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Environmental protesters demonstrate at a logging-related speaking event on Nov. 17, 2021. (Anya Caro/Daily Emerald)

Demonstrators, organized by the Climate Justice League and the Cascadia Forest Defenders, held a demonstration at a University of Oregon event hosting Tyler Freres of Freres Lumber Company on Wednesday. 

Demonstrators disrupted the event after approximately 40 minutes. They chanted, “forest defense is climate defense,” “worth more standing” and “off our campus.”

They protested Freres Lumber Company’s logging of both public and private forests and greenwashing of its business practices, according to their press release. Demonstrators turned questions into chants, pulling out signs and disrupting Frere’s talk until demonstrators were asked to leave. 

Greenwashing is a business’ strategy of appearing environmentally conscious and knowledgeable when the business also practices anti-environment friendly practices. 

Freres spoke about how the 2020 forest fires affected his and other private lumber industries in Oregon in terms of acres loss, financial impacts and the amount of salvage that can be done. 

Salvage logging refers to timber that can be logged depending on the level of severity the timber is burned, Freres said. Salvage logging is limited on public lands due to policy, staffing, budget and environmental challenges, he said. 

Courtney Kaltenbach, the Climate Justice League’s Co-Director and UO student, said there is science behind the harmful effects of logging and Frere’s company in a press release

“We’re not going to let this deceitful propaganda be spewed on our campus when the science is clear,” Kaltenbach said. “Post-fire logging is a scourge on the landscape impacting community drinking water resources and contributing to the climate crisis. We are here to send a clear message to Freres Lumber and all of those who would profit from the destruction of our forests and our climate: we will fight you at every step.”

At the event, Freres said his company would not be able to access the $5.9 billion worth of trees that could not be salvaged due to the 2020 wildfires. Instead, the affected trees would stay where they are and cannot be processed through his timber company, he said. The trees that are salvaged are replanted by aerial seeding. 

A demonstrator asked about Frere’s thoughts on research done illustrating the use of private horticulture’s monocropping increases the likelihood of forest fires. “The statistics on the topic show otherwise,” Frere said. 

The Climate Justice League and Cascadia Forest Defenders’ press release provided the research from forest ecologists Jerry Franklin and Norm Johnson and highlighted Franklin and Johnson’s recent opinion piece in the Statesman Journal, who finds the best approach to ecological recovery is to allow nature to heal organically.

The demonstrators also asked questions about the effects of the logging industry, including its relation with indigenous people and their land and whether the company profits from environmental destruction. 

The day before the event, community organizers defied a closure order and blockaded access, according to their press release, to hundreds of acres that were lightly-burned mature and old growth forests by Freres Lumber along the salmon-bearing Breitenbush River in the Willamette National Forest

The Climate Justice League’s website said public and private logging has significantly impacted the watershed since the 2020 fires. Logging near Breitenbush Watershed would affect the quality of drinking water in the Detroit reservoir that Willamette Valley residents rely on, the website said. 

“In the year since the 2020 Labor Day fires, the timber industry has leveled hundreds of thousands of acres of burned forest across the state, polluting drinking water, endangering communities and driving the climate crisis,” Eloise Navarro, an organizer with Climate Justice League, said. “There is no doubt that, if my generation even has a future, Freres Lumber and their work will be portrayed in our history books as criminals of the worst order.”

Organizers also protested against  the Forest Service and Freres changing contracts about the remaining trees from thinning to clearcutting. This will allow post-fire logging to continue without an additional environmental assessment and environmental impact analysis needed to identify if increased environmental degradation will occur from post-fire logging.

“Attempting to make a profit off of these critical ecosystems is despicable and nefarious behavior,” Sara James, an organizer with Cascadia Forest Defenders, said in their press release. “Especially during the climate crisis, Freres Timber has no right to hoard private gains from public forests."