Forest Activists Block Logging in Freshwater

<strong>Forest Activists Block Logging in Freshwater</strong>
On February 21, 2023, an anti-logging activist suspended himself via nets and rope in a contraption called a sky pod in a thicket of trees in Freshwater, California, to prevent Humboldt Redwood Company from cutting down trees on their property. 

The protestors contend the huge trees in the area are becoming increasingly rare and represent a dwindling number of intact forests in the US. This is only one of several anti-logging demonstrations that have taken place in Humboldt County history. 

 The activist, Aristotle, also began a hunger strike to protest the planned logging and said via a news release from Lost Coast Forest Action that he was taking supplements that would allow him to live without food for months. His location brought logging in the area to a halt. 

 Aristotle contended the area being logged contains massive redwood and Douglas fir trees that are providing critical habitat to many endangered animals in the area.

 Aristotle added that he was acting in honor of another forest activist, Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, who was fatally shot by police in Atlanta. That story follows below, but it indicates how social issues in one context can impact others motivations. 

A spokesperson for Humboldt Redwood Company claimed the harvest plan covers approximately 1% of the Freshwater watershed and would not affect nearby threatened species. The harvest plan was approved by multiple state agencies. Humboldt contends the logging will also create a more wildfire-resilient forest by reducing the number of second and third-growth trees in the harvest area and protecting all old growth. 

On March 20, 2023, activists vandalized three pieces of equipment (a yarder, log loader and bulldozer) owned and operated by Steve Will’s Trucking and Logging. This occurred at the same time the “tree sitting protest” was occurring on Humboldt property. 

Steve Will said, “Every electrical line was cut, every hydraulic line was cut, battery cables were cut, and other damage was also done.” Gasoline was poured in the cab of one of the pieces of equipment and a lighter was found nearby, but no fire was every started. A fire extinguisher was removed from the cab of one of the pieces of logging equipment and set off inside the engine of that machine. Air cleaners, fuel tanks, and hydraulic tanks were filled with dirt and debris. The windshield wipers were broken, and valve stems were removed from several tires. 

The vandals left warnings, spray painted on the machines, cautioning that damage had been done. Damage is estimated at around $100,000. Humboldt contends the vandals crossed the line here. This is no longer peaceful protest. 
Protesting “Cop City” in Atlanta
Dozens of people were arrested in Atlanta after rocks, fireworks, and Molotov cocktails were thrown at officers near a construction site for a planned public safety training center. The debate about the training center has been ongoing. It is planned to be used for specialized training for both law enforcement and fire department service workers. 

The nickname “Cop City” is the name given for the facility by its critics. 

According to the center’s website, the center will include an auditorium for police/fire and public use, a “mock city” for burn building training and urban police training, an Emergency Vehicle Operator Course for emergency vehicle driver training, a K-9 unit kennel and training. The first phase is scheduled to open in 2023.

 There are three sets of protestors. ·    

    One group is protesting the purpose of the training facility in general. City officials claim the center could improve policing, while critics claim the effort is militarizing police and endangering communities and marginalized people. The first defenders moved into the forest nearly two years ago. They set up camp in trees and attempts by authorities to clear the camps have met with resistance. Authorities arrested six people on January 21 when demonstrations, which started peacefully, escalated to involve shooting fireworks at police, smashing windows and igniting a police cruiser. “The forest is the heart of it all,” says one of the activists. ·    

    Another group is protesting two specific incidents by police. The first was directly related to Cop City. It centered on the death of Manuel Esteban Paez Teran (also known as Tortuguita), a Venezuelan environmental activist and non-binary eco-anarchist who was shot and killed by a Georgia State Patrol trooper as they raided the campground occupied by demonstrators on January 18, 2023. During the altercation, officials say Tortuguita fired at a state trooper, and the officer responded with the fatal shot. Some believe the officer was wounded by friendly fire. There is no body camera footage of the incident. Investigations are ongoing. 

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency on January 26 in response to ongoing protests in downtown Atlanta relating to Cop City. In a related event not directly connected with Cop City, however, Atlanta braced for more protests against the facility, as well as potential unrest city-wide following the release of body camera footage of the alleged beating of Tyre Nichols by five Memphis, Tennessee police officers. The officers have since been fired and charged with murder in his death. The incident sparked anger about police methods and Cop City became a symbolic target. Kemp mobilized up to 1,000 state National Guard troops to be called up to active duty “as needed.” ·    

    A third group in the conflict are those who argue that the center will impact forests which are a vital part of the community. Atlanta has one of the highest percentages of tree canopy in any major US city, according to environmental advocacy group Trees Atlanta. Furthermore, it is home to wetlands and important migration sites for birds. 

The center is expected to cost $90 million and take up over 85 acres. The total acreage for the land includes an additional 265 acres that will serve as greenspace. For some, this is just the first step that could potentially impact a much larger forest in Atlanta. 

Americans have debated for years where to draw the line between law and order and the right to confront authority. Now, protestors in Atlanta have been charged with terrorism, laying down a new marker in the debate. To many Americans, it’s a long overdue step to take a firmer stand against political unrest and violence. But to others, the move speaks to a dangerous push to silence dissent and criminalize protest. 

The charges in Atlanta come amid a growth in political violence in the US. All but eight US states experienced at least one incident of domestic terrorism between 2010 and 2021, according to the Government Accountability Office. The phenomenon has grown by 357% since 2013.

 In either case, those who are in the forestry business need to remember that our workplace, the forest, continues to be a battleground between ideologies and strong political and social leanings that can put us in the middle of conflict and violence we never wanted. Caution is called for. It is best to make plans now about how to deal with such a situation, just in case.

 After all, every emergency sufficiently prepared for, seldom happens!