What’s in a name: John’s Last Stand and a history of federal land management

John Muir

John’s Last Stand?

Professor Norm Johnson “sees the [variable retention harvest] pilot projects as a policy test for a new management paradigm that challenges the divide between forest reserves and timber harvest areas. That schism, he says, harkens all the way back to the split between John Muir’s preservationist ideals and Gifford Pinchot’s utilitarian forestry, which laid the foundation for federal land management.” (High Country News, May 6, 2013)

John Muir vs. Gifford Pinchot

The philosophical split between John Muir and Gifford Pinchot was deep and enduring. They both helped shape the landscape we have inherited. The differences between these men was vast, despite their common love of wilderness in the late 1800s. For starters, Pinchot was a gain-seeking exploitive capitalist who lacked honesty. He loved wilderness like some of us love donuts. Muir, on the other hand, had a spiritual longing which took him to the far reaches of our land, often in solitude and sometimes for no other reason than the joy of it. There are some well-documented interactions between the two men. Once, while exploring the Grand Canyon with some other intrepid souls, Pinchot went to stomp a tarantula and was stopped by Muir who explained that the spider had as much right to be on the trail as everyone else. Their relationship soured when Muir came across a quote from Pinchot in a newspaper saying that grazing sheep would not be harmful to wild lands. Muir reminded Pinchot that Pinchot knew better based on his own experience. Pinchot later remarked that, “John Muir once called them hoofed locusts, and he was right.” (http://www.safnet.org/fp/documents/pinchot_muri_split_07.pdf) The Douglas fir along the trail to Mt. June that looks down on the sale called “John’s Last Stand” would have been high over our heads when John Muir died in 1914.

John’s Last Stand (JLS), so aptly named, is a 49-acre variable regeneration harvest (VRH) less than an hour south east of Eugene. Professor Norm Johnson would be quick to point out that the timber sale plan requires six to eight live trees per acre to be left in this ancient stand. Along with Doug fir, the site is heavy with western hemlock. Yew trees grow along its edges. Madrone and golden chinkapin give a leafy break to the grey brown pillars of the pine trunks. Nick Cady of Cascadia Wildlands was not fooled and called the sale an “old-growth clearcutting project.” VRH methodology has been around a long time for treating overgrown plantations of timber, but Ecologist Jerry Franklin and Economist Norm Johnson, prompted by our elected officials, are the first to propose using this technique in ancient forest. Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild! has called VRH “a cynical attempt to pass off clearcutting century-old trees as restoration.”

Seneca-Jones’ handiwork near the Buck Rising VRH timber slaughter 20 miles southeast of Roseburg on BLM lands

In 2013, the Cascadia Forest Defenders took to the trees at a sale called “White Castle” near Myrtle Creek, Oregon. They went there to stop a VRH pilot project on 187 acres in mature forest just like the forest at JLS. The site was occupied for ten months through heat, nearby fire, rain, and snow until Attorney Jennifer Schwarz, aided by Nick Cady, filed suit to protect that critical habitat and call into question the validity of using VRH methods in mature stands. In March 2015, their litigation was successful. Not only was the White Castle sale canceled, but the Bureau of Land Manangement (BLM) pulled out of other VRH sales including “Second Show” near Eugene and the remainder of “Deer North” in Southern Oregon.

At JLS, the BLM proposes to make a 49-acre gouge on the edge of the Hardesty Roadless Area, one of the last remaining tracts of intact forest near Eugene that is uninterrupted by roads or heavy human activity. Ironically, the Sierra Club, founded by none other than John Muir, has been trying to create a designated Wilderness Area here for several years.

The Hardesty area is frequented by hikers and mountain bikers and is athe headwaters of the Lost Creek Watershed, which includes the Lost Valley Permaculter Center. Because the sale is in a roadless area, three helicopter pads are proposed to aid in the extraction of forest. One of the pad’s locations is right next to an area designated “no-cut” due to wildlife habitat.

Choose your own adventure:

(Alternate Ending #1)

John’s Last Stand might be just that. The good news is that impending economic collapse is on our side. This might just be the last time we have to suit up and show up before it all goes toes up forever. Life comes with no guarantees of tomorrows, but as long as there is a today, we prefer ours with intact ancient forests. Please join us in John’s Last Stand this spring. “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.”

—John Muir Cascadia

(Alternate Ending #2)

John’s Last Stand does not have to be. If our public officials were made aware that so many people are scrutinizing their participation in our deforestation, that their future chances of fundraising and re-election could be impacted, perhaps they would tell the BLM to drop this and all VRH sales. Please call them now and tell them you are mad as hell and not going to send them money or vote for them until they stop echoing the wishes of big timber when addressing the US Forest Service and the BLM. Tell them to start encouraging forest management that favors preservation of what wild places we have left.

The most important public officials to contact are:

Representative Peter DeFazio

202-225-6416 (DC) or 541-465-6732 (Eugene)

Senator Ron Wyden


Senator Jeff Merkely


Find other US senators and representatives at:


Brought to you by the Cascadia Forest Defenders


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