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02/22/2012

Everything Changes Because of Clearcutting

“The forests are our sponges, so when we cut them down, everything changes - our water system, our hydrology, the amount of water coming down in the summer. We have major problems in the state with water shortages and water pollution that starts with clearcutting in the headwaters,” said Caleen Sisk, spiritual leader and tribal chief of the Winnemem Wintu tribe, whose ancestral land was inundated by the Shasta Reservoir.
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On February 10th and 11th, dozens of forest activists flooded the small city and logging capitol of Northern California, Redding, to raise awareness about the harmful impacts of clearcutting. Currently clearcutting in California is happening at an unprecedented rate and scale. The clearcuts threaten important waterways like the headwaters of the Mokulemne River, which provides drinking water for East Bay residents. Water pollution from clearcuts also threatens to undermine extensive salmon recovery efforts and the region’s fishing economy.

The demonstration was timed perfectly with the timber industry's annual expo which features the BackHoe Rodeo and Lumberjack Banquet. Local Redding-area groups including the Battle Creek Alliance, Cascade Action Now! and the Shasta Group of the Mother Lode Chapter of the Sierra Club planned a series of events to highlight the importance of sustainable forestry and watershed protection. 


On Saturday morning, around thirty people joined Occupy Redding to demonstrate against clearcutting in front of the Shasta County Fairgrounds where the expo was held. Children, teachers, and union members held signs that said “Forests for the 99%, Not Clearcutting for the 1%” and engaged peacefully with conference attendees. One of the main clearcut logging companies, Sierra Pacific Industries, is owned by Red Emmerson whose fortune is valued at $2.5 billion by Forbes, making him a prime example of the 1% targeted by the Occupy movement.

Local TV news and the Redding Searchlight covered the demonstration (See Protesters Occupy Logging Conference to Fight Clearcutting) which also sparked a heated online debate with over 130 comments.

Later that day, around one hundred people gathered at the Redding Methodist Church to participate in Forum for the Forests, a public event with eight experts who discussed the threats to California's forests and alternatives to clearcutting.

Gary Hendix, a land steward whose family has operated a small logging mill in Shasta County since 1897 warned, “The impact that clearcutting can have on this state is enormous.  Clearcutting will change the biodiversity because it changes the relationship that exists between all plants, animals and human beings.”

Forum organizer Virginia Phelps hoped the event would help people from all backgrounds, "Understand nature's design before we redesign." The community forum was widely regarded as a big step forward in opening up much needed debate the future of California’s forests.

By Juliette Beck

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