Tree sitter “Rook” ends nearly two months of living up in a tree as part of an ongoing campaign to stop logging in the ancient Mattole forest in Northern California.
Petrolia, CA — On Tuesday, August 6th, after 60 days living in the canopy of a giant Douglas fir tree on Rainbow Ridge to protest Humboldt Redwood Company’s (HRC) logging operations, a tree sitter going by the name “Rook” climbed down. Over the course of the 60 days, Rook endured harsh conditions at the hands of the private security guards who attempted to starve them out of the tree. Upon their decent, Rook was escorted off the property by HRC security and was not arrested.
Two months ago, on June 7th, Rook climbed into the canopy in protest at the start of HRCs contentious logging operations. The tree sit has called public attention to the ongoing resistance to protect Rainbow Ridge and is part of a decades long struggle to protect the area from exploitation by logging corporations.
Despite the fact that HRC lumber is labeled “sustainable” by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), advocates for forest protection argue that the ecological significance of the Rainbow Ridge forest has been intentionally downplayed by HRC. “The tree I’ve been living in has all the important physical characteristics associated with old growth,” says Rook “but still falls outside of HRCs qualifiers for protected status, which primarily depends on age. While HRC promotes their policy as ecologically sound and sustainable, they continue to log un-entered stands and send forest giants like this to the sawmill.”
During the two months spent 100 feet up in the giant fir, Rook endured harassment by Lear Asset Management, a private militarized security firm hired by HRC to patrol the woods. The guards maintained a 24/7 encampment to prevent supporters from delivering needed supplies. Lear hired a climber to raid the tree sit, cutting down Rook’s supplies. Multiple attempts were made to force them down with thirst and starvation and threats of extraction.
From their perch, Rook witnessed daily logging and road construction in the surrounding forest. Logging work in the area has neared completion, leaving a hillside freshly scarred by road construction and covered in dead standing oak trees that HRC killed with herbicides. Because the tree Rook occupied was directly in the path of road construction, the company was forced to build the road around it.
“I hope HRC leaves the tree standing, especially now that operations are wrapping up in that area, with the falling crew long gone and the yarding finished,” Rook said.
For many local residents who lived through the height of the timber wars of the 90’s, Rook’s tree sit and the company’s escalated response sparked a déjà vu effect. Protests and acts of civil disobedience are expected to continue.
Message from Rook:
“After two months living in Trickster, I’m on the ground again. I’m not some arboreal creature. I can’t live 100ft up sitting on a net, eating clif bars indefinately. I did what I could as long as I could, and I desperately hope it was enough.
All those weeks ago, when I lost the traverse to other trees, which would have blocked the road, I had to figure out my priority. Do I try for a more strategic position, or stay here until there is at least a chance that Trickster will survive this? What matters more – protecting one worthy tree, or sacrificing it to relentlessly dog the company elsewhere?
I decided to stay, of course. Every day I decided that for the many gifts that trees give, and we so thanklessly take, I owe this one better then to abandon it as spent tactic.
Now the fallers are long gone, it’s been weeks since any trees have been cut. The logs have all been hauled up to the road to be loaded on trucks and sent away, and I decided it was time to go. I have no power over what happens next. In good faith, I gave warning before coming down. I removed everything from the tree and took it out with me. The swaying, cradle of a net I’ve been living in crumpled down into a messy tangle that fits easily into a grocery bag!
I was not arrested, but driven to a nearby town, where friends waited. It’s appreciated, as a sign of de-escalation. I hope this bodes well for Trickster. I do, actually, think HRC may be better then timber companies who will spitefully cut a tree, profitably or not, who someone, in hope and love, tried to protect. I hope they are satisfied – they got what they wanted, barely hindered. Every other tree they marked for cut on this hillside is either on the ground or in the sawmills.
I don’t actually talk to trees a lot. Ain’t that kind of tree hugger most days. But, the first night, in the quiet, satisfied time after the big push to hike gear in and haul it up, but before the threat and noise and endless scrutiny of the Lear occupation, I felt very aware of trees as living beings. More then just big forest structures. I only ever said out loud; “Trickster, I hope you live”. -Rook