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March 23, 2014
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Publisher's Notebook: Cascadia Forest Defenders shouldn't be threatening private landowners

I have a fence around my yard for a reason.

At the top of the list is a boundary. The fence reminds would-be visitors where my private property line starts and ends. That’s important in the event someone decides to visit without an invitation.

I make the rules inside my fences. I get to do that because I pay the bills.

Just the other day I decided to mow the fields. The day before that, I installed solar lights around the landscaping.

Most of the time I keep the gate closed. I don’t like surprise visits because I never know when I’ll feel like running around my property in boxer shorts, or maybe grab my .22 and shoot cans and water bottles up on the hill behind the house.

I am easily entertained.

And so I was more than a little concerned to read about the state’s proposed sale of a slice of the Elliott State Forest and how an environmental terrorist group planned to make life difficult for anyone who buys that land.

The state would like to log a small section of the 93,000-acre forest, but has been hampered for years by lawsuits, threatened lawsuits and outright thug tactics.

So the state basically said the heck with it and decided to sell around 2,700 acres to private interests. It hopes to use the proceeds to help overcome a $3 million shortfall in the Common School Fund, which is used for … you know …operating Oregon’s public schools.

Schools are really important because without them we’d be dumber than we are and we seem to be getting dumber by the day.

The terrorists don’t seem too concerned with the fate of public schools and last week said that anyone who buys the land would be subject to their terrorist attacks.

Protestors “will not respect new property lines, signs or gates,” read an open letter from a group called Cascadia Forest Defenders. “If you become the owner of the Elliott, you will have activists up your trees and lawsuits on your desks. We will be at your office and in your mills.”

These terrorists who call themselves defenders are correctly assuming timber companies will be buying the land. It is easier to log on private land and that may be the only reason we’re able to build houses today. Most of Oregon’s timber sits on public land, where timber harvesting has been neutered.

The key term there would be “private,” as in the taxpayers would no longer own the land, transferring it to a private company or citizen.

If Cascadia Forest Defenders stayed out of the trees long enough they might earn enough money to buy the land themselves. Then they could do whatever they want with it.

Since they like living in trees, for example, they could build tree forts. Or have friends over for a picnic, maybe sit around the fire reminiscing about the good old days when they had to sit in someone else’s tree for weeks on end.

“Buy the land! Are you kidding? How can we be forest defenders if we own the forest?”

There are great examples where land trusts have stepped in to buy land they are looking to preserve. It’s based on the theory that you have a willing buyer and a willing seller working together for mutual benefit.

On the other hand, why buy land when you can take it, or occupy it for nothing?

As you can imagine, these threats have not been received well among those who may be interested in buying all or parts of the various sections included in the 2,700-acre sale.

“I think it’s kind of an affront to be threatened like that,” said Bob Ragon, executive director of the Douglas Timber Operators association. “Who do they think we are? Hooligans running around the woods with chain saws, cutting down trees without regard for the environmental consequences?”

Yes, Bob, that’s exactly who they think you are. Check out their website. Their opinion of what you do in the forest is far different than yours. Not sure what credentials they have, other than a desire to protest anytime at any place.

My guess is that they believe the rest of us hate forests and would love nothing better than to pave them over.

They certainly don’t appear to be worried too much about employment, or the economy or where the money comes from to pay bills.

On the other hand, I’ve always supported the right to climb a public tree. And anyone who wants to live in a tree has my deepest respect. I couldn’t live in a tree for very long because … well … trees get cold and wet and uncomfortable and don’t come with Netflix or hot showers.

Where I draw the line is around my private property. You don’t get to occupy my tree unless I want you to. If you disregard my fence and my signs we’ve got a big problem (your problem much larger than mine).

As I said, I like to pull out my little .22 from time to time and I’ll bet the little red dot on the laser would get your attention, even at the top of my tree.

My dogs feel the same way. They hate it when people just barge in without an invitation, so you might have a tough time getting to my trees in the first place.

My guess is that the new owners of those 2,700 acres or so of what will be “privately owned” land will share my enthusiasm for privacy.

While those entrusted to patrol our public lands have done a rotten job dealing with these terrorists, private landowners are typically a little more firm when it comes to keeping trespassers at bay.

The Cascadia Forest Defenders’ open letter sounds an awful lot like a criminal threat and I hope our law enforcement agencies take that threat seriously and deal with it accordingly when the time comes.

Jeff Ackerman is publisher of The News-Review. He can be reached at 541-957-4263 or jackerman@nrtoday.com.

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The News-Review Updated Mar 23, 2014 12:04AM Published Mar 23, 2014 12:04AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.