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JDSF supporters gather at courthouse

Half a dozen people carrying signs that say, "We stand with the Pomo," and "Save big trees."
People carrying signs supporting activists, who had their day in court Feb 15.

February 21, 2022 — It was cold and windy at 9am on February 15, at the Ten Mile Courthouse on Franklin Street in Fort Bragg, California, where four activists appeared in court. Six activists in total were “citizens arrested” January 10 in Jackson Demonstration State Forest while protesting the timber harvest plan known as Red Tail. This is the first interaction the protesters have had with law enforcement. The four cases are still under review and the other two protesters’ cases are on the docket for February 22.

They were blockading an entrance to the logging site. The Save Jackson Coalition activists are calling for a halt to all logging while the forest timber management plan is being reviewed.

I spoke with the protesters here for their court appearances and the dozen supporters on site, many holding signs on the sidewalk to show their support.The six activists were given citations for trespassing and false imprisonment, which all are contesting. An activist who calls himself Silver Fox described his experience. “The odd thing about it is that I was not in the restricted area at all. I was in front of the gate, but I was cited for trespassing. The more bizarre charge is false imprisonment. The gate was open behind me so the loggers could have walked past. We are trained non-violently not to impede them in any way, so these charges are very, very strange.”

There is a deeper story, and it's why the six felt it was important enough to get arrested. Here's where this issue goes far beyond personalities, and semantics. Lifelong local Michelle MacMillan says that Big River (an estuary in Jackson State Forest) was her backyard growing up. She has come back now to help the Jackson defense with an education in political economics and environmental anthropology. “The six forest defenders that were arrested were arrested in the Red Tail Timber Harvest Plan, which is an old forest development zone, which means there is limitations on the amount of trees they can remove. And the timber harvest plan exceeds those limitations. Letters have been sent, and official statements have been made. But the plan was allowed to proceed regardless.”

On June 18, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-15-19, which acknowledges and apologizes on behalf of the State for the historical “violence, exploitation, dispossession and the attempted destruction of tribal communities” which dislocated California Native Americans from their ancestral land and sacred practices. …to seek opportunities to support California tribes’ co-management of and access to natural land that are within a California tribe’s ancestral land and under the ownership or control of the State of California.”

On November 16, 2021, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution asking for a scientific review of the management at Jackson Demonstration State Forest, with an eye toward meeting environmental goals laid out by the governor. Naomi Wagner, friend and colleague of Judi Bari’s, referred to this order when she said, “In Jackson Forest we have these big old trees, that we need for carbon sequestration, we need them for fire resilience, and we need them for the cultural and spiritual aspects that are found in the archaeology there. Our coalition is Save Jackson forest and we are led by the Pomo tribe, because this is their ancestral territory, so we really take our direction from them, and the direction we are going is actually the direction that governor Newsom is taking.. he has made a directive last fall to all the state land agencies to start doing co-management with the tribes, which means including them in all aspects of managements and listening to the tribes when they talk about traditional ecological knowledge so that’s what we are trying to promote and support in Jackson now, for the directive to be implemented by the board of forestry and by Cal Fire, they are the problem really, they are just dragging their feet, they are stalling, they are not wanting to implement it, and so we have to keep the pressure up. “

On January 19, Calfire Deputy Director of Natural Resources Matthew Reischman said, “Due to delays … no additional timber sales will be offered in 2022.” But this is just a temporary respite for the forest. Save Jackson Coalition responded by saying, “A temporary halt in sales is a great first step. Now we need an official moratorium, and a commitment to fully review the management plan.” For example, Caspar 500 is still under consideration for future logging operations, which is an essential watershed area for any possible future salmon recovery efforts.

Long time local Veronica was at the courthouse to support the protesters, and this is what she has to say: “Caspar 500 is in my backyard. A responsibility that this community needs to take on is that this is our forest, this is our home and if the amount of logging continues in JDSF, we are not going to have anything left for our children and our grandchildren. “

Sara Rose, co-founder of Mendocino County Youth for Climate, was on hand to speak to the topic. MCYC is “A local group of concerned youth. We are working with the coalition to save JDSF for our future because we know this is the largest state demonstration forest, it contains the best carbon sequesters in the world – second growth coast Redwoods – and we need to ensure they can be standing to sequester as much carbon as they can, to help mitigate the climate crisis as much as possible.” MCYC plans to join a statewide school strike on March 25, when students will travel to Sacramento for a rally to raise awareness and support for saving the redwoods.

Local News
Keri Ann Bourne is a long-time coastal resident covering social and environmental issues that are important to her community.