BARK and bite in defense of trees
brenna bell is the policy Coordinator & Staff Attorney at BARK, a grassroots environmental organization based in Portland, Oregon. BARK’s mission is to transform Mt. Hood National Forest into a place where natural processes prevail, where wildlife thrives and where local communities have a social, cultural, and economic investment in its restoration and preservation.
brenna brings to her work a lifetime of passion for the Pacific Northwest, twenty years of organizing experience, and an extensive background in environmental law and education. Her involvement with Cascadia Forest Alliance and the campaign to save Eagle Creek led her to Lewis & Clark Law School, where she graduated cum laude. brenna has worked with numerous non-profits and is a co-founder of Tryon Life Community Farm—a community sustainability education center. She also lives, and is raising her two children and many goats, in Cedar Moon—the intentional community at TLC Farm.
brenna and I have known each other since the early 2000s when we met in Portland’s forest defense community. I’ve been an admirer of her work and of BARK’s efforts the whole time, so it was a real pleasure to talk to her on January 14th. We discussed her calling to legal work; her early years of forest activism; BARK’s mission; the history of public land, starting with its theft from Native Americans; how public land is managed for resources extraction rather than preserved or restored for ecology; how national forests are required to meet annual timber targets; state co-management of federal lands; the damage to environmental protections during the Trump years, including from the “sue and settle” method; fire ecology; how climate change extends the fires season; how fire science is ignored by the timber industry and the Forest Service; how the media covers fire; viewing big wildfires as unstoppable weather events; climate change and the role of forests in sequestering carbon; the incoming Biden administration; climate justice; the mythology around the concept of “unpeopled wilderness”; the importance of looking to indigenous leadership for conservation and restoration; being inspired by today’s youth; and the need for generational work.