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Community members launch a second blockade to stop logging of public lands as the forest protection movement grows

Report on community activists’ blockade of logging of old-growth forests in Southern Oregon.

Community activists have begun occupying an old growth tree that will be cut down on Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property outside the Rogue River in Southern Oregon. Activists are protesting the agency’s practices of targeting mature and old-growth forests for logging, specifically using road construction loopholes to aggressively log threatened ecosystems in the Rogue Gold Forest Management Project. The occupation comes just a few weeks after a successful protest at the agency’s nearby Poor Windy Timber Sale, where activists won a concession to preserve a swath of old trees after nearly a month of roosting in the trees.

“We were inspired by the victory at Poor Windy to take a stand against further logging in our community,” said Topaz Thomson, a community organizer and the person occupying the tree. “Unethical practices are not unique to one or two projects, but rather an institutional part of the way the BLM manages Oregon’s forests.”

The Rogue Gold project targets more than 2,000 hectares for commercial logging, including significant amounts of old growth and mature forests. Community groups and environmental organizations have publicly opposed this project since it was originally proposed in 2021, with logging moving forward despite active lawsuits.

“People have been going through all the prescribed routes for years to express their opposition to this logging project, but the BLM” said Larry Berg, a Jackson County resident. “Our direct action is the last remaining option open to us to preserve this natural space that many people in our community love and enjoy.”

The forest where activists have set up their tree-sitting profession is near the communities of Rogue River and Gold Hill. It is a common area for recreation, such as mountain biking and hiking. Industrial logging increases both the severity and frequency of wildfires, further threatening the way of life of rural communities. Logging is also the largest source of carbon emissions in Oregon. The sale is just one of several controversial logging projects the BLM has proposed in Oregon in recent years.

“BLM logging projects like Poor Windy and Rogue Gold target some of the last remaining stands of old-growth, carbon-rich trees left in Oregon,” says organizer Sam Shields. “Cutting down trees does not make forests more resistant to fire, as the BLM would have us believe, but actually has the opposite effect: increasing the risk of wildfires, endangering our communities and causing the climate crisis.”

The project area is also home to endangered species, including the Northern Spotted Owl, Franklin’s Bumblebee and Coho Salmon. Commercial logging is known to not only endanger wildlife habitat and increase the risk of wildfires, but also harm soil and waterways.