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Protesters gather in front of the Seneca Jones biomass cogeneration plant off Highway 99 north of Eugene on Monday. The sheriff’s office reported that six people were inside the mill and two had chained themselves to equipment.

EUGENE — Environmental activists fired their first direct-action salvo against the sale of contested Elliott State Forest lands Monday morning in a takeover of a Eugene biomass plant.

Cordelia Finley, an activist with Cascadia Forest Defenders, said three of the group’s members were arrested after attaching themselves to equipment at the Seneca Sawmill biomass plant in west Eugene.

Two people chained themselves to a truck dump.

“Someone inside the plant also attached (himself) to a conveyor plant,” Finley said.

According to the Lane County Sheriff’s Office, deputies charged 21-year-old Richard Denton Hayley and 23-year-old Benjamin Pinkey Jones with second-degree burglary, second-degree criminal trespass and second-degree disorderly conduct.

Chad Alan Kemp, 22,  was charged with second-degree criminal mischief, second-degree criminal trespass and second-degree disorderly conduct.

Finley said the group is trying to raise money to bail their fellow activists out jail.

“We’re lucky enough to have pro-bono representation from a group called the Civil Liberties Defense Fund,” Finley said.

The plant produces energy by burning slash and debris leftover from logging operations.

While part of the protest was motivated by irritation with what activists  say is pollution associated with the plant, Finley said it was also sparked by the state’s controversial sale of three parcels in the Elliott State Forest.

Seneca-Jones Timber Company placed the winning bid on the East Hakki Ridge parcel, a 788-acre tract auctioned off by the state to make up for a budget shortfall.

Two other parcels — Benson Ridge and Adams Ridge One — were purchased by Roseburg Forest Products subsidiary Scott Timber Co.

Two lawsuits have been filed by lawyers associated with Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands.

One of the suits seeks to have the sales thrown out under an Oregon law barring the sale of lands that formerly belonged to the federal government.

A fourth parcel in the Elliott — Adams Ridge Two — is scheduled for auction this fall.

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Reporter Thomas Moriarty can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 240, or by email at thomas.moriarty@theworldlink.com. Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasDMoriarty.

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