On the morning of Saturday, May 15 a tree sitter going by the name of “Querc” woke up to an unidentified man climbing up Mama Tree, the two hundred year old redwood that has become the center of a debate over land use in California’s Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF).
“You’re not even going to say good morning first?” Querc called down to the stranger. The climber- who removed safety equipment from the Mama Tree after taking down a banner reading “Save and Protect Jackson State, The Forest of the People”, was working with a partner. The tree sitter was not able to identify either of the men, but has said they were quiet and non threatening. The two men took materials including a first aid kit, a small table and chair, an empty trash can, and burlap sacks which were being used to protect the redwood feeder roots in the area. They left behind food and some adornments. Querc later said she believed they may have taken everything if they had not heard her on the phone with other activists.
Querc is the latest in a rotation of sitters going back to early April, when a local high school senior going by “Greasy Pete” climbed Mama Tree in anticipation of logging in Caspar 500. A favorite destination for locals and tourists, Caspar 500 is one of six THPs currently approved for harvest in JDSF. The activists are calling for a two year moratorium on all of JDSF, and the immediate protection of the forests total 48,652 acres. Responding to concerns about possible job losses, community activists are advocating for retraining funds and jobs in restoration at equal pay.
Over the last two months, support for the tree sit has mushroomed, with the surrounding community members rallying around the tree sit, bringing food and supplies, and taking turns sitting with the trees. They say logging, especially the cutting of big trees like the ones in Caspar 500, has been shown to increase the risk of wildfire damage to a forest and surrounding areas (Hanson, 2020). Additionally, removing these trees reduces ground cover and fog retention, two things that combine to increase drought and climate change (Herbert, 2014).
Timber revenue in Mendocino County has been declining for years, with tourism now accounting for more than four times Mendocino County’s revenue from timber operations. A 2017 economic study in the county found that while timber brought in 102 million dollars to the County, tourism brought in 456 million. Meanwhile, JDSF was responsible for merely 5% of the total timber income (EDFC, 2018/19)
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