Hiking into Headwaters— A Celebratory Return for Activists

October, 2016

Former President and patriarch of American wilderness, Theodore Roosevelt, said, “Believe that you can do something and you are half way there.” On a recent Saturday, seventeen-and-a-half years after the Headwaters Forest Reserve was established as a part of the BLM National Conservation Lands system, 30 years after protests began, and 20 years after the big ‘96 rally, I had the distinct honor of guiding a group of individuals who had spearheaded the Campaign to Save Headwaters Forest from 1986-1999 and fought hard to save this place from the saw and bulldozer, back into the forest. 

For myself, and for just about everyone else I spoke with on the hike and over that weekend, so much remains unlikely and unbelievable about the Headwaters Forest Reserve. The fact that there is such a thing as the Headwaters Forest Reserve is still astounding. The fact that the Reserve has a community docent program (and that I, of all people, am one of them) is also astounding. If this story had been told by basecamp bonfires 20 years ago, no one, myself included, would have ever believed it. 

I moved to Humboldt County in the spring of 1997, and almost immediately found myself embroiled in the struggle to Save Headwaters Forest. Nineteen years later I was at the head of the line, opening the locked logging gate at Newburg Road in Fortuna—the site of thousands of arrests over the two decades of the struggle. On this day I was there to legally take into the Reserve 50 of the people who worked to protect Headwaters—many for whom it was the very first time. 

I was quite moved to find that this tremendous community with a fighting spirit and a heart of gold was grateful that I am among those serving as an educational docent for Headwaters in the present-day. It seemed to give many comfort in knowing that the Reserve they fought so hard to create was in good hands, and that the spirit and legacy of the Campaign to Save Headwaters Forest is being carried forward in the Reserve, and on into the future. 

As Margret Mead wrote, “Never doubt that a small, dedicated group of people can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” The Headwaters Forest Reserve is a testament to the spirit of this principle manifested, and for many of us that attended this hike into the old-growth, we have, at long last, finally made it all the way home.