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Friday, August 15, 2008

Treesitting works!

It's official! Or at least as official as you can get as far as a promise from another green washed capitalist corporation. Nanning Creek and Fern Gully have been promised by Mendocino Redwoods Co.(MRC) head forester Mike Jani as "protected". It's hard to believe this news, or to accept this promise from an employee of a GAP owned corporation. I have to admit that I am beyond shocked, almost as if when I return to Humboldt from Berkeley that I will wake up from this dream where dedicated activists actually win the 3 and 6 year long battle against the infamous Pacific Lumber, now Humboldt Redwoods Co.(HRC). I'm even more shocked about how cooperative and helpful they have been. Good intentions and public relations aside, I only hope MRC/HRC keeps their word about not cutting our Old Growth. I will not agree with what MRC/HRC calls sustainable forestry, which is actually mono-cropped trees along with utilizing herbicides and clearcuts to manage crippled forests.

But let's be positive and recognize this accomplishment, we have a noble victory to celebrate! So many wonderful and dedicated people were involved in these actions over these years. Whether it was local businesses who donated the "bread" of the movement, or specialized and daring climber/setters who risked their lives to be the first up in these amazing trees. Many had a special part in protecting these groves. Donations came from so many caring and concerned community members to equip sitters with gear to make them safe and comfortable. There are those who spent hundreds of nights on the trails hiking in gear and supplies instead of sleeping.

Above all(great pun), there are the treesitters. These are the true heroes and heroines of both actions. Imagine the patience and dedication that it takes for these people to stay calmly and peacefully in a Coast Redwood hundreds of feet above the ground. To eat food that is sometimes dumpstered or half-eaten by tree critters like pesky but cute flying squirrels. To drink creek water full of tannins and silt. To suffer from dysentary and persistent staph. To wonder how long it will be until you see someone from ground, or to hope the loggers won't return to hurl insults and shoot their guns in the air.

Not everyone involved in forest defense can be a treesitter. It takes a very special type of person. I could never stay long myself, I got too stir crazy while trying to live portions of my life on a 4' by 8' sheet of plywood suspended high above the ground. I, along with those who actually did the work and understood the sanctity of what we were trying to accomplish always felt that the sitters deserved the best that we could get for them. I felt that they deserved everything that was donated to defending the trees.

Throughout the actions, various affinity groups were formed. I feel I have learned that group identities mean nothing, and individual actions will always speak louder than words or hype. It's easy to lose sight of the overall intent of an action, especially as time wears on, people come and go, and tactics are questioned. I feel our tactics never were compromised. We were always a peaceful and non-violent action. Safety was of utmost importance, especially concentrated on the safety of climbing, dealing with the cops, and social interaction. The woods can be a dangerous place and the sitters were as diverse as the trees that they sat in.

So many beautiful, wonderful and diverse activists came through these majestic forests. It's amazing how you meet people that are your universal brothers and sisters who have the same goals and passions for protecting life and doing what is truly right. I feel it is easier to advocate for humans and animals, because most human beings can feel compassion for both. It is harder for our society to recognize the importance of protecting all lifeforms because most people are too busy to consider their individual impact on the larger scale of reality and existence. There is nothing sacred, unfortunately, for the few who control us and our environment.

We had so much diversity in our movement, particularly for the Pacific Northwest. We had international sitters. We had sitters that would stay one night or a few years. We had visitors who climbed hundreds of feet for an interview or just to give a treesitter a hug. Complete strangers would hike out to bring food, dump piss jugs, bury shitbuckets and have the time of their life dodging cops and security on the way up or down steep hills. People would send up cookies baked with love and kindness, and ganja grown with the greatest of intent. Lifelong friendships were forged. I feel many of us would have returned season after season, year after year and even decade after decade to defend both of the groves.

Treesitting was never a guaranteed solution to prevent the destruction of both groves. If we waited out the time limits that both groves were allowed by CDF(California Dept. of Forestry), there was the still the uncertainty of what would happen in the future. PL ignored offers to sell the groves, even to major conservation groups. However, PL's plunder of the forests was about to time out.

Sadly, most of the 200K+ acres owned by Pacific Lumber have been stripped of most of the Old Growth, along with much of the second growth. In 2007, after more than 22 years that MAXXAM took control of the once local and somewhat sustainable PL and ten years after forest defender "Gypsy" was murdered by a faller, Humboldt forest defenders can say that treesitting DOES work. It seems to me like peaceful, non-violent actions can be safer, sustainable and most effective high in the branches of the trees, protected and free from the chaos and confusion of society below.

In both Berkeley ( and Santa Cruz (, treesitters have been defending trees and green space and opposing greedy corporations who are this time under the guise of so called "liberal" Universities. Both need your help right now. Action continues in Humboldt. Humboldt Earth First! is hosting an Action Camp from September 5th through the 13th. Please visit their new site to find out more information about both the camp and how to get involved at I will continue to post forest defense and treesit info for any peaceful and non-violent action at, as well as help where I am needed.

May the forests always be with you, may you be the light you wish to see in this world, and may everyone seize the opportunity to do something courageous, inspiring, and creative to build the world we all dream of and deserve!

Jeff Muskrat
Forest Defender

1 comment:

M. D. Vaden of Oregon said...

Even though I'm an arborist, I don't think you'll ever see me in any sort of activism role, except maybe writing or negotiating.

But it is good news to here about more forest being preserved.

In our area, Oregon, it would be nice if some properties that have not grown lumber trees, could start having conifers started for crops, to spare a bit more existing forest land for mixed forest habitat.

I get out into the woods quite a bit:

Largest Known Redwoods

Not just the redwoods, but Douglas fir, pine, etc.. Even short shore pine woodland.