PORTLAND, Oregon, April 13, 2002 (ENS) - A treesitter with the Cascadia Forest Alliance has died in a fall from a tree she was attempting to protect from logging.
Last night, Beth O'Brien, 22, was using a rope to climb to a platform in an old growth tree in the Mt. Hood National Forest when she fell to the ground from 150 feet.
Tim Ream, a volunteer with the Cascadia Forest Alliance, told ENS that O'Brien was still alive when she hit the ground and a cell call was immediately made for help.
Officials took more than two hours to arrive at the scene, Ream explained, because they could not reach the remote location by four wheel drive truck and had to go back and get more help. Volunteers on snowmobiles finally made it to the scene, but they arrived too late to save O'Brien's life.
Treesitters' platform in the Eagle Creek Timber Sale similar to the one O'Brien was trying to reach. (Photos courtesy Cascadia Forest Alliance)
O'Brien had hiked in on showshoes for two hours loaded with supplies for the treesit on the Eagle Creek Timber Sale. Two other people, both men, were on the scene. One was on a platform in the tree and the other on the rope behind O'Brien when she fell. Ream said they told authorities that a safety device was available to O'Brien which she chose not to use.
O'Brien was the kind of person who was, "Dedicated to life, to joy and to the living of life," Ream said.
She was the founder of an organization that fed the homeless in Santa Rosa, where her mother lives. She had been to a number of the tree sits in Oregon and had been on the Eagle Creek Timber Sale treesit on and off for about a year.
Four days before O'Brien's death, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden announced the cancellation of the Eagle Creek timber sales on Mt. Hood National Forest.
The Eagle sales are located in roadless forests of the Clackamas watershed, drinking source for 185,000 residents of West Linn, Lake Oswego and Oregon City and several smaller Portland suburbs.
Most of the logging would have occurred on steep slopes in the "transient snow zone," raising concerns about landslides and water quality. Forests more heavily logged in the Clackamas basin suffered hundreds of landslides during rain-on-snow events in 1996 while unlogged and unroaded areas fared well.
While logging of the Eagle forest generated broad public opposition, blowdown of trees adjacent to previously logged forest also drew the attention of independent scientists. They found that the U.S. Forest Service did not adequately analyze the risk of blowdown that was associated with logging units.
Regna Merritt of the Oregon Natural Resources Council said, "Our roadless forests are our very best sources of clean water and a legacy we must pass on to our children."
Old growth tree in the Eagle Creek timber sale
"Logging proposed for the forest adjacent to the historic Old Baldy Trail and the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness has now been cancelled. Because of its importance as a drinking watershed and a popular hiking destination, the Eagle Creek roadless area is proposed by the Oregon Wilderness Coalition as an addition to the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness Area in the Oregon Wild 2002 wilderness proposal." said Susan Ash, Director of the Oregon Wild Campaign.
The contractor who originally purchased the right to cut the area, Oregon based Vanport Manufacturing Industries, was willing to let the sale be cancelled and has repeatedly stated that the company has no need for a replacement volume of wood.
"They have been supportive of cancelling the timber sale," Ream said. "Even the logging company didn't want the sale to go through."
"This is something that could have been handled years ago if the Forest Service had listened to the public, but they didn't," said Ream, "so now this has dragged on and now a young woman has given her life."
The Cascadia Forest Alliance is holding a memorial candlelight vigil for Beth O'Brien Sunday evening at sunset in Mount Tabor Park in Portland.
Cascadia Forest Alliance:
History of Eagle Creek Timber Sale protests at the Oregon Natural Resources Council: