Loggers clear timber sale roadblock
McKENZIE BRIDGE — Loggers regained full access to a controversial timber sale Wednesday by pulling apart a roadblock that environmental activists installed on a forest road that leads to the sale.
The loggers arrived around 7:20 a.m., attached a chain and a haul hitch to a pickup truck that was part of the roadblock and pulled it out of the way, said a protester who goes by the name North. For two days, he had been on a platform 80 feet up in a tree, supported by a rope anchored to the roadblock.
Protesters on the ground Wednesday morning yelled at the loggers not to move the pickup truck, warning that doing so would put him in danger, North said, but they did it anyway. He said he didn’t fall because he had safety equipment. He later came down from the tree and moved away from the roadblock.
The forest road just north of McKenzie Bridge provides the only access to the W Timber Sale within the Goose Project.
During the roadblock, at least one logger walked about a half-mile to fell trees.
Willamette National Forest spokeswoman Judith McHugh confirmed that loggers removed part of the roadblock Wednesday, adding that the road was completely open again by noon. The road also leads to the Frissell South Trailhead. She said no arrests or citations were made.
Activists with Eugene-based Cascadia Forest Defenders set up the roadblock overnight Sunday, preventing loggers from driving into the W Timber Sale from Monday morning until Wednesday morning. The sale is one of more than 70 pieces of the 2,452-acre Goose Project, which has been the subject of debate for more than five years.
The project was subject to lawsuits, which led to more thorough environmental review and more public discussion, but gained Forest Service approval. It calls for more than 2,000 acres of logging all told, ranging from thinning to more intensive logging for merchantable wood.
Loggers began preparing the W Timber Sale for helicopter logging earlier this month by cutting trees to clear a landing.
Seneca Sawmill of Eugene was the highest bidder for the timber sale on public land, which was offered by the Willamette National Forest.
The company purchased the sale after the forest and the community decided how to manage the woods around McKenzie Bridge, said Casey Roscoe, Seneca’s senior vice president for public relations. She said the Goose Project was not a snap decision because it took years to develop.
“Clearly it’s not just about cutting (timber),” Roscoe said. “It’s about thinning. It’s about wildlife.”
Forest Service officials have said the thinning will lower fire risk and improve habitat, but project critics say there will be too much logging and it will be detrimental to the McKenzie River.
She called the roadblock a “bummer,” and said it was the Forest Service’s responsibility to provide a safe working environment for loggers.
One protester said he was assaulted by a logger just before the roadblock was dismantled.
Tree sits and roadblocks have become direct action tactics for environmental activists over the years.
Oregon State Police troopers and Coos County deputies arrested three tree sitters associated with Cascadia Forest Defenders during a 2011 protest at the Elliott State Forest northeast of Coos Bay. The three were charged with second-degree trespass.
Oregon lawmakers in 2013 passed a law allowing timber companies to sue people who block roads or otherwise impede logging. Forest Service law enforcement officers at the roadblock near McKenzie Bridge on Tuesday said the protesters were violating a federal rule prohibiting roadblocks, but they only asked the activists to leave.
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