Standing Up to Ecocide in Oregon

“If it looks ugly; it’s probably bad.”

Martin Litton, grandfather of Redwood National Park

On “Management”

The 23rd University of Oregon Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (E-LAW) has come and gone. The Big Green professionals have all boarded ozone-depleting jetliners and decamped back to computer solitaire in the “vast cubicle wastelands;” the local hippies, trustafarians and assorted malcontents have re-congregated around favorite beverage joints; Sierra Club “leaders” have gone on to promoting the architect of the worst Ancient Forest liquidation schemes as “our” representative on the Oregon Board of Forestry; Earth First! heroes left the festivities early and have set up an Action Camp and over a dozen have already been arrested blocking the first logging in an Ancient Forest Reserve since Clinton’s 1994 Northwest Forest Plan; and, the High Rollin’ Low Baggin’ US Tour has left town to lead the Mountain Justice Summer effort to end Mountaintop Removal and Valley Fill coal mining in Appalachia. Talk about “ugly!”

E-LAW was the first such environmental law conference. Held the first weekend of March, it brings together lawyers, wonks and activists from around the country. It’s been a rite of Spring for the many movements always represented. (With Global Warming, it’s become a rite of Summer, as instead of 40 degrees and raining as in the early years; lately it’s been 60 degrees, sunny skies, blooming flowers and pollen-driven sniffling noses.)



Collaboration was the word of the day. For every discussion panel on Ending Commercial Logging on Public Lands, it seemed there were ten panels on “Collaborative” logging schemes.

Seems a number of paid enviros have been meeting with local millowners, County Commissioners, Forest Service folks and other members of the rural oligarchy across the West and coming up with plans to send more of our public trees through local private mills. The gist of the argument is that past mismanagement has led to “overstocked fire, disease and insect damage-prone monoculture thickets” (as advocates foresaw and, of course, noted would happen!) and the only way to get them back to a functional forest is to “thin” the plantations.

The predictable result? More big stumps, species driven further towards the brink, exacerbated poverty in resource extraction communities, a widened gap between the foundation-dependent enviros and the grassroots and, of course, continued grant funding for the collaborators.

One such Collaborative Plan would have a NW National Forest divided in thirds with one-third becoming designated Wilderness, one-third subject to “single entry restoration” (read: chainsaw surgery), and the rest as some kind of big timber free fire zone with a guaranteed annual cut. Activists have been unable to gain Wilderness status for lands in this forest for over 30 years, and this unlikely, admittedly attractive as per Wilderness scheme provides a sort of “victory” to worn-out advocates.

“Man has lost the capacity to foresee and to forestall. He will end up by destroying the Earth.”

Albert Schweitzer

Any commercial version of “restoration” logging has the built-in incentives that will ensure that the lauded ecological goals — reducing the numbers of even-aged, monoculture trees in plantations and reducing fire risks — will come secondary to the bottom line.

But, Nature’s Bottom Line is this: the value of undisturbed soils as carbon sinks increases exponentially as the effects of greenhouse gasses broaden. The entire Public Lands (and some private, as well) protection effort needs to adapt quickly to the necessity of framing the argument in terms of carbon sequestration. It is critical that we quit soil-disturbing activities. The very life of the planet is in the balance.


The Real Deal: Brower’s Angels

Many are dedicated to the Archdruid David Brower’s observation that the best campaigns are those that are sketched out on a cocktail napkin at closing time. Mike Roselle passed out invites to a reception that introduced Mountain Justice Summer to the assembled activists. As the invite was good for one drink and free pizza, some 400 showed up to chow down, reacquaint with old allies and hear the brilliant, dynamic women behind the efforts to slow Big Coal and End Commercial Logging on Public Lands. (As could be expected, local riff-raff out-lowbagged the lowbaggers and counterfeit free drink invites littered the bar. Roselle, of course, anticipated this and could not have cared less.)

Grove Parsons addressed the receptive crowd. She outlined the Mountain Justice Summer plan and invited all to join in. She and Hilary Hosta are gathering their allies in Virginia this summer. (After fighting back tears as I later watched a documentary on Mountaintop Removal/Valley Fill coal extraction, complete with all the same arguments we’ve heard for years regarding old growth forest mining, including the same classist holding of workers’ livelihoods hostage; I’ll be joining them.)

Their National Forest Protection Alliance (NFPA) allies Susan Curry, of Charlottesville, VA and Jeanette Russell from Missoula, MT spoke of the their work. NFPA represents over 200 member organizations, state representatives, and businesses that actively support the protection of public lands from commercial logging.

Both groups raised some money. Some folks even got a slice of pizza. All had a good time and the embattled residents of Appalachia got the word out and got some commitments of help from veteran forest activists.


Logging the Biscuit

The Ancient Forest reserve, called a Late Successional Reserve (LSR) under terms of the Clinton Option 9 logging plan, that’s been entered and is being vigorously opposed is part of the woeful Biscuit Fire Salvage Sale. Over 300 people from ages 5 to 85 turned out to try and stop the logging near the Babyfoot Lake trailhead/Wilderness Boundary.

The year-old Silver Creek Lumber Co., Inc. has been the point of the saw for logging the Biscuit. Owner John W. West has claimed local preference in the bidding process and was awarded the logging rights to numerous sales within the Biscuit complex.

Despite West’s filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2000 and again in 2001 and his previous timber concern Westland Contracting, Inc. and his parents filing for bankruptcy in 2000, the Forest Service had no problem awarding this shady, supposedly broke operator with logging contracts.

It is standard practice for big mills to front the money to “local” loggers to bid on sales. Reportedly that is what has happened here and the mill behind Silver Creek is said to be Roseburg Forest Products, owned by Allyn Ford. Ford also owns the Umpqua (StUmpqua to activists) and Commercial Banks in Oregon. Ford has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to right-wing causes and is a major bankroller of the Republican Party.

By funneling money through a John West it appears like “local, small concerns” are involved and it reduces competition at the auction. That he can operate like this while owing so much money is beyond sleazy; almost as sleazy as his stealing over 200 old growth trees in the Flat Top area of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, an egregious crime that resulted in a mere slap on the wrist fine and, obviously, no ban on future bidding on nearby sales.


Defiant, Celebratory Culture

“They may already have destroyed the planet. But, I’m not gonna let ’em get my day, too.”

Steve Spahr, paraphrasing a guy he met from Jersey.

Now E-LAW would not be complete without the 10th Annual OutLAW Bash. Saturday night during the conference sees a gathering of a few hundred with food, drink and entertainment. Despite the bleak reports from around the world presented every E-LAW, a life-affirming culture has grown up. Sometimes one has to dance to keep from crying. It’s fitting that Eugene is the venue.

Sponsored by the local Earth First! crowd, the party has grown to over four hundred and this year had to be moved to a larger site. This year’s soiree was held at a hallowed gathering site around the corner from Ken Kesey’s farm in Pleasant Hill. (People could proudly puke on the same soil that absorbed the vomit of Jack Cassidy and tryst under the same trees that sheltered legions of Pranksters.)

This year’s bash was a fundraiser for the Biscuit defenders. Slugthang treated all to a rousing spoken word series of rants. Bands performed. And, as usual, the highlight was the ritual burning of a mock-up icon of the Empire — this time an Iraq oil derrick covered with Air Force emblems. The exquisite sculptures have evolved from the early days of mere plywood bulldozers. Some recent ones have been last year’s giant Skull and Bones with each rocket-spewing bone labeled — one for Bush and one for ABB; a giant Electric Chair with Bush effigy; Dick’s (Cheney) Playhouse; the TIA Pyramidyou get the idea.


Join In

So, pull out the Summer Schedule, check in on the links above and jot down a trip to the Virginia coalfields and/or to the Biscuit Salvage scam. It’s beyond time to Foresee and we damn well better Forestall and Rein In. And, as always, don’t let ’em get your day, too.

MICHAEL DONNELLY lives in what used to be the moist side of Oregon. He can be reached at

MICHAEL DONNELLY has been an environmental activist since before that first Earth Day. He was in the thick of the Pacific Northwest Ancient Forest Campaign; garnering some collective victories and lamenting numerous defeats. He can be reached at