HEALTHY FOREST MILITIA GIVES FOREST SERVICE THE BOOT IN SALMON RIVER
Sawyers Bar, Ca. - During the past weeks, a group calling themselves the Healthy Forest Militia implemented small diameter fuels reduction in a Knob Timber Sale unit in the Klamath National Forest. This comes at a time when the controversial Healthy Forest Initiative sits on the senate floor. Opponents of the initiative warn that what George Bush and the United States Forest Service justify as fire protection and fuel reduction through its "Healthy Forest" Initiative actually increases the risk of high intensity forest fires that threaten homes and communities.
HEALTHY FOREST MILITIA GIVES FOREST
SERVICE THE BOOT IN SALMON RIVER
We are a group of self-organized, anti-authoritarian, unpaid workers, calling ourselves the Healthy Forest Militia. During the past several weeks we implemented small diameter fuels reduction using human powered tools in a unit of the Knob Timber Sale. We did this while the "Healthy Forest Initiative" looms on the senate floor. The techniques we used in the Klamath National Forest include hand-piling, pullback, and lop and scatter. Armed with loppers and handsaws, we removed branches, and young overcrowded trees, some of which were marked for cutting with blue paint in the commercial sale.
Through guerrilla-restoration, debris was used to provide stability on potential and existing landslides. Removed brush was piled on the road, and awaits chipping or burning when the conditions permit. The objective was to break the connections of fuels on the ground and reduce fuel ladders. The area was selected because of its close proximity to residential homes in the town of Sawyers Bar and vital escape roads. This action was done in order to show that local volunteer workers can do a better job at promoting forest health than the United States Forest Service (USFS).
Much of the logging that the USFS justifies as fire protection and fuel reduction through its "Healthy Forest Initiative" actually increases the risk of high intensity forest fires that threaten homes and communities. Industrial logging creates an abundance of highly flammable forest debris on the ground. The lack of shade after logging promotes a dense growth of small trees and bushes. These are the right conditions for catastrophic wild fires that burn hotter and for longer periods of time than healthy, frequent and natural fires.
Most of the trees marked for cutting in the Knob timber sale are the largest and healthiest, while areas of dense brush would remain. When we left the site, the under-story was much more open, but the over-story was intact.
The USFS continues to sell off the big, most fire-resistant trees at a loss to taxpayers (a subsidy estimated at over $1 billion per year). Mature stands are replaced with single species plantations of highly flammable trees. Real restoration cannot be funded by cutting what relatively few large trees remain on public lands. Remaining Ancient Forest stands should be off limits to logging and all critical habitat must be protected!
We acknowledge that a few of the Knob timber sale logging prescriptions are not that bad, however, it is not true fuels reduction. We demonstrated that the implementation of authentic fuels reduction need not be tied up in bureaucratic processes that are coupled to corporate profit. Rather we are able to work in the woods and maintain the ecological integrity of the area through responsible relations with the land. It is clear that we need local crews to engage in real restoration forestry, not machine-intensive industrial logging that takes the biggest trees, increases the fire hazard, and makes a few people wealthier while the commons that we share are degraded (water, air, salmon populations, soil productivity, biodiversty, atmospheric composition, etc.).
Past old-growth liquidation logging practices and extensive road building have attempted to turn the forest into an industrial factory. Unsustainable harvest rates promote the self-interested logic of the marketplace rather than the logic of conservation (the original reason the Forest Service was created). Massive levels of resource extraction are destroying forest ecosystems.
The "Healthy Forest Initiative" will suspend environmental protection laws to allow private logging corporations unmonitored access to public forests. Concerned citizens will no longer have the legal rights to participate in public lands management or public comments and will have no access to the courts when government agencies break the law. This legislation has passed the House of Representatives and is about to be voted on by the Senate. The Bush Administration, by generating fear among rural residents, is perpetrating this scam to compensate timber interests. Do not let this legislation pass! Voice your opinion and take action!
The Klamath-Siskiyou bio-region is an extremely diverse and unique area. One of the last wild rivers in California, the Salmon River is the only undammed, undiverted river that feeds into the Klamath. It is one of the most biologically intact ecosystems left for Salmon and Steelhead, and is known for having the largest Chinook Salmon run in the state. Knob, Glassups, and Meteor are three overlapping timber sales on the Salmon River, totaling more than 2,000 acres that are either currently being cut or are being planned for the near future.
The federal government has made a mess of public lands management. We seek to form bonds within our communities to form sustainable and self-sufficient relationships both with each other and with the environment. Our actions suggest that we can work locally in the forests to perform ecological fuels reduction and provide useful by-products. Why should the federal government dictate how we live with the landscape? We challenge ourselves to find healthy ways to work for our communities and the ecosystems on which we depend, separate from the commands of Washington D.C.
The Healthy Forest Militia suggests the revolutionary strategy of building dual powers. This strategy focuses simultaneously on both opposition and reconstruction, seeking to combine these forces into a counter power that erodes and ultimately replaces the dominant power structure. We wish to help develop popular power at the grassroots level, and the dismantling of top-down institutions. Such counter-institutions must begin building the structural foundations in the forest for the society we want to see in the future.
We contest the legitimacy of the State in general and the Forest Service in particular, as well as other centralized systems of power. We send a call to action to all Forest Defenders-and all others-to challenge and encroach of hegemony under hierarchical systems of power and to create popular self-government. We feel that all community members should have the opportunity to participate directly in making democratic decisions on all matters that affect their life, affect the community, and affect the ecosystem. The Forest Service's and the Bush administration's lack of ecological sustainability threatens all!
For too long, the Forest Service has been an agent to logging, obsessed with commodification and subjugation of wild lands to commercial management. It is dangerous to simplify diversity into a single commodity and to dismantle an exceptionally complex and poorly understood set of relations, in order to isolate a single element of instrumental value.
The Klamath-Siskiyou forests and associated species were "born of fire." Many flora and fauna species adapted, thrive, and some even depend on frequently burned conditions. For over 10,000 years native cultures, particularly the Karuk, lived harmoniously with fire and used it as a management tool.
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