For more than three years forest protesters have blocked roads, lived in trees and swung from branches in opposition to the Eagle timber sale in the Mount Hood National Forest. But there has never been an accident like the one that happened last Saturday in the Gods Valley area of Tillamook State Forest.
At about 2 am, noted eco-activist Tre Arrow (whose real name is Michael Scarpitti) fell 60-some feet, from his perch to the ground. He had been hanging from trees in the Tillamook for approximately 45 hours while encircled by law enforcement on the ground. Unlike protesters in the Mount Hood National Forest, he had no platform and no hammock, and it is unclear how much food or water he had.
Scarpitti made headlines last year when he climbed the side of the U.S. Forest Service headquarters in downtown Portland and lived on a ledge for 11 days. In November 2000 he ran against U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer on the Green Party ticket.
Now he's in Emanuel Hospital with a fractured pelvis, broken ribs, a banged-up shoulder and a collapsed lung.
"We don't know where he started his fall," says Clatsop County Sheriff John Raichl, "but they heard the crashing. Even with the floodlights, it was dark. One of the deputies is an emergency medical technician and started working on him. He is very, very lucky to be alive."
At Eagle, the federal government owns the land; the timber owner is Vanport Manufacturing of Boring, which has been working to get out of the sale. Over the years, protesters and feds have clashed but sustained no serious injuries.
In Gods Valley, about 10 miles from Nehalem, the landowner is the state of Oregon. The timber owner, Christian Futures Inc., wants the trees.
"This is relatively new to us," says Raichl, who, along with Tillamook County Sheriff Todd Anderson, is responsible for law enforcement in the Tillamook. "We sent people to Eagle Creek to get training from the Forest Service and learn about the pods and all that."
Logging for the sale, called the Acey Line Thin, started last month. Portland activist group Cascadia Forest Alliance has occupied tree platforms in the area to block the cutting, but according to friends Scarpitti entered the forest Thursday after an activist on a platform radioed that the loggers were getting close.
According to Raichl, Scarpitti free-climbed up a Douglas fir, then jumped to another one to avoid a law-enforcement climber. Raichl had surrounding trees within 20 feet cut to block Scarpitti's escape route, but at about 10 pm he managed to swing to another tree about 30 feet away. It was from that tree he later fell.
In addition to Scarpitti, there have been 19 arrests over the last week relating to the protests. Bob Applegate, Gov. John Kitzhaber's spokesman, says the sales will not be canceled but the governor will review the incident with the Department of Forestry and the local sheriffs.
"He'll want to hear a discussion of how they plan to handle protests in the future," says Applegate, "and he wants to get more information on how they handled this one."