Citizen activists in Oroville have been making headlines with their efforts to prevent PG&E from removing mature trees along Feather River Blvd earlier in 2015.
More recently, the group has mobilized to do lots of positive work in the community on behalf of trees and the environment. Here's an update as of November 2015:
Save Oroville Trees continues to be active in the Oroville community advocating for our urban forest. Since last spring, some of our members have worked for several hours a week at Centennial Plaza, weeding, pruning and removing trash and debris to clean the park. Due to these efforts and our advocacy for the park, the City of Oroville increased the amount of water being used in the park, as well as adding redwood bark as mulch in the flowerbeds. The results have been spectacular, and Parks and Trees Supervisor, Wade Atteberry, has expressed his appreciation for SOT’s efforts.
In addition, Save Oroville Trees members have attended Parks Department meetings, as well as Oroville City Council meetings, in an effort to be included and have input on a prospective tree ordinance for the city. Although the Parks Department recommended to the city that three members of SOT be allowed on the committee, Don Rust said that he and some members of the council felt the application process should be open to all city residents.
Several members of SOT submitted applications to request a seat on the tree ordinance committee, and Susan Sims and Scott Kent Fowler were selected. They will give valuable input toward creating a viable tree ordinance that we hope will prevent another incident like Black Thursday.
Save Oroville Trees members have also formed a committee to pursue grants in collaboration with BEC in order to help the urban forest in the Oroville area. Susan and Gary Sims extracted DNA from the historic sycamores that were destroyed by PG&E along the Oroville Cemetery on Feather River Blvd.
Gary and Susan Sims, certified arborists and SOT members, have cared for ninety seedlings since our thirteen historic sycamores were destroyed on Black Thursday in February of this year. The seedlings will be planted in designated parks and other green spaces around town, and SOT will continue in our efforts to advocate for our urban forest in Oroville.
-Linda Draper, SOT Correspondence Chair
Or send your tax-deductible check (made out to “BEC/SOT”) to the Butte Environmental Council, 116 W. 2nd Street, Suite 3, Chico, CA 95928
February 6 Update:
First, Save Oroville Trees wants to gratefully thank the 100 plus individuals who showed up in person this week to support the historic trees that were condemned to die by PG&E and our own Oroville City Council. Monday, 103 individuals signed in at our rally at the cemetery and I mentioned them in my email later that day. We had expected work crews to descend upon us that day and we were ready for them. I think the crews did not come because PG&E knew we had a rally planned. It is a testament to the conviction of our supporters that they returned on Thursday, on short notice, when the work crews did materialize at 4 am and staged in the Wal-Mart parking lot.
I want to especially thank the small band of hardy supporters who camped out nightly at the cemetery to guard the trees and watch for the tree cutters. Hellen Dennis never left the site and she was usually joined by a group of about 6 to 12 regulars. Beth stayed with Hellen nightly and usually slept on a cot outside Hellen's tent. Patrick & Sara, Bob, Karen, Chris, Mike, and several others were always around when I would stop by to check on their situation. They were our group's core. We all owe them a debt of gratitude.
The events of yesterday have been burned into my memory and will be etched in my mind until I die. The 3 police cars that screamed up with lights flashing at 5:15 am. The caution tape that was quickly put up around our cars, tents, and trees. The 12 police cars that eventually arrived. The work crew that placed a fence around us at 6. The tow truck that moved the cars that the owners refused to move. And the 12 to 15 police officers who moved in to move us out and began making arrests.
In the meantime, our supporters continued to arrive from Oroville, Chico, and Paradise. We had 2 ladders that the police confiscated before we could get people in the trees, so Dave Garcia and Al Cartwright were helped into the trees by other protestors. Sara Harris had herself chained to a tree. One unfortunate incident occurred when Joni Stellar fell while being help into a tree. She said she felt alright, but later was taken to the ER in Chico by her husband for an evaluation. The police methodically moved us out one by one from the enclosed area and handcuffed and arrested those who declined to leave; 17 in all. Several of us refused to walk out and were placed on a mat and carried to a chair and wheeled out. It was done by noon.
Sara was removed after fire personnel used bolt cutters to free her from the tree. She was taken away in an ambulance. Those who were removed were given a quick health check up while being cited and released. (My blood pressure was 192 even though I felt really calm). Dave and Al were left in the trees and surrounded by extra fencing. The police decided to wait them out rather than risk injuring them by forcefully removing them. By the end of the day we asked them to come down because the deed was done.
This battle was lost, but it was well worth the fight. We cannot let corporations bully us into giving up our history and the natural beauty that surrounds us. Those magnificent trees were 127 years old. They had been there for over 80 years before PG&E bungled and placed their gas line next to them. This was always about the money! PG&E brought the nuisance to our trees and then refused to move their lines. They could have managed the risk, like the did in Mountain View and 8 other East Bay cities, or they could have moved their line like the did in Mountain View. Instead, they threatened to sue the City, thereby cowering the city council, and then brought in high priced lawyers to get a restraining order so they could force our own local police to remove us. It came down to what their own lawyer said in court, and I paraphrase, "Judge, if we let a small town like Oroville hold us up, we will never finish our program." They did not want us to set a precedent by stopping them from cutting down the last 9 of the 240 trees that they had decided to chop down. It did not matter that these historic trees lined an historic cemetery and had been there for 127 years.
This was a fight that had to be fought, and I am proud to have been a part of it. Thank you all for being a part of it too.
Bill Bynum, Spokesperson, SOT
January 30 update from Save Oroville Trees (SOT) spokesperson Bill Bynum comes to you directly from a recent direction action to save the remaining 13 trees:
“Save Oroville Trees (SOT) had their third confrontation with PG&E today at the Oroville Cemetery. This happened even though the judge told them that he would rule on our court case against them on January 21. [District Attorney] Mike Ramsey said after the judge ruled that PG&E would be "stupid" to show up to cut the trees. Well, they did.
“SOT has someone stationed at the cemetery from 5 am to 1 pm everyday, and [Tuesday] morning that person was Jill Allen. She called me at 5:10 and told me that the work crew was there. I called our phone tree and headed down to the cemetery which is 8 minutes from my house. Well in about 20 minutes around 5:45 about a dozen more trucks showed up and they mobilized a block from the trees. By that time we had about 20-30 of our people there to protect the trees. As soon as it was light, around 6:15, they started setting down cones and closing one of the lanes. They had chain saws and private security folks from Yuba City and Sacramento and they numbered about 20-30 also. They walked around trying to hand out subpoenas, no one would take one, and they taped them to the trees.
They were obviously staging this so they could go to court to ask for a court order to have us arrested (their lawyer, Bill Spiers, who argued their case in court was there). They asked our names and filmed us but we did not cooperate with them and we filmed them. Around 7:15 they had done all they could do because we weren't moving so they pulled up their cones and left.
“We expect them to come back sometime this week and ask the police to arrest us. It is imperative that we have as many people there when they come as possible. The police have told us that if we have more than 50 people there, they will not act because the subpoena only names 50 John Does. Right now we have 56 names on our phone tree list who we call in an emergency. The problem is that they cannot all come because of various reasons such as work, family responsibilities, illness, etc.
If you would be willing to be added to the phone tree list and get a phone call some morning around 5:15 am to come down to the cemetery, please let me know. Even if you live an hour away, you would still be able to get to the cemetery in time to make a difference.
Please join us if you can. You can respond to this email or call Bill at 403-7401.
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