Timber Wars

‘Timber Wars’ episode 6: The backlash

By Aaron Scott (OPB)
Sept. 23, 2020 1:12 a.m. Updated: Jan. 19, 2021 7:32 p.m.

Before the Northwest Forest Plan had a chance to succeed, Congress seized upon the threat of wildfires to create a loophole that temporarily threw the plan out the window. With old growth once again on the cutting block, the fight to defend it grew both more mainstream and more violent, as both sides escalated their tactics.


This episode follows the year-long Warner Creek blockade, organized by Catia Juliana and Tim Ingalsbee who we met in Episode 1: The last stand, that helped turn Eugene, Oregon, into a hotbed of anti-capitalist activism that would inform many direct action political movements to come, from WTO protests to the Occupy Movement.

Activists march in protest of the "salvage logging rider" that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1995. It released timber sales for logging and helped undermine Clinton's Northwest Forest Plan.

Activists march in protest of the "salvage logging rider" that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1995. It released timber sales for logging and helped undermine Clinton's Northwest Forest Plan.

Courtesy of Mike Morrow

Hosted and produced by OPB’s Aaron Scott in collaboration with 30 Minutes West (“Bundyville,” “Outside Podcast”), and with original music by the singer-songwriter Laura Gibson, “Timber Wars” is a seven-part podcast series from Oregon Public Broadcasting that tells the behind-the-scenes story of how a small group of activists and scientists turned the fight over ancient trees and the spotted owl into one of the biggest environmental conflicts of the 20th century. Episodes are available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, the NPR One app and most other podcast apps.

In addition to the podcast, OPB is releasing an accompanying e-newsletter series that combines the podcast with further OPB reporting to take readers through the history of this epic battle — and explores the ways it’s playing out still — in stories, images, videos and more.

Related: ‘Timber Wars’ episode 7: A Way Forward

Episode 6: The backlash transcript

AARON SCOTT, HOST: On October 10th, 1991 a fire erupted near the town of Oakridge, Oregon. By the time it was under control, a little over two weeks later, it had scorched roughly 9,000 acres in a newly designated spotted owl conservation area, called Warner Creek. Rich Fairbanks led a team that fought that fire for the Forest Service.

AARON: Can you tell me about the cause of that fire?

RICH FAIRBANKS: Well, it was arson, or an accidental fire that the person who started it didn’t report it, put it that way, you know? And it was a little bit unusual location where we think it started. So it may have been arson. Yeah.

AARON: So a bunch of old-growth gets protected as owl habitat, and then almost immediately goes up in smoke. It was standard practice at the time to log burned forests, so the Forest Service put it up for sale. But that didn’t sit right with Tim Ingalsbee and Catia Juliana. Remember them? They’re the activists who met at the Easter Massacre.

TIM INGALSBEE: This is a big forest reserve, protected for the owl. Now arson fire triggers a timber sale? We coined the phrase, light it and log it.

AARON: It felt like a loophole. Burning Warner Creek instantly transformed it from owl habitat to lumber. So Tim and Catia started showing up to Forest Service meetings to fight the sale.

RICH: Well, they didn’t want logging number one at all.

AARON: And at the time, how unusual of an idea was that?

RICH: It was totally ridiculous. When we first heard that we used to look, it’s the Forest Service: they’re going to salvage log. They don’t, they believe it’s waste to leave these trees on the stump.

AARON: So Catia and Tim started a campaign to protect the area. But if the Easter Massacre taught them anything, it was that winning public support was as important as winning in court.

CATIA JULIANA: And our alternative was very modest. It basically said, let’s research this, let’s study it, let’s not log it and let’s build a trail through it and teach people about the ecological role of fire in this ecosystem.

AARON: The ecological role of fire wasn’t well understood at the time. Tative tribes had set fire to the landscape as a way to rejuvenate plants and trees, but then the Forest Service put an end to that. They viewed all wildfire as bad. But when Warner Creek burned, scientists were just rediscovering the idea that fire is important. And Catia and Tim wanted to turn the area into a living laboratory. So they led tours and put out videos, like this one, called “Born in Fire.”

[ARCHIVE CLIP, “BORN IN FIRE,” NARRATOR: The time has come to take this stand, and the place where we must do it is Warner Creek.]

AARON: They also fought in court, showing that a lot of the big trees and spotted owls had survived. And after four years, they won. But then, in response to Clinton’s Northwest Forest Plan, the newly elected Republican Congress passed something known as the Salvage Logging Rider in 1995. Which said, for the next year, any burned forest could be logged without any environmental review. It was attached to a bill with support for the Oklahoma City bombing victims, and Bosnian war refugees, so eventually, Clinton signed off. And it tossed the Warner Creek victory out the window. Suddenly, the logging company that had been waiting years had a green light to go into the forest.

TIM: And so there, there was a moment where all the mainstream national environmentalist, they just kinda wrung their hands and said, Oh darn, we lost. We’ll just come back in a couple of years and you know, try to appeal to our Congress people. And those of us on the ground, you know, this is a battle for life itself, basically headed out of that courtroom right up to the mountain. And the first level wide spot to camp was right in the logging road leading to the first timber sale, and folks set up camp there and they, they stayed put for 11 and a half months


AARON: From Oregon Public Broadcasting, this is Timber Wars, I’m Aaron Scott.

The Northwest Forest Plan was an era-defining document. Crafted by experts, using the best available science, it could have been where this whole story ended. But then Republicans took control of Congress, and they opened the floodgates. Timber sales poured onto the books, and a whole new generation of activists poured into the forests. Instead of a truce, it led to a trench war.


AARON : And literally, so you went out that night and...

CATIA: Went home, got our sleeping bag, got our toothbrush and went up to the mountain.

AARON: So after a judge opened Warner Creek to logging, Catia and Tim raced up the road to get between the trees and the chainsaws. This wasn’t the first time they had dropped everything to save a forest. But now two things were different. First, there was no hope that they’d win in court, because Congress had suspended the laws. Second, well, now they were a couple.

TIM: She was pregnant at the time.

CATIA: I’m newly pregnant.

TIM: Newly pregnant. So yes, you have set setting up the first encampment and kind of the Breightenbush model is like, they’re going to come any minute we’ve just got to scramble, lay some rocks and logs, and just camp there.

AARON: The Forest Service had built a gate to keep activists out, so the activists camped out in front of the gate and set to work making their own fortifications.

TIM REAM: And so people started salvaging and scavenging all of this, um, small timber and turned it into about a 10 foot high wall across the road.

AARON: This is another Tim: Tim Ream. He’s now an environmental attorney. Back in the mid 90s, he was an activist bouncing from cause to cause, but he was about to become the face of this one.

TIM REAM: And the wall had a drawbridge and there was a moat dug in front of it. And there was a 20-foot tower put up like a little reconnaissance tower so you could sit up in the tower behind the wall, look out at the wall, you know, declare, pull up the drawbridge, you know, here comes to the police, and the drawbridge would go up or down as necessary.

CATIA: And there was, before you got to the, to the Fort, there was what we call a dragon, which is basically a hole in the ground with a cement, you hook in there and then you put like a metal door over it, drill a hole in the metal door, and then it functions as a lockdown device.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, PICKAXE, REPORTER: So your hand is in cement? How is it being restrained down there?

ACTIVIST: It feels like a handcuff.]

AARON: This is footage from a documentary about Warner Creek called “Pickaxe: The Cascadia Free State Story”. It was made by Tim Ream and an activist filmmaker named Tim Lewis, and we’re going to hear clips from it today.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, PICKAXE, REPORTER: So what’s your point?

ACTIVIST: They’re not coming in here.]

AARON: It was like, take a bunch of freethinking, nonviolent people, and give them basic tools and the challenge of how to slow down industrial equipment. What they created looked something like a 17th century fort.

TIM INGALSBEE: Everyone came up there. It was really who never been doing activism. Never would think of sabotage or whatever. They would lift a rock, they would move a log, they would join in. And it was truly remarkable. It was very empowering, and it was seen as the right thing to do.

AARON: They called this area The Cascadia Free State. Basically, they said that if the feds were going to undo environmental laws with the Salvage Logging Rider, then they were going to claim this land for themselves. It wasn’t anarchy. It was actually kinda the opposite.

TIM INGALSBEE: I mean our position was, you know, when, when environmental laws are outlawed, it takes environmental outlaws to uphold the law.

AARON: The Forest Service made one head-on attempt to round up the outlaws early on.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, PICKAXE, LAW ENFORCEMENT: You can be cited. Are you willing to go?]

AARON: But wary of a front-page conflict, the bulldozer didn’t make it past the guy with his arm locked down in the dragon.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, PICKAXE, REPORTER: In the eyes of the Forest Service, this is destruction of government property, a federal offense. And some critics or even calling these protestors terrorists.]

AARON: Never knowing when the Forest Service would return, protesters slept with handcuffs on their wrists, always ready to lockdown. And pretty soon, the locals started harassing the protesters too. Driving up and blaring music all night, right outside their encampment.


ACTIVIST: We don’t want to see any type of vandalism, gentlemen.

LOCAL: Vandalism? We want to cut them down!

LOCAL: These trees; you just killed this shit right here!

ACTIVIST: okay, let’s have a discussion.

LOCAL: You just killed this shit.]

AARON: But more than harassment in the night, they had visitors during the day. There were school classes on field trips and tourists on vacation. reporters from the New York Times and 60 Minutes, and a lot of locals who were just curious. What the hell was going on up there?

TIM REAM: So we were learning from local people. Um, we were trying to share with them. We were doing that of course in town. We were bringing people up there as much as we could. We were making little quarter sheets. Remember this is all before websites and email, right? Um, we were doing anything we could, um, to, to get the word out.

AARON: They needed to get the word out because, despite the DIY fortifications, this wasn’t Ewoks vs Stormtroopers. If it came down to a fight, the activists were going to lose, and they knew it.

TIM REAM: We are not going to be able to win a war of force against the state when it, when they really decide they want to come in here. But what we can do is we can win a hearts and minds campaign. We can win the public relations campaign and that’s about, um, grassroots organizing. And it’s about narrative. It’s about storytelling.

AARON: By blockading the road, the story they were telling was that this thing that society had taken for granted and viewed only as a resource, it was actually deserving of basic protections. This is Tim Ream talking to the camera in the Pickaxe documentary.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, PICKAXE, TIM REAM: We at one time as a society didn’t believe that woman had the same rights as men, children had the same rights as adults, people of color didn’t have the same rights as white people. And slowly we’ve changed our values. And I think we’re going to have to change our values to accept the rights of forests, and the rights of mountains, and the rights of rivers.]

AARON: Protecting Warner Creek wasn’t just about closing the ‘light it and log it’ loophole, but making the case that forests—even burned forests—weren’t just future lumber. They had an inherent right to exist.


AARON: But meanwhile, the Salvage Logging Rider was devastating forests across the west. Because, it turns out, it didn’t just apply to burned trees, Republicans had written it broadly.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, REPORTER: Parts of this rider seemed alarmingly vague to congressional opponents. Democratic Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey for instance, noted that forests only needed to be threatened by insects or drought to qualify for salvage logging.

BILL BRADLEY: As I read this amendment, that language means to limit salvage timber sales to areas where the trees are still made of wood.]

AARON: It was open season. So Tim Ream and another activist left the encampment and went on a hunger strike, outside the Federal Building in Eugene.

TIM REAM: It was a juice fast, but it was living outdoors downtown on cement in the fall and winter of Eugene, Oregon. So it was cold and wet and um, and I lasted 75 days and um, became to put it in modern terms, I was like a website. A place where people brought information. They came down out of the forest or from other forest campaigns. They came from Portland, they came from Ashland, they came from, you know, the, the I5 corridor people from in town could come and like, what’s the latest, what’s happening up there?

AARON: What was happening up there, was that it was snowing. Eight feet that winter.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, PICKAXE, ACTIVIST: So morale is sinking like a stone. But we just sat tight up here. we were just rocks. They sent up these parties that were like, ‘we’re pulling out now. Any time you want to leave just give us the signal, we’ll get you out of there.’ But we just sat tight, like, ‘no way, we’re styling.’]

TIM INGALSBEE: They never left. I thought, I think the forest service thought we’ll just play a war of attrition and wait ‘em out. They’ll get cold, hungry, tired people, you know, snow-shoed up eight miles, you know, supplies, to keep the camp going.


[ARCHIVE CLIP, PICKAXE, ACTIVIST: What started as just an initial, one lockdown scenario on a road up at the gate to halt the Forest Service has now turned into an almost a year-long roadblock, which has grown from one lockdown to over 15 lockdown situations and at least, I’d say, 500 people to 1000 have come up here and camped.]

AARON: With the blockade still in place, environmental groups and politicians fought to pass legislation that would end what they called ‘logging without laws.’ Meanwhile the Clinton Administration had come to deeply regret not vetoing the bill, and the widespread backlash emboldened them to fight back.

But in July, when they finally directed the Forest Service to scale back some of the most controversial sales, there were no assurances Warner Creek would be saved. So the Warner Creek activists stormed Congressman Peter DeFazio’s office to try and get the Clinton administration on the phone.


[ARCHIVE CLIP, PICKAXE, TIM REAM: Thanks a lot, Jeff. Bye bye. Folks this is big news. This is the first time any of us have heard there’s a process in place to stop the logging at the Warner Creek sale. To hear from a legislative assistant that this is now probably what the administration is going to do is probably the most serious indication yet that we’re going to save this place, and they’re going to get not one black stick. (Cheers)]

CATIA: So we had gotten word that they were planning to withdraw the timber sale, but we just didn’t have the final signed papers in hand.

AARON: By now, people had been there nearly a year. And it felt like just a matter of time before this whole thing ended. Tim and Catia even held a wedding in a clearing near the blockade. Holding their newborn daughter, they bound themselves together with handcuffs from the lockdown devices, instead of ribbons.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, PICKAXE, OFFICIANT: I’m a minister, and I have to make it official. Kelsey, congratulations, your parents are now married.]

AARON: So, with all signs pointing to the sale being canceled, activists started to relax the blockade. And that’s when the forest service made its move.

That’s after the break.




AARON: So on a bright, sunny day almost a year after the blockade began, the forest service descended on the camp.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, PICKAXE, FOREST SERVICE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: okay, as a federal law enforcement officer, it’s my duty to inform you that you’re in violation of special closure number 208, Warner Creek.]

AARON: Forest Service law enforcement officers confronted four female activists who had cuffed themselves into lockdown devices.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, PICKAXE, OFFICER: You have five minutes to get out of here, and you have actually less than five minutes.

PROTESTOR: You all don’t want the media to know about this? Is that what’s going on?

OFFICER: That probably has a little bit to do with it.

AARON: The Forest Service officers searched the women, and removed their shade, blankets, and shoes. Then they zip tied their ankles together, despite the fact that they obviously weren’t going anywhere.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, PICKAXE, PROTESTOR: You’re hurting me. That hurts! That hurts get away from me!]

AARON: They ultimately got the protestors out of their restraints. Meanwhile, heavy machinery knocked down the fort like it was made out of popsicle sticks.

TIM INGALSBEE: It was just a vengeance raid and there was no way that the forest service and the timber industry and its allies are going to let all those hippies on the Hill get away with this.

AARON: Whether it was actually the last chance for the forest service to take out its frustrations on the protesters, or whether it was just perceived that way, the raid was a continuation of the tit-for-tat that had been going on for years.

AARON: But, like so many moves in the timber wars, it didn’t go as planned.

TIM REAM: Uh, well, so the, the attack happened on camp, um, and then all of the action turned to town after that. Um, they took the four women who refused to unlock to a certain point, um, into custody and put them in jail. And we, about a day or so later had a giant rally at the forest service office and I met with the, um, the chief of the Willamette national forest. And I was like, what’s the deal? Is this place still under threat of logging? He’s like, there is no deal. I came outside to a group of a couple of hundred people and I said, it’s not saved yet.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, PICKAXE, TIM REAMS: The thing we’ve done more effective than anything else is make Warner Creek into a national issue. The Only thing we can put faith in is continuing our direct actions, in town and up on hill.]

TIM REAM: And we marched from there to the jail and much to our surprise, the front door of the jail was open, and we walked in, and we went up to the front counter. And, um, we wanted to go to the arraignment.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, PICKAXE, TIM REAM: This gentleman right here is Lt. Sashay. He says at the 1:30 arraignment that’s going to go on right now, one of you are allowed inside. (Boos) How many of you think you are that one? (Cheering)]

TIM REAM: But we’re like, wait a minute, these people have been arrested in secret. Now they’re going to be arraigned in secrets are gonna have these court proceedings. Like no members of the public are allowed. And frankly, what happened is we kind of rioted in jail

[ARCHIVE CLIP, PICKAXE, CROWD CHANTING: No justice; no peace! No justice; no peace! No justice; no peace!]

TIM REAM: And um, we started to effectively break into jail. We were like, well, you say we can’t come in. We’re going in. And um, we crossed into a zone in the jail. We were not allowed to be and we were getting attempted or attempting to go into the locked doors. And of course the people in the jail went absolutely crazy.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, PICKAXE: Sound of not cooperating]

TIM REAM: The best way to go to jail is when you want to go in and not leave until you’re ready to leave. And the system is not prepared to deal with this kind civil disobedience. Um, they are used to people that do not want to go to jail and are trying to get out.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, PICKAXE, CROWD CHANTING: Arrest him, don’t beat him up!]

TIM REAM: When they raided our camp, we were only five days away from getting official word, and it was completely unnecessary and it was a waste of taxpayer resources, and it was a waste of a lot of emotional energy on everybody’s part. But once again, it allowed us to make the issue a bigger deal because they raided our camp. And so we’ve got a movie we’ve got, we had front page news on every, you know, newspaper and every television station for you know, a week. We had a five-day jail standoff and we had all that because of their overreaction with too much force.

And uh, that just ramped up a tremendous amount of pressure on the white house. And, uh, at five days after their raid, a deal was made with the timber company. And, um, and suddenly for the first time there was no threat to any logging at Warner Creek.

CATIA: And what happened is once, once things were looking good for Warner, people started taking that idea over to other timber sales that were coming up.

AARON: From Warner Creek, the message of resistance began to spread. In Oregon and Washington, science had led to lawsuits, which led to direct action, which led to the Northwest Forest Plan. The timber industry had tried to cut the head off the movement with the Salvage Logging Rider. But instead of dying, the movement grew new heads. All over.

TIM REAM: And it wasn’t just Oregon. I mean, um, people were doing this in, um, Montana and Idaho and people were doing it a little bit in Washington state. People were doing it down in Southern Oregon.

AARON: And then there was the redwoods campaign in California. People like Julia Butterfly Hill got international press for spending two years living in the branches of a giant Redwood. And while only a few tree sitters actually saved their trees, they brought the right kind of attention.

TIM REAM: You can’t spin a tree sitting story to make the tree sitter look violent. You know, there’s somebody up in a platform on a tree that loves the tree so much, they’re living up there on a piece of wood high off the ground, endangering their life. I mean, the, the, the, the symbol is all been built into that. The story’s built in to the visual.

AARON: And so, a movement that began in the 80s as college kids and hippies and hardcore activists—the kind of people who can camp out at a blockade for weeks at a time—this movement went fully mainstream. there were accountants and politicians out there marching in the woods and senior citizens locking their necks to logging trucks.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, PICKAXE, ENVIRONMENTALIST: He’s not turning it off. He knows someone’s locked under.

ENVIRONMENTALIST: There’s an old woman. She’s 80-years-old: an 80 year-old woman locked to your truck and you’ll kill her.]

AARON: The world had shifted. For a majority of Americans, the long-held plan to log the last of the ancient forests was no longer acceptable. But as the movement blossomed, its more radical members also sacrificed the moral high ground. In late October, 1996, a Forest Service pickup went up in flames and someone spray painted “Stop Raping the Forest” on the walls of the Detroit Ranger Station. Two days later, the Oakridge Ranger Station burned to the ground. This is Rich Fairbanks again.

RICH FAIRBANKS: I remember some environmental group, I forget which, one of the more fringy type folks, glued all the locks in this one ranger station. And they glued some of the locks in the parking lot. Civilian vehicles. Dude, the way to make a lifelong enemy. Is to mess with somebody…. their ride? in a little town? Jesus.

AARON: Of course, for every action, there’s a reaction. In June, 1997, police in Eugene dealt with a protestor hanging onto a tree by cutting open his pants and pepper spraying his genitals. Then that fall, in Humboldt County, California, protesters stormed the offices of a logging company and a congressman. Locking their arms into metal sleeves, the protesters could not be removed. But they were also utterly defenseless, so the police very meticulously rubbed pepper spray into their eyes with q-tips. or sprayed them point blank.


OFFICER: Open your eyes.]

AARON: This sounds more like torture than law enforcement. But it happened at least three times, and one of them’s right there on Youtube.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, PROTESTOR: We are nonviolent. This is only for violent criminals. We are not!]

In response to these strong-arm assaults by the government, the tactics out in the forest became even more sophisticated.

TIM REAM: To a point where, you know, we had Greenpeace coming in and dropping shipping containers, completely welded, shut across a forest road with, um, you know, communications equipment embedded inside. So that, you know, and this is I think maybe the late nineties, so they could communicate, um, while locked down inside of a shipping container, um, not able to be tortured, not able to be pepper-sprayed or teargassed.

AARON: What had been a legal chess match, became an arms race. And some of the people who gravitated to the issue for intellectual or idealistic reasons, became radicalized. Particularly in the U.S. capital of anti-capitalism: Eugene, Oregon.

TIM REAM: You know, somebody comes out like, I love the trees, do you know about this? Do you know about that? And then, you know, next thing they know they’re getting pepper sprayed or they’re getting, you know, torture holds or something like that thrown into jail. And all of a sudden they’re like, wait a minute, this system isn’t what I thought it was. You know, I’m not saying this is all comes a result of Warner Creek, but there were a lot of people who were radicalized in forest actions who then became key people in anti-globalization protest.

AARON: In 1999, 40,000 people showed up in Seattle to protest the World Trade Organization, disrupting their meetings with blockades and confrontations with police that became known as the “Battle of Seattle.” And black-clad anarchists from Eugene were on the front lines.

TIM REAM: So a lot of the tactics that you saw in the streets of Seattle during the WTO in 1999, that shut down the, the WTO meetings, the world trade organization meetings, those were tactics that were developed in the forest.

AARON: Around this same time, a small group of Eugene eco-anarchists who’d met through forest defense actions secretly pulled off more than a dozen fire-bombings. They hit a logging company office in Oregon, and a ski resort in Vail, Colorado, all under the umbrella of a group called the Earth Liberation Front. Although they never hurt anyone, they caused some $50 million in property damage, and that was enough to make the Earth Liberation Front one of the FBI’s top priorities. That’s a whole other story. But the point is that the Timber Wars rippled out of the forest. For both sides.

RICH FAIRBANKS: I see most of the effects of the Timber Wars as negative. The one thing that I do see as very positive is we quit cutting our primary forest. We quit cutting our native forests.

AARON: Rich eventually spoke out against the Forest Service’s logging practices and helped start the group Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics. He’s one of the few people with a foot on each side of this conflict.

RICH: I would say that the Northwest Forest Plan and the forest plans that were amended by the Northwest Forest Plan were a huge leap forward in how we manage our forest, how we take care of our forests, public forests. But that the, the battle around them. So poisoned the waters for so many social aspects that I, I do sort of mourn that, that loss, I used to be able to talk to Republicans, and this is one of many issues that became this, you know, wedge. That it’s very hard to do nowadays.

AARON: But so in a way, I mean, for you it’s, there’s a positive story about how it saved the forests, but kind of a tragic story about what it did to government and society.

RICH: It really did. It divided communities that didn’t need to be divided and it turned some respectful disagreements into these hate things.

AARON: There’s a saying about nonviolent resistance that’s commonly misattributed to Mahatma Gandhi. It was actually paraphrased from a speech made by union organizer Nicholas Klein. Anyway, it goes, first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. That’s pretty much the ideal version of things. But what happened in the northwest was something more like: first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you fight back. Eventually you’re more concerned with winning than with solutions.

RICH: when you look back at all the things, all the millions of dollars that were spent on the environmental side, you don’t see much of a push for... short term loans, uh, you know, changing the community so it could do different things. Retraining people, paying people to go to school. You don’t see very much of that at all. They could have made this really painless, but they didn’t want to, they wanted it to hurt. At least some folks. Or they were indifferent.


AARON: Congress did send some money back to help timber workers retrain for new kinds of work, and for years it made direct payments to counties to cover lost tax revenue. There was also stream restoration and wildfire prevention work for loggers. But timber town stimulus can’t match an old growth bonanza.

When you come after someone’s livelihood, no matter how destructive and ugly it is, you leave them no choice but to fight back. It should be no surprise when they do. Then again, when an entire industry has gotten used to making easy money consuming a public resource that the natural world depends on, well, that industry can’t go on unchecked.

So with two groups who can’t talk to each other, who both feel like victims of a bully, where do you go from there? How do you end the Timber Wars?

That’s next time.


“Timber Wars” is reported and written by me, Aaron Scott, with editing by Peter Frick-Wright, Robbie Carver, David Steves and Ed Jahn.

This series is produced by Peter and Robbie, of 30 Minutes West.

Our music is composed and performed by Laura Gibson.

Robbie Carver does our sound design and Steven Kray does the final mix.

Our fact checker is Matt Giles.

Legal oversight by Rebecca Morris.

And our executive producer is Ed Jahn.

Thanks to Tim Lewis and Tim Ream for audio from their documentary Pickaxe, and to NPR, Katie Dauger and Jenna Molster the archival news tap.

Timber Wars is a production of Oregon Public Broadcasting. Our science and environment team is out there covering the northwest, whether it’s breaking news or in depth stories like this one, and we can only do it with member support. So a big thank you to our members. And if you’re not one of them yet, now’s your moment. Head on over to opb.org. You’re the reason we can do this.

Another way you can support this show is to review us and give us a rating wherever you get your podcasts. It really does help new folks find our show. Thanks.

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