Civil disobedience heats up in Oregon

  Frustrated by their inability to appeal two old-growth logging sales, environmentalists in Oregon have taken to the woods. More than 30 people have been arrested since Sept. 11 in protests against the Sugarloaf logging operation in southern Oregon's Siskiyou National Forest (HCN, 9/19/94).


Farther north, in the Willamette National Forest, 20 to 30 people have set up camp while awaiting a salvage logging operation at an area burned by an arsonist in 1991. The activists plan acts of civil disobedience to halt logging at Warner Creek.


In both cases, courts dismissed appeals of the timber sales, citing legislation barring legal challenges. A 1989 bill insulated the Sugarloaf sale from appeal, and though much of the Warner Creek area was protected under President Bill Clinton's Northwest Forest Plan, the court said it fell under a recent ban of challenges to salvage sales. "Now we have nothing left but the court of public opinion and acts of civil disobedience," said Tim Hermach, of the Eugene-based Native Forest Council, in the Oregonian.


To counter protests, the Forest Service has sealed off more than 35 square miles around the Sugarloaf sale, with round-the-clock guards in what one agency official described as "the largest (operation) I've ever seen." A new gate blocks the road leading to the Warner Creek site, and a Willamette National Forest spokesperson says that anyone interfering with logging operations will be arrested. Activists have announced that protests will continue.


* Warren Cornwall