Trees were spiked in '95 protest

A friend and I were having a conversation and she had mentioned that in the early 1990s, loggers in Medford had to have police escorts to a logging site by the Oregon Caves, for protection from protesters. Is this true? Were the protesters violent? Fill me in, please.

— Kelsey, Central Point

Your friend was leading you in the right direction, Kelsey, but the timber sale she likely was talking about was logged in 1995. The U.S. Forest Service named it Sugarloaf, and it was lined out on a 739-acre slope of Grayback Mountain, a half-mile northeast of the Oregon Caves National Monument.

Purchased by Boise Cascade Corp. to supply its former Medford mill, which closed in 1998 after a fire, the sale contained 9.5 million board feet of Siskiyou-Rogue National Forest timber. It drew an intense amount of criticism from environmental groups throughout the West, mostly because 40 percent of the sale's footage came from trees more than 44 inches in diameter.

Shane Williamson, 40, owner of Williamson Timberfalling in Grants Pass, who was one of the fallers on the site, said he remembers meeting with other loggers at the Medford Interagency Office in the mornings and following an escort from federal officers to the logging site.

When the trees started falling in early September, a 35-square-mile area was closed in an attempt to keep protesters out. But as operations continued though October of that year, eventually more than 100 protesters were arrested after attempting to pass through the boundary and enter the logging area; some climbed trees or chained themselves to logging trucks.

The vast majority of the protesters were not violent and practiced civil disobedience in their attempts to halt the logging. However, in the midst of controversy, the Mail Tribune received a letter referring to the Sugerloaf sale, in which the letter writer claimed that large spikes had been driven into trees at the Sugarloaf site.

The letter from the Society Protecting Intact Kinetic Ecosystems, or S.P.I.K.E., post marked in Eugene, read in part: "We make this announcement not to boast about our deed, but rather in the interest of timber worker safety and to inform the Forest Service that their attempts to rape and colonize this critically important area will be difficult and expensive from this point on."

The letter went on to claim responsibility for spiking trees to cause damage to chain saws and mill saws around Oregon and in the Sugarloaf sale. Most environmental groups denounced the tactic of spiking trees because it increased the danger for loggers and mill workers, but a number of trees in the Sugarloaf sale were found with metal spikes in the them.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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