Oregon's Eco-Warriors Confront Chain Saws With a Rusted Pontiac
CAVE JUNCTION, ORE.
A half-mile up logging road 080 in the Siskiyou National Forest, an encampment of eco-warriors prepares to face bulldozers and chain saws. They've dug a ditch across the road, built a rock and log barricade, and dragged out an old Pontiac - all more symbolic than actual impediments to tree cutters.Skip to next paragraph
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About a dozen activists with the Siskiyou Forest Defenders have been arrested so far, protesting "salvage logging" in the national forests. These protests, played out amid the conifers are being repeated around the West and the rest of the country as opposition to increased logging on federal forests spreads.
This week, lawmakers in Washington, D.C., turn their attention to the issue, deciding whether to extend a salvage logging law, designed to remove damaged timber. It's a controversial subject that has roused debate among economists, natural scientists, religious leaders - and politicians trying to balance jobs and the environment.
Proponents say salvage logging is a way to support resource-dependent communities while restoring forest health. Salvage logging has a role to play, they say, particularly since the practice of suppressing wild fires has become popular in recent decades, which has removed one natural tool to rid the forest of aging and weak trees.
Critics say the rush to log does more harm than good to the environment, that many healthy, green trees are being cut in addition to weak ones, and that salvage logging is just an excuse to continue subsidizing the timber industry.
At least 600 people have been arrested in Oregon and Washington alone since the first of the year. They have violated official bans on entering certain parts of national forests. They have conducted sit-down strikes and perched in trees or tall tripods. Some have used bicycle locks to shackle themselves by the neck to log trucks.
And although some groups of forest activists look like camp followers from a Grateful Dead tour, many of those arrested fit society's definition of "respectable."
Dressed in suits and ties, former congressman Jim Jontz and Audubon Society vice president Brock Evans were hauled before a magistrate (along with 200 others) for refusing to disperse at the Sugarloaf timber sale in Oregon. Businessman Gary Schrodt, who owns a small woods-products factory and mail-order business in Ashland, Ore., joined protesters. So did Dot Fisher-Smith, an elderly woman who locked herself to a log truck at the Croman Corporation headquarters in Ashland.
"I was moved by a desire to dispel the growing myth that only young, wild 'hippie' types do radical actions for what they believe," Mrs. Fisher-Smith wrote in a local environmental journal. "I wanted to demonstrate that old people can put themselves at risk in the same way and can be equally passionate and concerned." In considering the misdemeanor charge against her, municipal Judge Alan Drescher sentenced Fisher-Smith to create a dialogue between environmentalists and timber-company officials.
Logging law politics