BREAKING: In Win for Community, Forest Defenders Stop Old Growth Logging After Three Week Blockade

BREAKING: In win for community, forest defenders stop old growth logging after a three-week blockade

WOLF CREEK, Ore. – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was pressured by activists to remove an area with ancient trees that was set to be logged as part of the Poor Windy project. This decision comes after three weeks of protest where community members prevented logging in the area by occupying a tree sit in an old growth ponderosa pine. The BLM and Boise Cascade caved to the demands of the activists and last night amended the contract for the Salmon Run timber sale to remove a contested new spur road which would have resulted in the logging of the old growth trees (find the amended contract here).

“When we fight, we win. Just a few weeks ago, saving these ancient trees seemed impossible,” said Salal Golden, one of the sitters occupying the tree. “While the forest that was saved by this decision is only a tiny fraction of the old growth slated to be logged by the BLM, this victory is a testament to the power of community members taking action into their own hands.”

Forest defenders have been camped on a platform over 100 feet high in an old growth Ponderosa Pine since April 1, protesting the agency’s intentional targeting of mature and old growth forest for logging – despite commitments from the agency and the Biden administration to stop logging old growth. The protest has not only opposed the Poor Windy project, but also shone a spotlight on the BLM’s efforts to log hundreds of thousands of acres of public forests across the state.

“Even as rural communities across Oregon experience the devastating impacts of the climate crisis and ceaseless harm from extractive industries, public agencies like the BLM continue to clearcut these invaluable forests which filter our air and water, protect us from out of control wildfire, and fight climate change,” said Rachel Stevens, a community activist supporting the tree sit. “While this fight might be over, we know there are so many more to win. Our community will not stand by as the last remaining old growth is destroyed.”

Yielding to pressure from the tree sit at Poor Windy, the decision by the BLM comes as the agency is increasingly under fire regarding its old growth and mature forest logging practices with protests and pending litigation on the majority of its active sales. In the face of this pressure, the agency unexpectedly cancelled the Baker’s Dozen project earlier this month, another contentious mature and old growth logging proposal in Southern Oregon. The Baker’s Dozen project targeted over one thousand acres for aggressive logging, with stands of trees over 300 years old.

The Biden Administration has committed to ending the practice of old growth logging on public lands, and the BLM just finalized a rulemaking to establish greater protections for intact ecosystems, yet countless projects targeting mature and old growth forests continue to be implemented across the region. Even after today’s win, the Poor Windy project includes plans to log more than 14,000 acres, including over 4,000 acres of mature and old-growth trees that are essential nesting, roosting and foraging habitat for the threatened northern spotted owl and many other species. While the agency agreed to drop one area of old growth in the face of ongoing protests, more remains on the chopping block.

“The single largest threat to the remaining mature and old-growth forests on public land in Oregon are the agencies that are supposed to be protecting them, and the corporations eager to turn them into private profits,” says Sam Shields, a community organizer supporting the tree sit. “This tree sit has exposed the inexcusable malpractice of the BLM and demonstrated the power of community organizing. Direct action is the last line of defense for these priceless forests and we will continue to put our bodies on the line until they are all protected and the societal structures supporting their destruction are dismantled.”

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Research has shown that industrial logging also increases wildfire severity and frequency by replacing fire resilient mature and old growth forests with mono-crop timber plantations, increasing threats to rural communities like the one around this sale. Studies have shown that Oregon’s forests are some of the most carbon-rich in the world, and that logging is the State’s single largest source of carbon emissions.

The Poor Windy project specifically targets old growth forests with proposed road construction, an increasingly common tactic used by the BLM to avoid regulatory oversight. The logging will impact freshwater sources in the area, with streams and the fish that depend on them already being compromised by severe sedimentation from more than 320 miles of logging roads in the area. Additionally, studies have shown significant long-term decreased summer stream flows in areas converted from mature and old-growth forests into plantations. The contentious project is one of countless sales being moved forward by the BLM despite legal challenges and criticisms about the impacts that they will have on habitat, wildfire, fresh water, and the climate.