By Frank Hartzell
UPDATE 6/11/21 — Before dawn this morning protesters once more gathered to attempt a blockade of loggers in the Jackson Demonstration State Forest. We’ll have an update on the situation later today.
CASPAR, 6/10/21 — At dawn on Thursday, from his perch atop the “Mama tree” in Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF), tree-sitter “Matt” heard the unmistakable buzz, crack and thump of professional tree fallers at work. The private tree fallers are cutting timber on a contract with Cal Fire, more formally known as the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which owns and operates the nearly 50,000 acre forest.
But activists associated with the Mendocino Trail Stewards and EarthFirst (though not technically working with those organizations) are mounting a challenge to this new bout of logging, asking for a two year moratorium.
This was also the sound of the start of the latest conflict over how timber harvesting should be handled on the North Coast. For some, the conflict harkens back to Redwood Summer of 1990 and the “Timber Wars” that followed, deeply dividing the community at a time when timber companies were already closing mills and exporting logs to be milled abroad, rather than milling them locally. Now different issues, including climate change and the fear of forest fires, dominate the agenda.
Back in April, tree sitters occupied two 150+ year old redwood trees near the Caspar entrance to JDSF that were dubbed the “mama” and “papa” trees. And though Cal Fire has relented on cutting those particular trees and other second growth giants in their immediate area, logging is restarting in much of the rest of the forest. Anna Marie Stenberg, who was a leader in Redwood Summer of old is highly regarded as an activist leader of the new protests.
Unidentified people placed a Dodge mini-van across a logging road to block the start of the timber harvest in Jackson on Wednesday (see photo), said activist George Russell. That act seemed to work to keep the timber harvest from starting for Wednesday. Activists were set up to block entrance to loggers on Thursday, but Cal Fire and the tree fallers went into the forest a different way, said Russell.
With a huge area to be seen and heard from his perch, “Matt” contacted local activists, who quickly mounted a protest.
By mid-day, the logging had ceased but plans were moving forward.
Cal Fire has posted announcements and press releases telling people not to be in the area of the harvests but activists have asserted the forest belongs to all and charters should be changed to steer away from harvesting.
Activists want to delay the JSDF timber harvest. One problem has been that nobody complained during the official comment period, which coincided with the start of the global pandemic in 2020. Timber harvesting has always been part of the function of JDSF. But activists say times have changed and they also question specific aspects of the harvest plans now underway.
At the Caspar JDSF kiosk near Caspar, activists including Linda Perkins, Bill Heil and George Russell were among those who gathered and waited in case there was more action in the forest. That mostly meant a cordial meeting with a group of biologists who came to check on plans to protect the bard and spotted owl. There was also a 24-hour security post set up by Santa Rosa-based security company Armorous, with a porta potty for the guard delivered by Cal Fire on Thursday. That security post was installed after the activists dragged and disabled the Dodge van. Security guards can make arrests like any citizen and are trained to do so.
Jackson Demonstration State Forest is the largest demonstration forest in California, stretching from Caspar to Highway 20 between Fort Bragg and Willits.
This article was originally published by The Mendocino Voice.