"For a very long time, the Earth First! community was a very small, tight-knit group that at any given time had a core group of less than a dozen," Juliana says of the pre-Journal days. "Even though we had a local office, we had the ability to call upon the larger group, the core group was very small. That's definitely changed over the years. The core group I'd say now would be in the 30s or 40s."
Eugene's location, many say, deserves a fair bit of the credit. Its proximity to outdoor recreation wilderness -- the things Earth First! was established to defend -- and its accessibility to activist hubs in California and Washington made it a natural stopping place for activists on the road.
But the Journal provided a center, a meeting point, a crash pad and a place to plug in to local campaigns and keep abreast of news from other bioregions. The mailing parties offered a regular gathering that allowed the community and people passing through town to connect.
"Eugene being a transient town because of the university, having the Journal here has given a sense of stability and continuity to the local forest defense community," Juliana says.
The influx of people helped spark an activist evolution.
"I think that the Journal can at least take partial credit or partial blame, depending on how you look at it -- I look at it as credit -- for Eugene's reputation now, this whole Eugene anarchist thing," says John Green, one of the first four long-term editors here. "A lot of it is an outgrowth of things that started when the Journal moved to Eugene."
"Having a radical community is one way of keeping the powers that be honest, or trying to keep them honest, and not let them get away with anything," Green says. "And if those voices weren't out there there wouldn't be press to change things that need to be changed."
Randy Shadowalker, a Eugene native and co-producer of the activist cable-access television show "Cascadia Alive!" (exclamation point copied from Earth First!), is part of the activist evolution. At several discrete points, says Shadowalker, new people came in to add energy and shift the direction of that activism. The end result is something bigger and substantially different from what came before.
Two years after the Journal arrived, the blockade at Warner Creek brought new activists like Shadowalker into the field, although not all considered themselves Earth First!ers. After four women were arrested as the Forest Service broke up the Warner Creek encampment days before the sale was canceled, the activists trying to get into their arraignment rioted when denied access, bringing that blockade's spirit into town.
The clear confluence between Earth First! energy from the woods and the black-clad anarchists in the city came on June 1, 1997, nearly a year after the jailhouse riot. The city wanted to clear out trees on Broadway between Charnelton and Lincoln; the activists wouldn't let the trees go down without a fight. While activists -- including the entire Journal staff at the time -- were sitting in trees or standing nearby facing pepper spray and tear gas, Shadowalker says the "black bloc" that two years later gained national notoriety during the WTO protests in Seattle made its first move: "a small outburst" of breaking windows in downtown Eugene. Shadowalker says the black bloc action that day was definitely about the logging, it was just a different form of protest than traditional Earth First! tactics.
Green, the former editor, calls the June 1 action a "watershed event" in Eugene history. "It's one of the first times police brutality was really made into an issue. It certainly has the city thinking twice before they even discuss cutting trees down. So there's a joining of two foci or two issues in the community, environmental issues and police brutality, all rolled up into one."
This summer, another group at the Round River Rendezvous decided it was time for the Journal to move again. Next spring, the paper will move back to its birthplace in Tucson. Dug Schoellkopf, a long-term editor who will follow the paper to Arizona, explained that the move was prompted by Earth First!ers with new energy to put into the paper and a vision of using the Journal to bring together activists working on Native American issues and border issues like globalization and NAFTA. Tucson, with its diverse ethnic communities and its location near the Mexican border, offered a unique opportunity to bring in new blood and address issues of growing concern to environmentalists.
Mick Garvin, chairman of the local Sierra Club group and a spokesman to the media in the early days of Warner Creek, followed the Journal into Oregon when his friend Craig Beneville joined the original editorial collective here. Now well ensconced in the community, Garvin doesn't believe activism will lessen in the Journal's absence.
"I think the activist community achieved critical mass sometime four or five years ago, and will continue to draw new energy in by its reputation and its activities without the Journal's presence," he says. "The Journal's presence will be missed, but I think Eugene's developed the largest community per capita of activists that I've ever seen." People now hear about Eugene not because of the Earth First! Journal, he says, but because of Red Cloud Thunder (treesitters at the Clark Timber sale along Fall Creek) and because of conflicts between protesters and police.
Juliana, who remembers the days when radical activism was a smaller part of Eugene, sees the move as a mixed bag for Eugene. "What's going to happen when the Journal leaves? I think a lot of people will stay and a lot of people will drift on," Juliana says. That, she hopes, will leave a "smaller group with more energy for actually doing forest defense again, where people have been focusing their energy on putting out the paper can now go back to focusing on timber sales."
If there's a functional equivalent to the Earth First! Journal mailing party for the more recent activist evolution in town, it's the weekly gathering at Tiny Tavern. Every week, a wide variety of activists gets together ostensibly to watch "Cascadia Alive!," drink microbrew pints, have intense political debates at the bar or just hang with friends in a booth.
The place is packed, dark and smoky. The television goes off just after 10 pm and a loud band goes on. On a cold, clear October night, people sit on the green Astroturf steps sharing cigarettes. It's a younger crowd than at the Journal mailing party, although ages range up into the 40s or 50s. Two people mill through the crowd handing out the new class schedules for the "Free Skool," still warm from the photocopy machine.
This isn't specifically Earth First! territory, although there are Earth First!ers in the mix. In the bar you see a little of the all-black clothing that's become media shorthand for describing the anarchist contingent. The people at Tiny's are here for each other, not for police or television cameras.
Stinkweed, a woman handing out Free Skool schedules, says that while she herself puts the Earth first, she has never felt fully part of the Earth First! crowd. Its culture is too male-oriented, she says, based on the model of a "heroic, '60s action figure." She thinks Eugene may fare better without the Journal, which she says distracts people from getting out onto the streets or into the woods doing actions. Earth First!'s day is done, she says.
"People are leap-frogging over that," she says. Earth First! "pushed it this far. Anarchists are going to push it the next leap." Creative feminist culture, which she says is growing in town, will push debate and action further still.
Shelley Cater has lived in Eugene twice as long as the Journal has been here. Her green hooded sweatshirt looks black in the dark of the parking lot where she smokes. "You're sensationalizing already!" she says when asked if the sweatshirt is actually black. She does credit the Journal's time in Eugene with increasing activism here, providing a center for other activities to swirl around. Like Stinkweed, Cater hopes that the people who have dedicated their time to the Journal will "join the front lines with a pickax in their hand" when the newspaper leaves.
Just before the Earth First! Journal's 20th birthday, Cater's activist prayer for its next decades also illuminates the importance of its first two:
"I hope it continues to carry the radical torch for the whole movement," she says. "Because it's high time we stopped the destruction of the planet. By any means necessary. Amen."
For more information, contact: Earth First! Journal, P.O. Box 1415, Eugene 97440. 541-344-8004. email: firstname.lastname@example.org.