“Yesterday, on day 619 of the Yellow Finch tree sits blockading the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline — representatives of MVP met with representatives of the local soil and erosion control board on Yellow Finch Road.
Residents of the blockade greeted the meeting in the road with banners proclaiming, “STOP WORK” and “DOOM TO THE PIPELINE.” The DEQ representative showed little concern for the sediment accumulation that was pointed out by local representatives, and DEQ seemed overall frustrated by any requests made of MVP in the meeting.
MVP’s head of security Shithead Steve and his sidekick Willy were present to supervise the meeting and generally bring down environmental conditions wherever they go.”
An “Earth Day” statement from the Yellow Finch tree sit blockade in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline— April 22, 2020 — by Biryani Cudweed
pic via Appalachians Against Pipelines
To our friends, true hearted allies, and especially our accomplices — we here at the tree sits hope life finds you and yours healthy, well, and joyous this springtide, in spite of these sometimes scary and tragic (46000+ lost to the virus in the so-called US! WTF) and sometimes hilariously weird (Missouri is set to sue China, apparently) times.
Gonna say it again: wash your damn hands, and mask up like it’s “The Great Train Robbery!”
Well, I’ll get to the point and the proverbial snag in the forest today folks: we here at the sits wish to tell you to have a very good, pleasant day.
“What the hell, no Earth Day greetings!? No chirpy, pithy jewels of woodsy wisdom!?” I can already hear the good readership folks murmur in surprise and confused, disappointed dismay as they put away their smartphones in disgust.
One single measly day of giving the Earth the proper attention and respect, one day of concern (heck, even a well intentioned Friday school strike or tree planting campaign), one day of remembering our place within the vastly intricate ecosystems of the planet is simply a performative bandaid and neoliberal capitalist dog and pony show for social media clout and the easing of settler consciences, if one does not remember the continued theft and genocide committed by capitalist white supremacist settlers upon the Indigenous people here on Turtle Island, who have always been here as long as their stories have said and have been always and ever the caretakers of the land.
“Yeah, yeah, I know Miss Cudweed, but what am I supposed to do? My friends and I planted like a zillion trees today, and we know that the land is stolen and occupied and that banks fund and prop up the fossil fuel behemoths killing the planet! So what do you want us to do?!”
Aside from continued support, land reparations, and forming your own various blockades (however that looks for each situation), here are some ideas to consider!
COVID 19 disproportionately affects elders, folks with auto-immune deficiencies, Black and Indigenous communities, and detained migrants and prisoners. Mutual aid should not be thought of as mere buzzwords, and rent strike is not just a good band! These forms of resistance and direct action are absolutely critical right now! Check up on folks, make sure people who have community and resources to live well. Make sure out of school children are getting fed.
Protest the actual non-essential services: the prison and imperialist military industrial complexes which drain resources and pollute the Earth, robbing people of life and freedom, ICE detention centers which separate families and cage innocents whose only crime is to cross arbitrary lines set out by colonial robbers, and the bloated fossil fuel industry!
$1200? LOL. While the most at risk who yet have the privilege of being documented receive a pittance, Trump is promising the oil and gas industry yet another handout in the form of a bailout. And we the poor and marginalized are supposed to accept our charitable scraps gratefully, shut up, and thank the nice men in suits? Fuck that.
Now more than ever, let us stand firmly and bravely united in solidarity together — six feet apart, of course — and reevaluate and reject the capitalist and utterly untenable mindset that reduces both us and the planet we inhabit to a means of profit and power for the bankers and CEOs who control government policy and write the mainstream historical and cultural narrative.
Capitalism is the most dangerous and destructive pandemic we face.
Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en! Abolish ICE! Doom to the pipeline! Be well and blessed folks!
– Biryani Cudweed, “Worst Trans Girl Ever”
(And everyone at Yellow Finch)
Outside Trinidad, Calif., in an area known as Strawberry Rock, Walter, a 22-year-old UCLA student, is taking part in a tree sit-in to prevent a logging company from cutting redwoods and other trees. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times
EUREKA —The coronavirus has shut down most of Humboldt County, as it has the rest of the state, but some traditions of northwest California endure: Loggers keep felling redwoods, and eco-activists keep putting their bodies on the limbs to stop them.
Thirty miles north of Eureka, in a coastal forest just east of Highway 101, a generation-old battle between tree sitters and loggers enters a new chapter, even after local sawmills have closed.
Just off the highway in the town of Trinidad sits an old logging trail on property now owned by the Green Diamond Resource Co., a forest products firm.
From the trailhead, after a 20-minute hike through the dark, lush forest, one encounters a 13.5-acre clearing where hundreds of felled redwoods, firs and pine trees litter the ground. Tree stumps, broken branches, and a few sun-blotched, withered ferns poke through the debris.
It’s here, at the eastern edge of the clearing, that a group of young, masked activists are engaged in a different form of social distancing. They are taking turns sleeping in the upper reaches of a giant redwood tree. They are environmental activists working with an organization known as the Redwood Forest Defenders. And they are trying to stop Green Diamond from felling any more trees on this roughly 18-acre tract.
On Wednesday morning, one of the young activists, Walter — who is gender nonbinary and would only provide a Times reporting team with a pseudonym — sat 70 feet above the forest floor on a small, roughly twin-bed-size wooden platform. It’s where they eat, sleep, read and occasionally relieve themselves when they are on sit-in duty.
Walter is a 22-year-old UCLA student who was sent to shelter at home in Los Feliz during the pandemic.
“That was the trigger,” said Walter. “I was feeling a lot of guilt about my carbon footprint, and I felt I needed to do something radical. I just couldn’t go along with life as it was.”
Walter, a 22-year-old UCLA student, is taking turns with other activists sitting in a redwood tree to prevent logging in an area of Humboldt County. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Walter is now part of a small rotation of Redwood Defender activists who sleep in the tree. They take turns, spelling one another every couple of days.
They say they are not worried about falling out, even when they get buzzed by the occasional nocturnal flying squirrel, or startled by mice searching for food.
“I’m strapped in, just like a climber,” Walter yelled down to a visitor, pointing at the ropes and harness clipped and anchored to the tree trunk.
Walter and fellow activists began this particular tree-sit roughly two weeks ago, soon after the logging company’s contractor, Lord of Light, began clearing the tract.
It’s in an area the organization successfully defended before, between 2012 and 2017. But, in February, the company was given the green light to start again.
Three weeks ago, according to Walter and two other activists who identified themselves as Lupine and Birdhouse, the Lords of Light, a Green Diamond contractor, went in and started cutting.
That’s when the defenders went in, and Green Diamond stopped.
“We immediately ceased operations for safety purposes.” said Gary Rynearson, Green Diamond spokesman. He said by the time the activists appeared, 75% of the trees on the tract had already been felled.
“I don’t know why they’d come in during this period, when everybody else is shut down and people are struggling to make a living,” he said, noting his frustration at having to put the contractors out of work.
He said Green Diamond works hard to cut timber sustainably, and supports state and federal protections for vulnerable species in the area, such as spotted owls, a variety of salamanders and frogs and the Humboldt marten, a cat-sized carnivore.
California has declared the timber industry, like farming and municipal waterworks, an essential business during the COVID-19 outbreak. Although construction is down and several sawmills are shuttered, loggers continue felling trees.
In Scotia, 50 miles south on Highway 101, tens of thousands of tree trunks are neatly stacked in empty lots near Humboldt Redwood Co,’s sawmill.
The Humbolt Redwood Co. sawmill in Scotia, Calif., is not operating due to coronavirus restrictions, but logging is still happening and trees are piling up. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
According to Steve Isherwood, a board feeder at the mill, the wood keeps piling up even though the mill’s been closed for almost three weeks.
“It just didn’t make sense to keep the place running if there was no place to send the lumber,” he said, standing on his lawn, which is located across the street from the vacant mill.
John Andersen, director of forest policy for Humboldt Redwood, said the mill has stopped buying new logs, although it continues to store trees from the company’s own lands.
Isherwood is furloughed indefinitely, he said, and has applied for unemployment — he’s one of 2.7 million Californians who have done so in the last month. And while he’s concerned about the economic outlook, he said there are some upsides to the mill being closed: For the first time since he moved into his house seven years ago, he can hear the sounds of frogs that live along the nearby Eel River, and the air is clear of smoke and ash.
“It’s pretty nice,” he said of the quiet, comparing it to the deafening ruckus of the nearby power plant, the clanging of loading trucks, and the grinding of the saws that run nearly 24 hours a day during normal mill operations.
Rich Gordon, president and chairman of the California Forestry Assn., the state’s timber industry trade group, said many sawmills across the state have shut down, or have severely curtailed production.
“Some of them are getting to the point where they have too much lumber, with construction being stopped in several counties,” he said, noting the halt in construction is not statewide.
Green Diamond’s Rynearson said that, while all three of the state’s redwood mills have shut down, Douglas fir mills are still operating. That wood is generally sent out on ships from Eureka’s harbor, up the coast to Washington and British Columbia, where it’s turned into products such as toilet paper.
As for the tree sitters, Rynearson said there’s not much to do. The company will retrieve the logs it has felled in the area, but they aren’t going to do anything to escalate the the conflict.
Gordon agreed that was the right call.
“Historically, there have been efforts to have the sheriff go in and arrest protesters like these,” he said. “But, given the coronavirus pandemic, and what everyone else is dealing with these days, going in to arrest someone for trespassing is probably not a high priority.”
Los Angeles Times reporter Susanne Rust and photographer Carolyn Cole are embarking on a road journey throughout California. They aim to give voice to those in remote parts of California as they grapple with the worst health and economic calamity of our lifetimes.
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