Members of the activist group Cascadia Forest Defenders are participating in a week long-tree sitting demonstration in front of the Collier House in order to “draw attention to the intersection of industrial timber harvest and climate change,” according to a press release from the group.
The industrial timber harvest is in reference to a planned logging of Thurston Hills, which would log 100 acres of forest land about 10 miles East of Eugene.
“This is land that UO students use. It’s one of the only local mountain biking trails and they’re trying to cut the entire forest. Like you’re going to literally mountain bike through a clear cut? It doesn’t really make sense,” said Courtney Kaltenbach, a first-year University of Oregon music major involved in the protest.
The two activists in the tree displayed a banner reading “Forest defense is climate defense,” which is a reference to forests’ ability to capture carbon.
“Forests sequester carbon, so if we can protect our forests and not cut them down, we’re mitigating maybe some of the warming and the amount of carbon released,” said a member of the demonstration who identified himself as Fox Cascadia.
Fox said that the demonstrators climbed the tree during the night “under the veil of darkness.”
“The tactic of tree sitting is to physically put yourself in the tree with the hopes that they won’t cut it down because we’re hoping that they’ll value at least human life even if they’re not valuing the tree’s life.”
Robi Robichaud, one of the demonstrators sitting in the tree, said that she would remain there until at least Thursday.
Fox said that the group chose to tree sit because other methods of direct action may turn people away from the cause of climate action.
“We wanted to do an action that would be attention getting without disrupting too much on campus because if we were blocking doors or something like that, it might upset people more [rather] than getting people on our side.”
As of 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning, the University of Oregon Police Department has not told the activists to descend from their leafy canopy.
“There’s definitely some university policies at issue,” said UOPD Corporal Steven Barrett.
UO spokeswoman Molly Blancett said in a statement that the UO supports the group’s right to protest so long as it is done safely.
“We support healthy forests, sustainable forest practices, and the group’s right to protest as long as it is done in a safe manner that does not disrupt campus operations.”
Blancett said in an email that the university is looking into whether tree sitting is a non-disruptive protest done in a safe manner.
Fox said that simply handing out flyers to a passersby would not get their attention about the group’s objective, but tree sitting would be a more active form of engagement.
“It’s a spectacle in order to get people’s attention because if I’m out here by myself handing out flyers, not many people are going to want to take them. If somebody sees somebody up in a tree they might be a curious and hopefully they’ll take a flyer and they’ll read more and they might get involved.”
Members of the Cascadia Forest Defense will also be participating in a “Critical Mass Bike Ride” to Springfield City Hall on Thursday evening. The event starts at 6 p.m. and will begin on 13th and University St.