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By Frank Hartzell

Editor’s note: To read yesterday’s coverage of this ongoing issue click here, for all our past reporting on Jackson Demonstration State Forest see here.

CASPAR, 6/12/21 — Activists who showed up before 5 a.m. Friday to block logging in Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF) at first found they had the woods to themselves. When the California Highway Patrol came mid-morning and informed protesters in Caspar that they would be arrested and not likely released until Monday, that protest dispersed, a press release from Redwood Nation Earth First and the Mama Tree Network said.

“A single CalFire [sic] vehicle and one private security guard were the only officials present…until CHP arrived at 9:00 a.m. and advised the protesters they would be arrested and held in the Ukiah jail until next Monday if they stayed,” the press release stated.

There were two groups of people who turned out very early Friday morning to block two different entries to the timber harvest area of their beloved JDSF (which is owned and managed by Cal Fire). The first group gathered near the JDSF Caspar informational kiosk. There they blocked a truck from Anderson Logging, the company with contracts for the timber harvest plan. That truck left without gaining access to the job site, with the blocking celebrated as a victory by the activists.

That apparently led to the arrival of the CHP. 

Activists have apparently managed to delay the harvests by blocking several roads, including putting a disabled Dodge van across an access road in the northeastern portion of the forest. That vehicle remained in place on Friday.

Cal Fire now fully intends to resume the timber harvest, starting Monday.

“Our intent is to continue safe and legal timer operations. We will continue to support protesters’ First Amendment rights,” said Christine McMorrow, a spokesperson for Cal Fire. She said subject matter experts will visit the forest and will engage with people about issues that have been raised. There will also be support for law enforcement as needed, she said.

“We did our due diligence. It’s a legal timber harvest plan. We have done the work that everyone is required to do, all the notifications, wildlife surveys and other environmental measures,” said McMorrow.

Will there be arrests?

“Where laws are being broken, there is potential for action to be taken, what that looks like at this time I can’t say,” said McMorrow.

Tree cutting started on Thursday but halted before midday and did not seem to be underway on Friday. Part of the problem was that there were a lot of people, especially the protesters, in the forest, including in areas where trees were being cut down.

“There are closed areas where they are not supposed to be. We have created alternative trails and routes for folks who want to continue to use the forest trails for recreation,” McMorrow said.

She couldn’t specify how Cal Fire would deal with the issue going forward.

On Road 500, eight miles east of Fort Bragg off SR-20, the second group of activists (and this reporter) waited, starting about 4:30 a.m. Prayers were offered for the forest as the sun came up and birds sang a concert to those waiting.

Anna Marie Stenberg, who has been arrested more than 50 times for her activism, and fellow activist George Russell, blocked the road while locking their arms inside an iron pipe called “the Bear”. The device can’t be removed without cutting torches, except by the person chained inside it. This is one method that allows protesters to use their bodies as human shields while preventing law enforcement from easily removing them.

Just before dawn, two pickup trucks came up the road, but made a quick turnaround when their lights shone on the activists seated and locked at the forest gate. Nobody else tried to pass through the blocked gate to Road 500 until late morning when Stenberg had a confrontation with two pickup trucks that drove up to the gate in a manner she felt was menacing. By the time the confrontation finally happened, Stenberg and company had taken off that steel “Bear” to check on activity happening below.

“They stopped within three feet of the gate at most, they got out and started yelling,” Stenberg said. She said they demanded she open the gate and she declined.

The activists and Cal Fire are engaged in an extensive cat-and-mouse game, where roadside observers silently watched, a security guard was posted and each side has tried to utilize or block all possible entrances to the timber harvest area. The activists will keep trying to stop the logging next week, hoping to guess routes and schedules so they can be effective.

“We are in this for the long haul,” said Stenberg. 

Cal Fire has removed the Mama Tree and several other large old trees nearby from their list of trees to be falled (or “unmarked” in their nomenclature) — but activists are asking for a total revision of the JDSF management plan that allowed such old and irreplaceable trees to be marked for cut in the first place, the Earth First press release stated.

The Coalition to Save Jackson Demonstration Forest is calling for a moratorium on logging in the State-owned forest, calling the management plan “outdated.”

“Although reviewed in 2016, the Plan relies on a 2007 EIR and does not adequately address climate change, drought conditions or science based fire management. The Coalition’s many members and supporters believe these trees are worth more standing, for cultural heritage, environmental benefits such as carbon sequestration and recreation,” the Earth First press release said.

McMorrow said Cal Fire hopes to create a dialogue with the community about the issues protesters and others have brought up.

“Our side of the story isn’t getting out there quite as much. Our goal is trying to make folks aware of what is actually happening in the forest,” McMorrow said.

“We would like to explain more of what the science behind our management is, and also the research and demonstrations that are going on out there. Not just not for the implications for Jackson, but for other regulatory agencies and other forests in California and the West,” she said.

This article was originally published by The Mendocino Voice.

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