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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com if you want to become actively involved
in the treesit.