8 – Life is still here – defend Washington’s legacy forests

By Smelly Bird
	The city I live in used to be an old growth forest, and likely yours too. 
	There were never streets filled with asphalt but streams filled with clean, clear water. Not parking garages and high rises casting shadows but trees, whose growth was uninterrupted, nurtured, and respected.  Now, our cities are miles from the nearest forest, concrete islands placated with a handful of green spaces and a mile or so of undeveloped waterfront.  
	Not long ago, almost the entire coast of the Pacific Northwest was densely forested. From the late 1800s to mid 1900s, forests within the borders of Washington became the seemingly endless bucket from which to pull in order to supply the rest of the country with lumber at the height of industrialization.  Now, old growth forests are rare, coveted survivors of settler colonization, landing pads for daydreams and mysteries and vacationers from the east coast.  
	When I walk through the timber sale labeled ‘Box of Rain’, stumps from the first logging boom stand out like monoliths, sometimes I feel like I can see their ghosts towering over the new canopy.  Forests like these are considered “Legacy Forests”, a term applied to a forest that was previously logged, but not reseeded as a plantation. These forests are unique because they were logged only for the biggest and easiest trees, before the days of chainsaws and herbicides, and thus still contain native and ancient biodiversity.  The largest trees in Box of Rain are eighty to one hundred and twenty years old, the understory is thick and healthy, and the forest rests above the banks of Clearwater Creek and the Nooksack river — prime salmon spawning habitat.  This forest, and all other legacy forests, have the potential to become the next generation of old growth, as long as Washington State doesn't clear cut them. There are hundreds of unprotected legacy forests like Box of Rain on state land slated to be logged in the next decade, totaling up to around 77,000 acres.
	Forest defense often starts many miles from the forest, in council meetings, living rooms, and backyards. In so-called Bellingham, a small group of activists have spearheaded a grassroots campaign to protect Legacy Forests long before the chainsaws will ever get a chance to bite wood. Awareness is rising and community support of forest protection is mounting. Box of Rain garnered the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) over one hundred and twenty letters of dissent before the sale was even approved for auction.  A larger campaign to convince DNR to drop the proposed plans to log all state owned legacy forests is underway — defenders are organizing community forest walks, field checking sale units, petitioning, talking to our neighbors, and speaking at local council meetings. This side of forest defense is often overlooked, but because of these above ground efforts the larger community is talking, engaging, and uniting with one another through a passion for preserving the old forests we have left. 
	Trying to get a corrupt system to listen to the people it’s supposed to serve can be exhausting, having to kiss up to a council is demoralizing, and writing letters and signing petitions doesn't necessarily make me feel like a radical — but it’s worked to pause the sales of two other legacy forests locally in the past year. We’re prepared to use frontlines tactics in the woods if we need to, but as of now see that as a last resort to protect these forests.  
	This is resistance, much like a forest it's sometimes slow moving, quiet, and always transforming.  
For more updates on the Box of Rain timber sale and the protection of Legacy Forests look for @bellingham.forest.defense on Instagram