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June 2, 2004

A line in the forest

Greenpeace sets up nationís first forest rescue center as activists pledge to fight proposed Southern Oregon timber sales

By PAUL FATTIG
Mail Tribune 6/2/04

GALICE ó Wearing a T-shirt identifying her as a member of the "Forest Crime Unit," Ginger Cassady opened Greenpeaceís first forest rescue station in the United States Tuesday morning.

The station, which includes two 24-foot-wide dome-style tents, several smaller tents, a fire truck and a satellite communications system powered by solar energy, is located on the edge of the Bureau of Land Managementís proposed Kelsey Whiskey timber sales, which the group and many other environmentalists oppose.

The area some 20 miles west of Galice represents hundreds of planned timber sales on public forestlands across the nation despite opposition, said Cassady. The group is calling for a commercial logging moratorium in old-growth timber on public forests.

"If the American people donít draw a line in the sand, then the Bush administration is going to leave us with a tragic legacy ó a graveyard of stumps," she said.

"This is why Greenpeace is here today ó to stop it before itís too late."

 

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The station will provide a place for visitors to learn the ecological importance of the region and the planned logging in the area, Cassady said.

"Greenpeace has come to Southern Oregon because this is a place of international significance," she said. "We are here to support the local efforts trying to save these forests."

Greenpeace campaign director Bill Richardson, a 16-year veteran of actions in both forests and aboard ships, said the group has a history of protecting forests worldwide.

"Oregon has one of the most biologically diverse old-growth ecosystems in the country," he said. "It is the perfect place from which to address an issue which has incredible significance for our entire country."

He declined to discuss what actions the group, which has a history of peaceful protests, would do to stop logging on Kelsey Whiskey. The group has also expressed opposition to the planned timber salvage of trees killed by the 2002 Biscuit fire on the Siskiyou National Forest.

"Whatever is required," he said.

Ashland resident Dot Fisher-Smith, 75, a local activist and one of several people attending a remote press conference Tuesday, applauded the presence of the global group.

"I feel grateful that Greenpeace has recognized the wild Siskiyous as an area needing protection," she said. "This area is diverse and fragile. Iím glad that Greenpeace is bringing attention to it nationally and, I hope, internationally."

But Mary Smelcer, associate manager of the BLMís Medford District, hopes a representative of the group would contact the agency first.

"They havenít communicated with us," she said. "At this point, weíll spend some time making contact with them and talking to them. People have a right to camp on public lands."

She declined to predict what could happen if the group stays beyond the 14-day camping limitation on district land per 90-day period.

The first Kelsey Whiskey timber sale, which includes about 9 million board feet being logged on some 800 acres, is expected to be sold this summer, she said.

However, she said the sales are in full compliance with environmental laws.

Jay Lininger disagrees. The fourth-generation Southern Oregon native and a graduate student of forest ecology and fire science at the University of Montana at Missoula said he believes logging the area threatens the environment.

"The Kelsey Whiskey sale is emblematic of an addiction by BLM foresters to log the largest, most ecological valuable trees on public land," he said.

Ashland resident Ken Morrish, a fourth-generation fly-fisherman who has guided throughout Alaska, Oregon and California, noted the public forests belong to the public, not the agencies or private timber interests.

"We need to stand up for those lands today," he said. "... These forests are vital parts of an interconnected ecosystem and a vital part to the health of the local economies.

"Enough is enough," he added. "We need to draw a line, starting right here today. We need to speak up in behalf of what is rightfully the living natural legacy of all Americans."

 

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