Climate

“Forest Defense is Climate Defense:” Activists Occupy Trees to Protest Old-Growth Logging in McKenzie Watershed (PHOTOS)

Since Sept. 11, the Cascadia Forest Defenders, an autonomous group of environmental activists, have been occupying a part of the Willamette National Forest in advance of a proposed timber sale by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The United States Forest Service’s purpose for this sale is to thin what they claim to be an overly dense forest and “provide a sustainable supply of timber products”–100 million board feet of timber, to be exact. The sale would also help maintain roads and increase the complexity of animal habitats, according to the USFS.

This is all based on the Probable Sale Quantity, an “estimate of probable harvest levels that could be maintained on a forest annually,” according to the Northwest Forest Plan of 1994.

However, within “The Plan” there are specific aquatic conservation strategies that are in place to protect the quality of watersheds.

The anonymous group of tree-sitting activists found many freshwater springs and one large one that leads to Olallie Creek on a unit of land marked for sale. These water sources were not mentioned in the original USFS reports. Buffers for waterways weren’t provided until after the activists made them known.

A natural spring flows near the sight of the ongoing occupation of trees in the Flat Country Project in the Willamette National Forest (David Galbreath // Double Sided Media)

Local representative Peter DeFazio has been outspoken about his opposition for further logging in the area to the Eugene Weekly, but Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have not denounced the logging of old-growth forests. 

“We all have a role to play right now in mitigating climate change,” Skipper, an activist involved in the tree-sit said. “[The senators’] role is obvious, in that they have the power to stop this timber sale, or come out against the timber sale.”

(Editor’s note: Environmental activists typically use pseudonyms, also known as “forest names” in the midst of their actions – especially tree-sits. None of the names used by activists in this story are their legal birth names, and we have used gender-neutral pronouns to respect the activists’ wishes for anonymity.)

On a greater scale, Skipper said this protest is to fight against the Forests Service’s logging of old growth and mature forests. 

Map of the proposed Flat Country Project timber sale. (Source)

They explained that these old growth forests sequester massive amounts of carbon. When they are logged huge amounts of carbon are released from these trees, adding to the greenhouse effect that is responsible for the changing climate.

Perhaps the most notable reason they are protesting this particular timber sale is because of its location on the McKenzie River watershed. The Eugene and Springfield area relies on this watershed for its drinking water.

“75 percent of the Oregonians get their water from forested watersheds,” Skipper explained. “So when these are logged, it A) decreases the amount of water, and B) dirties the water that we drink.”

This collective is not worried about how long they need to occupy the trees – they are prepared to stay as long as they need to. 

“More important than the timeline,” Skipper stated. “We want to make sure our message comes across to the companies who might buy this timber sale. If you buy this land, you buy us too.” 

On Saturday, Sept. 18, the CFD will be hosting an informative hike near their occupation that aims to educate the public about the purposes of the occupation and why harvesting the Flat Country Project would be disastrous to the area.

The hike is free and open to anyone willing to drive out into the woods.


This is an ongoing action in the Willamette National Forest, and we will have further stories from this particular action in the near future. For the latest updates on this tree-sit, follow Double Sided Media on Twitter and Facebook, and keep your eyes peeled for more stories in the coming days and weeks.

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