End Clearcutting in Oregon

Save the Trees! The Campaign to End Clearcutting in Oregon

Clear-cutting has exploded onto the hills of the Illinois Valley in recent years. Much of this is taking place on lands owned by the John Hancock Life Insurance Company. Our reservoirs of clean air and clean water are held in trust by the living and breathing mountains that surround our valley, but John Hancock thinks our bare hillsides are just fine as long as the result is dollars for distant shareholders. Sasquatch Woods People would like to point out that it isn’t fine, and actually, it’s really just utterly unacceptable and needs to stop right now.

It is time to insist that our Josephine County Commissioners implement an immediate ordinance halting the clearcutting that is wiping out our woods right now.

Please print the petition, and get your friends, neighbors, and family members to sign it, and then mail it back to us. Or, sign online at change.org – and please share the link with your friends!

John Hancock currently owns about 24,000 acres of land in Josephine County. Two other timber investment corporations own another 18,000 acres, for a total of 42,000 acres now being controlled with the main goal of bring quick profit to distant investors. The red and the orange in the map indicate corporate-owned lands. If you zoom in on the Cave Junction / Illinois Valley area, it really highlights the dominance of the corporations.

Illinois Valley / Cave Junction Corporate Ownership

There are lots of private timber owners in the area, and surely some others will also do clearcuts, but the active cutter right now seems to be John Hancock. They bought 53,000 acres of Southern Oregon timberland in 2017, bringing their Oregon total acres to 300,000. Their PNW total is 1.3 million acres, and 6 billion acres globally. The timber provides “payments” of $26 BILLION DOLLARS to shareholders who live very far from here and will never see the devastation on our hillsides that should be woods but are now converted to dust. Check out John Hancock’s boasting, here. In 2020, John Hancock acquired another 149,000 acres (!!!) of timberland in Southern Oregon (Josephine, Douglas, Coos, and Curry counties). John Hancock would like us all to know that their US-based timber harvesting is 100% sustainable – you can read about it in their green-washed carbon report – a striking contrast to the clear images of the bald hillsides that formerly sustained us but certainly don’t anymore.

John Hancock owns more than 27,000 forested acres in Josephine County. More than half of these are in the Illinois Valley.

Have you seen what John Hancock does to the woods they own?

Josephine County currently struggles with making ends meet in the county budget. At the same time, large timber owners pay property tax at only about 10% the level that the rest of us do. How much would that help our county budget if they paid their full fair share? A long time ago, this was made up for by the harvest tax, so that counties received money when trees were cut, but Oregon ended the harvest tax in 1999.  It is estimated that the Western Oregon counties have lost over $3 BILLION in harvest revenue as a result.  Timber harvest continues unabated and Oregon hasn’t stopped it or even slowed it: it’s just that Oregon decided to give all of the profits to private corporations, instead of to the counties that should be getting a share for their local budgets, such as our sheriff department.  John Hancock Life Insurance harvested 1,200 acres in Josephine County last year.  Globally, they made $26 billion from timber last year.  Josephine County got zero dollars and a bunch of decimated hillsides and dried up creeks out of the deal. 

July 2014

These are the hills to the north of the Caves Highway, in 2014. There are a couple of patches of clearcuts at that time.

October 2020

This is the same area in October 2020. What a difference! Large faces of hillsides have been scalped bare.

December 2020

Look what they can do in two months!


These are some of the books and groups that have inspired us in this work. If you have a great suggestion for another reference, please share it with us using the Contact page!

Legacy of Luna”, Julia Butterfly Hill, 1999 – Above all, this book tells the story of one person’s heroic effort to call attention to the insanity of cutting down the ancient redwoods by refusing to come down from her 180-foot-high perch in ancient Redwood called Luna, for 738 days. This is the most inspiring story a tree-hugger can read! Julia is like an angel sent from heaven to speak for the trees. The book also gives a great summary of the Earth First! movement and the unstoppable nature of corporate industrial forestry. Twenty years later, the problem remains the same, but the technology has improved and the destruction is even more widespread.

“To Speak for the Trees”, Diana Beresford-Kroeger – This incredibly inspiring book describes the author’s unique background of growing up immersed in ancient Celtic lore of the natural world, with a deep connection to trees in particular, combined with a modern scientific study of biochemistry. Especially interesting was her introduction to Ogma, which is the second oldest language in existence, and is based on trees and handed down from the Brehon people. Her summary of the relationship between trees and carbon in the atmosphere is enlightening and also provides an inspiring path forward out of the current climate crisis.

The Rule of Property”, by Caren Coulter, 2007 – This book questions the fundamental right of private property and how it has grown to be dominated by the powered few. It talks about the importance of the commons for shaping our society, and how when the commons dwindles, then more inequality, ecological devastation, dehumanization, and totalitarianism prevail. Basically, it tells the story of how private property came to rule the country and usurp democracy, starting with the creation of the Constitution.

“Invisible Hand” documentary produced by Mark Ruffalo, 2020 – The first documentary about the Rights of Nature Movement, describing the work that several different communities did to secure rights for their community, based around protection of their natural ecosystems. An incredibly inspiring documentation of some solid success stories of communities who faced giant corporate interests and actually won!

The Rights of Nature”, David Boyd, 2017 -Another inspiring collection of success stories, with communities winning legal protections for natural systems that were threatened by corporate interests. A growing group of successful cases are setting more and more legal precedent for actually taking steps to protect ecosystems instead of just protecting the rights of corporations.

Spray Free Coast – this website has great information about the status of spraying the clearcuts in Western Oregon. Their information page has some extremely eye-opening mini-documentaries about the horrendous spraying programs on the timberlands in Oregon. Also, Beyond Toxics, based out of Eugene, has done an enormous amount of work to bring awareness and better regulation of chemicals that harm us through pesticide reform, as well as leading campaigns for climate justice, and environmental justice. Their website has a lot of great information resources.

Big Money Bought the Forests – An in-depth discussion of how corporate investment companies took over the forests of Oregon. Especially interesting was the discussion of how counties used to receive income from timber harvests, but no longer do, now that taxes have been changed to dramatically benefit the profit of the corporations.

Timberland History in Oregon – Did you ever wonder how the timber corporations amassed such huge forest parcels? In the 1880’s, as the western portion of the United States was being “settled”, the government was giving away land to the people under the Homestead Act. The timber companies sent their agents to claim 160 acre parcels, and then turn them over for consolidation into the timber company. It was pure theft of the land! One of Oregon’s U.S. Senator’s was tried for fraud in a sensational trial, and found guilty: but he died before he could appeal, and nothing was ever done to remove the stolen land from those who stole it.

Save the Trees” – interview of Jo-el Palacios, Sasquatch Woods People founder, by Phillip, station manager at our very own local radio station KXCJ.

Greenwashed Timber: How sustainable Forest Certification has Failed – Many of us think it is worthwhile to pay a little extra to buy Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified lumber, in order to know that we are making an ecologically responsible purchase. This article from Yale University exposes the truth behind the FSC rules (or lack thereof). FSC stewardship allows clearcuts just like we see on our hillsides here. (Note that SFI certified lumber is even more sketchy – SFI is timber-industry controlled.)