Obituary: Beth O’Brian 1979-2002

Beth aka Horehound, aka Dumpster Leg falls to her death from tree-sit at Eagle Creek, Oregon

“It could have been me but instead it was you So I’ll keep doing the work you were doing as if I were two” — Holly Near

Our friend Beth O’Brien was killed at the Eagle Creek tree-sit in the Mount Hood National Forest in Oregon on April 12 2002. She fell 150 feet (50m) when she slipped while climbing a rope ladder between two platforms. She had just snowshoed in with supplies. We know that she was very excited to be there and her death in this tragic accident makes us very sad. She was 22 years old. The tree-sit had just, three days before, succeeded in saving the forest from logging, and activists were only waiting for signed documents canceling the timber sale before coming down.

She was from Santa Rosa, California where she started a local Food Not Bombs, worked with Earth First! and the Purple Berrets-against police brutality and she made many things happen with her energy. Recently she had moved to Oregon to work with the Cascadia Forest Defenders. In the Bay Area we remember her coming to events where she shared her indignation at protests and showed her love of life.

At her funeral in Santa Rosa her Father noted right-wing talk-show host Rush Limbaugh had called her a “Tree-sit suicide bomber” and said “If she was saving the trees why didn’t they save her”. This outraged him and he called for us to take action.

Cascade Forest Alliance noted “Years of community efforts, heralded by direct action, have protected the Eagle Creek area thus far. . . . Tree-sitting is a risk taken to protect our remaining native forest from destruction. It is a tragedy that such risks must be taken. While we recognize the dangers inherent in tree-sitting, we take safety seriously. Tree-sitters and tree-climbing trainers are taught the best safety available and constantly stress the importance of conveying safety protocols to others. This tragic accident results because communities must risk their lives to protect their land. We view Beth’s death in a tradition of courageous action to defend life that extends through decades of non-violent protest in the US and abroad.”