DNR investigates gate vandalism on day of Aldwell timber protest

Agency says it has no leads; incident trapped elderly couple

PORT ANGELES — Law enforcement officials with the state Department of Natural Resources said Thursday they have not uncovered any leads in their investigation of vandalism that occurred on one of DNR’s access road gates on March 5.

Glue was poured into a gate lock, preventing access to the shared road that leads to the Aldwell timber site and a local residence.

Allen Brannin, 85, is the owner of the residence and alleges that the vandals were part of a group of protesters objecting to the logging of the Aldwell site that day.

Brannin and his wife have lived off the DNR road since 1963, and in an email, he had some choice words for the vandals.

“I am 85 years old and my wife is a few years younger over the years we have had to have various emergency vehicles come into the place. Now with a disabled lock that could be fatal but do these enviro-terrorists even give a damn?” he said in the email.

Organizers for the protest against the harvesting of what they describe as the old-growth forest at the Aldwell timber site said they were unaware of what had happened.

“The rally was peaceful on our end and did not call for any such actions,” said Elizabeth Dunne with Earth Law Center on Wednesday.

Kenny Ocker, communications manager for DNR, said in an email on March 10, “Three locks on the H-4300 road gate were vandalized sometime over the weekend. Whoever vandalized these locks ended up trapping a retired couple behind a gate with no way out.

“If there had been a medical emergency, they would not have been able to easily get out, nor would first responders be able to easily reach them. This was irresponsible and could have been incredibly dangerous,” Ocker said.

DNR law enforcement had to come to cut the locks off the gate. They kept them as evidence.

They also installed a new lock on the gate and gave new keys to the onsite logging operator and the trapped homeowner along with a spare lock in case the lock is vandalized again and needs to be cut off.

DNR is not new to vandalism on its properties, but this was a first for this gate, according to DNR law enforcement officer Allen Nelson.

“This was the first of this type of vandalism that occurred at this DNR gate. The gate was just installed around the first of March 2023,” Nelson said. “This a serious offense as Mr. Brannin lives behind the gate and he and his family needs to travel freely.”

The Aldwell site harvest contract was awarded in October to Bekkevar Logging & Trucking for $2.9 million.

Protestors allege the site is home to an “old-growth” forest, a site that has not been logged using industrial logging practices.

Additionally, they have said logging of the area will have negative impacts on the Elwha river.

DNR said it has taken several precautions to protect the river and that the area has some old-growth trees that have been left alone but that the area itself does not meet its definition of old growth, which is that the stands must predate 1850, it must be structurally complex, and it must be 5 acres or larger.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached at kpark@peninsuladailynews.com.

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