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Oregon’s Struggle to Save Ancient Forests Continues
E arly on the morning of July 30, 2002 upwards of 150 activists drove from nearby Portland and elsewhere up the flank of Mount Hood to the U.S. Forest Service’s Headquarters in the town of Sandy, where a 157-acre tract of ancient Oregon forest was set to be auctioned for logging. Solo, the old growth area in question, contains 400-year-old trees and some of the Mount Hood National Forest’s largest yews, as well as an extremely rare lichen. The Oak Grove watershed of which it is a part provides drinking water to 185,000 people in several adjacent suburban municipalities and rural communities. This early morning protest was preceded by the Cascadia Forest Alliance’s announcement of the installation of a tree-sit at the Solo sale.
The festive activist crowd stationed itself in the large, lower parking area, giving speeches and updates, drumming, dancing, and adorning the pavement with colorful chalk art. Skits were performed and critical chants rang out. Soon a handful of prospective buyers made their way around us or through us to approach the door and a resounding chorus was taken up by all: “You buy Solo, you buy us.” Various law enforcement agencies had positioned a small detachment at the door, to let the bidders in and keep the crowd out. After much lobbying, two activist representatives were allowed inside.
It was not until the conclusion of the bidding that things got ugly. As he made to leave in his hefty SUV, the president of the Thomas Creek Lumber and Log Company, the successful bidder, was surrounded by an impromptu human blockade chanting: “You bought Solo, you bought us.” As it became apparent that his exit time would be extended indefinitely, the law officers became impatient. Several activists then laid down in front of the slowly advancing vehicle and were physically thrown out of the way by two officers. Other officers began pepper spraying the front of the crowd, hitting several people in the face. A short time later, when the crowd had thinned visibly, two activists were arrested.
The following day an article appeared in the Oregonian , the local Newhouse daily, that cited a Clackamas County Sheriff spokes- person on the protest. The events were turned around, claiming activists had initiated the trouble by throwing a bottle and pepper spraying the officers. Such an account gives one cause to wonder if the writer was even present.
Groundtruth vs. Status Quo
T he paradigm still adhered to by the logging industry, the mainstream media, and the bulk of government officials is perilously outdated. It speaks volumes that the industry refers to logging as “harvesting.” A century and a half of destruction has been so complete that the vast green seas of Douglas fir that dominate the rural landscape of most of Western Oregon and Washington are commonly considered forests, when in reality they are monoculture tree plantations. These differ so radically from our native forests that the common denominator is the tree, but little else.
Old growth forest areas are unique, complex ecosystems. Tree plantations lack countless elements of healthy native forest, such as trees in all stages of growth and decay, from saplings to snags and nurse logs and many of the critters that inhabit these. A short drive from Portland allows one to witness lunar-like clear-cut areas, bordering large maturing stands of monoculture Douglas fir of all one height and all one girth. With their few branches all concentrated on the top portion of the trunk, they resemble row after row of 100-foot tall toothbrushes.
In the native forests of the Oregon Cascades hemlocks, cedars, maples, many fir and pine species, and others are intermingled among the dominant Douglas fir. The diversity of tree life pales in comparison to that of the non-tree flora of the forest. Among the incredible diversity of plant life, are hundreds of species that only thrive underneath the canopy of the mature forest and do not survive in the replanted monoculture.
Once an area is clear-cut, the land is not only exposed to the sun’s rays and the elements, but is also subject to encroachment of invasive non-native groundcover species, as well as to the effects of erosion, which, until only recently when mandated buffer zones were implemented, was responsible for stream silting and the destruction of innumerable wild salmon spawning beds. Much of the area’s native fauna, such as the northern spotted owl and the red tree vole, a minuscule mammal that lives in the canopy of the largest trees, also disappears after clear-cutting.
Bush’s New Robber Barons
T his region was blanketed from the Cascades to the Coast with cathedral forests in pre-Euro- American times. Today 90 percent of this ecosystem has been destroyed and almost all of what remains is located on public land. Bad science and misinformation are still being foisted on the public. The logging industry, along with the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, has begun to play the forest fire card in an effort to legitimize more logging on public lands. President Bush’s “forest initiative,” with its emphasis on thinning, prompted by his recent Oregon visit during fire season, was just what the industry needed.
Members of the Pacific Northwest’s Congressional delegation jumped on Bush’s stampeding bandwagon as the session closed, having offered several competing forest fire risk-abatement amendments to the 2003 Interior Appropriations Bill. These amendments at worst attack and at “best” show a lack of commitment to protecting the integrity of native forest ecology, where cyclical fire plays a natural role. The safeguards of the public participation provisions of the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act are at risk. If any of these pass, it would open the door to the loss of thousands of acres of the shrinking remnant of public old growth, as remuneration for logging companies carrying out fuel reduction projects. Ironically, fuel reduction is never necessary in native forests unless they have been subject to fire suppression in the past.
Another irony is that monoculture tree plantations are susceptible to catastrophic fire while native old growth is highly fire resistant. “Thinning” is a misnomer. Large expanses of Oregon native forests have been effectively leveled under this guise. A handful of big trees is a handful of big trees, not a “thinned forest.” The practice is one of capitalist extractive economics, with no role whatsoever in protecting or aiding native forest areas.
The sane and ecologically sound McKinney-Leach National Forest Protection and Restoration Act (HR 1494) is at risk of floundering under waves of fire-hysteria generated, logging industry-friendly legislation.
S ince the above-recounted July 30 timber sale protest, a number of forest activists have been targeted and arrested, some charged with felonies supposedly committed at that protest. As well, forest activists are being arrested for acts of sabotage. Last year, a group going by the name of the Earth Liberation Front claimed responsibility for the burning of cement trucks at a Portland firm and someone burned three log trucks of an Estacada timber company. No humans were targeted nor injured in either of these acts. The logging and other extractive industries have scored a major public relations victory in redefining sabotage as “Eco-terrorism.” The ominous tag is now being applied by the media and government officials.
All of these arrests are doubted by many, especially by those familiar with the activists involved. Such destructive tactics are counter-productive to the cause of and foreign to the methodology of the forest activist community. That the July 30 protest incident charges have been quietly dropped for lack of evidence heightens questions about the validity of the truck burning case. Of note is the fact that one of those accused is Tre Arrow, who maintained an 11-day ledge-sit above the entrance to the Forest Service’s downtown Portland headquarters in an effort to draw attention to the Eagle Creek struggle and ran for Congress on the Pacific Green ticket.
These moves, and the media coverage of them, appear to be calculated to intimidate the activist community and diminish the effectiveness of the movement as a whole. History has shown how legal battles are victories—to one degree or another—for the powers that be, diverting energy and resources away from the work of the group targeted. There are growing signs that such tactics may come around to backfire in this instance.
Not Backing Down
T he Cascadia Forest Alliance has led a three-year courageous, creative, persistent, even outrageous, but always non-violent effort that resulted by the spring of 2002 in a groundswell of public support and got the sale of the critically important Mount Hood native forest known as Eagle Creek canceled. This victory was not without grave cost; tree defender Beth O’Brien lost her life in a fall just before the final cancellation papers were signed.
All over the Pacific Northwest there are people in the forest doing good work. At the end of the logging season Cascadia Forest Alliance activists maintain their perches high in the canopy of the Oak Grove watershed of the Mount Hood National Forest, amid logging in the Borg tract near Solo.
Ancient forests reveal the intricate, specific habitat of countless critters. Also observable in certain areas are giant peeled and plank cedars: living, thriving evidence of a way of using the forest’s bounty without destroying it, that is the way of the Native American peoples of this region. As with the traditional Native American staple, the wild salmon, the fragmented remnant of majestic cathedral forest and the unspoiled public lands reaching naturally towards that state are irreplaceable national treasures and deserve no less careful treatment.
Mike Ferris is a freelance writer and activist from Portland, Oregon and a 1998 Z Media Institute graduate.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.