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Sitting Die-hards

Sitting Die-hards


As the Croy Fire blackened 3,127 acres west of Morgan Hill, forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate during Santa Clara County’s biggest wildfire in 17 years, tree-sitters at Ramsey Gulch endured the smoke, though at one point they were breathing through gas masks, and an activist named Echo nearly passed out as the fire raged two miles away.
The smoke was just the latest in a series of threats (chain saws and rifles being the others) that have challenged sitters in the seven weeks they’ve occupied their perches high in the forest canopy.
Undeterred, the activists have kept their bodies where their beliefs are, with, in and up the trees, to protest the logging operations of industrial timber corporation Redwood Empire. But in similar die-hard fashion, foresters have kept on logging.
“Even if we can’t stop all the logging, we are there to bear witness and nonviolently defend the trees one at a time with our own lives,” said forest activist Dragonfly, adding that the group is practicing civil obedience “to draw attention to an unjust situation.”
Since Aug. 15, some 15-20 activists have rotated the occupation of three platforms attached to trees they have dubbed Esperanza, Free, Critter and Fresco.
Their efforts have not gone unchallenged. On Aug. 24, loggers cut down a few acres of trees immediately surrounding the tree-sitters’ platforms. And two weeks ago, two unidentified men claiming to own the land threatened a tree-sitter with a rifle, reportedly claiming they would shoot if the tree-sitter did not vacate by the time they returned, which the men so far haven’t.
Although conservation groups and government agencies, including the Department of Fish and Game, the county Board of Supes and the Watsonville Regional Water Quality Control Board, have opposed Redwood Empire’s latest harvest, the plan received the California Department of Forestry’s rubber-stamp approval.
“We don’t believe that the California Department of Forestry does an adequate job of protecting ecosystems in California. This timber harvest is particularly disastrous because the slopes are so steep [and] the soil so erosive, and there’s fish in the stream,” says Earth First! activist Dennis Davies.
For those who haven’t been following the Redwood Empire saga, the Mendocino-based corporation is the largest private landowner in Santa Cruz County and first left its mark on the Ramsey area in 1998 when it logged bordering Gamecock Canyon, receiving in the process more than 30 citations from the California Department of Forestry for violating state Forest Practice Rules.
The 60-acre stretch of towering second-growth redwoods and Douglas fir that Redwood Empire is currently logging lies across Ramsey Creek from the 155 acres it harvested in 2000--an affair that inspired Santa Cruz County’s first tree-sit, in which activists succeeded in preserving two acres.
Says Dragonfly of the current tree-sit,
“Hopefully, the same way that civil disobedience has moved people to assert their rights, our efforts will empower citizens of Santa Cruz to fight corporate exploitation of the precious forests and watersheds that families depend on for clean water just as other birds and fish and wildlife depend on it for their survival.”

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