, I’m with Miss World today and Miss Universe tomorrow. You know, that sucker was—he’d chase them around. Well Mickey—I’m sure Mickey didn’t violate any of the Ten Commandments or anything but like our President, the—Jimmy Carter, the peanut President, he probably did lust in his heart and probably did like to be around some of Charlie’s beautiful, you know, women. And the—the rumor was, of course, Charlie threatened that he wouldn’t let Mickey look at any of—of his women. Now I’m sort of cleaning up this story a little bit if he filed that wilderness bill. And knowing what I know about how Congress operates and knowing some of these people, you know, not intimately but—but relatively personally, I could see how that might—might convince Mickey that he better not be stepping on Charlie’s turf.
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Now I’ve got to tell you a Jim Hightower story. Jim Hightower, when he was Agriculture Commissioner, was a real good friend, a real good environmentalist and he wasn’t a political whore like Al Gore. Hey that sort of rhymes, doesn’t it? And so Ned and I were having a press conference in Austin on wilderness or something, I can’t remember. I mean, we’ve done these things for so many decades that it just all becomes this big blur and you can sort of remember anecdotes and events but days, even decades, I—I forget sometimes. And so Jim Hightower had promised to join us at this press conference but it was politically delicate because it’s—was a very controversial issue and it had to do with clearcutting or something and he had promised us that he was going to get up there and be on our side and give a rousing speech, etc. So we go to Jim Hightower’s office before the press conference and I say to his secretary, “Where’s Jim? He was supposed to be here. We’re supposed to have this press conference after while.” She says, “Uh, uh, well, I don’t see him. He’s not around here. Uh, I don’t think he’s in.” I—I—and just got all nervous and stuff like that. So I said, “Well, I guess we can wait for him a while.” And Ned and I were just milling around and milling around—well I have a just terrible idle curiosity about anything or any place I am. I—I mean, I look at people’s—if I go in their house, people—that’s why people don’t like me—I go in their house, I look at all the books to see what books they read, you know. I’m interested in what music. I open their icebox and see what kind of food they eat. I don’t know. It’s just I guess I—I have a lot of nervous energy. So … and I don’t sit well. I’m standing here longer than I probably ever stood in my life. So anyway, they used to—when I was in the fourth grade, they used to have to draw chalk—chalk circles around the feet of my desk because I’d tend to scoot it all around the room. So anyway, I started wandering around.
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Well there was this big sort of library and this big conference table—big conference room sort of like in a—in a lawyer’s closing office or something like that. There’s no lights on. It’s dark. There’s a little bit—the shades are sort of drawn. There’s a little bit of light coming in, just enough to sort of see shadows and stuff and I’m just sort of wandering around squinting because I had been up in White’s—you know, White—White used to be the governor but he was also the Attorney General. This was on another deal where I was trying to save Sam Houston’s house and suing the—suing the state for destroying Sam Houston’s home which they did—I think that was about 1980. But anyway he had a lot of Texas antiques and I collect Texas antiques so I was squinting to see if old Hightower also collected Texas antiques and I’m walking around this table and then I’m standing back and then I sort of look under it, crouched under the table in the dark was guess who? Jim Hightower. “Jim, my God! What! Oh, I’m so happy to see you.” And I reach under there and pull him out. “Oh my God, our press conference is just about to start. Come on, we’re going to be late.” And I think we held it if I recall in the Chambers of the Supreme Court or something, I don’t know. Anyway there’s—these things was probably when I’m totally senile instead of only half senile like now I can remember probably a hundred more episodes of weird things like that that have occurred over the years.
DT: Do you have any stories of Bob Eckhardt?
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GR: Oh yeah, Bob was—oh I just love Bob Eckhardt. The thing I loved about Bob Eck—Eckhardt, there are two, three—three Congressman that I’ve had total respect for and actually a couple more—even Steve Bartlett has been a real, real hero. And then I forget—we had one up in Indiana and I—there’s—there have been a number of really honorable, honest Congresspersons … who are not the majority, by the way. And Bob Eckhardt was one of those. Anybody who retires from Congress in poverty is honest. And poor old Bob, I think, basically never stole, never did anything corrupt, always was for the little guy, always was for the environment, always for honesty and integrity in government. So way back when we were trying to get these Congressman interested in the forest, we’d take them on little hikes out in the woods. And we took—I’ll tell you one aside, John Siberling, I had the greatest respect for him. He had inherited his money from the Siberling tire fortune and he didn’t need any money. He couldn’t be bought and he was fearless. And I watched him lecture those Forest Service Supervisors and—and District Rangers to within an inch of their life, just almost whip them into shape. You don’t get Congressman that have the guts or the balls to do that, or the integrity because they’re so easy to buy them off. Timber industry has bought off a lot of Congresspersons … and for cheap, pennies on the dollar. Congress is—Congress is cheap to buy. It’s getting more expensive because there’s a lot of competition but it’s cheap to buy. And anyway, but there’s certain men that cannot be bought. John Siberling was one, John Bryant was one, Steve Bartlett was one and Bob Eckhardt was one. And so several times we’d go out with Bob to different things. I’d help him, for example, there was a big party to help him chink his log cabin and—and stuff because I—I have log houses
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and things that were old historic log houses. And—but the fun things were going out in the woods with him because Bob used to take a snort or two of whisky and he had these big old baggy pants and you’d wonder how the poor old thing could even walk, you know, a quarter of a mile much less ten and go from National Forest to National Forest to Scenic Area and wilderness proposal and just, I mean, on and on. I remember one time in the dead of winter on one of these hikes and we had gone… You know, Fritz is just totally full of energy. He’s like a wired dog or something and, in those days, Fritz could probably walk fifty miles in a day and he—he never stops. And here’s—here’s old Bob Eckhardt plodding along and I’d plod along with him and old Bob say, “Man, that Fritz. Whew, he gon’ kill us,” and he’d pull his whisky flask out of his big old baggy pants and (slurping noise) like this and it was cold as ice. I think there was frost on the trees. And that’s what sustained old Bob. That’s what heated him up and kept him going was that whisky flask. And by the time we got to the end of the hike, old Bob just be happy. “That sure was a pretty area (slurping noise).” And he was ready. He was ready to save it all, every acre.
DT: What about Ned Fritz? Any Ned Fritz tales?
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GR: Oh there’s—there are hundreds of Ned Fritz tales but the main thing about Ned Fritz is I’ve met very few real geniuses in my life and Ned fits that category. Now one can be a genius in certain areas and not a genius in others and so, you know, Ned—Ned has his idiosyncrasies and has to be reminded of various things and stuff but his focus and his dedication to the planet and to the future of all species which, of course, includes the human species, is as great a—as any I have ever seen. I mean, I have the most profound and deepest respect for someone who would give up his career and live in, I would call it almost poverty, for years and years. I think they do turn the heat on now that they’ve gotten a little older. Jeanie’s probably made him do that. And dedicate everything, every waking moment, every thought selflessly, not for his ego or not for fame or not for fortune but because he is deeply committed to democracy and to quality of life and to the planet. And so I think that’s the most important thing about Ned and he has this uncanny mind that sometimes, you know, I’ll have to pull him to the left and I think that’s one of the roles I’ve played over the last quarter of a century, that I have been sort of Ned’s protégé. And, you know, I’ll sit with him in court and I’ll be at the table and I’ll say, you know, I’ll write a note: “Ned, this …” And it’s not that I’m running the case but he’ll be so focused that I’ll sort of have to be his little helper to keep his—keep his mind on what’s—what’s happening. And so we’ve made a good team over the years but, you know, I guess the last time I stayed with Ned Fritz, he’d always say, “George, come and stay with me. Come and stay with me when you’re in Dallas.” Well, the last time I stayed with Ned Fritz was years ago, at least ten, maybe fifteen years ago. It was the dead of winter and my wife was with me and I said, “Well, Ned, where—where are we going to sleep?” And he said, “Oh, well, the guest bedroom’s back …” And you had to go through these tunnels of piles of books and papers and documents and everything and way—you know,
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wind your way back through all this mess and there was this big waterbed. So we get ready for bed and we hop into this bed and before long, it feels like I’ve been cast off the Titanic into the Arctic Ocean. We’re talking about he didn’t have any heat in his house. It must have been hovering … the temperature in the house must have been in the forties or upper thirties maybe. Well guess what, the temperature in that waterbed was the same. It is a wonder I’m still alive because of hypothermia or something. And to Fritz it’s just, “do do do do do do do”, and the next day I’m like this (shivering), you know, and we’re trying to find blankets or anything or magazines to lay on or whatever. It was the most miserable night of my life. And old Fritz, of course, could have slept on that waterbed or on—in a briar patch and he’d just hop up, “Oh, where’s my cereal? Where’s my food? Da da da da da da da.” I mean, a story my daddy tells on him a lot of times is we have some fruit made out of marble from Italy and Fritz goes up and says, “Whoa, look at the big bowl of fruit,” and grabs some big old marble pear or something and starts to chomp down on the damn thing. I mean, I’ve always called Fritz a gourmand and I had—did play a trick on him one time in Washington, D.C. because I would always take Fritz out to eat. Well in Huntsville or out in the woods some little old barbecue joint or—and he’ll eat anything…oh I’ll tell you a Fritz story in just a minute…or side café or whatever. And, I mean, you know, and in some little old town or in Huntsville, you know, some little thing that costs two or three dollars to eat. Well we’re in Washington, D.C. at some hearing and Fritz says well you’ve taken me to eat for years and paid for my dinner, I’m going to pay tonight. So I’d looked through some magazine and there was some restaurant that was like Five Stars or something. So we go into this place and here are all the—all the waiters and, by the way, they told me I had to wear shoes in Washington. And—and I guess I—and I guess, yeah I didn’t wear my sandals. I wore shoes for Fritz. I actually had a suit or something. So I was—I was really dressed up. We go in this place and all these waiters are like this and I’m not sure Fritz had ever been in a place like that before and he opens this menu and the prices, you know, were just incredibly high. Fritz liked to have
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died. And I’m saying, “Hmmm, I’ll have one of these and one of these and one of those.” And Fritz has never let me live that down. I swear that had to have been fifteen years ago. He still remembers that one meal that he paid for way back then. All right, here’s a real good Fritz story.
DT: I see we only have about five minutes left. Let’s tell a little George Russell story. Can you try and summarize what you think are some of threats and opportunities environmentally in Texas?
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GR: Yeah I can but let me tell one—one real quick Ned Fritz because it’s really a strange one too. Are we on? Is it running?
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GR: Okay Fritz invited us down. His wife is a direct descendant of Christopher Columbus, whose old family hacienda… All right his wife’s grandfather, great-grandfather designed the Copper … that Copper Canyon Railroad down near Lo—Los Mochis. We go to this big old hacienda, this ancient, I mean, ancient, ancient place and all—here are all the little servants and everything around. We decide to go look for a rare jay bird up in the Sierra Madre Occidental and my little children are with me. This is years and years ago and they were just little kids. We get way up on these remote mountains with no expectancy of seeing this jay bird. There’s thirty of them left in the world or something and we run across a—a group of bird watchers. I think they were from Victor Emanuel’s. They’ve been out there looking for this jay bird for days. So off they go, off up into the higher mountains looking for this jay bird. And you hear that jay over there, well it wasn’t five minutes till one of my little girls said, I think I hear a jay bird. And we look up and there’s one of those rare jay birds. Then on the way back—and so here all these people had gone and we weren’t there—we were just there cruising and if we happened to see one fine. Then we head back and we go across the river and you have to ford the stream and there’s an Indian in a dugout canoe and he had just caught this turtle. So Fritz goes down and buys the turtle, this big turtle that big around, from this Indian and puts it in the trunk of the car. So we haul it back to the hacienda and Fritz says, we’re having turtle soup. And they—and the—all the women come out, you know, from the kitchen with these machetes and they chop this turtle into every kind of little bit and piece and we ate that turtle. But it was the most bizarre thing. Fritz will eat anything that doesn’t eat him first. So that’s my Fritz story. Okay.
DT: George story please.
0:57:21 – 45
GR: Okay what’s the George story again?
DT: What do you see as the threats to the future or the opportunities of the future…
0:57:28 – 2045
GR: Well the threats to the future are much greater than the opportunities for the future because the threats are almost insurmountable. As long as we are over-populating the planet, as long as we are decimating native gene pools, as long as we are absolutely, relentlessly destroying the life support systems for all species on the planet, ultimately our quality of life is doomed. I don’t see much hope. And people say, “Well, if you’re that cynical and—and it’s that depressing, why do you keep at it?” Because you’ve got to. You have to. If you don’t fight the fight and give up, you might as well move on down to the Promised Land. The only hope there is is if there is a dramatic shift in people’s sense of and I—I guess the only salvation can be religion and I’m not a church-goer or any of these things like that but I also understand that there’s a spirituality in regard to the Earth. And if, and I think that’s one of the greatest failings of—of organized religion, whether it be Christianity or—or Mohammedism or Judaism, is there’s too much focus on money and money for the church and—and things about people and people’s souls and not the thing that could keep people alive in a high quality of life. And if our preachers across the board could become I guess more Hindu-like or something, and—and focus on the world as being a sacred organism, then there’s hope. Otherwise, there’s none. Education’s not doing it. Our school boards aren’t doing it. Our industry is not doing it. Our banks are not doing it. The whole focus is on exploitation, exploitation, money, money, money, regardless of the consequences and it—there’s been—there’s been almost no change. And it’s—and there’s no foreseeable change and there’s no foreseeable hope right now.
DT: Is there a special spot that you like to go to in the outdoors?
0:59:39 – 2045
GR: Well right now I—I have this alligator ranch and I wish we were there because it is special. For example, yesterday I was standing out right in front of—of my fish camp and looked up and crows were chasing a big old eagle right over my head, a big old bald eagle and that was fun. And then yesterday I took the pontoon boat out. I could see white against the shore and I said, oh my goodness, looks like the pelicans may be back. And the pelicans spend the summer up north and some of them will spend the winter down on the lake. And I just eased up and I was surrounded by pelicans and none of them flew away and they’re just watching me and I’m watching them. And last spring before the poachers had killed most of my alligators, we were on one of the beaches and sitting in the boat and had the radio on and we were listening to I think it was Rod Stewart and I was just trying to relax. I was drinking some wine and trying to relax after a real hard week and we noticed about a twelve-foot alligator that was moving right toward the boat. And I said, “Oh my goodness, turn off the radio, we’re going to scare the alligator.” And so we turned off the radio and the alligator turned around and went—started heading the other way. I said, “Well, turn the radio back on.” We turned the radio back on, the alligator turned around and came and listened to Rod Stewart. And so, I mean, that place is so wonderful and there’s so many things to see and what we recently did and this is another bizarre thing, keep in mind, just by accident, I acquired the land from—from Charles Hurwitz. Next at about that same time, Charles Hurwitz’ loggers killed this little boy from Cold Spring, the same county that I just bought this land and so we have sort of dedicated a—this is and—and this is a bizarre thing—I felt compelled to
1:01:39 – 2045
make a trail to this place where we had sort of, for his—his mama still lives in Cold Spring and I told her, “Look, you can choose any tree to be your son’s, you know, just sacred tree or something in his memory,” because the poor thing is buried in Pasadena and she didn’t—he didn’t want to be buried in Pasadena and she didn’t want him buried there. But it is. So I said, “Well, you’re just going to have to believe that his spirit is here. Choose a tree.” So she chose this tree. Well I didn’t have any recall of when he had been killed by Hurwitz’ loggers who told him they were going to kill him. It’s on tape and yet, did they do anything? No. But another story. So anyway, I felt compelled to make a trail down to this—this tree so she could walk to it if she wanted to. And this was just a couple of weeks ago. And then I got my Earth First Journal and opened it up and the day I felt compelled just to make that trail was the first anniversary of his death.
End of reel 2045
End of interview with George Russell