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Chapter 11 : I Knew Nothin’ Till I Met Judi

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

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Now there’s one thing she really did for me, (did for me),
Was teach me all ‘bout labor history, (history)
So now I can relate to the workin’ slob, (workin’ slob),
Even though I never had a job.

—Lyrics excerpted from “I Knew Nothin’ Till I Met Judi”, by Darryl Cherney, ca. 1990.

Judi Bari (ne Barisciano), the second of three daughters, was born on November 7, 1949 in a working class neighborhood in a suburb of Baltimore, Maryland, where most of the nearby families were employed in the local steel mills. Bari’s mother Ruth, however, had made history by earning the first PhD ever awarded to a woman studying mathematics at Johns Hopkins University. Bari’s father, Arthur, was a diamond setter, and from him, Bari developed extremely steady hands, which later became a boon to her considerable artistic skills. Bari’s older sister, none other than Gina Kolata, became a famous science writer for the New York Times and Science (although many Earth First!ers, including Bari herself, would argue that Bari’s older sister’s “science” is distorted by corporate lenses), while her younger sister, Martha, was, by Bari’s description, “a perpetual student”. Judi Bari’s upbringing may have been “Middle Class” by most definitions, but her parents, survivors of the McCarthy era in the 1950s, passed on their closet radicalism to their receptive middle daughter, including teaching Bari old IWW songs (and admonishing Bari not to reveal her source) and lecturing all of their daughters against racial and ethnic prejudice. From the get-go, Bari had radical roots.[1]

Judi Bari, in spite of her background as a “red diaper baby”, became politically radicalized on her own accord, having at first been apolitical, even into her first years at the University of Maryland, choosing at first to follow the high school football team, even seeking dates from some of the players as her primary social activity. However, Bari soon became disillusioned with the sexist and racist culture of high school football, having been told not to date an African American player by some of the white ones, who threatened to ostracize her socially if she did. Bari gave in to this threat, an act she later regretted, though this was her first and only capitulation to the status quo. From that point onward, Bari grew increasingly radical. [2]

Storytelling on the Road to Socialism: Episode 2: Forest Defenders Speak

Chapter 10 : Fellow Workers, Meet Earth First!

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

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It was inevitable that the two would meet, really. Earth First! was challenging the corporate extraction of resources, but it wasn’t combating it at its source: the point of production. The problem was that the business unions theoretically could, but in practice they would not. They were too invested in their role as junior partners in the capitalist economy, which left them incapable of fighting it. There was only one union in the United States that could, and luckily, it still existed, even if it was but a shadow of its former self.

That the IWW influenced Earth First! is obvious. If the opposite was true in the early days of Earth First!’s existence, it is difficult to say. Initially, there was no direct or textual reference made by the IWW to Earth First! in its official publication, The Industrial Worker, prior to February 1988, although there was a one-time reproduction of one of Mike Roselle’s images (frequently used in the Earth First! Journal’s “dear shit fer brains” letters section), slightly altered and used in the Industrial Worker’s own letters section in September 1983.

The IWW did take note of general environmental struggles and actions within the pages of the Industrial Worker. For example, in the October / November 1980 issue there was a lengthy article titled, “Big Mountain Dine & Hopi Bat­tle Mine Interests”, a struggle which Earth First! supported for many years. In the June 1981 issue included a lengthy article about the Bolt Weevils”—which predate Earth First!, but serve as one of its inspirations—called, “The Power Line Protest in West Central Minnesota”. Earth First!er Roger Featherstone, was once involved in this campaign. There was a similar, uncredited article about this movement, simply called “Bolt Weevils” in the May 1, 1984 issue of the Earth First! Journal. An isolated column (that does not mention Earth First!) called “Ecology Notes” appeared in the Decem­ber 1982 issue. The same column never appeared again, however. By 1983, articles about ecologically oriented workers’ struggles became more and more frequent, but Earth First! was never mentioned, even if Earth First! was involved in the struggle. Meanwhile, the Wobblies were rarely mentioned in the Earth First! Journal except for a few occasional letters from self-identified IWW members, or former members. [1]

Behind the scenes, however, individual Wobblies and Earth First!ers frequently came into contact with each other. Dave Foreman later revealed that he had regularly corresponded with Utah Phillips. Franklin and Penelope Rosemont had also been in contact with Foreman as well as Roger Featherstone, a veteran of several environmental campaign, who described himself as “a roving reporter for Earth First!” [2] In Tacoma, Washington, IWW members Barbara Hansen and Allen Anger lived in an apartment in the same building as the IWW hall along with long time member, and then branch secretary, Ottilie Markholt. They were friends with George Draffan, who had been a member of the IWW when he was in college, long before joining Earth First! in the 1980s. [3] Colorado IWW member and oilfield worker Gary Cox was also sympathetic to Earth First!. Cox had read The Monkeywrench Gang, become a subscriber to the Earth First! Journal, and had attended an Earth First! speaking event by Dave Foreman and Roger Featherstone at the University of Colorado. [4] A handful of IWW members were Earth First!ers themselves, including a musician known as “Wobbly Bob”. [5]

Nevertheless, the first actual mention of Earth First! in the pages of the Industrial Worker touched on the Cameron Road tree spiking and the injury to George Alexander.

Chapter 7 : Way Up High in The Redwood Giants

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

“I just wish Mr. Hurwitz would go out in the woods and take about a day and just sit down in inside a redwood grove. Maybe he’d have a different opinion (about) what’s going on. Rather than looking at a dollar bill, he’d be seeing a tree for its value.”

—John Maurer, Pacific Lumber shipping clerk, 1976-86.

“The employees of PL have no union or representation; they’ve been kidnapped. Whatever their employer requires, they must fulfill or risk unemployment. They’ve become forced through economics to support practices they would never have supported otherwise. PL employees are paranoid by necessity. Folks are so afraid of losing their jobs. There’s lots of fear in our community, fear that keeps us separated from one another.”

—Pete Kayes, Pacific Lumber blacksmith, 1976-91

Earth First! was committed to their Week of Outrage Against Maxxam, whether or not their message of forests and timber jobs forever was superimposed with images of mill worker George Alexander speaking through the bandages that covered his mutilated face. Greg King worried that the negative publicity for an act Earth First! didn’t commit would indeed distract attention away from the real issue: the long term liquidation of the last remaining virgin redwood forests of Northern California. Darryl Cherney, however, assured everyone, “We will be upholding the laws. It is Pacific Lumber that is breaking them.” [1] Beginning on Monday, May 18, Earth First! planned to conduct actions in several places specifically targeting Pacific Lumber operations, Maxxam offices, and related facilities. [2] The largest and most important of these was to be a multifaceted action on Pacific Lumber land in Humboldt County itself, targeting the Booths Run “All Species Grove” THP concurrently being contested by EPIC. [3]

In preparation for the demonstrations, on the day before a group of Earth First!ers attempted to block Pacific Lumber’s main haul route into All Species Grove, while a second crew, including Larry Evans, Mokai, Kurt Newman, and Darrell Sukovitzen, conducted a group “tree sit” 120-150 high on four three-by-six foot suspended wooden platforms up in the giant redwoods nearby. Only two platforms were successfully deployed, however. Mokai had retreated at the advice of the other sitters for logistical reasons, and instead watched his would-be fellow climbers ascending their trees through binoculars. Newman was able to climb his tree, but his platform was intercepted by P-L security who arrived very quickly. From the canopies, the sitters hung large 30-foot banners with slogans such as “Save the Redwoods” and “Stop Maxxam” which also included a blood colored skull and crossbones. The sitters stayed up for several hours until Humboldt County sheriffs arrived, at which time Evans and Sukovitzen surrendered. Newman, on the other hand, remained in place until a professional P-L climber, Dan Collings ascended to his position, at which time Newman surrendered also. [4] The three tree sitters, three of their support people (Lynn Burchfield, Debra Jean Jorgenson, and Linda Villatore), and Sacramento Weekly reporter Tim Holt [5] were arrested and spent two nights in the Humboldt County jail and faced fines of up to $3000. [6] They had collectively managed to remain in the trees for between 12 and 20 hours, but had hoped to remain longer to give the next day’s action “staying power”. [7]

As it turned out, the tree sits weren’t needed anyway. The next day, the show went on at the enormous P-L log deck at Carlotta nearby, attended by 125 Earth First!ers and their allies holding banners, chanting, and singing songs, led by Darryl Cherney. [8] The tree spiking furor had brought larger than expected numbers of media representatives to the action, and they got a good look at Maxxam’s pillage and the Humboldt County sheriffs’ heavy handedness firsthand. One demonstrator was slightly injured when a disgruntled, unsympathetic P-L employee attempted to storm the protesters at the logging gate by ramming them with his pickup truck. [9] A group of three women swarmed the log deck attempting to display huge banners there. [10] Although the sheriffs were anticipating the action and managed to arrest Agnes Mansfield, Aster Phillipa, and Karen Pickett [11], they were distracted long enough for Bettina Garsen, Tierra Diane Piaz, and “Sally Bell” [12] to ascend the log deck with banners conveying messages calling for a halt to old growth logging. [13] The sheriffs eventually arrested the second group, and all six arrestees each spent a night in the county jail. [14] Although the tree sit had been thwarted, the action turned out to be successful anyway, because P-L determined that it was in their short term interest not to haul any logs during the demonstration, and this nevertheless advanced Earth First!’s strategy beautifully. [15]

Chapter 6 : If Somebody Kills Themselves, Just Blame it on Earth First!

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

Haul it to the sawmill, Got to make a buck,
Your blades are worn and dangerous, Better trust your luck,
Don’t stop for the workers’ safety, Never fear the worst,
‘Cause if somebody kills themselves, Just blame it on Earth First!,
L-P…

—Lyrics excerpted from L-P, by Judi Bari, 1990.

“Anybody who ever advocated tree spiking of course has to rethink their position.”

—Darryl Cherney, June 1987.[1]

Earth First! received much negative press for its advocacy of biocentrism, the notion that all species (including humans) were intrinsically valuable. Their slogan “No Compromise in Defense of Mother Earth!” was forceful and militant, and given the misanthropic leanings of some of its cofounders, it was often taken to mean that they valued the lives of nonhuman species above humans—even if it meant the suffering or death of the latter—which wasn’t actually the case. The situation was complicated further by Earth First!’s advocacy of monkeywrenching: industrial “ecotage” which included everything from deflagging roads to putting sugar in the fuel tanks of earth moving and/or logging equipment. Earth First! cofounder Dave Foreman described monkeywrenching thusly:

“It is resistance to insanity that is encapsu­lated in Monkeywrenching…(it) fits in with the bioregional concept. You go back to a place and you peacefully re-inhabit it. You learn about it. You become a part of the place. You develop an informal and al­ternative political and social struc­ture that is somehow apart from the sys­tem… it’s also a means of self-empowerment, of finding alternative means of relat­ing to other people, and other life forms…there is a funda­mental difference between ecodefense resistance and classic revolutionary or terrorist behavior.” [2]

Such a description, while informative, was hardly likely to silence critics on the right. The most controversial of these controversial tactics by far, was Earth First!’s advocacy of “tree spiking”, the act of driving large nails into standing trees in order to deter timber sales. [3]

IWW WISERA Environmental Committee and NARA IWW EUC Reading Group 2: Notes from Hell

Fellow Workers (and fellow travelers, too!)

We are inviting you to the second session of our monthly, online reading group dedicated to discussing the work of and writings by IWW Organiser and Earth First! environmental activist Judi Bari.

The texts we will be reading and reviewing are Notes From Hell - Working at the L-P Mill, by Judi Bari [By Judi Bari - Anderson Valley Advertiser, April 17, 1991; Reprinted in Timber Wars, © 1994 Common Courage Press] and its companion piece, Judi Bari interviews Louisiana Pacific Mill Workers [Transcript of a KZYX FM radio interview; Reprinted in August 1992 issue of the Industrial Worker].

This meeting will be held on zoom.  Register here.

Chapter 4 : Maxxam’s on the Horizon

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

“There’s a little story about the golden rule: those who have the gold, rule”

—Charles Hurwitz speaking to Pacific Lumber employees in December 1985

In the town of Kilgore, Texas was born a tailor’s son,
From the killing of the Indians he learned how the west was won.
His name was Charlie Hurwitz and he terrorized the land,
His killing field was Wall Street and his gang was called Maxxam…

—lyrics excerpted from Maxxam’s on the Horizon, by Darryl Cherney

By the fall of 1985, the Pacific Lumber Company (PL), based in southern Humboldt County, had existed for over 115 years and remained a virtual eye in the hurricane of class conflict, capitalist boom and bust, and ecological battles that raged throughout the Pacific Northwest. The company had been established in 1869 along with the company town of Forestville with the help of two Nevada venture capitalists named A. W. MacPhereson and Henry Wetherbee for a grand total of $750,000. [1] It was, in fact, the first foray by absentee owners into the redwood lumber industry of Humboldt County, predating even the California Redwood Company. Although it didn’t commence actual lumber operations until 1887, it grew quickly, and by the last decade of the 19th Century, it was the largest lumber company in the county. [2] By 1904, P-L owned 40,000 acres of timberland and its mill (“A”) operating on two ten-hour shifts, could produce 300,000 feet of cut lumber daily. By 1909, the construction of a second mill (“B”) increased the company’s productivity to a whopping 450,000 feet per day with one eight-hour shift working in both mills. The milling complex was one of the largest such facilities on the Pacific Coast. The town’s population increased from 454 in 1890 to over 3,000, and the company’s workforce numbered at least 2,000. [3]

There had been but one significant change in Pacific Lumber’s ownership over its history. In 1905, Maine lumberman Simon J. Murphy acquired the company with the help of east coast investors. [4] Upon acquiring the company he changed the name of the town to Scotia, in honor of his family’s roots in Nova Scotia. [5] It was under Murphy’s leadership that the company instituted its “welfare-capitalist” paternalism in a clear attempt to stave off attempts by the IWW (and other unions) to gain a foothold among Pacific Lumber’s employees. [6] In an effort to ensure that peace would reign supreme, the company closed its saloon, “an infamous whorehouse and gambling parlor” known as the “Green Goose”, in 1910, and replaced it with a bank. That establishment was later transformed into Bertain’s Laundry, which would at one time become the largest cleaning establishment in the county. [7] By the second decade of the 20th Century, Scotia was one of the nation’s most developed company towns, boasting of two churches, two banks, a saloon, a hospital, a schoolhouse, a library, a clubhouse, and a large company owned general store. It also included several cultural and social institutions, including four fraternal orders and a volunteer fire department. [8]

The IWW spared no vitriol at the obvious—and essentially overt—attempt by the employing class to steal their thunder, but the scheme worked. [9] The company wasn’t ever entirely free of dissenters, and there was at least one attempt at a wildcat in 1946 during the Great Strike. [10] Yet, the company remained nonunion throughout its history, resisting organizing attempts by the IWW, various AFL unions, and the IWA, even though ironically it was the threat of unionization that had inspired P-L to implement its benevolent dictatorship in the first place. [11] When Murphy’s grandson, Albert Stanwood Murphy, assumed the role of Chairman of the P-L board of directors, he carried on and enhanced his grandfather’s practices. [12]

Chapter 3 : He Could Clearcut Forests Like No Other

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

“Come to light: L-P’s literally poisonous policies literally poisoning forest workers. Has any other business a higher profit-to-wages ratio? And yet, are any local workers at higher risk? Where’s the IWW? The first Wobbly who writes in gets a free lunch, courtesy of RADIO * FREE EARTH.”

—Marco McClean, Mendocino Commentary, April 18, 1985.

Harry Merlo is one of the highest paid executives in the industry. He makes $353,000 and he just got a 10 percent raise”

—Harold Broome, carpenter.

“Harry was down to see the strike in his mink coat the other day.”

—Walter Newman, spokesperson and business representative for Lumber Production and Industrial Workers Union Local 2592.

Americans are raised on the mythology of the “self-made man”, the “enterprising go-getter” archetype who creates his own fortune and charts his own destiny. Very often he faces incredible odds, and, armed only with his wits and will to succeed, he alone overcomes disadvantages to become a leader among his fellow Americans. The gender specific pronoun is intentional, because in these stories, women more often than not play a subordinate role. There is an element of “pioneer” spirit within this narrative, and this is not entirely coincidental, because much of the narrative stems from the European-American subjugation of indigenous peoples and the wild. This archetype certainly matches the description of most “captains of industry”, particularly railroad bosses, oil magnates, and timber barons. There is more than folktale about such individuals. Indeed there is a strong ideological component to them, a personification of capitalism, perhaps expressed most unapologetically, albeit crudely, in the narratives of Ayn Rand, particularly Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead.

Whether fact or fiction, in these narratives, the entrepreneur is always the hero—virtuous to the core—and he is held up as an example to the rest of us to follow. Very often they not only rely on their own means, they often struggle against a cool and callous society, usually personified by a bureaucratic government, who appropriates some or all of the hero’s self-made fortune to serve its own political ends. What these stories consistently omit, is that most often these “conquering heroes” are neither self-made nor are they virtuous. They often lie, cheat, bend or break the rules, stab those close to them in the back, and rely on the benefits provided by the very same “government” they decry when it doesn’t serve their every need. They appropriate the fruits of others’ labor and call it their own. If there are consequences to their actions, they are shifted to the general public, usually upon the backs of those most unable to resist. And, it is the richest and the most powerful among them who commission the narratives that celebrate their triumphs, sanitizing their own histories so that it is difficult to tell what constitutes fact or fiction.

Harry A. Merlo Jr. was such a man. He began his career as a shipping foreman at a small, independently owned mill, advanced to partner, and then, after the mill was bought out by Georgia Pacific (G-P) he quickly moved up ranks of the G-P corporate structure.[1] Georgia Pacific spun off Louisiana Pacific (L-P) as a result of an antitrust suit brought by Boise Cascade (B-C) against the former for monopolistic practices in 1973. The Federal Trade Commission had threatened to break up the former for monopolizing the timberlands of northwestern California after acquiring holdings formerly held by Boise-Cascade, including the Fort Bragg California mill.[2] Merlo took over as head of the newly created L-P, and, under his management, the latter quickly expanded to become the second largest lumber company in the United States with 110 plants and at least 13,000 employees nationwide, with annual sales in excess of $1 billion.[3] Despite Merlo’s reputation as a self-made man, he received achieved many of his “successes” on the backs of others.

Chapter 2 : Pollution, Love it or Leave it!

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

"Since when are humans solely a biological product of wilderness? (What is ‘wilderness’?) If you accept an evolutionary development of Homo sapiens, as I do, it does not mean that you profess a disbelief in God. Quite the contrary. It was God, the Creator, who created humans, who imbued them with a will, with a soul, with a conscience, with the ability to determine right from wrong. It is inconceivable that the Creator would create such vast resources on earth without expecting them to be utilized."

—Glenn Simmons, editor of the Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance, February 1, 1990.

"Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

—Edward Abbey

Earth shattering though it may have seemed, the IWW’s victory was both transitory and incomplete, and historical currents would never again mesh as perfectly. To begin with, the strike on the job had taken place only in the Pacific Northwest, and had excluded California at that. The Wobblies recognized one strategic weakness in this situation in noting that the employers could have eventually organized a lockout of that region and relied instead on wood production from the southern or eastern United States. They knew—in the abstract at least—that their victory would never be complete until they organized all lumber workers nationally and internationally.[1] The Wobblies inability to make inroads among the highly skilled redwood loggers of California’s North Coast was especially troublesome, and it portended their undoing. Two companies, Pacific Lumber (P-L) and Hammond Lumber Company (HLC) had each adopted separate techniques that had kept the IWW out and would soon be duplicated by the Lumber Trust elsewhere. That combined with the much larger shockwaves brought on by the Russian Revolution in 1917 conspired against the One Big Union and led to the eventual decline of the American working class as an adversarial force and the liquidation of the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Although most corporations comprising the Lumber Trust had refused to budge, lest they embolden the Wobblies, there were those that adopted “welfare capitalism” on their own initiative, in which they would provide amenities and benefits to their workers—union or not—in an attempt to win over their loyalty. It was in the crucible of timber worker unionism, Humboldt County, where this was first attempted with any lasting success, by the Pacific Lumber Company (P-L), based in Scotia, beginning in 1909. P-L had discovered that by creating a wide variety of social programs, employee benefits, and community based events, it was able to secure the loyalty and stability of its workforce. P-L general manager A. E. Blockinger described these efforts in great detail in an article featured in the Pioneer Western Lumberman:

"A reading room with facilities for letter writing and any games, except gambling, is easily and cheaply put into any camp. Arrange subscription clubs for papers and periodicals or let the company do it for the men. If you can have a circulating library among your camps and at the mill plant, it will be much appreciated. Let the daily or weekly papers be of all nationalities as represented in your camp. Lumber trade journals are especially interesting to the men and they can and will readily follow the markets for lumber and appreciate that you have some troubles of your own.

“Organize fire departments among your men. The insurance companies will give you reductions in rates for such additional protection while it offers another opportunity for your men to relax and enjoy themselves.

“Shower baths at the camps or mill are easily and cheaply installed. They will be used and appreciated after a hot, dusty day’s work.

“Get your men loyal and keep them so. Let this replace loyalty to a union. The spirit is what you want in your men. Ten good men will accomplish as much as fifteen ordinary laborers if the spirit and good will is there. Treat them right and they will treat you right.”[2]

The employers’ introduction of paternalism achieved its intended goal. The Secretary of the Pacific Logging Congress, an employers’ association had declared in his 1912 report, “The best cure for the IWW plague—a people without a country and without a God—is the cultivation of the homing instinct in men.”[3] When the IWW campaign for the eight hour day ensued in 1917, P-L simply added more programs. Carleton H. Parker, a onetime U.C. Berkeley economics professor working for the War Department as a mediator during the lumber workers’ strike, had previously conducted sociological studies on workers, including agricultural and timber laborers. Parker was familiar with P-L, and had some fairly extensive knowledge of the Wobblies.[4] Some of the latter had been gained through first-hand studies by two of his assistants, Paul Brissenden[5] and F. C. Mills[6] who had posed as IWW members and later produced extensive studies on the organization. Using this knowledge, Parker offered many suggestions to Disque which the latter somewhat reluctantly adopted. The LLLL created social halls for its members and replaced the employment sharks with free employment agencies. The IWW quite rightly recognized these amenities as a means to buy the workers’ loyalty and likely to be liquidated when the employers drive for profits once again accelerated, but this process would take a long time, and convincing the workers of a threat that could take one or more generations to manifest proved futile.[7]

Chapter 1 : An Injury to One is an Injury to All!

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

The mill men all insist on one thing: that the Government will grant the manufacturers protection from the lawless element of the I.W.W.’s”

—J. P. Weyerhaeuser, 1917

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite,
Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might,
Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?
The union makes us strong…

—Lyrics excerpted from Solidarity Forever, by Ralph Chaplin, ca. 1915

The timber industry has, throughout nearly its entire history, been in the control of an elite minority of the very rich and powerful, and they have been especially avaricious, violent, and repressive towards all who would challenge their power. They have also—in spite of a barrage of slick propaganda trumpeting their careful management of the resource—depleted most of the virgin forests of the Pacific Northwest. Many environmental organizations can trace their origins to opposition to such practices, and in the struggles by environmentalists to preserve forestlands, timber workers have had a reputation for being their fiercest adversaries, and in many cases, this is true. Timber workers have a well deserved reputation for being outspoken about the pride of purpose in their job, as well as a deeply ingrained cultural machismo. Yet lumber harvesting and production is historically one of the ten most dangerous jobs in the industrialized world, and timber workers are among those most exploited by their employers. One would logically expect the timber workers to be highly resistant to such treatment, but in recent years they haven’t been. This wasn’t always so. To understand why, one must examine the industry’s origins.

Before the arrival of European-American settlers to the Pacific Northwest, the entire region stretching from northern California to Canada and Alaska from the Pacific Coast to the Rocky Mountains was dominated by coniferous old growth forests. At least 20 million acres of this land was forested, dominated by various species of trees, some of them hundreds of feet in height, over a dozen feet in diameter, and centuries or even millennia old.[1] In the southwestern part of this region, stretching from Big Sur to roughly what is now the Oregon state line, in a belt that was at least twenty miles wide for most of its expanse a very unique species of tree dominated, Sequoia sempervirens, commonly known as the California redwoods, some of them standing over 350 feet tall. Their close (and similarly large) cousins, Sequoiadendron giganteum, better known as the Giant Sequoia, only grew in a few isolated spots in the southern end of the Sierra Nevada foothills. These vast forests were far more then the trees, however. Hundreds, if not thousands of plant and animal species lived and flourished within these wooded habitats, and as far as is known, the indigenous population of the Americas had no significant lasting impact on California’s ancient redwood forests, nor did they have any lasting effect on the timberlands of the Pacific Northwest in general.[2] Like the Native Americans, the old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest had remained left more or less untouched for thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years.

The coming of the white man changed all of that. The Russians first began exploiting the redwoods for the construction of Fort Ross in 1812, during their very brief settlement there.[3] As more Europeans arrived, the forests south of San Francisco were the first to be logged, usually through clearcutting, until these ancient stands were completely liquidated by 1860. In those days, loggers used hand saws, and felling an ancient redwood could take anywhere from two-to-five days to complete. The redwoods to the north of the Golden Gate in what is now Marin County were logged next, especially along rivers that allowed easy transportation by the available modes of the day. By this time, around 1881, the steam engine had replaced pack animals. Though this first wave of automation did not have a significant impact on the number of workers involved in the logging process, it greatly increased the impact logging had on the redwoods. Entire forests were liquidated, no matter how small the tree, because even the baby trees were used to build the skid roads used for hauling the larger ones. These forests were never replanted, and very few of them grew back, and in some cases, farmlands replaced them. By the beginning of the 20th Century, all but a few of these ancient trees were gone and logging operations migrated north to Sonoma County. One quarter century later, most of these old growth forests were likewise gone.[4]

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