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20-Year Anniversary of Cascadia Forest Defenders, Battle to Save Warner Creek

Mick Garvin (Center) and Many more fought to save the trees at Warner Creek. Photo credit: Kurt Jensen.
Mick Garvin (Center) and Many more fought to save the trees at Warner Creek. Photo credit: Kurt Jensen.

This summer marks the 20th anniversary of the fight to protect Warner Creek from a salvage-logging project that the Forest Service sought to institute after an arsonist lit up 9,000 acres in the Willamette National Forest. The forest was torched in 1991, and the arson was followed by several years of activism to keep the spotted owl habitat from being logged.

 In 1995 after Congress passed the salvage rider, which exempted salvage operations from environmental laws, activists blockaded the road to Warner for 11 months. In the end, the area was saved from logging. A celebration of Warner Creek’s 20th anniversary and the founding of the Cascadia Forest Defenders (CFD) kicks off Aug. 14 at The Boreal and Old Nick’s Pub and then moves out into the forest over the weekend.

CFD founder Mick Garvin says that the Warner Creek campaign raised awareness and educated people about the logging, and as a result, “all kinds of people came out, not just Earth First!” He says when the campaign moved into direct action mode, creating CFD encompassed all of those who didn’t see themselves as EF! but embraced Cascadia and Warner Creek. 

Tim Ingalsbee, who was from the beginning a leading voice in calling for the preservation of Warner, says the Forest Service “never understood the depth of the community’s moral objection” to the logging. Warner Creek is now a testament to the forest’s ability to regenerate. “In the 24 years since the fire, the area has thrived in benign neglect,” Ingalsbee says, and it stands in stark contrast to the invasive weeds that have moved into nearby clearcuts. “It belies the continuing lie that nature cannot recover from fire on its own,” Ingalsbee says of the burn. He says he would still like to see the area preserved as wilderness.

Twenty years after the Warner Creek Blockade kicked off and the Cascadia Forest Defenders were founded, environmental activism is still going strong in the Pacific Northwest, with CFD members participating in the Shell No protests against Arctic drilling in Portland last week as well as in successful tree sits in recent years. 

Erin Grady of CFD says 20 years after Warner, the group is still working on the long-term preservation of areas such as the Elliott State Forest, stopping clearcutting and forest ecosystem destruction, as well as tackling a planned liquefied natural gas pipeline, which would also involve forest clearcuts.

Grady says of the CFD founders, “They were really brave and willing to give their entire lives to campaign, and I think we have a lot to live up to.” 

Events kick off with a movie night at the Boreal (450 W. 3rd Ave.) 6 pm Friday, Aug. 14, featuring Born in Fire and Pickaxe: Director’s Cut, two documentaries related to Warner. At 9 pm, the action moves to Old Nick’s (211 Washington Street) for musical performances by Peter Wilde and CFD’s Dirty Dandelions.

Saturday and Sunday Aug. 15 and 16, activities move to Warner Creek itself with hikes, a potluck, a retirement ceremony for longtime forest activist Francis Eatherington, discussions on the legacy of CFD and more. For directions and more information, go to the Facebook event page at wkly.ws/21w. 

For more on CFD go to forestdefensenow.com.