i went to the Cascadia Forest Alliance's action camp at the Solo timber sale at the end of May. Inspired by Cascadia Summer, i've been getting out to the forest as much as possible. i've been learning a lot about the bioregion and its ecosystems, local timber sales, "forest management", wildlife, and the nature of nature itself.
Below is a view of the Oak Grove Watershed as seen from unit 10 of the Solo timber sale. The landscape is gutted; sure, it's green, but it's all parcelled out, chopped down, and plantationized. Trees grow after a clearcut, but the ecosystem that was there is gone forever. In time, a thriving forest might return, but only with some coaxing. Meanwhile, the animals and plants that were integral parts of those ecosystems have been killed or made homeless; a unique place -- with its own spirit, shape and voice, accumulated over centuries of natural growth, fire, and regeneration -- has been irretrievably lost.
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Whether we're consciously aware of it or not, we as human animals are dependent on the earth's ecosystem. We breathe because plants exhale, we eat because bees pollinate, we drink because trees make clouds and mountains hold snow. From the "lowly" to the grand, everything is part of one thing to such a deep degree that, as far as i'm concerned, the individuation of different creatures is merely academic. We humans have made such classification real with our bad behavior, though. What other species wreaks this much havoc on its environment, threatening to kill off everything else? Some activists comfort themselves with the thought that the human population might perish in some Malthusian catastrophe, but i'm holding off, hoping for redemption. i believe we're capable of it -- of being saved -- but that belief is a matter of faith, not the scientific method. Which of those two is more real? The forest tells me the former, not the latter.
Below is a photo of a specimen of a particular species of pseudocyphellaria; that is, a lichen. This species is endangered and is supposed to be protected. If it is found living in a tree in an old growth timber sale, the Forest Service is legally bound -- under the terms of the "Survey and Manage" portion of the Northwest Forest Plan -- to set a buffer around that tree to protect the lichen. The more such "listed" species are found (e.g., red tree voles, spotted owls), the smaller a timber sale becomes. Survey and Manage has been a great tool for activists to use to save old growth forests, so of course the lumber companies are trying to get rid of it.
This particular lichen was found in unit 12 of the Solo timber sale. For the purposes of Survey and Manage, it is of no use on the ground, though; living examples in a tree must be identified and confirmed by the Forest Service.
To find the home of the fallen lichen, and hopefully a whole colony of it intact, forest defenders came out to climb the trees and survey for themselves. The activist pictured below used a bow to send an arrow up into a 100+ hemlock tree. The arrow's front end was weighted and the back end was tied to a reel of fishing line attached to the bow.
The arrow, pulling the line with it, passed through branches high in the tree and came down on the other side. There, another activist removed the arrow and tied a piece of heavier line to it, colored bright-orange for easy visibility.
Once that was done, the first activist pulled the fishing line back until they had the orange line, to which they tied a climb line. The second activist then pulled the orange line back over until they had the climb line, which they anchored to a nearby tree. (The fishing line originally sent up and over is not strong enough to pull a heavy climb line; hence the medium-sized go-between.)
After testing to see that the climb line was caught in the tree well enough to hold weight, one of the activists put on their gear and climbed up into the tree to look for the endangered lichen. They found other lichens up there, but not the particular pseudocyphellaria that had fallen. This same process was repeated in several trees in unit 12, but without a positive ID.
part 2: the meadow