Activists say the extraction of tar sands oil creates a carbon footprint three-times larger than standard oil extraction and involves deforestation.

An Ashland man was arrested Tuesday after he and five other environmental activists unfurled a 70-foot banner from the observation deck in Niagara Falls State Park in New York.

Duane Martinez, 28, was among those protesting the use of tar sands oil, a form of oil extracted from sand in Canada and imported into the United States. Activists say the extraction of tar sands oil creates a carbon footprint three-times larger than standard oil extraction and involves deforestation.

"The idea behind the banner was sort of to frame the conversation," Martinez said Thursday. "We're trying to establish a clean energy future and policy for both of our nations (Canada and the U.S.)."

Wearing climbing gear and perching on a catwalk underneath the observation deck, Martinez monitored the safety of three activists who rapelled off the bridge and hung at the end of the banner so that it couldn't be easily pulled up.

The activists displayed the banner — which read "clean energy future," with an arrow pointing forward and "tar sands oil" with an arrow pointing backward — for about five hours before they climbed up and were arrested around noon.

Martinez was charged with criminal trespassing and reckless endangerment, both misdemeanors, and was arraigned Thursday morning in Niagara Falls, New York, he said.

Also charged with the same offenses were Aleythea Dolstad-Lown, 23, of Vashon, Wash.; Logan Price, 25, of Goldendale, Wash; Nicholas Simmons, 25, also of Vashon; and Kristen Stankiewicz, 30, of Portland.

All five, who participated in the stunt as part of the San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network's campaign against tar sands oil, posted $500 bail and were released. The hearing for the case will occur in October, Martinez said.

"My lawyer's confident that this is not going to be detrimental," he said of the charges.

The environmentalist flew to San Francisco on Thursday and will return to Ashland on Monday, he said.

Martinez, who also volunteers with Ashland's Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center, said the activism was worth being arrested for.

"Ideally what we did on that observation tower reached far and wide," he said. "We can only hope that our actions are having an influence and are changing the way the stories being told."

The activists staged their protest one day before Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with President Barack Obama in Washington to discuss energy issues.

"We wanted the conversation that the two were having in Washington to have some connection to this voice," Martinez said. "We're really looking for change in energy policy."

Martinez has been involved with the Rainforest Action Network since he moved to Ashland from the Bay Area two years ago, he said.

Laurel Sutherlin, grassroots organizer for KS Wild, said he supported Martinez's activism but doesn't foresee the Ashland nonprofit staging any extreme environmental protests.

"This isn't our style," he said. "There are many different roles for many organizations to play, but we certainly take climate issues very seriously."

While Martinez wouldn't disclose whether the Rainforest Action Network is planning any other protests, he did say being arrested on Tuesday hasn't made him any less eager to speak out.

"We have to do our part," he said. "So this isn't going to stop here for me or anybody else who's involved in the struggle to protect and clean up our environment."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@westmont.edu.