What is Tree Spiking?

Tree nailing is designed to make logging difficult.

Tree tangling is a type of ecology that aims to prevent loggers from taking trees. In the United States, it has been a federal crime since 1988. Although spiking is still practiced, it is highly controversial among many environmental activists, with some organizations even divided in internal opinions. Many opponents of tree logging argue that the practice is extremely dangerous and potentially highly alienating, while supporters argue that it makes logging much more difficult, thus forming an effective method of protest.

When a tree is skewered, someone hammers a piece of hard material like metal or ceramic into the tree. The tree is not harmed by this activity as many hard objects lodge in the trees naturally and the trees are able to adapt their growth patterns to leave scars in the affected area. However, when a logger tries to cut down a tree, the tip of the tree gets caught in the saw blade, causing it to break or splinter. Even if a thorny tree is successfully felled, it can still wreak havoc on a factory, as a thorny tree did in 1987 when it caused a saw blade to break, nearly killing a sawmill worker.

Some tree-viewers say this should be done as ethically as possible. Ideally, the spike should be located well above the height of the saw so that loggers are not in danger. The tips should be made of brass or other non-iron metal so that the tree itself is not damaged too much. Trees with spikes must also be clearly marked, and loggers must be notified when trees in a logging plan are spiked. When done ethically, tree threshing aims to ensure that logging is not profitable, causing logging companies to put trees aside.

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More radical activists, however, do not practice tree-drilling ethically. They argue that the environment is worth more than the potential loss of a human life. The practice certainly has a long history; Spiking incidents date back to the late 1800s, although they were not popularized until the 1980s. Dave Forman, co-founder of Earth First!, popularized the practice in a book called Ecodefense, arguing that it should be part of the arsenal of committed environmental activists.

As tree driving became more common in the late 1980s, especially in Northern California and Southern Oregon, some activists became concerned about the practice. Several documented injuries indicated that spikes in trees had the potential to be deadly, and many environmentalists were concerned that spikes were giving the movement a bad name. As a result, many groups condemned the practice, arguing that there were safer and more effective ways to end logging. At Earth First!, the members were divided on the matter and continue to be to this day.

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