Lighting the Fuse 

Smoldering Aftermath Raises Questions about Local Greens

Just hours before the logging season officially began on June 1, fifty activists picked up where they left off last summer and formed a human blockade across a dirt road leading into a section of Mt. Hood National Forest--the fiercely contested Eagle Creek stand of trees. Meanwhile, five protestors hung suspended in makeshift tree squats. But the morning stillness on the tree-spiked flank of Mount Hood ended abruptly when three logging semi-trucks went up in flames.

A dramatic increase in aggression from tactics used over the past few summers at Eagle Creek, the explosion of three logging trucks illuminated not only an increasingly desperate battle to stop logging, but also fissures within the principles and tactics of the local environmental community. While activists have remained staunch in their demands to halt logging at Eagle Creek, they also quickly distanced themselves from responsibility for the eco-terrorism.

"The arson was ineffective," says Donald Fontenot, spokesman for Cascadia Forest Alliance, an organization that has been at the forefront of Eagle Creek protests. "It didn't galvanize any type of public support," he remarks. "If you're going to do something, do it right, for god's sake! Everything else is just a distraction."

"We break the laws we feel are unethical and immoral," adds Fontenot. "But that action only increased the tension."

The controversy over logging at Eagle Creek has resumed at the same stalemate where it left off last summer, following Tre Arrow's eleven-day saga spent perched on the Forest Reserve Headquarters in downtown Portland. In spite of steady pressure from federal and local politicians and plans to scuttle logging at Eagle Creek, the Forest Service announced they fully intend to cut 1000 acres of Douglas Firs bordering the Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness Area, within the Eagle Creek area. Activists argue that logging will adversely effect a particularly plump watershed, a source of water for 185,000 Oregonians.

The most recent wrestling match between the Forest Service and environmentalists began May 30, when a law enforcement officer attempted to cut a line holding up a tree-sit where a protestor was perching. Several activists grappled to grab the line from him. In the scuffle, one activist's hand was sliced open. (As a result of the injury, there is a pending lawsuit.)

Even after the Forest Service finally removed the tree-sits, activists managed to halt logging for a few more days. Fifty activists simultaneously flung themselves in front of a bulldozer that was heading on to a forest road; they refused to move, and the blockade stopped all traffic. However, by June 4, less than one hundred hours after the explosion, logging began for the season.

So far, no group has stepped forward to claim responsibility for the explosion; but many have remarked on the similarities between that incident and recent incendiary acts taken by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). On Easter morning, ELF blew up two Ross Island Sand & Gravel trucks in SE Portland and coyly claimed that the bombs were a treat left in the corporate Easter basket. More recently, ELF claimed responsibility for two fires on May 21; the first set a fleet of thirteen logging trucks aflame in Clatskanie, Oregon, and a second destroyed a genetic research lab at the University of Washington.

"At this point, ELF has not demonstrated that they have been involved in any way at Eagle Creek," said Craig Rosebraugh, ELF's perennial spokesperson. "Whether they do or not, I support the action as a means of inflicting economic damage," he added. "Ultimately, the ELF will continue to create an unsafe environment for any corporation or sector of society that profits over the loss of life, until the cost of business becomes so high that they are forced into re-considering these unjust acts."

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