SALEM — The Oregon state legislature’s short session begins Feb. 3, with lawmakers planning to resurrect climate legislation after last session’s controversial “cap-and-trade” proposal failed.
And Timber Unity, the group heading protests last year, will be back.
On Feb. 6, Timber Unity will organize a convoy of logging trucks to Salem and a rally on the Capitol steps.
On the group’s Facebook event page, as of Jan. 7, 936 people have said they will go to the protest, more than 3,100 have marked themselves as interested and 97 have pledged to drive semi-trucks.
“We want to stop cap and trade,” said Adam Lardy, a Timber Unity spokesman. “Politicians may want to run with a watered-down version this year. But once they get a foothold, why wouldn’t they run with it? So we can’t let them get a foothold.”
Last year Timber Unity formed to protest House Bill 2020, last year’s cap-and-trade bill, which passed the Oregon House. The legislation was designed to cut carbon emissions, but it roused opposition from farmers, loggers and others who argued the bill would raise fuel and natural gas prices.
The protests culminated with the walk-out of Senate Republicans, inflaming party tensions. The bill stalled in the Senate at the end of the session when it failed to gain adequate support. According to Harry Esteve, communications manager for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, it’s too early to know the specifics of a renewed cap-and-trade proposal.
Kate Kondayen, deputy communications director for Gov. Kate Brown, said the governor is focused on an economy-wide strategy with enforceable carbon limits. Kondayen said Brown plans to “ensure the bill protects jobs and livelihoods in rural communities” while still achieving state emissions goals.
“Doing nothing is not an option,” said Kondayen.
Although Timber Unity formed to protest HB 2020, the movement has ballooned into something bigger.
“The movement is shifting,” said Lardy, the spokesman. “We’re fighting overregulation. We’re fighting laws that kill jobs and communities. It’s not just about cap and trade anymore.”
The movement bears resemblance to the “yellow vests” in France, a grassroots citizens’ campaign that started as a fuel tax protest and has morphed into a nationwide anti-government movement aimed at economic justice for the working-class.
Timber Unity also echoed a global trend. In what experts have dubbed the Global Protest Wave of 2019, demonstrations erupted in the Arab world, France, Catalonia, Hong Kong, Latin America and beyond. According to the United Nations, demonstrators around the world sought autonomy, freedom from political corruption and economic fairness.
As Timber Unity’s ranks swell in 2020, its leaders say they are determined to keep protests peaceful.
“I’m an Army wife. I stood up for Gov. Brown when she walked into our caucus room,” said Julie Parrish, a former state legislator and current board member for Timber Unity. “It’s about respect. If any policymaker will speak with us, we'll take the meeting.”
The movement’s success, said Parrish, also depends on how protesters treat one another. Parrish said the Timber Unity movement is far from homogenous.
“We’re a voting bloc of over 50,000 people now, and we’re not all politically the same,” said Parrish. “I don’t own a gun or hunt or fish. Some people are pro-choice, some pro-life. Some are hell-bent on electing Trump, and others would never vote for him.”
She laughed. “It makes managing the dialog interesting sometimes. But we’re trying to focus on common ground — economic issues.”
Timber Unity’s financial muscle comes from its donors, both through direct giving and in-kind donations.
The group filed as a 501 C (6) membership-based nonprofit, and also runs the Timber Unity Political Action Committee, or TUPAC. Since its genesis June 6, 2019, TUPAC has brought in over $177,000.
TUPAC has been criticized for its partisan and special-interest donors, such as Andrew Miller, a prominent timber executive.
Timber Unity’s leaders, however, say they’re undaunted by criticisms. Parrish said the organization will extend its reach by helping plant local chapters across Oregon, California and Washington.
Timber Unity, said Parrish, also plans to host training sessions and teach civic engagement workshops.
On Wednesday, Jan. 15, at 11 a.m., board member Angelita Sanchez will discuss upcoming carbon regulations at the Northwest Ag Show at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem.
“You can only tax people so much,” said Lardy. “It all started with a rally, and we’re doing it again.”