Worth More Standing: UO Students Join Forest Defenders To Rise Against Post-Fire Logging

Topaz Climate Justice League #climate #event

Have you ever stopped in the shade of a towering tree, and just looked up? Have you ever felt a mystical tug to give a tree a hug? Have you ever soaked up their love? No way, same! But even if you’re totally not that type… trees love you anyway. They maintain ecosystem resilience against escalated threats and buffer the world against climate change, providing us living things with continued breathable air, drinkable water, and livable land. Forests also feature in all aspects of human culture: language, history, art, religion, medicine, politics, and even social structure itself. Our sense of being rooted in community is learned from trees, as well as our sense of grounded emotional well-being.

So wrap your arms around a tree— there’s a moment of serenity and reverence waiting at every Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar, Hemlock, Big Leaf Maple, Alder, Pine, and Yew.

All of these species, plus countless more were observed to be alive and thriving by forest defenders in the post-wildfire ecosystem of the Breitenbush watershed, located between Portland and Eugene in the Willamette National Forest. This area has been the site of the Highway 46 project since 2019, which involves thinning and logging to make way for development on privately owned forest land— which is actually land stolen by settlers from Indigenous peoples, many of whose descendants are now members of the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and Klamath Tribes. No timber sales on stolen land!

The Highway 46 project is being challenged by environmental groups including the Cascadia Forest Defenders in a lawsuit after the Forest Service changed the logging agreement to remove more timber than had originally been proposed. These modifications came following the 2020 Labor Day fires that swept through the area, fueled by gusting, unpredictable winds, drought, and scorching heat as a result of manmade climate change. Salvage loggers and their allies at the American Forest Resource

Council claim that burned forests are choked with dead and dying trees, which will fuel future wildfires, reduce public lands access, and create more dangerous conditions for firefighters, forest workers, and visitors.

Big surprise— they’re manipulating us!

Salvage logging rips out recovering ecosystems which are naturally able to thrive again post-fire, sells the wood, and calls it “management.” The harsh reality is that the entire West must prepare for even more brutal wildfire seasons to come. Now is the time to stand with the trees, which protect all life against the escalating consequences of ecological destruction and climate change, including wildfires.

Loggers who appropriate the idea of “healthy forests, healthy communities” so they can make money are not to be trusted.

After all, any environmentalist knows the answer to the question, “What will money buy when there are no more trees?”

Salvage loggers’ business venture in disaster capitalism cannot kill our lived-in truth—Trees are always worth more standing!

That’s why over 50 students, community members, educators, and activists young and old risked arrest to protest post-fire logging on Tuesday, Nov 16th, occupying a logging road in a section of the Breitenbush watershed forest impending to be clear-cut. Behind a giant blockade built from gathered branches, they learned about the lies of salvage logging in Oregon and its logic of disaster capitalism, the wonders of post-fire forest ecology, and the joy of participating in direct action.

Community members shared their knowledge and skills in a series of workshops designed to educate and empower communities towards forest defense. One workshop focused on affinity groups, which are a strategy for small- scale community organizing, action, and resistance. Other workshops included field-checking, or gathering evidence about the state of an ecosystem, and hands- on outdoor learning and discussion.

Activists were able to explore the forest behind the blockade and connect with its renewed stage of life. For many, this occupation marked their first time being up close to a forest ecosystem recovering from wildfire. They discovered for themselves a landscape teeming with native evergreens, shrubs such as huckleberry, and several species of ferns. The patches of blackened soil on the forest floor were spread with fungi, mushrooms, and biodiverse bunches of mosses and lichens. It was fascinating to touch sections of char burned into the tree trunks, and observe how so many species are able to withstand fire damage and continue to grow on, even stronger than before.

If your heart has been broken by the wildfire seasons, realize that they will continue to worsen as climate change unfolds and late-stage capitalism persists. The sun glows redder and the smoke blows thicker every summer.

Climate change is here, and it has been here. So fight fossil fuels, and fight the capitalist police-state that sits back and watches us burn.

If your heart has been broken by the wildfire seasons, realize that the earth’s shared defense against the quickly compounding risks associated with climate change and environmental degradation exists in forests. They hold and protect the soil, filter air, regulate water in ecosystems, manage the weather, protect rivers and streams, and provide life.

So keep on hugging trees, and shout it out— Worth More Standing!

I encourage any UO students, faculty, staff, workers, and readers in Eugene and beyond to rise in resistance to the destruction of forests—without them, what would home be? Throw down your societal obligations to learn, grow, and stand strong in forest defense… Because the trees need your love now more than ever.

• Follow the work of environmentalist groups who helped organize this protest on instagram: Cascadia Forest Defenders @treesittersunion, and Portland Rising Tide @portlandrisingtide.

• Want to join other UO students passionate about forest defense? Email climatejusticeleague@gmail.com to join Climate Justice League’s forest defense crew!

• Readers are also welcome to email us insurgentuo@gmail.com to learn more about this direct action, or to express interest in plugging into local forest defense affinity groups.