Tuesday, October 1, at 8:30 am. is a pretrial hearing for Ellen Faulkner at the Mendocino County Courthouse. She is charged with five infractions for alleged trespassing on the Caltrans Bypass Project.
Wednesday, October 2 at 8:30 am. is a pretrial hearing for Earthworm and Feather. They are charged with two misdemeaners for two lockdowns, one on a fill truck on Route 101 in downtown Willits and one on a fill truck at Gate 6 at the Northern end of the Bypass on September 10.
On September 18th, over thirty CHP vehicles descended on a clear cut grove of ash trees, where the eighth tree-sit in the Caltrans Bypass bootprint was located, to conduct an extraction. Riot great-clad officers patrolled the tree stumps below the cherry pickers. Two protestors who had been living in the tree locked themselves to a pair of its branches in metal sleeves. The photo gallery at the end of this post is from that day.
The extraction took more than five hours. One of the protesters’ metal lock-boxes was reinforced with concrete, and it took so-called “pain compliance” holds on the part of the CHP SWAT officers to remove him from it.
The now badly-damaged ash grove is 1.5 miles north of Willits, adjacent to Highway 101. It is located in the proposed northern interchange area of the Willits Bypass, where CalTrans’ contractors have been clearing vegetation since April, and have more recently been installing wick drain tubes and dumping soil. The tree sit was on the south edge of the grove, in a valley oak tree that is at least 300 years old. The grove included hundreds of trees and lush under-story plants, which have now been cut down, piled up, and chipped up.
This was the longest tree-sit in the bypass resistance. One of the two protestors who was forcibly extracted on September 18th, who goes by “Condor,” began the tree-sit 137 days earlier, on May 3rd. Since he established the occupation, twelve people in total have spent time living in the tree,affectionately called Polaris by the people who came to know it. Two of these people wrote statements about their motivations for the tree-sit, which you can read here
Tree sits are aerial blockades where someone lives in a platform suspended from a tree to block it from being cut. It is a tactic for defending one’s community and the wilderness. The campaign to change the Caltrans Bypass has been greatly strengthened by tree-sits. Amanda ‘Warbler‘ Senseman scaled a Ponderosa Pine on January 28rd and lived there for 65 days, until forcibly extracted by CHP SWAT on April 2nd at 7 am. This tree sit energized the opposition to the Bypass and helped keep alive the possibility of a far better outcome for the valley, its residents, its wildlife, and future generations.
Following Warbler’s ascent, four more tree sits were established within a mile of her Ponderosa Pine — two in pine trees, and two in oak trees. All four tree-sits were extracted on April 2nd, following Senseman’s extraction. Bean bag ammunition were fired at one protestor in a pine. Another was cut out of a steel lock-box which locked him to an arm of an oak tree.
After April 2nd, two more tree sits were established North of the former tree-sit sites, along side Hael Creek, in an oak and alders. These sites were strategically chosen to prevent Caltrans from engaging in illegal clear cutting of stream-banks.
And on May 3rd, the ash-grove tree sit was established. Click here to see a Caltrans document describing the 1,815 oak trees inventoried to be cut. Obviously, this list doesn’t include pines, madrones, ash trees, manzanitas, dogwood, wild pear trees, shrubs, grasses, or any of the other hundreds of thousands of plants destroyed for the intended construction of this entirely unnecessary freeway.
Activist Julia Butterfly Hill, whose 738-day tree sit in the roughly 1,500-year-old redwood tree Luna in the late-1990s made her an icon of eco-defense struggles, will speak at the Coalition to Save Little Lake Valley’s October 12th “Take A Stand For the Willits Wetlands!” event.
The roster of speakers is filling out, with Barbara Kennedy of the Save Richardson Grove Coalition and “Oh, My Goddess!” producer Sherry Glaser also confirmed as speakers. We’ll post another update after the full roster is confirmed.
The event begins at 12 noon. Gather at Recreation Grove (E. Commercial and S. Lenore) to carpool, shuttle, or bike en masse to the festivities.
For more background on the October 12th action, see the web page.
There are currently two tree sits blocking destruction in CalTrans’ proposed Bypass route. Since January 28th, there have been seven tree sits in total. Though many of CalTrans’ activities have been clearly illegal, there are no regulatory agencies, courts, or elected bodies that are standing in their way. The tree-sits have been the best and only injunction against the destruction of the land so far.
On this page, you will find an overview of the current tree-sits along with information about how you can visit and support them.
General information: California Highway Patrol has maintained a policy of restricting access to the tree sits in an effort to “starve them out.” In the case of recent tree sits that have now been evicted, they maintained a 24-hour watch, complete with blinding spotlights, and threatened to arrest anyone who attempts to enter the areas below the tree sitters.
It is always vital to have people on the ground in the vicinity of each tree sit, for ongoing legal observation and to show the tree sitters they are appreciated. Bring cameras or video cameras if you have them. To arrange a donation of food or other supplies for the tree sits, or inquire about current needs, send an email to [email@example.com].
Update: Sadly, much forest has been lost recently, and Caltrans contractors cut the trees that the first five tree sitters inhabited, after forcibly evicting them. In the last month, Caltrans has devoured large stands of oak, madrone, and pine trees and fed many of them in to a chipper machine on site. But there is still much that remains to be defended.
Crow’s Hael Creek Tree Sit (#7)
The latest tree sit was discovered on April 16th in a stand of very large old alders above Haehl Creek, directly in the path of Caltrans’ bypass project. For more information about this new tree sit, look here.
Owl’s tree sit (#6)
On Saturday, April 6th, a woman who goes by “Owl” ascended into an old oak tree near the banks of Haehl Creek, only a few hundred yards from where The Warbler was perched and almost immediately next to where one of the other tree sitters, Eagle, likewise made his stand in an ancient oak.
Owl’s tree is between 150 and 200 years old. It is right near the downed trees where Caltrans conducted its cutting spree of recent weeks. Because Owl’s tree is in a federally designated riparian area, it does enjoy a greater degree of legal protection than the trees Caltrans has cut so far. Legally, the tree cannot be cut down until June. However, Caltrans’ well-established pattern is to thumb its nose at the law, and we expect that its treatment these National Marine Fisheries Service-designated riparian areas will be no exception.
Owl says she is no stranger to living in the forest with few conveniences. She lived in a redwood forest for nine months with a group of other people. She says she sees the struggle against the Caltrans Bypass of Willits as a continuation of hundreds of years of assaults on people’s right to access the commons: in other words, cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth — resources that are held in common, not owned privately.
In Owl’s words, “This is just another example of a company taking public land for private profit with the backing of law enforcement that are supposed to be protecting the public.”
Past Tree Sits
Warbler’s tree sit — Jan. 28th to April 2nd, 2013
Warbler’s tree-sit was the first, established on January 28th, 2013. Her platform was located 71 feet up in an old ponderosa pine tree she has named “Liberty Ponderosa” on the east side of Highway 101 south of Willits, at mile-marker 43.74. For more information about the initial impetus for this tree sit, see the AVA article, The Warbler and The Willits Bypass.”
On March 28th, the two-month anniversary of her stay in the tree, Warbler began a hunger strike, with three demands—principally, a halt to bypass destruction. She continued the hunger strike until April 10th. For more information on her hunger strike and extraction, see this post on the front page.
Pine Grove tree sits (2nd & 3rd) — March 18th to April 2nd, 2013
The Pine Grove tree sits started in the early morning of Monday, March 18th. They were located in a ponderosa pine grove near DripWorks off of East Hill Road.
The two separate platforms were high up in the grove and anchored in to four additional trees by traverse lines. The young men occupying these trees went by Caspian and Celsius. Their tree sits ended violently, with a California Highway Patrol SWAT Team firing bean bag pellets upon Celsius following a roughly three-hour chase through the pines. For more, see this page.
- Santa Rosa Press Democrat, July 7, 2014, “Caltrans Halting Most Work on Bypass“
- Willits News, July 4, 2014, “Willits Bypass Timeline: 2002 to the Present“
- Willits News, July 2, 2014, “CalTrans Dug a Ditch Through a Marked Archeological Site“
- TUC Radio, June 26, 2014, “No More Destruction of Indian Ancestral Sites: 500-Mile Spirit Runners Visit Willits”
- Anderson Valley Advertiser, June 21, 2014, “Archeological Site Known to CalTrans Destroyed Again“
- ABC-7 KGO TV, June 20, 2014, “CalTrans Ordered To Stop Work on Willits Bypass Project”
- Willits News, June 13, 2014, “Ceremony Held in Bypass Construction Zone“
- ABC-7 KGO TV, June 11, 2014, “Water Quality Violations Reported At Willits Bypass Project“
- Anderson Valley Advertiser, May 23, 2014, “The Politics of Hypocrisy“
- Willits News, April 21, 2014, “Setting The Record Straight“
- Santa Rosa Press Democrat, April 2, 2014, “Water Board Questions Willits Bypass Mitigation“
- Anderson Valley Advertiser, Feb. 26, 2014, “Mendo’s Secret Water Meeting“
- Anderson Valley Advertiser, Feb. 14, 2014, “Defense of Necessity“
- KPFA Evening News, Feb. 2, 2014, “SOLLV Speaks Out at Water Board Meeting“
- Ukiah Daily Journal, Jan. 22, 2014, “Willits Bypass Protester Takes Two-Year Plea Deal“
- Counterpunch, Jan. 13, 2014, “CalTrans at Willits: Widening The Way to Pelican Bay“
- Willits News, Jan. 13, 2014, “CalTrans Tossing Taxpayer Money in the Toilet“
- Willits News, Nov. 6, 2013, “Destruction of Cultural Sites Continues to Haunt CalTrans“
- North Bay Bohemian, October 2, 2013: “Bypass Mayhem” (profile of Will Parrish)
- Willits Weekly, Sept. 26, 2013, “Archeological Site Known to Caltrans Destroyed By Construction, Sherwood Valley Tribe Reports”
- ABC-7 KGO TV, Sept. 23, 2013, “Army Corps of Engineers Threatens to Suspend Work on Willits Bypass“
- Anderson Valley Advertiser, Sept. 11, 2013, “Willits and the Erin Brockovich Bypass“
- The Los Angeles Times, August 24, 2013: “Willits Finally Getting Freeway, But Isn’t Sure It Still Wants One“
- 8-4 Chico Enterprise Record: http://www.chicoer.com/editorials/ci_23792920/david-little-chp-makes-protest-worse
- 7-3 TUC Radio: http://www.tucradio.org/new.
- 4-8 Press Democrat: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20130408/ARTICLES/130409552/1033/news?p=1&tc=pg
- 4-6 T-S: http://www.times-standard.com/localnews/ci_22969218/one-willits-bypass-tree-sitter-charged-battery-an
- 4-5 SF Bay Guardian: http://www.sfbg.com/politics/2013/04/05/willits-tree-sit-fallout
- 4-4 KQED News Blog: http://blogs.kqed.org/newsfix/2013/04/04/willits-tree-sitter-resumes-highway-bypass-protest-on-the-ground/
- 4-3 KPFA Up Front morning show: http://archives.kpfa.org/data/20130403-Wed0700.mp3
- 4-3 Press Democrat: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20130403/ARTICLES/130409870?tc=ar
- 4-2 SF Bay Guardian: http://www.sfbg.com/politics/2013/04/02/tree-sitter-shot-70-feet-chp-rubber-bullet
- 4-2 WN: http://www.sfbg.com/politics/2013/04/02/tree-sitter-shot-70-feet-chp-rubber-bullet
- 4-2 SF Chronicle: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Freeway-protesters-trees-cut-down-4403696.php
The authors of these materials are not necessarily affiliated with this web site or the Liberty Ponderosa tree-sit.
Save Our Little Lake Valley (SOLLV) Literature
- Fact Sheet on the Proposed CalTrans Bypass of Willits (PDF)
- SOLLV Brochure (PDF)
- What You Can Do (PDF)
- SOLLV Petition (PDF)
- The Insanity Of The Willits Bypass – by Will Parrish, January 2013
- TOUR GUIDE of the Bootprint of the CalTrans Hwy 101 Bypass in Little Lake Valley (PDF)
- Status of the Willits Bypass – Updated Jan. 2013
- Outlet Creek Outlook – by Rosamond Crowder, Willits Environmental Center
- Why The Willits Environmental Center is Suing CalTrans – by David Drell, Ukiah Daily Journal
- CalTrans Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Willits Bypass
ALTERNATIVES TO THE CALTRANS WILLITS BYPASS
Alternatives to a Freeway Bypass: In-town alternatives are feasible and desirable.
1. The easiest, lowest-cost first step is common sense restriping of Highway 101 approaching and at the Highway 20 intersection. The road is currently striped to create congestion, and could be reconfigured and restriped for just a few hundred thousand dollars. Caltrans has neglected to do this for 20 years (since they did the restriping to cause the bottleneck) despite repeated pleas by Willits City Council. Now Caltrans says they will restripe next year, after their bypass goes forward.
2. The next step would be connecting Baechtel Rd. and Railroad Ave. This has been a unanimous top priority of Willits City Council for years. An extensive community design study of this corridor was completed in October 2003 (with funding from Caltrans). It seems this route could potentially carry as much traffic as the freeway bypass (mostly for locals and at much lower speeds), thus easing congestion at a fraction of the cost of the proposed bypass, without over-burdening existing roadways or significantly affecting nearby developments.
3. A third potential step, if still needed, could be a truck route along the railroad right-of-way. The right-of-way is 150’ wide (or more in some areas), which is ample to retain railways, provide a separated lane in each direction, turn lanes where needed, and still have a bike path or other amenities. This two-lane route would require NO demolitions, with only 12 residences on the route, and ample capacity to carry the traffic volume.
4. Fourth, there are options to connect a local street (probably Locust) North to Highway 20 (again at low cost and impact), which would further alleviate traffic congestion on Main St./101.
It is true that none of these feasible, low cost, low impact approaches meets the objectives of Caltrans for a high-speed freeway bypass. But that objective is NOT statistically needed, NOT in the best interests of our community, and NOT worth the enormous price tag and environmental damage it entails. The bypass is an obscene waste.
Finally global climate change just might warrant rethinking the freeway solution, especially in this case where the construction alone will produce 80-90 years’ worth of the greenhouse gases saved by the “improvement”.
1) Get Informed: Read our fact sheet (click here) and the other extensive literature on this web page, including background on the Little Lake Valley Defenders/Earth First! direct action campaign and our detailed “How Caltrans Gets Away With It” expose, with extensive supporting documents, videos, and links. SOLLV has hosted numerous educational forums and Bypass bootprint tours; be on the look-out for other informational events and activities. Below is a presentation by Rosamond Crowder about the wetlands ecology of Little Lake Valley, given at the April 22nd, 2013 forum “Wells, Wick Drains, and Wetlands” at the Little Lake Grange.
2) Donate Financially: There are two donation streams 1) General SOLLV Fund: your donation will be used to create educational material to spread our message. You can pay securely over PayPal with the button below, or send a check to Willits Economic Localization, 221 South Lenore Avenue, Willits CA 95490. 2) State Lawsuit Fund: SOLLV is exploring the possibility of filing a lawsuit using the California Environmental Quality Act to stop the Bypass in partnership with a local non-profit, Keep the Code. To explore these options, we are raising funds and asking for donations of any size from all concerned citizens. To donate specifically to this fund, make checks out to Keep The Code and write in the memo ‘Little Lake Valley Legal Fund.’ Give your check to a SOLLV member, bring it to the SOLLV office, or mail it to Keep The Code, PO BOX 131, Willits CA 95490.
3) Sign up to receive our promotional materials and action network: Like us on Facebook, sign up for our email list by emailing longfreddie [at] gmail.com, or join our phone tree by calling 216-5549 or 367-5202. To be in touch with us, e-mail savelittlelake [at] gmail.com.
4) Get Involved: Come to a SOLLV Meetinng and Join a Committee. The general SOLLV meetings are on Friday evenings from 5-7 p.m. at the Little Lake Grange on School Street in Willits. We have several subcommittees addressing various aspects ofthe Caltrans Bypass struggle: Outreach, Media, Political/Legislative, Legal, Fundraising, Complaints and Monitoring.
5) Sign the Petition (archive). The petition is out of date and will soon be updated.
6) WRITE, CALL OR EMAIL your elected officials. Here is contact info:
Gov. Jerry Brown
(916) 321-54987 email c/o http://gov.ca.gov
Congressman Jared Huffman
616-9843 Email c/o firstname.lastname@example.org
State Senator Noreen Evans
316-9549 Email c/o email@example.com
Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro
958-8461 Email c/o firstname.lastname@example.org
See this recent SOLLV update with other important regulatory agency and elected contacts and recommendation on timely actions: Tell The Army Corps of Engineers and Water Board to Suspend the Bypass Construction Permits.
Copy letters to local media: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Also CC: Mayor Holly Madrigal, firstname.lastname@example.org
Call-in to radio talk shows: KZYX 164-84979; KMUD 321-54987 (Check show times)