A Plea For The Ancient Forest!
I was snug in my sleeping bag in a hanging hut in the ancient forest
canopy of the rainforest of the Pacific Northwest. And Just before I was
asleep, I felt a light, shivery weight on my legs. It was ticklish, the way
the little feet quivered with energy, the creature so high on life, on
curiosity, on the will to survive, as it travels the branches in its
nightly forage for food.
Startled by quivering creature contact I shifted and sat up, the rodent
scampered up the tree a ways, but just a little ways. Realizing I had been
visited by a Northern Flying Squirrel I smiled and bade it good night and
again nestled down feeling safer and more comfortable in my treetop bed
knowing the natives felt comfortable approaching me. Then it ran up my body
and welcomed me face to furry face. I think I'm going to stay a while! Then
briefly and tentatively, a flying squirrel sat on my face.
The next morning I watched a pair of these wing-flapped rodents as they
sat on our porch checking out us and our food. Our food secured in buckets,
they settled on gnawing on newsprint. They looked at us bravely with black
eyes that said, "okay, you can stay." There is no question who is a guest
in whose home here.
Have you ever seen a flying squirrel "fly?" A flying squirrel can leap
from a tree branch and glide up to 200 feet downwards through the canopy to
another tree. They glide on flaps of skin that unfold between their
forearms and their sides. They can steer themselves left and right as they
glide, and as they land their flaps come all the way out like parachutes
and they land gently and stealthily on a branch. They can also
I'm sitting 150 feet up between the massive trunks of two magnificent
old growth Douglas Fir trees and one old Hemlock. This 96 total acres of
publicly owned, rare, low-elevation, old growth forest is slated to be
clearcut by Zip-O-Sawmills of Eugene, Oregon. This timber sale is above the
North Fork of Fall Creek in the Willamette National Forest. Known as the
Clark timber sale, this popular recreation area has been temporarily spared
from logging due to the ongoing attention, which began last April when a
village of treesitters moved into treehouses that reach heights of 210 feet
into the upper canopy. To this day these forest defenders continue to speak
out in favor of a bill introduced in congress to end corrupt logging on
These trees were supposed to be cut down last spring by Zip-O-Sawmills
of Eugene, Oregon, but public attention has caused Zip-O to take a wait and
see approach. This area was once set aside and protected as critical
habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl. The Spotted Owl is an indicator
species, which means it's decline is a reflection of the decline of many
other rare, old growth forest dependent species. Even though the Forest
Service is breaking the law by logging US Fish and Wildlife Service
designated "critical habitat;" even though the Forest Service is breaking
the law by not surveying for rare and sensitive species; the Forest Service
continues to maintain that Congress has given them the authority to break
to break the laws. Congress says this is necessary in order to put out the
annual yield in board feet that it promises to industry.
Since the Northern Flying Squirrel, prime Spotted Owl food is not
considered "threatened," their habitat is considered expendable by
Congress, though the truth is that the unprotected old growth patches of
this forest are one last sanctuary for these beautiful native aeronauts.
And since a squirrel rarely ranges beyond a 30-acre area, these Fall Creek
flying squirrels certainly will die. We, their human relations, can help
them by living with them in the trees. You can help us by sending a message
to your federal representatives, to the Forest Service and to
Zip-O-Sawmills. Stop logging our public-owned forest lands!
I am not uncomfortable or unhappy here on this dark winter night, on a
hanging cushioned platform with a tarp roof, listening to the radio and
writing by candlelight. I am not cold or hungry, there is nothing I need
that I don't have. I don't have any money, but what would I do with that up
here? When I go to bed and blow out the candles, a flying squirrel might
approach me and run across my face. It might even bust into the flour bag
by my head again. I don't mind, I like the little critters. And as
comfortable and happy as I am in their home, I know there are plenty of
other places I could go on this earth and survive. Not so for the flying
squirrels. If we leave their treetop homes, their homes are coming down.
Our departure would leave the squirrels at the mercy of the U.S. Forest
Service and Zip-O-Sawmill trying to make a quick buck.
And the trees would fall. And the squirrels would fly from tree to tree,
and tree after tree would fall and still they would flee, until nothing was
left but the few sparsely separated trees marked orange in spray paint
around their trunks, the diseased trees, the dead snags, the "not suitable
for timber harvest" rejects. But these would be few and far between,
further than a flying squirrel can fly. And there's nowhere to go, nothing
to eat in the air or on the ground and there are giant industrial machines
turning and churning all around. The flying squirrels have nowhere to fly,
and so they die. How could we possibly leave these trees, knowing the
flying squirrels and their plight?
People tell me I'm wasting my time, to get a "real job," to live in the
"real world." But what could be more real than the wind and the rain, the
sway of a big ancient tree. The mountains in the distance, the red clouded
sunset, the hoot of an owl or a growl in the night, the fluttery, fidgety
feeling of furry little feet on my face and in the flour?
Come live in the trees with us! or send us financial support:
Cascadia Forest Defenders!
PO Box 11122, Eugene,