3- Save the Mattole ancient forest

By Olea

Last Spring, Slingshot published an article about the 20-year-strong campaign to defend beautiful old growth mixed forest in the Mattole watershed. The Mattole is a wild, undammed river running through steep, seismically active terrain on Northern California’s Lost Coast. Its forests capture coastal fog and rain, a vital lifeline to protected Coast Redwood groves that lie just to the east. At the headwaters of the North Fork of the Mattole lies Rainbow Ridge, home to endangered Pacific fisher, Coho salmon, golden eagle, Northern spotted owl, rare medicinal Agarikon mushroom, and thousands of acres of unlogged forest owned by Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC). For years, forest defenders have used non-violent direct action tactics — road blockades, tree sits, and getting in the way on the ground — to hinder logging operations on Rainbow Ridge. Due to resistance, HRC backed out of two thirds of their logging plans in 2016, but 275 acres remain on the chopping block.

In the late Spring, an outpouring of public opposition caused HRC to cancel a proposed road that would have cut right through a fragile meadow and a grove of old growth bay trees (see Slingshot #127). On summer solstice, Mattole defenders raised a tripod on the only road into Long Ridge, cutting off road access to the active timber harvest units. The tripod was up for one month before HRC hired private security company Lear Asset Management to raid the blockade in July. Military-style contractors moved in early in the morning, brandishing tasers and tackling and arresting blockaders. They shook lifelines and spent nights blasting music and training spotlights on a blockader hanging high in the air. After four days of this, the CEO of HRC ordered their security to catch and detain all forest defenders. One person was caught and arrested while another was able to escape. The blockade was dismantled, and security kept a constant presence on the ridge for the next four months. An outpouring of public support followed the raid, including protests at the company gate and offices, and later a week of action. During an action where protestors blocked traffic at HRC’s mill in Scotia, a logging truck rammed through a banner being held by protestors, barely missing several people. Supporters expected the worst — for HRC to start work immediately once they dismantled the blockade. However, shortly after the raid, the nonprofit Lost Coast League (LCL)  filed a grievance with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) that certifies HRC’s lumber as “sustainable”, triggering an FSC audit. HRC is concerned with maintaining a “green” image because FSC-certified lumber garners a higher price, and they are under a great deal of pressure from FSC, Home Depot (a major client of theirs), and local groups including LCL. HRC didn’t log on Rainbow Ridge for the rest of 2018. The company is currently at least 8 years behind schedule on their harvest plans due to resistance. Direct action PLUS public pressure gets the goods!

The vast majority of Rainbow Ridge is under HRC ownership, but a few parcels belong to timber giant Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI). Though focused on HRC, the blockade had also been keeping SPI from accessing their units. However, in November, SPI started work on Long Ridge, clear cutting 20 acres of a 40 acre unit. In a last minute action, a tree sit was set up and roads were blocked with slash piles. For days, over a dozen forest defenders were on the ground, engaging with loggers and keeping trucks from removing some of the cut logs. With wet weather approaching, SPI eventually gave up, abandoning the rest of the logs.

For the past few months, Rainbow Ridge has been quiet. Forestry regulations prohibit use of large machinery while the soil is saturated with rain. However, it has been a dry winter, and HRC could cut at any time and use herbicides during dry spells. In fact, because hardwood trees are most susceptible to herbicide when they are coming out of dormancy, spring is the preferred time to apply herbicides — which on Rainbow includes glyphosate, a.k.a. Roundup. Forest defenders continue to survey the area, monitoring company activity and scouting for unknown patches of old growth.

Flagging was spotted recently at the south end of Rainbow Ridge, around the Rattlesnake Creek tributary of the Mattole. A timber harvest plan has yet to be filed for this area, but the flagged area is huge and includes ancient trees and beautiful springs.

The 2019 logging season promises to be hectic. Because one of HRC’s active timber harvest plans is set to expire this September, the company will surely want to get work done. The precedent they set last summer of employing private security only ups the ante. The forest defense season will kick off with a training/action camp March 15-20 in the Mattole watershed. Come to camp to learn and connect, or even to stay — individuals and groups are needed to come hike, climb, survey, and scout.

Contact efhum@riseup.net and follow on instagram @blockade.babes