IMAGE: rob manning
The Cascadia Forest Alliance erected a platform 120 feet above the forest floor, in a 400-year-old Douglas fir, to protest the Solo timber sale: 157 old-growth acres that go up for auction July 30.
"Safety's always been a big concern," says a protester who called himself Lance, looking up at the tree-sit from below. "But after an accident like [O'Brien's fall], you have to look at what people are doing and teaching."
O'Brien, 22, died a few days after the nearby Eagle Creek timber sales were canceled, ending a bitter, three-year fight. Her presence remains considerable, however, reflected in renewed safety concerns and in the operation's name--Horehound, in honor of O'Brien's "forest name."
Nor has O'Brien's death discouraged potential tree-sitters. At least a dozen activists were at the Solo site when WW visited. "We have more than enough people for this sit," said an activist calling himself Satia. "But we could use more people for more tree-sits."
The Solo protest perches among towering Douglas fir and smaller Pacific yew trees--many estimated at more than 300 years old. Solo's natural tree snags and nearly impenetrable understory are considered ideal habitat for endangered spotted owl and red tree vole, though none has been found. But environmentalists have found the old-growth specklebelly lichen. Under Clinton-era rules, the U.S. Forest Service has drawn a one-acre buffer around the lichen, but it has failed to look through the sale areas for more, possibly a nod toward future "streamlining" of environmental rules the Bush administration is advocating.
The Solo action marks a change in tactics; it is the first time activists have staged a tree-sit in an area that hasn't yet been auctioned.
"The philosophy behind putting up a tree-sit in Solo now is to stop the sale before it's auctioned," says Lance. "But we're also letting people know about what's already been sold in this area."
A striking example sits just a few miles from Solo, where Thomas Creek Logging turned 300-year-old trees into five-foot-diameter stumps, leaving only a handful of old firs per acre. Officials at the Forest Service say the way that sale was logged, "leaving patches and islands of old-growth, and some individual trees," is the management plan for Solo, as well.