Three Bands Salute the "Sisters of the Siskiyous" on Saturday in Ashland
by Annette McGee Rasch
The Sisters of the Siskiyous, a regional coalition of 35 women all arrested in the last few months defending the Siskiyou Wild Rivers Area from the Forest Service's "Biscuit Fire Recovery Project" are hosting a musical benefit on Saturday, July 23 at 7:00PM at the Bellview Grange in Ashland. Proceeds will support on-going forest defense activities and mounting legal bills.
The featured speaker at the event is author Derrick Jensen, followed by music provided by
Rebecca White, Montana Soul, and Ashland's own live jam band; Barbarian Illuminati.
Most of the 35 women (including a dozen from Ashland) have never been arrested before and are frequently asked why they've been spending time in the Josephine county jail.
"We wish to be understood as principled and patriotic. This was not a lark, I am way too old for that", said 84 year old Ashland resident Harriet Rex Smith. "Our forests are under attack by the Bush Forest Service and we need to put the "public" back into the "public lands" quotient. We are women to whom these things matter", Smith said.
Biscuit opponents complain that the old growth timber sales have sold for as little as $15.00 -$17.00 per thousand board feet, which is far less than the cost of firewood. The women say that taxpayers are losing millions of dollars as the government subsidizes what they maintain is an illegal logging operation.
Staci Williams, 37, of Cave Junction Oregon, was arrested along with her birthing team while nine months pregnant. "Writing letters and attending meetings doesn't stop the ancient trees from falling," said Williams. "This salvage logging hoax is causing great harm to the largest chunk of wildlands left in Oregon. I joined the other women on the Green Bridge to protect this place for our children."
Many opponents of the Biscuit logging project claim that the public is being deceived; that Biscuit burned areas are not dead, and that the landscape is not in need of human intervention.
"Countless 300 to 600 year old trees in the area survived the Biscuit Fire, just as they survived many fires before. Also, the trees that died will slowly give vital nutrients back to the forest while creating much needed wildlife habitat for many decades to come" according to B. Carey of Ashland. "I'm angry and frustrated that our government subsidizes this destruction, so I put my body on the line. The American people are the only force that can stop the appetite of our powerful leaders," added Carey.
Ashland resident, Ara Johnson, age 51, agrees. "The Biscuit Fire area is fragile fire born place, a naturally regenerating ecosystem responding to fire as it has for millions of years." Johnson also said that the Forest Service and the logging companies refuse to wait for the courts to decide the legality of this old-growth reserve logging. "So I knew I had to take a stand."
Logging opponents speak about the new growth in the fire burned areas. "I can't stop marveling that such steep, dry and stony slopes support a diversity of flora that's unmatched anywhere in America", said 56 year old Ashland resident Joan Kalvalage. "Although the effects of the wildfire will unfold in a natural rhythm lasting far longer than my lifetime, I have already seen fire-hatched seedlings and new manzanita growing from roots that I once mistook for blacked bones", Kalvalage added.
Many of the women found themselves in jail by following their conscience. Kathleen Bennett, 68, of Ashland, quoted theologian Harvey Cox, who wrote: "This is a time to be still no longer... it is a time for crying out... we must give vent to our massive pain and fear. A people must move from muteness to outcry." Bennett added, "I got arrested because I must at least bear witness to the great pain and injustice toward those who have no voice."
Harriet Rex Smith sums it up, "the Sisters of the Siskiyou's march to a different drumbeat, that of our hearts."
The public is invited to come and meet the Sisters of the Siskiyous and dance for the forest. The Bellview Grange is located at 1050 Tollman Creek Road in Ashland. Suggested minimum donation for the event is $10, but no one will be turned away. For more information call 488-3902.
Annette McGee Rasch, another Biscuit arrestee, is a free lance writer, dog trainer and and wildlife rehabilitator who lives in the Illinois Valley.