Tree sitting is a form of environmentalistcivil disobedience in which a protester sits in a tree, usually on a small platform built for the purpose, to protect it from being cut down (speculating that loggers will not endanger human lives by cutting an occupied tree). Supporters usually provide the tree sitters with food and other supplies.
Tree sitting is often used as a stalling tactic, to prevent the cutting of trees while lawyers fight in the courts to secure the long-term victories.
Tree-sitting was once a children's pastime. In the early 1930s, when endurance contests raged across the U.S., it became a child's contest for kids to climb into their backyard trees and, serviced by siblings and local businesses, attempt to win prizes for the longest sit.
Tree-sitters in trees claimed by Pacific Lumber in Humboldt County have been subject to forced removal by hired extractors. The practice started with a single extractor in the late 1990s but in 2003 Pacific Lumber hired teams of climbers to remove dozens of tree-sitters, particularly in the Freshwater area East of Eureka, California.
Most of the extractions in Northern California are done under the leadership of Eric Schatz of Schatz Tree Service, a well known professional arborist.
List of tree sits
The tree-sitters' camp in Berkeley, California protesting the planned removal of coastal live oaks as of 2008-07-08. The protesters were in the trees from 2006-12-02 to 2008-09-09, making it the longest running urban tree-sit in history.
Some of the more notable tree sittings include:
Waller Creek Tree-sit, October 22, 1969, Austin, Texas.
During the Elm Conflict in May-1971, protesters sat in the elmtrees.
Tree sitting in 1978 (the first tree sitting action) led to the protection of what is now the Pureora Forest Park in New Zealand.
In December 1983, the Nomadic Action Group (NAG) climbed trees to block work on the controversial Cape Tribulation to Bloomfield Road in North Queensland, Australia. When work resumed in August 1984, obstruction of road construction continued over a two-week period. Making use of hammocks, protesters were able to remain aloft, some for as long as a week at a time.
Mikal Jakubal was an early American tree sitter. On May 20, 1985 he ascended a Douglas Fir in an area of the Middle Santiam region of Willamette National Forest that was in the process of being clearcut. While short-lived, his tree sitting action inspired a group tree sitting event by Earth First! activists that lasted from June 23 to July 20, 1985, when two Linn County, Oregon sheriff's deputies wrestled Marylander Ron Huber from his tree after a day-long stand-off.
In 1986 and 1987, the Tasmanian Wilderness Society (TWS) obstructed logging operations at Farmhouse Creek in the Tasmanian South West Wilderness with tree sitters on wooden platforms. Tree platforms were later used on the Australian mainland during the South East Forests New South Wales campaign in Nullica State Forest (April–August 1989). Later in this campaign tree platforms in Coolangubra State Forest were erected to impede construction of the Wog Way and Kanoonah logging roads; those at Wog Way were occupied in continuous shifts from the beginning of September 1989 until October 1990.
1993 Fall, central wilderness of Idaho, the Cove/Mallard Timber Sale the largest timber sale in USFS history, where vastly outnumbered Earth First Activists attempted 2 Tree-Sits along proposed route of & at that time actively being logged site of the Noble Road Logging Road, first of 7 new roads to be built into untouched wild mountains. Loggers cut down around these first two Tree-Sits, laughing at & insulting the activists, a sight repeated later at another attempted cluster of Tree-Sits Actions in 1994 in a Clear-Cut off of Noble Road.
Julia Butterfly Hill, an activist in Humboldt County, California became known for her 738-day sit (from December 10, 1997 until December 18, 1999) in a 180-foot (55 m), 600-year-old Coast Redwood tree she named Luna. Eventually, Hill and other activists raised $50,000 to spare her tree and a 200-foot (61 m) buffer around it.
In 2000 after two years living in Mariah, a thousand-year-old tree, Nate Madsen descended. Both Pacific Lumber (PL) and the California Department of Forestry (CDF) signed off on the timber harvest plan, which means protection for Mariah for the moment. PL can still file another plan, but for now, Mariah seems safe.
In 2002, two US environmental activists involved in tree-sitting protests died in separate accidents.
In 2004, at least six tree sits were erected in Tuart trees at Ludlow Tuart Forest near Busselton in South Western, Western Australia.
In 2006, two sits were built in Jarrah (Eucalyptus) trees at "Arcadia" Jarrah Forest near Collie in South Western, Western Australia. Two activists were removed and arrested but one had his charges dropped and the other went to court and was acquitted.
In May 2006, protesters at Titnore Wood began a tree-sitting campaign against a major urban extension to the town of Worthing in West Sussex. Around 25 protesters created tree-houses and a network of tunnels. In March 2010, after nearly four years of tree-sitting, the local council voted unanimously to turn down the application for development.
In 2008, a tree sit was constructed in College Grove (remnant bushland), Bunbury, Western Australia and was removed after being occupied for three months. Another was promptly constructed nearby in the next stage that was threatened by housing development; it included a functional trampoline.
In 2009, there were ongoing tree-sits in Humboldt County, Ca. to prevent logging of 100+ year old redwoods by Green Diamond (formerly known as Simpson). One of the tree-villages was defending the territory of an active Spotted Owl mating pair.
In 2009, on August 25 two protesters with Climate Ground Zero halted blasting above Pettry Bottom in Raleigh County, West Virginia. Laura Steepleton and Nick Stocks climbed 80 feet in two trees in direct protest of Massey Energy's mountaintop removal mine. The trees were located within 30 feet of the Edwight mine, and within the 300 feet of blasting. Kim Ellis and Zoe Beavers were arrested for providing direct support, only to return later that afternoon at the behest of state police to serve as liaisons for the sitters. Kim Ellis and Zoe Beavers were then asked to leave the site at 5:30pm by mine security only to refuse and get arrested again by state police at 7:30pm. The tree sit halted blasting for six days while facing harassment from miners including threats of rape, trees being felled in close proximity, and chainsaws partially cutting the trees the sitters occupied.
In 2010, on January 20 three protesters associated with Climate Ground Zero and Mountain Justice halted blasting on a portion of Massey Energy's Bee Tree mountaintop removal mine on Coal River Mountain, West Virginia by ascending three trees, two tulip poplars and an oak tree. David Aaron Smith, 23 Amber Nitchman, 19 and Eric Blevins, 28 were on platforms approximately 60 feet up in direct protest of mountaintop removal mining and blasting near the Brushy Fork Coal Impoundment. Joshua Graupera, Isabelle Rozendaal, and Bernard Fiorillo were also arrested for providing ground support. The tree sit halted blasting for nine days. A federal judge granted a permanent injunction to Marfork Coal Co. Inc., a subsidiary of Massey Energy, ordering the defendants to keep off all company property.
In 2011, on July 20 two protesters associated with the RAMPS Campaign halted blasting on a portion of Alpha Natural Resources Bee Tree mountaintop removal mine on Coal River Mountain, West Virginia by ascending two trees, a tulip poplar and a northern red oak tree. Catherine-Ann MacDougal, 24, and Becks Kolins, 21, were on platforms approximately 80 feet off the ground within 300 feet of active blasting on the mine in direct protest of mountaintop removal mining. Becks Kolins stayed on their platform for 14 days while Catherine-Ann MacDougal remained for a total of 30 days making this the longest tree sit east of the Mississippi River. Elias Schewel and Junior Walk were arrested immediately for providing direct support on the ground. Criminal cases are still pending for the two sitters, while a civil suit seeking compensatory and punitive damages is pending for all four activists.
In 2011, on December 14, Miranda Gibson climbed up a 60m old-growth Eucalyptus delegatensis tree in the heart of Tasmania's southern virgin rainforest. Gibson vowed to stay until the forest is protected. The area was imminently due to be logged, despite being part of the area supposed to be protected under the fraught Forests Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA). She was forced down from the tree 15 months later due to a bushfire.
In 2014, from November 15 to November 20, Faery The Land Defender AKA Jakub Markiewicz (from 'The Caretakers') tree sat on Burnaby Mountain, unceded Coast Salish Territories, in an attempt to stop Kinder Morgan crews from flying drilling equipment into a clearing that KM contractors created on August 28, 2014. 15 Red Alders among dozens of other young trees were cut down on that day. 20 RCMP officers, which consisted of E Division, military fatigued climbers, and specialised units brought in from across the country had arrested the tree sitter after a tense 6 hour stand off – he was armed with two cameras and a megaphone. Over 100 arrests were made on the mountain during the injunction. This was based on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.
A view of the Fall Creek village showing aerial walkway
A tree village is an extension of the tree sitting protest, involving several tree houses. The "Fern Gully" in Northern California lasted over 20 years, ending in 2008 with agreement not to fell the stand of old growth redwood trees.