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Ramsey Gulch latest update

02/25/01

For the past seven months, a group of determined activists has occupied two redwood groves slated for "selective harvest" by local lumber behemoth Redwood Empire (RE) on the steep, rocky northwestern slope of Ramsey Gulch. The treesitters are protecting about three of the 158 acres in RE's Timber Harvest Plan (THP) in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, high above the waterfalls and shaded pools of a creek that joins the Pajaro River to replenish the watershed of the city of Watsonville, supplying water to the farms and sprawling suburbs of the Salinas Valley.

Earth First! Santa Cruz and the Canopy Action Network joined forces in June, establishing a treesit 100 feet up in an old-growth redwood (dubbed "Wisdom") in Ramsey Gulch on the 18th, just one day ahead of the timber fellers' arrival. As three crews worked their way down the ridges and along the creek with their six-foot chain-saws, forest defenders rushed to protect additional trees in the THP, connecting them with rope walkways high in the canopy.

By early July, there were more than a dozen such traverses, protecting more than 75 trees, and the solo treesit had grown into a village of four platforms inhabited by a rotating crew of ewoks. The traverse between the trees Epic and Patience, 140 feet across at a height of 125 feet or so, bridged the gap between two groves, saving the second -- "Laughter Grove"-- from the saw by a matter of hours.

Wisdom's fire-scarred trunk signifies her survival of the first logging operation to ravage Ramsey Gulch, back in 1893, when the hillsides were set on fire following the felling of giant, ancient trees by handsaw, leaving only the fire-resistant logs (which were then hauled out of the gulch by oxen, and a handful of hardy, standing trees. In the last century, with her fellow residual old-growth trees, Wisdom has witnessed the regeneration of the forest, with its rich diversity of redwoods, Douglas firs, tan oaks and madrones, ferns and vines. The saplings that sprouted 107 years ago have matured now, grown tall and stout to take their forebears' places, branches and needles reaching sunward to recreate the primordial canopy torn asunder by the initial cut.

Of course, Redwood Empire considers its holdings in Ramsey Gulch a "tree farm," and denies the existence there of any old-growth stands. Completely disregarding Santa Cruz County ordinance 4571, which prescribes 50-foot protection zones for Class II streams like Ramsey Creek, the High Country fellers hired by Redwood Empire cut trees just steps from the streambed, often dropping trees directly into the creek -- a practice explicitly prohibited by California Department of Forestry regulations. (In a setback for forest defenders in Santa Cruz, a Superior Court judge recently ruled in favor of Big Creek Lumber in the company's suit against the county. The judge declared Ordinance 4571 and other related county-imposed regulations to be "illegal" because they interfered with CDF's state-level authority.)

In addition, numerous trees on the steep hillsides were felled in a downhill direction, crushing hardwoods and delicate forest-floor foliage before sliding down to the creek in a violent avalanche of thrashing branches and cracking limbs. Seasonal, Class III streams were subject to even worse abuse, and remain clogged with slash and fallen hardwoods. The canopy cover along the creek, 75% of which is required to be maintained under CDF regulations, has been totally wiped out in many places, leaving football-field sized areas of the hillside -- formerly enclosed in emerald shade -- exposed to direct sunlight for hours at a time. In the months since the cut and subsequent removal of logs by helicopter, the hillsides have been baked dry; recent rains created perfect conditions for erosion and revealed the potential for mudslides, threatening the clear spring water that runs in the creek. Local friends of the forest report no fish sightings since early August.

Bringing things up to date: The struggle against Redwood Empire and the occupation of the canopy in Ramsey Gulch are still going strong. Wisdom recently welcomed the youngest treesitter ever, when activist Sparrow hiked in and climbed up with her seven-week-old daughter, Lilith Madrone to spend a magical night on the platform, high and dry under the tarpy roof despite heavy rains. This week Ralph Nader (the puppy) joined the ground support crew, and became the first canine in the canopy, hoisted up via pulley in a custom-made puppy harness.

What can you do to get involved? Help is needed in all areas -- we need local canvassers, protesters for in-town actions, gear and food donations, FUNDS! We've got bills out the wazoo and the timber companies are running rampant in Santa Cruz County, unprotested because we don't have the extra three dollars to spend on signs.

Thanks for all of your continuing support! The people in the tree are only branches of this campaign, which is nourished by the root structure of community involvement and generous donations.

See our wishlist for items that you could donate to help our treesit and/or email us at cruzef@cruzio.com if you want to become actively involved in the treesit.

 

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