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Tree spiking

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Tree spiking of a birch in Sweden.

Tree spiking involves hammering a metal rod, nail or other material into a tree trunk, either inserting it at the base of the trunk where a logger might be expected to cut into the tree, or higher up where it would affect the sawmill later processing the wood. Contact with the spike often damages saw blades, which can result in injuries, or death, to nearby workers. The spike can also lower the commercial value of the wood by causing discoloration, reducing the economic viability of logging in the long term, without threatening the life of the tree. It is illegal in the United States, and has been described as a form of eco-terrorism.


It was first mentioned in the context of discouraging logging in Earth First! magazine.[1][2] It came to prominence as a contentious tactic within unconventional environmentalist circles during the 1980s, after it was advocated by Earth First! co-founder Dave Foreman in his book Ecodefense. In the book, he discusses how to do it and how to avoid risks to the activist and the logger, such as by putting warning signs or marks in the area where the trees are being spiked.[3][4]

On 8 May 1987, George Alexander, a millworker, was severely injured when a saw blade shattered after contact with a tree spike and cut his jaw in half.[5][6] Louisiana-Pacific, Alexander's employer, offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the alleged tree spiker, but no charges were filed in this incident.[7] The spiking itself was thought to be inconsistent with Earth First! tactics,[8] as the trees were not in an old-growth forest[4] and the placement of the nail suggested it was inserted after the tree was cut.[7] Alexander later filed a lawsuit against Louisiana-Pacific[7][9] claiming that the band saw had been weakened from previous strikes with nails,[10] but that he was forced to work with the saw or face dismissal.[11]

This industrial accident led the leaders of Earth First! to denounce tree spiking.[8][9][10] Tree spiking is labeled as eco-terrorism by logging advocates who claim it is potentially dangerous to loggers or mill-workers,[12] although by 1996 only this single injury resulting from tree spiking had been reported.[9]

By country[edit]

New Zealand[edit]

Beech trees that were being logged in 1998 in the Tuatapere area were spiked. Police were unable to trace those who were responsible.[13]

Pat O'Dea, while he was the mayor for the Buller District, suggested in 2000 that Native Forest Action (NFA) had spiked trees during a direct action campaign against native forest logging on the West Coast.[14] This was denied by NFA spokesperson Dean Bagient-Mercer.[15] In 1998, Kevin Smith from Forest and Bird had said that tree spiking was proposed by some individuals involved in the NFA campaign.[13]

United States[edit]

Following the 1987 injury of California mill worker George Alexander, anti-tree spiking legislation was introduced as the Anti-Tree Spiking Act,[16] and was passed into federal law as an amendment, introduced by senators James A. McClure and Mark Hatfield,[2][8] to the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988.[17] In 1993, John Blount and others were convicted under this statute for spiking trees in the Clearwater National Forest, after Tracy Stone-Manning agreed to testify in exchange for immunity from prosecution.[18][19]

In 1990, Earth First! leaders, including Judi Bari and Mike Roselle, issued a memo and press release to Earth First! activists in Northern California and Southern Oregon, renouncing tree-spiking as a tactic on the eve of Redwood Summer, a 1990 campaign of nonviolent protests against logging of the redwood forest.[20]

In 2021, President Biden nominated Tracy Stone-Manning to lead the Bureau of Land Management despite her involvement in a 1989 tree-spiking plot.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Watson, Leroy (December 21, 1981). "Spikin'" (PDF). Earth First!. Vol. 2, no. 2. Salt Lake City, UT: Earth First!. p. 6. ISSN 1055-8411. Archived (PDF) from the original on July 11, 2021. Retrieved July 11, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Manes, Christopher (1990). Green Rage: Radical Environmentalism and the Unmaking of Civilization (1st ed.). Boston: Little, Brown and Co. p. 310. ISBN 978-0316545327. Retrieved July 11, 2021.
  3. ^ Haywood, Bill; Foreman, Dave, eds. (1993). Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching (3rd ed.). Chico, California: Abbzug Press. p. 350. ISBN 978-0963775108.
  4. ^ a b Stammer, Larry B. (May 15, 1987). "Environment Radicals Target of Probe Into Lumber Mill Accident". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on September 11, 2020. Retrieved July 11, 2021.
  5. ^ "Booby-Trapped Tree Was Felled in Area Known for Bizarre Protests". Los Angeles Times. May 16, 1987. Archived from the original on June 29, 2021. Retrieved July 11, 2021.
  6. ^ Anderson, Jack; van Atta, Dale (March 5, 1990). "Tree spiking an 'eco-terrorist' tactic". Washington Post. Archived from the original on July 5, 2021. Retrieved July 11, 2021.
  7. ^ a b c Bari, Judi (February 17, 1993). "The Secret History of Tree Spiking". Anderson Valley Advertiser. Archived from the original on June 25, 2021. Retrieved July 11, 2021.
  8. ^ a b c Woodhouse, Keith Makoto (2018). The Ecocentrists: A History of Radical Environmentalism. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 372. ISBN 978-0231165884.
  9. ^ a b c Rowell, Andrew (1996). Green Backlash. Routledge. p. 153. ISBN 9780415128285.
  10. ^ a b Roselle, Mike; Mahan, Josh (2009). Tree Spiker: From Earth First! to Lowbagging: My Struggles in Radical Environmental Action (1st ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-55619-8.
  11. ^ Watson, Paul (February 2, 1995). "In Defense of Tree Spiking" (PDF). Earth First!. Vol. 15, no. 3. Eugene, OR: Earth First!. p. 10. ISSN 1055-8411. Archived (PDF) from the original on July 11, 2021. Retrieved July 11, 2021.
  12. ^ Bandow, Doug (April 12, 1990). "Ecoterrorism: The Dangerous Fringe of the Environmental Movement" (PDF). The Backgrounder (764). Washington, DC: The Heritage Foundation. Archived (PDF) from the original on November 19, 2020. Retrieved July 11, 2021.
  13. ^ a b Nixon, Tina (January 6, 1998). "Spikes put workers' lives at risk". The Southland Times.
  14. ^ Madgwick, Paul (April 14, 2000). "Public backlash around NZ feared". The Press.
  15. ^ Bagient-Mercer, Dean (April 27, 2000). "West Coast forests". Letter to the Editor. The Press.
  16. ^ H.R. 3075
  17. ^ Pub. L.Tooltip Public Law (United States) 100–690, 102 Stat. 4181, enacted November 18, 1988, H.R. 5210
  18. ^ "Clearwater forest trial opens in Idaho tree-spiking case". The Lewiston Tribune. Associated Press. June 8, 1993. Archived from the original on June 23, 2021. Retrieved July 11, 2021.
  19. ^ Partlow, Joshua; Grandoni, Dino (July 4, 2021). "As a student, Tracy Stone-Manning sent a letter on behalf of eco-saboteurs. It's now complicating her chance to lead the Bureau of Land Management". Washington Post. Archived from the original on July 5, 2021. Retrieved July 11, 2021.
  20. ^ Bari, Judi; Cherney, Darryl; Roselle, Mike; Cloninger, Rick; Cloninger, Kathi; Evans, Larry; King, Greg; Davis, Pam; Martin, Daphne (April 1990). "Northern California Earth First! renounces tree spiking" (Press release). Earth First!. Archived from the original on May 9, 2008.
  21. ^ Streater, Scott; Yachnin, Jennifer (July 15, 2021). "Convicted tree spiker: Stone-Manning knew plans in advance". Greenwire. E&E. Retrieved July 22, 2021.