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Tree sitters greet opening of foresters' conference

Two unidentified tree-sitters were perched high in an — evergreen on the Southern Oregon University campus this morning in response — to the Society of American Foresters Annual meeting taking place there.

"We want to send out a message to save our forest," said — one of the protesters, a young woman who claimed to be a former SOU student — but declined to give her name.

She was joined by a young man who said he was a present — student and also declined to identify himself.

"We want to bring more awareness to the community," the — man yelled down from the tree, his voice barely rising above the din of — the adjacent Siskiyou Boulevard.

A statement from Ashland activist Stuart O'Neill explained — that students and members of the community set up two platforms in the — tree early this morning to serve "as a symbol of opposition to the rhetoric — of old-growth logging," at the forest meeting.

"In particular the tree-sitters oppose the presence of — the Bush administration's chief of deforestation, Mark Rey, Oregon State — University professor John Sessions, author of a study advocating extreme — salvage logging of the Biscuit fire, and Hal Salwasser, dean of the OSU — School of Forestry," O'Neill's statement continued.

The three-day conference began Wednesday, including about — 135 foresters expected to attend.

SOU officials intend to let the tree-sit continue, at — least as long as the situation remains reasonable.

"We don't plan to do anything," SOU spokesperson Christina — Dunlap said this morning. "Students have the right to protest, they just — have to do it peacefully."

Just a few people were on the scene this morning, but — one man with dreadlocks and bare feet sat under the tree with a guitar. — Simon Schmidt conceded his guitar playing was not working out so well — with the loud nearby traffic, but continued to stay around to help the — sitters.

"I just wanted to support these brave tree sitters," Schmidt — said.