A month after the U.S. Forest Service canceled a controversial logging sale, about 300 environmentalists marched through Portland in an attempt to demand a comprehensive moratorium on all logging on Oregon's public lands. For the past 5 years, a loose coalition of environmental activists has focused on Eagle Creek--a 2,000-acre patch of trees along Mt. Hood's flank. With the sale's cancellation in March, they won a major victory... but not the war.
Like Napoleon's ambitions overreaching his army's abilities, local environmentalists quickly transformed a hard-earned victory at Eagle Creek into unbending arrogance. Instead of continuing on the tedious path of shutting down timber sales one by one, on Friday afternoon, they called on the Forest Service to declare all public lands off limits to all logging.
Dressed in bunny ears and straddling bicycles, a group of 300 activists snaked through Friday's lunch hour. Arriving at the Forest Service headquarters, the protesters banged tin pans and pressed signs against the plate glass doors. The tone was more annoyingly juvenile than persuasive.
"There's more of us than there are of you," said Sarah Wald, from Cascadia Forest Alliance, through a megaphone to the 20 office workers gathered inside. "And we have a lot more fun than you do sitting in your office."
The Forest Service workers who gathered inside the building to watch the protest waved, smiled pleasantly, and snapped photos. Since Bush took office, his administration has rolled back bans on logging roads and pressured for timber sales.
Yes, protests have drawn attention to endangered patches of land. This diligent and often thankless work needs to continue. But pie-in-the-sky demands do little to advance any dialogue with the Forest Service; Friday's demands offered no obtainable goals or a realistic working plan. Ironically, they echo the same entrenched position that environmentalists say they hear from logging companies.
Portland's environmentalists would do well to take their victory at Eagle Creek as the first baby step in a long journey, and as a sign that the Forest Service is willing to hear viable negotiations. Acting like bratty teenagers, as they did on Friday, they are missing the forest for the trees and mistaking a won battle for the war.