Last week I visited Protestor’s Falls in Nightcap National Park in New South Wales, Australia. The waterfall is named for the 1979 sit-in to prevent loggers from clear-cutting the surrounding forest. Due to the biblical amounts of rain of the previous two weeks, the falls and surrounding rain forest were bursting with beauty. It was easy to see why the protestors were so keen to save the area, even going as far as placing themselves in harm’s way in front of the bulldozers. Given recent developments concerning our own national forests, the 1979 Australian protestors might soon be called upon for inspiration.
That moment in 1979 became a panicle event for Australian civil disobedience. It is mirrored in the United States by Julia Butterfly Hill’s redwood sit in in 1997 and 1998. Both events reflect a disturbing need to protect national parks and forests from logging and clear-cutting despite being areas defined as places of conservation. With the economic recession in the US, our national government and state governments are looking towards the protected woods and forests as a source of revenue; and there is a need once again to protect against clear-cutting. Just yesterday, Sally Jewell confirmed that as Secretary of the Interior, she would support President Obama’s energy policy, including using national lands for logging and revenue sources.
Across the country there are movements to protect forests from for profit logging. In Oregon, over 10,000 voices have been collected against the for-profit logging of old-forest surrounding Crater Lake National Park. If this logging goes along as planned and is viewed as a success, the trees within the national park might be at risk next. Meanwhile in Massachusetts, a decade of undermanagement has resulted in numerous areas being clear-cut by the forest service in violation of their own policy. A public outcry has halted this practice until more precise policies can be defined and better management installed. Both cases are representative of successful public protests protecting our nation’s trees against revenue logging.
Our country has a rich history of standing up to (or sitting down in trees) for-profit logging in our national and state forests: a practice that is continued today. However, if our governments continue the worrying trend of perceiving the parks as resources for revenue instead of protected sanctuaries, we must increase our vocal and civil disagreements. Just the beauty of the parks and forests is enough to inspire many into action, but if that is not enough, it is easy to find inspiration within our history of arboreal protests.