Tree-Sitting in Freshwater

NorthCoast Earth First! Summer 2005 pages 5-6.

Upper Village Freshwater Cannot Legally Be Cut!

Greenwood Heights Road was put in right beside the bases of ancient trees, and the Freshwater watershed began to be logged. In 2001, a timber harvest plan (THP) was filed by Pacific Lumber (PL) that included these trees, along with many other old-growth trees also along the side of the road. In March 2001, a tree site was set in one of the trees who was then dubbed Jerry because the hanging moss on the branches resembled Jerry Garcia’s beard. Jerry’s long-time resident Remedy climbed up shortly thereafter. 

A platform was set in a neighboring tree named Everlasting life also called Everstine. Two months later Wren moved in. Remedy and Wren became beacons for the movement. Their voices reached a wide audience with the truth about PL’s unsustainable logging practices and the effect it was having on Freshwater. They were interviewed by the Today Show and the NY and LA Times, among others. 

A third tree sit was put up in a tree nearby named Anastasia for the “13” sisters” action that involved 13 women in 13 trees for 13 days. Other tree sites were put up along Greenwood Heights Rd for this action as well. After the “13” action in Freshwater, tree sits started springing up all over. Jerry, Everstine, and Anastasia became known as the Upper Village for their ridge-top position. PL hired arborists to climb tree and forcefully extract tree sitters from the Freshwater trees. Remedy and Wren were the first to be extracted on March 17, 2001, a few days short of Remedy’s one-year anniversary in Jerry. But first sheriffs had to remove two women, Naomi and Sparrow from their lockboxes at the base of Jerry. This action caused the delay that ended the window of daylight to cut Jerry that day. The trees were re-occupied that night. 

Greenwood Heights Road was blocked all that morning with an illegal road closure enforced by the Humboldt County Sheriff Department (HCSD) and California Highway Patrol. The road closure kept concerned citizens and legal observers from witnessing the dangerous extractions. By the afternoon, the road was opened, and hundreds of people thronged at the base of the trees, chanting and singing. It was nighttime before Wren was lowered to the ground, who was teeming with sheriff’s officers and protestors, some of whom were pepper-sprayed.

Three days later, the climbers returned to Jerry to remove another sitter, Am’D. In this very dangerous extraction, Am’D had climbed to the topmost branches of Jerry. Extractor Eric Schatz climbed up beside her and told her that if she fell, he and his crew would testify that she committed suicide. He then precariously tied a harness around her and belayed her down, flipping her upside down in the process. After Am’D was arrested on the ground, climber Eric Schatz took it upon himself to cut most of Jerry’s branches off. Perhaps this spiteful act was done to prevent activists from reoccupying the tree. Nonetheless, Jerry had yet another sitter by that night. 

Throughout the next months, all the trees surrounding the UPper Village were clear-cut. Exactly three months from the first extraction at Jerry, PL climbers returned. This time they found a tree sitter named Smokey locked to an 800-lb concrete-filled barrel lockdown device on a specialized platform to support its weight 100-feet up in jerry. PL climbers performed an unprecedented and extremely dangerous extraction of a tree-sitter attached to an 800-lb weight. They attached chains around the barrel and a harness around the tree sitter and lowered them simultaneously. Once on the ground, it took hours for HCSD to cut Smokey out of the barrel. There was another tree sitter on the high traverse between Jerry and Everstine during Smokey’s extraction. He remained in place for 10 years and was not taken down. Again Jerry could not be cut and was reoccupied that  night. In November 2003, a tree sitter named Willow decided to make Jerry his home and there he stayed for one year and five months. Willow has also become a media beacon, reaching out on the radio waves throughout the US and Canada. He was visited by a TV journalism crews, Ali G and Tom Green from the Jay Leno Show. During Willow’s time in Jerry, Jerry had recovered tremendously. The places where Jerry’s limbs had been cut have sprouted new growth and are looking considerably greener and healthier. The THP that the Upper Village is in expired at the end of March 2005. After a 5-year period a THP could be refilled for the same area, but for now the trees of the Upper Village cannot legally be cut!


New Settler Interview Issue 135 march/april 2003. New Settler Collection.
Times-Standard Front Page March 18 2003. Freshwater Forest Defenders Collection.

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