Life on a Limb - The Interview with Tre Arrow by Miriam Green
MIRIAM GREEN: Your fall from the tree has been prominent in the news, spotlighting Oregon’s logging practices and the tactics of civil disobedience. I’m interested in the details of all that—but before we get into it, how are you?
TRE ARROW: I’m doing very well, considering all that’s happened. I feel extremely blessed and fortunate to have the kind of love and support and healing energy around me to recover as well as I’ve been able to in this amount of time. I’m still somewhat incapacitated but my body’s healing and progressing everyday.
MG: How did all this happen?
TA: I was doing a tree sit in Area II of the Acey Line timber sale, in the coast range. They--the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), law enforcement, the logging company--have put the paycheck before the sacredness of living things, whether it’s trees, animals, or a human sitting up in a tree. The safety and well-being of the activists at Acey Line were severely compromised and attacked by the law enforcement, by sheriff’s deputies, by ODF, by the loggers.
MG: How was safety compromised?
TA: They had dozens of men doing everything they could to torment, to physically, emotionally and psychologically abuse the activists. I was denied food and water for about two days. People who tried to resupply me were arrested. They even went so far as to say, "We’re not sleepin’, so you’re not sleepin’". Flood lights were trained on me at night. Loud music, wailing sirens and bullhorns were amplified for hours during the night.
On Thursday, October 4th, a logger began to cut the lower branches of the tree I was in, working his way up the tree as he cut. I became seriously concerned about my ability to stay in the tree safely. When the logger was right below me with his chainsaw and I jumped to the next tree over. Once I was in that tree, the logger proceeded to cut the first tree into three sections, taking it completely to the ground. They then made an announcement over their bullhorn that they were going to cut all the trees around me. I jumped into a third tree, the largest in that group of three, to try to protect it. At that point, the loggers proceeded to cut every tree within a 30 foot radius around me, including trees only a few feet away from me. It was dangerous. That night, I tried to sleep but the activities of the men on the ground made it impossible. They’d call out "Knock knock,! Wake up! Wake up!" on their bullhorn and do the siren thing, and smash things against the tree. I could feel the shock of whatever they were hitting it with all the way up the trunk to where I was, 80 feet up. The next morning, a logger with a chainsaw climbed toward me, cutting branches as he came. Finally we were just a few feet apart and we talked for a couple of minutes. He told me I was crazy, that he loved these forests, that if I believed in Jesus and God, I wouldn’t be doing all this. At that point a man on the ground called up, instructing the logger twice to use his chainsaw to cut off the branch I was standing on. The logger in the tree looked at me and said he wouldn’t deliberately kill someone like that. Despite the presence of ODF personnel and law enforcement officers down on the ground, I noticed that no one said anything to the guy who gave the order.
After the logger went back down, another officer trained a high-powered rifle with a scope on me while a Search & Rescue guy with climbing harnesses started up the tree. I was told through a bullhorn ‘We have an unarmed volunteer coming up to bring you out of the tree. This rifle is to ensure the safety of the climber. If you show any sign of aggression, we’ll use it’.
MG: How did you handle the pressure?
TA: What resulted was exhaustion and sleep deprivation due to their deliberate tactics of keeping us activists awake day and night. Finally, at 2:00 a.m. on the morning of October 6th, I fell out of the tree I was in from roughly 100 feet height. I was unconscious, I don’t remember hitting the ground. I had a dislocated and fractured shoulder, torn ligaments in my right knee, severed pelvis in multiple places, severed ribs in my left side, one of which pierced and collapsed my lung. My lung was bleeding. My brain was bleeding, and other internal organs were bleeding. And Thank Goddess and the Angel Spirits around me, all those injuries stabilized. So now I’m doing as well as I am.
MG: Last year, I remember, you were living on a window ledge of the U.S. Forest Service building in downtown Portland, when Eagle Creek was being logged. What led you from out on a ledge to out on a limb in the coast range?
TA: OK. Just a little bit of background here. We were successful in keeping them from cutting Eagle Creek. They raided our camps--the pods we had set up--and that’s one reason I went on the building when I did, to protest the way they handled our activists out there. When we knew we held them off from logging at Eagle Creek, I became involved with logging issues in the coast range.
The fact is, they’re always logging. There’s just not enough activists, not enough public involvement to stop this yet. Even though we might save an area here or there, they’re cutting everywhere. The result is there’s less than 4% of our native forests remaining in national forests. And on state land it’s even worse. There’s about 1% of native old growth forest left in Oregon. Everything has been slaughtered. The forest everywhere is being converted to a plantation, a tree farm, with no biodiversity. The ecosystems are severely devastated. And they give us these wicked clearcuts with stumps and debris, and chemicalized with everything from diesel fuel to herbicides to try to get rid of any kind of life at all. When they do plant they try to have a single crop plantation, usually Doug fir. They hide all this from the public with tree buffers along the sides of the road.
MG: I’ve seen it. You drive over the coast range, it’s just a corridor—trees line the roadsides to make people think--
TA: Right! And they don’t even leave that much of a buffer. If you travel on Highway 26, you see it. The buffer is very thin. Loggers call it an "idiot strip" or a "fool ‘em strip", you know, making people think they’re in a forest. But if you take a very short hike in from the road, you see the forest that used to be there is gone.
MG: What brought you to Acey Line?
TA: Mostly there isn’t a lot of direct action going on at the coast. Most folks there have families and can’t afford to spend time in the trees doing direct action, even though they feel it’s necessary and they support it. But a local group called Hard Rain Alliance asked activists here in the Portland area to help intervene in this controversial timber sale, because their back yard—some of the last remaining intact forest—was on the slate to be slaughtered.
MG: Describe the sale.
TA: Acey Line timber sale is mostly in Tillamook County, with a little bit in Clatsop County. It is part of what little remains, on the coast, of an actually intact forest. Even though it was logged more than a century ago, it has naturally reseeded itself. It is lush, it is biologically diverse and full of life, it’s perfect habitat for wildlife. This is a rain forest. The forest floor is like a sponge—it’s super-soft and super-delicate. It cannot handle people coming through and trampling on it, bringing in logging equipment that compacts and destroys soil quality, contributing to erosion. The more trees they remove, the more sunlight gets in and dries up the forest floor, contributing to erosion and to sediment and other debris getting into water systems.
ODF received $400,000 for this sale from a company called Christian Futures, out of Springfield. They claim, "so much of this money is gonna go to schools, and da da, da da…"—but what they don’t tell you is that they already spent half that total revenue to build roads, so the logging trucks can come in and haul out the dead trees. And then, if you add in the law enforcement and the insane tactics they implemented—with 24-hour security and paying sheriffs and deputies overtime—they’re gonna be lucky if they break even. They’ll probably lose money on it, like a lot of forest sales do. So they’ll subsidize it with tax money.
The U.S. Forest Service and ODF figure that most citizens don’t care much if it’s just trees being cut from public lands. Unfortunately, they’re right, most people are too busy to pay attention to the complexities of forest management. But when people hear about waste of their tax money, or about fouling air and water quality which no living thing can live without, then they start to care a lot. That’s what happened here, the local community around Acey Line started to care a lot. They’re concerned that their drinking water will be affected, because a lot of the streams that run through the areas slated for "management" go right into people’s drinking water.
This particular sale consists of four Areas—Areas I, II, III and IV, with a total of 124 acres. ODF claims that these Areas are overstocked. In our opinion, Areas II, III and IV are not overstocked. Area I might be the exception. These Areas have naturally reseeded themselves, meaning that ODF didn’t come in and replant in a heinous manner all these single crop species.
MG: You’re saying they’ve been cut before and they reseeded?
TA: Virtually everywhere on the coast has been cut before. There is hardly any native forest left, anywhere, that has never been cut before, on state lands.
MG: Before state or federal agencies sell the timber to these various groups, are they required to give the public notice? Or do you find out after the fact?
TA: It’s not on the front page of the paper or on the evening news, like "hey, this area is now up for sale and gonna be slaughtered". But if people are persistent they can find out the information.
People can do what we call "ground truthing", which means they go out to a specific area and do surveys to make sure that the federal or state agencies are adhering to certain contract guidelines, and to any restrictions, like say taking into consideration if it’s habitat for endangered species. So you can get this information, but it’s not readily available.
MG: And besides ground truthing?
TA: Basically, ODF divides up our state lands and periodically auctions off these trees to private companies, to get rich off. To get information, you have to get a list of the auctions from ODF and other forest agencies. You can go to the auctions yourself—unless they have FBI and other law enforcement block citizen participation, which they do sometimes. You can get the information, it’s just, you have to take the initiative.
MG: What was it that made the Acey Line timber sale so contentious?
TA: Hard Rain Alliance and the local community really wanted logging to stay out of Area III. ODF wanted to cut trees in Area III to ‘open it up’ so that the smaller trees would grow. That is a bunch of BS. Area III consisted of a lot of trees well over 100 years of age, some that were a good three and four feet in diameter at the base. As the argument between the locals and the state officials heated up, there was some talk of putting up a tree sit in Area III. In February, after some negotiations, ODF postponed the sale for at least six months. They said ‘we’ll have some focus groups, we’ll have a comment period, we’re gonna take the public’s input and really consider it’.
MG: But in the meantime they had already sold the trees.
TA: Yeah. They had already sold the trees. That is what makes their public pronouncements about focus groups and comment period just a bunch of BS and lies. They conducted the focus groups and had a comment period that ended around September 11th. All of that was a PR scam to give people a false sense of safety about their local forest. Because on August 1st, they started cutting. And they began their cutting in Area III, the most controversial Area. They did this behind the public’s back. They flat out lied to people and said, "We’re gonna let the people, the citizens, know when we’re gonna start cutting", but in fact they (laughing)—they were cutting at the same time. They truly don’t care.
Anyway, after ODF started cutting in Area III, there wasn’t much that we could do to stop them because it was only 16 acres. In a matter of a couple days they were done. So we set up a tree sit in Area IV in an effort to deter them. We felt Area IV was the best option, especially because Areas I and II were on restriction until September 15th .
MG: Do the local people give you financial backing?
TA: They do. Financial backing and supplies. They bring healthy food, water—everything we need to keep the sits going. It’s really nice. It takes many people to make an action work. It takes people in the city, people in the trees, and it takes people on the ground bringing supplies.
MG: How many people are involved in the tree sit?
TA: We have several people in Area IV, it varies, depending on who’s around. We also set up a tree sit in Area II, in a huge hemlock that’s got to be seven, eight, or nine hundred years of age. They said they weren’t gonna cut it, but they’ve already proven that we can’t trust them.
On October 3rd, they started cutting in Area II, without public notification. Because there was a direct action, they set up a closure, meaning they lock out the public. They told the public they set up a buffer zone around activists in trees, so don’t worry, activists won’t be hurt.
MG: But they didn’t set up the buffer zone, they harassed you, and you did get hurt. What do you see happening next?
TA: This isn’t over by a long shot. We are going to explore every option that we can to stop this madness that destroys our sacred land. You know, it’s not just ours, it’s THE sacred land. It’s nobody’s to claim, it’s nobody’s to destroy. And what we do to this planet, we do to ourselves, whether we realize it or not. We are inextricably interconnected with everything on this planet.
It isn’t too hard to see—when you look at the air quality, look at the water quality, look at how many people are sick, how many degenerative diseases are running rampant, look at the doctor bills, at the cancer and heart attack rates. We just cannot keep pillaging our sacred forests, the water and the air, and think that we are immune.
MG: Are you suing the people that caused you to fall?
TA: I have a defense litigation right now, because they’re charging me with "committing illegal actions". The fact is, they themselves blatantly broke the law. They cut trees within a couple feet of me, which is completely illegal and against their own regulations which require a buffer zone around activists.
They seem to think that, because I was committing civil disobedience, they could not only break the law but put my life in jeopardy, and I was almost murdered. I have six counts against me of interference with a police officer, interference with an agricultural operation, and criminal trespass. But the way I look at it is, this is public land, forests are not an agricultural crop to be "harvested", and I never even came within feet of a police officer—until after I fell. (laughs)
So they have all these charges trumped up against me. But on the civil side, we are pursuing every angle that we can to try to hold these folks accountable.
MG: Are they gonna show up on the doorstep and haul you off to jail?
TA: I don’t think so. They did put me under arrest when I was laying on the forest floor almost dead. They didn’t know the extent of my injuries, so they took me to the Tillamook Hospital, and then thumb-printed me in the emergency room without my consent, and released me. They knew that I was in critical condition so it wasn’t very feasible to haul me off to jail that night.
MG: When you fell, were there other activists in the area?
TA: During the day on October 4th, three women were on the ground, trying to help out with things. They were arrested. And at the time that I fell, there was at least one other activist in the area. That activist got away. After I fell, the cops were making fun of me, making wise-cracks and joking. Once I was hauled away in the ambulance, they were continuing this and—
MG: Could you hear them?
TA: I could. When I came back to consciousness after the fall, I could hear them, and so could the other activist.
MG: What can people do now to help?
TA: People need to continue to pressure the governor and ODF and Christian Futures to stop, to step back. There should be an investigation to look at what has happened.
MG: Do you see yourself doing another run for public office?
TA: I don’t think so. It’s not really my gig. I was pursued and nominated by Green Party members who thought it would be a great opportunity to put some pressure on Blumenauer to be a little more progressive, a little more conscious. But I don’t have any regrets about the run for Congress. It gave me an amazing opportunity to get my message and my mission across to people of all walks of life and all ages, under the umbrella of a Green Party candidate.
But the tangled web of conspiracy and corruption that has infiltrated just about every level of our government is something that I don’t want to get caught up in, from the inside. I’d rather continue to do my line of work from the outside.
MG: Your line of work takes a lot of guts.
TA: Thanks. (Laughing.)
Since this interview, Tre Arrow has been arraigned and charged with a variety of counts. At least 50 local people packed into the courtroom to support his cause. Meanwhile three of the four Areas, including Area VI containing the tree sit in "Solace" have been cut.
Miriam Green is an independent distributor of Multi-Pure water filtration systems and a member of the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO; writing of this article donated. To help save our forests, contact Cascadia Forest Alliance (CFA), www.cascadiaforestalliance.org, [email protected], or 503-241-4879. Purchase your water filter from Miriam at wholesale cost ([email protected], pgr 503-948-4806); mention this article or ad, and she will donate 5% of unit purchase price to CFA.