What Was Redwood Summer?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Redwood Summer was a series of protests, demonstrations, and marches held against the Northern California timber industry in the summer of 1990. The organizational effort required to set up the event was formidable, and it involved the coordinated efforts of a number of groups, many of which were not directly affiliated with the environmental movement. The events of Redwood Summer were both illuminating and frustrating for the participants, and they had a long lasting impact on the environmental movement as well as the timber industry.

The Northern Californa timber industry was the target of Redwood Summer.
The Northern Californa timber industry was the target of Redwood Summer.

In early 1990, Earth First! began calling out to activists all over the world, asking them to participate in a series of coordinated events which were meant to mimic the civil rights protests of the 1960s. Several organizations, including Food Not Bombs, Seeds of Peace, and the International Workers of the World, also joined in to help organize participants, camps, and other logistics. Ultimately, Redwood Summer had a number of base camps all over Northern California, and thousands of activists, demonstrators, and ordinary citizens ended up taking part in Redwood Summer events.

The goal of Redwood Summer was to engage in nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience in the hopes of raising public awareness about the Northern California timber industry. In addition, environmental groups hoped to successfully appeal several major timber harvest plans, and to change attitudes about logging in Northern California. Ultimately, the demonstrations pitted loggers against environmentalists, causing serious grief in many small logging communities such as Humboldt and Fort Bragg.

Activists could participate in several different forms of direct action during Redwood Summer. Some activists actually went out to logging sites to sit in front of bulldozers or chain themselves to trees in the hopes of preventing active logging. Others focused on fighting logging in the courts by appealing timber harvest plans and obtaining injunctions against logging old growth forests. Many marched and demonstrated in towns up and down the Northern California coast, with an iconic Redwood Summer image featuring the blockage of the entirety of Fort Bragg's main street right outside an entrance to the Georgia Pacific mill site.

The events of Redwood Summer highlighted many of the issues which plague the Northern California logging industry. Many residents of Northern California made their living through logging, even though it took a heavy toll on the natural environment. Some logging communities strongly resented the presence of activists from other parts of the nation and the world, as the communities felt that the activists were not aware of the potential economic impacts of logging injunctions. Activists, on the other hand, felt that logging is not sustainable or good for the environment, and they wanted to see more environmental awareness and an ultimate end to the logging industry.

Despite the events of Redwood Summer, nonsustainable logging continued in Northern California. Some of the old growth stands which saw heated battles during Redwood Summer have since been cut down. While the timber industry is less profitable than it once was, and many people are more environmentally aware, some activists are concerned that logging will continue until there are no more trees left to cut down. A number of organizations have switched their focus to preserving Northern California forest through parks and reserves, rather than trying to fight logging.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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While this article is straightforward and unbiased in form, it is important to include two major issues intricately incorporated. These would be the exploitative maneuverings of the Maxxam Corp. and the car bomb attack on Judi Barri (and the suspicious FBI response).

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