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Group on the fringe is hard to pin down

Sarah Wald

Personal: 22, volunteer

Group: Cascadia Forest Alliance, www.cascadiaforestalliance.org

Big influence, etc.: Chose not to share personal information

Annual budget: $10,000

Critics say: Flakes linked to ecoterrorists

Members: No official membership (or leadership), but CFA has about 2,500 people on its mailing list

At 7 in the morning, Sarah Wald was speaking to students at the Environmental Middle School in Southeast Portland. At noon, she was demonstrating in front of a Portland lumber store, calling for an end to commercial logging on public lands.

This weekend, she'll be traveling to the forest for a 'spectacular action camp,' with seminars on everything from climbing trees and creating human roadblocks to orienteering and lichen identification.

Wald, a Michigan transplant, is a volunteer for Cascadia Forest Alliance. The Portland environmental group is known for defiantly blocking logging roads and setting up camp in trees to stop timber sales such as the Estacada area Eagle Creek cut Ñ which the U.S. Forest Service canceled under pressure.

The recent death of CFA volunteer Beth O'Brien, who fell 150 feet from a tree in the Mount Hood National Forest last month, brought new scrutiny to an organization that is perhaps the least easily defined of Portland's green entities. CFA has no leaders, no board of directors, no paid staff and no members. The alliance is not registered with the state as a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

So what do CFA volunteers do?

According to Wald and her colleague Tim Ream, its volunteers distribute leaflets, comment on proposed timber sales, hold protests in front of retail stores, lead newcomers on hikes through forests destined to be cut, organize rallies in the woods to stop those cuts and when all else fails, turn to 'direct action.'

Direct action can mean sitting in a tree that is scheduled to be cut down, locking your body to the entrance gate of a logging road or chaining yourself to a helicopter.

It's open to debate whether the term also applies to spiking trees, sabotaging logging equipment and arson. CFA doesn't condone such activities, but Wald says of tree-spiking: 'We're not going to denounce it if someone else does it.'

CFA is one of dozens of loosely allied organizations that are philosophically aligned with the basic ethic of Earth First!, which is 'no compromise in defense of Mother Earth.'

Wald was unwilling to share personal information for this article, explaining in an e-mail, 'While I understand your project and sympathize with your ends, I feel it would be inaccurate to profile any one individual as a representative of CFA.'

Wald prefers to focus on the forest. She says to expect more tree-sits this summer because more than 100 timber sales are being planned in the Mount Hood and Gifford Pinchot national forests.

This July, CFA will host the annual Earth First! retreat in the Gifford Pinchot, with hundreds of anti-logging activists from all over the country expected to attend.