Posted 04-17-2002 at 11:55:55
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TREE SITTER DIES IN FALL FROM PLATFORM AT EAGLE CREEK
Published: April 13, 2002
PORTLAND (AP) — A woman tree sitter fell 150 feet from a platform in the Eagle Creek timber sale area, was badly injured and died before rescue crews could arrive to the remote site.
In a sad twist, the timber sale the woman was apparently protesting when she fell Friday had been canceled three days before her death. The cancelation was announced in a speech on the U.S. Senate floor by Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on Tuesday.
Local rescue crews struggled up snow-clogged dirt roads to reach the tree-sitters’ camp in the Mount Hood National Forest after fellow activists called 9-1-1 on a cell phone at about 7 p.m., Clackamas County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Angela Blanchard said.
The caller said the woman, who authorities have not identified, was badly hurt and unconscious but still breathing, Blanchard said.
By the time rescue crews arrived at about 9:30 p.m., she was dead, Blanchard said.
‘‘We had problems getting up to that area because there was snow on the ground, slushy snow on the ground, and we couldn’t get the four-wheel drive trucks up there,’’ she said.
Blanchard said the woman’s body will remain at the site until a medical examiner can reach the site Saturday.
Ivan Maluski, a spokesman for the American Lands Alliance, a group involved in protesting the now-canceled Eagle Creek sale, said tree sitters were days away from leaving the woods after a three-year vigil at the contentious site.
About four people take turns living year-round in tree platforms in the Sunset Grove area where the protester fell, Maluski said.
‘‘People literally are waiting for the ink to dry (on the cancelation deal). Probably we’re going to be packing up and leaving this week, assuming it is signed,’’ Maluski said.
‘‘It’s the end of the third winter out there. It’s really dangerous to be tree-sitting knowing that the winter’s going on. I was really pushing hard this year, saying, ‘‘Don’t go through another winter,’’’ he said.
They almost didn’t have to.
Wyden, an opponent of the timber sale, announced Tuesday that the U.S. Forest Service had canceled the cutting contract after an independent review determined the deal required significant modifications to prevent environmental harm.
At issue was the problem of blowdown, or trees not intended for cutting being felled by winds on the edge of clear cuts. The Forest Service said tree sitters were not a factor in deciding to cancel the Eagle Creek sale.
The Forest Service proposed a ‘‘mutual cancellation’’ of the sales with the timber company, Boring-based Vanport Manufacturing.
The agency offered to refund roughly $1.3 million in deposits, interest and other expenses that Vanport incurred. Vanport President Adolf Hertrich said he would accept, and that appeared to end the contentious timber harvest.
Tree sitters, however, said they would remain in the woods until the final paperwork was signed.
The death may be a first among tree-sitters who live in plywood platforms nailed or lashed to the upper limbs of trees tagged for logging to prevent cutting.
At least two other tree sitters have fallen from perches in the past year in Oregon, requiring evacuation and medical treatment.
A protester fell together with his dislodged platform at the Eagle Creek timber sale last June and was taken by helicopter to a Portland hospital. The unidentified protester at first refused medical treatment and then ran away from the hospital without treatment.
In October, anti-logging protester Michael Scarpitti, also known as Tre Arrow, tumbled 60 feet from a treetop perch in the Tillamook State Forest and suffered multiple broken bones.