Cross-posted from Cascadia Forest Defense
For Immediate Release:July 5, 2023
Press Contact: Malcolm Rand, email@example.com, 541-731-2675
Community members blockade Sierra Pacific mill in protest of public lands logging
Mature and old growth logging project sparks controversy amidst federal rulemaking and Biden campaign promises
Eugene, Ore – Dozens of community members and forest defenders rallied at the Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) mill in West Eugene as four activists locked themselves together, risking arrest and effectively blocking the entrance to the mill and disrupting operations to protest the corporation’s public lands logging. The protest was organized in opposition to SPI’s purchase of contracts to log the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) “N126” mature and old growth timber sale. Logging is moving forward even as the Biden administration is considering rulemaking to create further protections for mature and old growth forests on federal lands.
“We are here to shut down operations,” said Deb McGee, one of the protestors who risked arrest. “We want to make sure that the owners of Sierra Pacific hear loud and clear that we will not stand for a big out of state corporation to come into our community and start clearcutting our carbon-rich forest lands.”
The BLM project is set to commercially log over 25,000 acres in 30-130 year old Late-Successional Reserve (LSR) forests, which are specifically set aside for spotted owl habitat and old growth characteristics under the Northwest Forest Plan. The BLM claims that the forest within this sale is made up of mostly homogeneous stands in need of commercial thinning, but onsite visits by local community members and activists have found significant portions of the sale are dynamic old growth and mature forest ecosystems.
“Even as the Biden Administration is working to reform industrial logging practices on federal lands, the Bureau of Land Management and Sierra Pacific Industries are moving forward with massive clearcut logging projects on public forests,” said Malcolm Rand, an organizer with local forest defense organization WRENCH. “If we are to have any hope of mitigating the climate crisis, protecting the water that we drink and the air that we breathe, we must stop these reckless projects immediately.”
Protestors disrupted operations at the SPI mill, highlighting the corporation’s lead role in ecological destruction across the country. The SPI founder Archie Aldis “Red” Emmerson is the single largest private landowner in the United States. The corporation also recently announced plans to almost double the capacity of the Eugene facility, which would make it one of the largest mills in the country.
“The N126 logging project goes too far and risks heavy impacts on our local drinking water and wildlife” said Jason Gonzales, who lives in Walton with his wife and children. “Our land, like all of our neighbors, is directly connected to the forests threatened by this project. When the BLM came to Walton and asked for our input in 2018, we made it clear as a community that we did not want to see mature and old growth forests being cut, and that we strongly opposed any clearcutting. Now we see both of these things and the BLM is auctioning off thriving forests to a multi-million dollar out-of-state corporation.”
This protest comes just days after dozens of community members and forest defenders gathered in the N126 project to demonstrate their opposition towards the N126 logging projects. Community members blocked access to roads leading into the Walker Point sale, a parcel of the larger N126 project which was auctioned last Thursday, June 29. Activists left after a few hours with no arrests, feeling that they had made their point to the BLM and SPI, and vowed to return.
“This action is just the beginning of our resistance to the N126 project,” said Riley Fields, an organizer with WRENCH. “We are ready to fight to the bitter end to protect these forests, and the communities that rely on them.”
Find free-to-use photos of the protest here.
On Earth Day of 2022, the Biden Administration signed an executive order (EO 14072) which directed federal agencies to catalog mature and old growth forests in an effort to increase protections for these critical habitats. Now, both the BLM and National Forest Service (USFS) are in the midst of rulemaking processes to increase protections for carbon rich mature and old growth forests. Despite the ongoing rulemaking, both agencies are pushing forward controversial logging projects in mature and old growth forests, including the N126 sale, which was first proposed under the Trump administration.
The forests of the Pacific Northwest have the potential to take up and store as much if not more carbon per acre than any other forest in the world – including the Amazon rainforest. With more protections and broad reforms to forestry practices, these forests can not only be a powerful tool for combating climate change, but can also help this region to adapt to the worst effects of global temperature rise through protecting local freshwater resources and biodiversity, and increasing community resilience to wildfire. Yet currently, logging is the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions in the State of Oregon, and is putting communities at greater risk of severe wildfires.