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forest defense

Organic Farmers Unite to Protect Williams Watershed

Organic Farmers in the Josephine County community of Williams are organizing to protect their watershed from clearcutting by Boise Cascade. Plans to purchase the property are underway
Organic Farmers Unite to Protect Williams Watershed
Contact: Joseph Flaherty at the Media Collective 541-552-8764

Organic farmers in Williams, Oregon are organizing to stop Boise Cascade Corporation's planned clearcutting and herbicide application of 235 acres of old-growth forest in their watershed. The project threatens the area's largest industry. Of 16 organic farms certified by Oregon Tilth in Josephine County, seven are located in Williams. The state also certifies other Williams farms.
On Wednesday morning, June 6, the community experienced a small victory when the Josephine County Commissioners refused to accept $15,000 from BCC for added sheriff's presence in the area. About 40 farmers and regional supporters including representatives from Herb Pharm and Seven Seeds Farm attended to show opposition to the contract. Speakers questioned the ethics of entering into a law enforcement contract with a corporation notorious for violating environmental and labor laws.
The decision is unprecedented in a county that routinely agrees to such contracts. The commissioners said that since strong opposition exists within the community, the county would use public dollars instead of corporate dollars to pay for law enforcement.
Don Tipping of Seven Seeds Farm, which is adjacent to the BCC property, feels the project threatens his livelihood. "Our irrigation and drinking water supply would be threatened by logging activities. It would basically rule out the ability for us to be organic farmers if our water has chemicals," Tipping said.
Herb Pharm, an organic supplier of medicinal herbs is also concerned about the project's impact. With 75 workers, the company is the largest employer in Williams. Herb Pharm's product "Super Echinacea" is the best selling echinacea extract on the market.
Herb Pharm owner, Ed Smith said there is a strong possibility that a clearcut in the Williams watershed would cause erosion and degrade the quality of the water used to irrigate crops. Herbicides pose another threat. "When they do replanting," Smith said, "they often use herbicide that can work itself into the water supply or onto the plants themselves." BCC is allowed to apply herbicides within 60 feet of waterways.
Organic certifiers report that only ten percent of aerial sprays land on the intended species. while the rest becomes drift. They normally inspect organic farms about twice a year. However, random inspections could occur at any time.
The fate of wild forest plants is under threat as well. "We grow a lot of herbs," said Smith, "but we also harvest a lot of understory herbs from the forest. That provides jobs and income for the area. Clearcutting destroys the habitat for those herbs, and drift from spray could kill them. What some people call weeds, we call a harvestable crop."
Herb Pharm collects numerous wild herbs from the neighboring forest including yarrow flowers, Oregon grape root, pipsissewa and St. John's Wort.
In May, the Williams Town Council voted in favor of appraising BCC's property and negotiating a land purchase. The corporation refused to come to the meeting. Williams citizens are preparing an offer and feel that BCC will be willing to come to the bargaining table soon.
BCC and their subcontractor Estremado Logging have not returned to work on the project since anonymous forest defenders removed culverts on the road accessing BCC's Clapboard Gulch parcel. Members of the Williams community continue to monitor traffic in the area and organize peaceful rallies and letter writing campaigns. Volunteers and financial contributions are needed to help in their efforts. Checks should be made payable to the Williams Forest Fund and mailed to P.O. Box 484, Williams OR 97544 (voice mail: 541-471-3984). For more information contact the Media Collective at  mediacollective@students.sou.edu or call 541-552-8764.

Local Spokespeople:

Town Councilor Cedar Grey 541-846-9710
Rebecca Briggs (Herb Pharm) 541-846-0364
Don and Kimberly Tipping 541-846-9233




Ed Smith and Sara Katz are the founders and owners of Herb Pharm, certified organic growers and manufacturer's of the nation's leading medicinal herbal extracts (if you're into natural health care you've probably taken Super Echinacea). The two moved to the Williams Valley in Josephine county twenty three years ago, because the little cul-de-sac town and surrounding Siskiyou mountain forests, was THE place to take root if wanting to live a quiet, simple life in harmony with nature.

It's taken years of hard work to establish the healthy soil, water system and integral roots that make a successful farm and company, but Ed and Sara, with burgeoning family of 75 Herb Pharmers, have grown into the largest employer of their still sleepy little town. Their 85-acre, certified organic, medicinal herb farm is internationally recognized as a United Plant Savers Botanical Plant Sanctuary. The nestled acreage provides over 100 species of medicinal herbs grown for Herb Pharm's extract making, and is home to 500 different species of botanicals on display in a world class education garden. The Pharm farm is also the spring to summer home of over 12 organic agriculture students enrolled in Herb Pharm's Herbaculture apprentice program.

Indeed, these healthy, and now wealthy, 70's Hippies have done well. Ed and Sara agree, they could not have gotten where they are today without help from their community. The ecological awareness and support of other local growers and likeminded Williams citizens has been key to maintaining the pristine air and water quality of the valley. The protection of the diverse Siskiyou forest corridor with it's migrating animals traversing and spreading seed has also been vital. It is this interconnectedness that brought the harmony seekers here to begin with.

Ah, but wait, harmony with nature can not last forever, at least that is what one Sugarloaf Mountain neighbor is telling Ed and Sara, and the other organic farmers and two thousand plus citizens of Williams. That neighbor is fellow landowner, and out of state paper manufacturer and lumber giant, Boise Cascade Corporation. BCC is also a harvester, but not of sustainable agriculture, rather old growth hard woods, including ancient Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, sugar pine and madrone trees, which up on the Clapboard Gulch ridge are up to 6 to 7 feet in diameter.

BCC is legally allowed to cut the planned 1,757 Million Board Feet on it's 235 acres in the Williams Creek Watershed, a parcel located on the North slope of Sugarloaf Mountain. This is an area within the 100,000-acre Kangaroo Roadless Area and home to endangered species such as the pacific fisher, American marten, northern spotted owl, red tree vole, Port Orford Cedar, and other rare plants and animals. The destruction of this Siskiyou mountain corridor, which links the Coastal and Cascade ranges, is loss of the very land bridge that makes the mountain forests so rich with varying wildlife. Residents like Ed and Sara feel that supporting practices such as BCC's is counter to the culture that exist in the area today. The times have changed, Williams is moving forward economically and ecologically, and this needs to be made clear to county and state officials.

Habitat loss and erosion in southern Oregon has already caused a risk to the migrating mountain lion, and such at risk wild medicinal herbs as Lomatium and Trillium. The Williams Creek watershed is especially at risk, where Chinook, Coho and steelhead population's spawn, and where Port Orford Cedars have remarkably remained healthy, while other Pacific Northwest Port Orford cedars have suffered extensively from exotic root rot fungus.

Of most concern to the Williams citizens and organic growers, and one of Boise Cascade Corporation's least harmonious neighborhood practices would be to spray herbicides over their clear-cuts to prevent profuse growth of unwanted species. This will cause chemical drifting onto organic farms and into the area watersheds, and the loss of organic growing certifications, as well as livelihoods.

When the Williams neighbors say goodbye to Boise Cascade Corporation it won't be without reminders of their seasons of destruction. Please help the organic farmers and fellow likeminded Williams citizens protect the interconnectedness of hundreds of species and citizens. Williams would like to peacefully ask BCC to respect the ecological, and economical success of the community as it stands, and to please leave our forward facing culture as it is, and to rethink their connection and relations with their neighbors and nature.

By Rebecca Briggs, Williams resident

What to Do:
Write letters to Rick Dryer, OR Dept. of Forestry; Governor Kitzhaber, Josephine County Commissioners and local and national media. Share these ecominded activities and political and environmental events with your children. Concerned citizens can make a difference. Get active, participate in your democracy.

Support Williams community with land appraisal funds for possible buy-out of BCC land, and look for and attend fundraising events and community dances in Williams and Ashland.

Williams Forest Fund:
PO Box 484 Williams, OR 97544/vmail: 541-471-3984

Support Organic agriculture and local and national wildlife organizations such as Klamath-Siskiyou Wild Land Center, Rainforest Action Network, World Wildlife Fund and American Land Alliance. These organizations have greatly supported the efforts of the Williams' citizens to protect their forests and watershed. Thank you!

Photos avail on request: Shot of Herb Pharm's certified organic Echinacea fields with view of Siskiyou Mts. in background.
Photo by Ed Smith.

Photo of marked to cut, giant old growth sugar pine, with Seven Seeds Farm organic grower, Don Tipping looking on. Don's farm is adjacent to the BCC owned land in the Rock Creek area of Williams.
Rock Creek drainage, is on north slope of Sugarloaf, and is proposed 120-acre clear-cut adjacent to 100,000 acre Kangaroo Roadless Area.
Photo by Marsea Frace

phone: phone: 541-552-8764
address: address: 1250 Siskiyou Blvd Southern Oregon University Stevenson Union Room #333 Ashland