Earth First! protests the destruction of Redwood Forests (Redwood Summer), United States, 1990


To end the logging of old growth forests in Mendocino County in Northern California.

Time period

May, 1990 to September, 1990


United States

Location City/State/Province

Mendocino County, California

Location Description

Towns and nearby old growth redwood forests
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 1st segment

Methods in 2nd segment

Methods in 3rd segment

Methods in 4th segment

Methods in 5th segment

Methods in 6th segment

Segment Length

1 month


Judi Bari (Earth First!)


Not known

External allies

Food Not Bombs, Seeds of Peace, International Workers of the World

Involvement of social elites

Not known


Louisiana Pacific Pulp Mill and its logging crews, Maxxam Inc. Lumber

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

Not known

Repressive Violence

A pipe bomb was placed under the seat of Judi Bari's car on May 24, 1990, as she travelled to recruit college students for the Redwood Summer. Protesters were stripped and beaten by loggers on site in the old growth forests. They were also threatened and driven out of town hall meetings in their counties.





Group characterization

Earth First! and recruited college students

Groups in 1st Segment

Earth First!
Food Not Bombs
Seeds of Peace
International Workers of the World

Segment Length

1 month

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

0 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


2 out of 3 points

Total points

3 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

While logging continued, press coverage of the Redwood Summer was huge and made a lasting impact on the prominence (and funding) of Earth First.

Database Narrative

In 1990, Earth First! activists began organizing a radical non-violent campaign called the “Redwood Summer” in response to Louisiana Pacific Lumber Mill’s decision to double the rate of logging. Earth First! hoped to expose the logging of old growth forests by Louisian Pacific and Maxxam, Inc., which had depleted 95% of  Northern California’s forests. Earth First!, an organization of activists working against logging was led by Judi Bari and her colleagues. They began work in the spring, when they drove to various college campuses to raise awareness.

The cause was quickly gaining momentum when on May 24, a potentially lethal pipe bomb exploded under the seat of Judi Bari’s car, shattering her pelvis and leaving her hospitalized for several weeks. Deryl Cherney, another Earth First! activist who was in the passenger seat was seriously injured. The government investigated and later charged Bari for possession and transportation of a bomb, but failed to assemble proof. Media attention sparked widespread international outrage at what many journalists called an assassination attempt on Judi Bari. The extensive press coverage drew almost four thousand volunteers and attracted high profile alliances (Food Not Bombs,
International Workers of the World, and Seeds of Peace) to the Redwood Summer protests.

Earth First! split the activists into small teams to take on various tasks. Protesters campaigned in small towns across Northern California all summer. The campaigners used standard techniques of nonviolent action including picketing, carrying signs and banners through their towns. In Fort Bragg, the home of the Georgia Pacific Pulp Mill, protesters obstructed the main road and prevented traffic from leaving and entering the mill, forcing a halt to production that day.

One of the most controversial practices used by Earth First! was “tree-spiking,” a process in which protesters inserted a metal spike in the base of a tree, preventing loggers from felling it. However, later in the season, a factory worker processing the wood was severely injured after his machine malfunctioned due to one of the spikes that was still lodged in a piece of wood. The press used the accident to enhance the widespread perception of Earth First! as a radical, and even insiduous force in the environmental movement, calling them “eco-terrorists”. More moderate groups, like Sierra Club, denounced them for their dangerous tactics. After the incident, Earth First! officially stopped spiking trees because of the risk it posed to human life.

After the tree-spiking incident, Earth First! adopted other obstructive practices to halt the destruction of the old growth forests. Protesters frequently snuck into logging sites at night in teams and disabled trucks and machinery, forcing work to stop the next day. On several instances, this enraged logging teams. The campaigners would chain themselves to threatened trees and stand between the redwoods and the bulldozers. Loggers verbally harassed the campaigners, and at one point a logger severely beat a campaigner.

The group also consistently used symbolic action against the loggers. They dressed in animal costumes, using in particular the colors and patterns of the spotted owl, an endangered species that lived in the old growth forests that were threatened by logging.  They also camouflaged themselves with leaves and sticks and used special war cries, adapted from Native American war cries, to communicate with each other. Performers and musicians also came to the redwood groves and helped to host rallies. These events helped illustrate Earth First! as a wildly radical group, which eventually led to stigmatization even within the environmental movement. Many other environmentalists viewed Earth First! as unprofessional and ineffective for their extreme use of symbolic action.

At the end of the summer, the campaigners left the groves peacefully and moved on to new projects, having established Earth First! as a famous (or infamous) network for environmentalists. However, their work during the Redwood Summer did not seriously disrupt the logging companies. 


"Environmentalists converge on timber mill; 44 arrested". Associated Press News Archives, 20 June 1990.

"If a Tree Falls in the Forest, They Hear It". New York Times News Archives, 04 November 1990.

"Judi Bari, Leader of the Earth First Protest on Redwoods in 1990". New York Times News Archives, 04 March 1997.

"Militant Environmentalists Planning Protests to Save Redwoods". New York Times News Archives, 19 June 1990.

"Judi Bari's Last Stand". North Coast Journal, 1 December 1996.

"Redwood Summer and Beyond". University of Texas, UT Watch, November 1990.

"Saving the Redwood Forest, a Continuing Project". Green Answers, 03 August 2011.

"What was Redwood Summer?" WiseGeek.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Lydia Bailey 02/03/2013