David Orr Thanks those who worked so hard on Headwaters

California Redwoods

David Orr thanks those who worked so hard on Headwaters

Written late February, 1999

reprinted with permission of the author

I know the deal's not done, and many opportunities and nasty surprises still lie ahead. As the politicians continue their maneuvering around this end game for Headwaters, we should remain vigilant. But I feel that we're at a point where we should also look back for a moment and take stock of where we are from the perspective of a long, dramatically volatile political campaign.

I would like very much to thank Kathy Bailey, Tara Mueller, Josh Kaufman, Marianne deSobrino, Bonnie Sharpe, Redwood Chapter, Bay Chapter Ancient Forest Subcommittee, Bill Craven, Elyssa Rosen, Jennifer Witherspoon, Bruce Hamilton, Carl Pope, Mike Paparian, and Barb Boyle, and all the other Sierra Club staff and volunteers who have worked--in some cases for many years--to gain protection for Headwaters. Sometimes there were disagreements but everyone worked together through it all to this point, and all deserve recognition for their efforts.

We should also be sure to thank the many activist groups who made saving Headwaters a priority and who have worked with the Sierra Club to bring this campaign to international prominence:

EPIC, Earth First!, Humboldt Watersheds Council, Trees Foundation, Mattole Watershed Council, Headwaters Forest Coordinating Committee, Mendocino Environmental Center, Willits Environmental Center, Forests Forever, VOTE/Action Committee, Taxpayers for Headwaters, Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters, Bay Area Action, World Stewardship Council, Redwood Rabbis, Religious Campaign for Forest Conservation, Rainforest Action Network, Rose Foundation, Luna Media Services, HAVOC, Action Resource Center, EarthTrust, Ancient Forest International, and many many others who helped in various ways.

Many of these groups are virtually unknown outside the North Coast, but each of them has made amazing contributions to the cause.

Speaking for myself, I think the Sierra Club owes these visionary groups and the activists who run them a tremendous debt of gratitude for their pioneering and courageous efforts, sometimes facing life-threatening situations, doing work that some environmental leaders said was hopeless. Sometimes the Club wasn't there for them when they needed us, but they pressed on and made Headwaters Forest and "saving the redwoods" household words for an entire generation of young environmentalists. They plowed the political ground--for more than a decade--making it possiblefor the Sierra Club to play a key role in the political endgame. This is an example of cooperative campaigning, and we must look at it as a model for how--with improvements and refinements--the Club can move major campaigns in other areas in the future.

New leaders, for example Julia "Butterfly" Hill, have emerged over the course of this campaign. We need to value and support these young idealists, learn from them, and actively reach out to them. They represent our movement's future.

In recent years, local grassroots activist groups have sprung up around the country. In many cases, these groups were formed because national groups like Sierra Club and Audubon failed to respond when these activists sought us out for help. It's in everyone's best interests, in my opinion, for the Sierra Club to build strong ties to these groups and help to amplify their efforts on the national stage. We can help them achieve their goals, and in turn, they will help us achieve ours. The Club can't--and shouldn't--try to do everything, but the things we're good at, like grassroots organizing and communications, publicity and lobbying, we should do in coordinated fashion with the folks who out on the front lines, who are in some cases risking their lives for the common cause we all share.

Let us not forget David "Gypsy" Chain, the young Earth First! activist who died defending the redwoods. And let's not forget Judi Bari, severely injured in a tragic car-bomb attack as she organized one of the world's largest forest activist demonstrations. Though they won't be around to see the results of their work, we should continue to be inspired by their memories as we carry on the struggle. There's a lot of work left for us to do in our remaining time on this beautiful Earth.

David Orr

California Redwoods

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First placed online February 28th, 1999.
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