Northern California Earth First! Renounces Tree Spiking

Text of a Press Conference held April 11, 1990 at the Louisiana Pacific Mill, Samoa, California - Reprinted the Country Activist, June 1990, Earth First! Journal, Beltane (May 1), 1990, and abridged in the Mendocino Commentary, April 12, 1990

Web Editor's Note: The following introduction appeared in the Earth First! Journal alone:

In a move that has left some EF!ers confused or dismayed, several West Coast Earth First! groups have renounced tree-spiking. At press conferences held in mid April, the groups called upon activists to refrain from spiking trees in northern California and Oregon forests. This whole issue is very controversial…and we do not intend to cover the inevitable debate in EF! Journal. Below we simply reprint Northern California EF!’s press release—so that EF!ers will know what the groups actually said, not just what the rumors are saying—and, we urge interested EF!ers to contact the groups and individuals involved for more information. For a compelling letter in opposition to the tree­spiking renunciation, write Colorado EF! contact Michael Robinson. For arguments in support of the renunciation, contact North Coast EF! groups or Southern Willamette EF!

Text of the Tree Spiking Renunciation

In response to the concerns of loggers and mill-workers, Northern California Earth First! organizers are renouncing the tactic of tree spiking in our area. Through the coalitions we have been building with lumber workers, we have learned that the timber corporations care no more for the lives of their employees than they do for the life of the forest. Their routine maiming and killing of mill workers is coldly calculated into the cost of doing business, just as the destruction of whole ecosystems is considered a reasonable by-product of lumber production.

These companies would think nothing of sending a spiked tree through a mill, and relish the anti-Earth First! publicity that an injury would cause.

Since Earth First! is not a membership organization, it is impossible to speak for all Earth First!ers. But this decision has been widely discussed among Earth First!ers in our area, and the local sentiment is overwhelmingly in favor of renouncing tree-spiking. We hope that our influence as organizers will cause any potential tree-spikers to consider using a different method. We must also point out that we are not speaking for all Earth First! groups in this pronouncement. Earth First! is decentralized, and each group can set its own policies. A similar statement to this one renouncing tree spiking is now being made in Southern Oregon, but not all groups have reached the broad consensus we have on this issue.
But in our area, the loggers and mill workers are our neighbors, and they should be our allies, not our adversaries. Their livelihood is being destroyed along with the forest. The real conflict is not between us and the timber workers, it is between the timber corporation and our entire community.

We want to give credit for this change in local policy to the rank and file timber workers who have risked their jobs and social relations by coming forward and talking to us. This includes Gene Lawhorn of Roseburg Lumber in Oregon, who defied threats to appear publicly with Earth First! organizer Judi Bari. It also includes the Georgia Pacific, Louisiana Pacific, and Pacific Lumber employees who are members of IWW Local #1 in northern California.

Equipment sabotage is a time-honored tradition among industrial workers. It was not invented by Earth First!, and it is certainly not limited to Earth First! even in our area. But the target of monkey wrenching was always intended to be the machinery of destruction, not the workers who operate that machinery for $7/hour. This renunciation of tree spiking is not a retreat, but rather an advance that will allow us to stop fighting the victims and concentrate on the corporations themselves.”

Judi Bari, Ukiah Earth First!

Darryl Cherney, So. Humboldt Earth First!

Mike Roselle, Co-Founder of Earth First!

Rick & Kathi Cloninger, Laytonville Earth First!

Larry Evans, Northcoast Earth First!

Greg King, Redwood Action Team

Pam Davis, Sonoma County Earth First!

Annie Oakleaf, Albion Earth First!

Anne Marie Stenberg, IWW Local #1, Ft. Bragg

Additional Release from Darryl Cherney

I’ll do my best to make this brief. At the Public In-terest Law Conference in Eugene, OR about 20 EF!ers & mill worker Gene Lawhorn reached unopposed consensus that tree-spiking must be renounced by Earth First!, at least in Northern Calif. & Southern Oregon. The reason is that in these areas, Earth First! has been so successful in working & strategizing with timber workers that the alienation caused by tree-spiking, not to mention the danger, be it real or imagined, was harming our efforts to save this planet.

Obviously, we knew this was a radical change in our previous policy to neither condemn nor condone, and we knew that others who weren’t party to this meeting might not feel the same. So besides reading the statement, please note the following points that were addressed that might help you understand the process, which is not closed to further input, by the way. Do make note that we do have an April 11 press conference scheduled in several locations along the coast.

  • (1) While still selling Ecodefense and singing “Spike a Tree for Jesus,” disclaimers will be inserted/and or mentioned.
  • (2) The decision is not irrevocable, should the forest situation worsen, although it is hard to fathom how much worse it can get.
  • (3) The decision is not made for all Earth First!ers, and as a non-organization, we are entitled to our individual opinions.
  • (4) We take no responsibility for any prior spikings; our intent is to actively advocate not spiking trees at this point. If we are charged with not having any influence over stopping spiking, then we can counter that we then shouldn’t have any blame for encouraging it through our past open discussions (e.g. Dear Ned Ludd).
  • (5) This is not a retreat, nor is it an abandonment of our neither condemning nor condoning monkeywrenching. It is an advance toward joining No. Calif. woodworkers in the fight to save the planet. Of course it will also take the wind out of the timber industry’s publicity sails. A congressional aide once told me, “The only thing the timber industry knows how to recycle is that tree spike story.”
  • (6) We have had overwhelming support for this change. Yes, there have been exceptions, but support has been so broad we can only believe that a renunciation of tree-spiking does reflect a broad constituency within the Earth First! movement.
  • (7) We will not condemn tree-spiking, unless of course it is a completely inappropriate spiking by anyone’s standards. It is completely understandable that someone would still spike trees especially after walking through a few clearcuts. Our position will be to ask for no future spikings; not to condemn what might be a logical act from someone’s forlorn point of view.
  • (8) We will encourage this cease fire by our press conference, by putting an article in the Earth First! Journal, by talking about it at road shows and tables. In other words, we will use our influence as the new voices of the environmental movement to make this real.

Additional Release from Gene Lawhorn (unpublished)

On the 4th of March, I along with Dennis Gilbert, Lin Brackett, and Earth First activist Judi Bari spoke at the Public Interest Law Conference at the University of Oregon on the subject, “Union and Environmental Interest; Bridging the Gap.”

At the conference, I pointed out that workers and environmentalists have more of a common interest than workers and their employers. Both workers and the environment are being exploited by the same greedy profit motive system. But workers can and have organized through labor unions to fight their exploitation. Trees, wildlife, fish, birds, the air, oceans, lakes and rivers cannot organize to fight the massive degradation and exploitation they are subjected to, thus environmentally conscious and concerned people must organize to fight for them. Whether environmentally conscious people be woodworkers, paper workers, Earth First!ers, or mainstream environmentalists, we all must unite to fight not only the degradation of this small fragile planet we co-habit, but to also fight the increased employer attacks upon worker rights, health and safety, wages and benefits. Both battles stem from the same problem, the greed mentality which places profits above the well being of the environment, and the health, safety, and prosperity of the working class. I as a union woodworker, hunter, and fisherman with a family to support have a greater stake in a healthy and sound environment than the wall street pencil pushers, or the greedy Northwest timber demagogues who have cut and run from one end of this Nation to the other.

I also pointed out the negative ramifications of tree spiking to the many Earth First!ers present. I told them of the dangers of tree spiking from my own experience. I explained to them that tree spiking endangers workers lives because saw guards aren’t effective against the exploding shrapnel effect of saws hitting spikes. Mill and woods work is dangerous enough without the added dangers of spiked trees. I further pointed that tree spiking discredits all concerned environmentalists, and provides negative propaganda ammo for the big guns of the timber industry. I then called upon all Earth First!ers to not only stop the spiking of trees, but to publicly renounce all tree spiking if they truthfully desire to bridge the gap between workers and environmentalists.

After the panel discussion ended Earth First! activists invited me and Dennis Gilbert to discuss the spiking issue further in the Students Law Lounge where we debated the issue in a positive and constructive manner, whereby Earth First activist came to the following decision which Karen Wood will now speak:

Additional Release from Karen Wood (unpublished)

To: Dennis Gilbert, (Eugene Springfield Solidarity Network), Gene Lawhorn (Worker Activist), Judi Bari (IWW-EF!, Northwestern California), John Anderson (Southern Willamette Earth First!), Diane Sontag (Eastern Willamette Earth First!), Bobcat (Siskiyou Earth First!), Jim Flynn (Portland Earth First!), Lesley Hemstreet (Portland Earth First!-IWW), Mike Jakubal (Washington Earth First!), Karen Coulter (Washington Earth First!), Mitch Friedman (Washington Earth First!), George Draffan (Washington Earth First!), Lisa Brown (Corvallis Earth First!), Jeff DeBonis (AFSEEE), and George Atiyeh (Save Opal Creek):

Hi All!

As a result of our March 18 meeting in Eugene, which was attended by myself, Gene, Dennis, Diane, and John, we have reserved a location and set a time for our Eugene press conference. We settled on the following general focuses for bur presentations:
Karen (Wood): will discuss the renunciation of tree-spiking, SWEF!’s membership in ESSN, and give a statement about the need for and power of community solidarity. Some rough general guidelines for presentation of the tree-spiking issue:

  • “Renounce”, not “denounce”, “give-up” or “moratorium.”
  • We have now discovered that the industry cares so little about their workers that they daily feed logs with dangerous foreign materials through their saws without providing adequate safeguards, risking injury to their workers—we will no longer be an unwitting co-conspirator in this travesty.
  • We made this decision because we listened to the workers and, when presented with new information, we moved forward to act on that information, instead of being reactionary like the timber industry when they are faced with new info.
  • Our circle discussion at the law conference concluded that the tactic is producing more negative results than positive results—it no longer serves our purpose.
  • We borrowed this from the industry, now we’re giving it back to them.
  • We’ve always been up front about our tactics, and we’re continuing that history.
  • We are no longer promoting the tactic, and will in fact actively discourage it.
  • Tree-spiking has been just one tactic used by Earth First! Other tactics, including civil disobedience ecotage, demonstrations, administrative appeals, court challenges, letter writing and phone campaigns, public education, and solidarity with labor have been more effective, and will be even more effective without the albatross of tree-spiking.

Gene: Will relate his role at the law conference and his attendance at our circle discussion. (He) will urge workers to join the solidarity movement and start questioning the industry line.

Dennis: will explain what the Eugene-Springfield Solidarity Network (ESSN) is, and its role in bringing workers and environmentalists together.

We decided that, in this area, we will use the ESSN as an umbrella coalition for the alliance. In other words, ESSN is the Ancient Forest Alliance of the worker/environmentalist solidarity movement. Southern Willamette Earth First! will join ESSN, as should Gene and local workers and individuals. People in other areas should start their own networks (The Portland Solidarity Network, the Southern Oregon Solidarity Network, the Seattle Solidarity Network, etc.), using ESSN as an example and springboard. Should we decide there is a need and enough interest in an IWW/EF! local in this area, that too can be a part of ESSN. People and groups from other areas are welcome to join ESSN; we encourage you to form your own networks once enough interest is generated in your area. We will announce a meeting of the timber worker / environ-mentalist alliance caucus of the ESSN at the press conference…