my first visit to a tree-sit
this piece is about a july visit to the horehound tree-sit in the solo timber sale in mt. hood national forest. it is divided into 6 parts because it contains many high-resolution photographs that would choke bandwidth if it was all in one piece. logging season in that part of the forest ended in october, so horehound and her family are safe for the time being, but the struggle to save our public lands from corporate rape is ongoing, and we will need to work over the winter to prevent dangerous legislation from passing, and to prepare for active resistance again in the spring.
my first visit to a tree-sit
in july, four of us went out to the "solo" timber sale in the oak grove watershed in the mt. hood national forest where a tree-sit had recently gone up.. i'm from nebraska so i haven't seen much woods, and i'd never been to a tree-sit before, so i was excited, especially because so much forest-related action had already happened that month.. after stopping at people's for food and the cascadia forest alliance office for directions, and to pick up anything they needed delivered to the sit, we squeezed into the cab of a pick-up truck and drove out.. our journey funneled us down from vast city grid to six-lane suburban freeway to two-lane country asphalt to narrow lumber spur.. slopes steepened, valleys dove down, and the sky broke bright blue above.. it was a gorgeous day.
the shape and scale of the land was monumental, but the brutal hand of humanity had scarred it:. the road's right-of-way cut through the hills, exposing their bones; a dam choked the river and backed it up for miles; and of course decades of logging had gutted the forest.. sure, there were trees everywhere, but they stood on a skewed checkerboard in which each square was filled with plants of uniform height and width.. we'd be riding along next to trees of one size and then suddenly they'd all be taller.. then a field would open up of saplings no taller than me, their needles green like carrot seedlings.. i remembered being on the walk for farmworker justice the weekend before and driving through the farmland of the willamette valley where raspberries were followed by hops and then squash in perfectly platted parcels.. it wasn't wild -- it was agriculture.. and so it was here.. welcome to a national forest.
the skewed checkerboard of clear-cuts and tree plantations in mt. hood national forest.
we rattled along the numbered spurs of the forest service's logging roads, following the directions we got from c.f.a., and found the base-camp without any trouble.. we were greeted warmly by a passel of forest kids.. everyone was hanging out and enjoying the beautiful weather, the clean air, and the peace of the forest.. we stayed for awhile in the cozy encampment, sharing news and making jokes.. just enjoying life.
a photographer visiting from illinois who contributes to the chicago imc was with us.. he didn't know jack about forests either so we asked a bunch of questions.. the forest kids knew all the facts, and explained everything to us patiently.. if one person didn't know the answer to something, someone else would pipe up with it.
we learned a lot.. for example, the company that purchases a timber sale does not buy the land or even the trees; they buy the right to cut the trees on the land.. the purchasing company is usually a lumber mill that then contracts other companies to "fell" and "yard" the sale.. "fellers" cut down the trees, and "yarders" take them away by truck, rail or even helicopter.
timber sales are sold at forest service auctions.. sometimes, only one company will bid, as at the july 10th auction of the "clan" timber sale, where high cascade cutting bid the minimum amount of $116,203.13.. sometime after the auction the purchaser signs a contract for the sale that legally obligates them to cut the trees within a certain amount of time.. so you can't just raise some change to buy a sale and then leave it alone, untouched.. after the contract is signed, there is very little that can be done to stop it.. parts of the sale can be set aside if protected species are found there, but this tactic is best done beforehand, when a sale is announced.. at the recent berry patch sale in the willamette national forest, for example, the confirmed presence of spotted owls did not stop the cutting..
sometimes, enough issues with a particular sale emerge that the forest service will offer the purchaser a "replacement volume" in its place.. a replacement volume is required by law to be of "like kind and value" but more often than not contains older and more valuable trees.. the current campaign against umpqua bank (or more accurately "stumpqua" bank) takes issue with a controversial replacement volume that switched secondary growth for old growth in the favor of roseburg forest products, which is owned by allyn ford, chairman of the board of the roseburg-based bank.. in these cases, the battle to save the trees has not been won, only moved, and often to a site with higher stakes.
hence the need for tree-sits, road-blockades, and othe forms of nonviolent civil disobedience.. when lawsuits, comments, letters, and protests can't save the trees, it's time for direct action.. the forest kids put their lives on the line to defend the forest, and they deserve our admiration and support.
sad, lonely dead trees, "spared" by an earlier clearcut.
over the last century the oak grove watershed has been decimated by logging.. this area was once "the deepest darkest wood" -- to quote one of the forest kids who has studied the history -- but now, for all the green needles, it is barren.. an old growth forest is not just firs, hemlock and yews; it is entire ecosystem -- a community of teeming souls living in intricate, intimate interconnection.. when the saws tear into bark they are ripping apart the breathing strands of a whole world of relationships.. that we humans don't, or won't, hear the screams shows us how far we have fallen.. so far that we will not spare the trees and cannot save ourselves?. perhaps.
we started walking down the road from the camp toward the tree-sit.. the devastation of the forest was impossible to miss.. up on slope we saw a half dozen lonely dead trees standing in a field of much younger ones.. a few trees are commonly left uncut so that the forest service can say it wasn't a "clearcut".. alone and exposed thus, they often die from wind, disease or sadness.
next: ambushed by naked forest fairies
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