The Illegal Thing Connected To Bohemian Grove

Don’t ask what’s really going on at Bohemian Grove if you’re not prepared to get some infuriating answers. Founded in 1873, the Bohemian Club was originally as the name suggests: a group of journalists, musicians, and other artists who got together to live a bohemian lifestyle, but as the years progressed, it turned into a drunken summer camp for the world’s richest and most influential men. According to Business Insider, as many as five U.S. presidents — including Teddy Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, and Richard Nixon — have been members of the San Francisco-based boys’ club.

The club bought the land now called Bohemian Grove in 1899 for their annual retreat, and the veil of secrecy behind the goings-on at the sylvan getaway have sparked a plethora of internet conspiracies. While it may seem logical to think that since the world’s elite don’t want the rest of us to know what they’re get up to at their yearly gathering in the woods, since they must obviously be the Illuminati or something, the truth appears to be much more banal. Gawker writer Sophie Wiener worked as a staffer there one summer and what she saw was less New World Order and more frat boy-style bro-fest to see who can pee on as many redwoods as possible. It’s a place where drunken world leaders (and other politicians, ahem — Jeb Bush) throw temper tantrums over not being able to get milkshakes when they want them. Still, there’s one thing connected to Bohemian Grove that hasn’t been legal.

Illegal logging at Bohemian Grove

Although there’s no evidence to corroborate the Bohemian Grove conspiracy theories, we do have proof that the elite group has been up no good. A 2009 Vanity Fair investigation found that the “bohemians” of the Bohemian Club were illegally logging on their 2,700-acre Sonoma County property, nestled in the heart of the old-growth redwood forests of northern California, from 1984 to 2005. The news made its way to writer Alex Shoumatoff by way of a Bohemian Club whistleblower named John C. Hooper, now one of the most outspoken voices denouncing the deforestation at the Grove.

To get an idea of the kind of person that makes up the Club’s membership, Hooper also logs Douglas firs and redwoods on his farm in Mendocino County, California, but he assured Shoumatoff that he does so “selectively and sustainably.” He was called out by a spokesperson for the Club: “Mr. Hooper feels it is appropriate to log trees at an aggressive rate for his own personal gain while objecting to the Bohemian Club’s attempt to responsibly manage its own forest.” It’s a classic case of he said, he said (as Weiner noted for Gawker, no girls allowed: “A literal red line on the ground defined the area past which females were not allowed.”) In his defense, Hooper does have forest conservation in mind when he fells trees on the organic farm he calls Oz and he has a history of conscientious forest management.

The courts put the kibosh on the illegal logging at Bohemian Grove

Hooper led the Sierra Club’s forest management efforts in the 1980s and sits on the board of the California Tahoe Conservancy, “doing what he can to alleviate that once gin-clear body of water’s massive problems.” His whistleblowing documented in the Vanity Fair article was taken seriously, and the county government ended up seeing things his way, too. The SF Gate reported in March 2011 that a California judge revoked the controversial logging permit that the Bohemian Club had enjoyed for a century. The case had been brought by the Sierra Club and the Bohemian Redwood Rescue Club (BRRC), which had been organized specifically to deal with the problem of illegal logging at Bohemian Grove. According to Forest Unlimited, which helped organize the creation of the BRRC, the ruling was “a win for environmentalists who for years waged a David and Goliath-style battle in an effort to scale back logging” at the Grove. The ruling didn’t stop logging on the land completely, but did force the Bohemian Club to get to work on what the SF Gate called “more modest logging plans.”

Now that that issue is settled, we can all get back to the more important task of finding out what’s really going on at the Bohemian Club’s summer boys’ camp. Should we fear the coming of the New World Order, or are the ideas merely more conspiracy theories that are utterly ridiculous?

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