In Memoriam: Roy Keene. An Elder and Eco Warrior.

Roy empowering new forest defenders at John's Last Stand BLM timber sale inside the heart of the Hardesty Mt Roadless Area in 2016.

I first met Roy in 1992 at one of his Public Forest Foundations (PFF) forestry field trip events to publicly expose the pillaging and waste of ancient Pacific Yew trees across Oregon on public lands. This was just after I resigned from the Umpqua National Forest where I became a whistleblower over felonies linked to selling Pacific Yew logs committed by the District Ranger. 

After the workshop I was so impressed with Roy and his band of forestry professionals I joined PFF as a part time staff volunteer. While there I was greatly impressed with Roy and Patty Keene’s knowledge of forestry, professionalism and dedication to truly protect ancient forests in the Pacific Northwest. 


Sometime in late 1992 or early '93 the Clinton and Gore Forest Summit was announced. I asked Roy if he wouldn’t have a problem with me advocating on his behalf for a seat at NW Forest Summit table. He stated he didn’t have a problem with that but he would not participate in advocating on his own behalf. Suffice it say Roy was not allowed a seat at the “Summit” table and most of the ancient forests of Cascadia were compromised away to big timber. One half of the roughly remaining 5 million acres of old growth forests where thousands of endemic species reside was slated for logging and the other half would be “saved”.  The “smart” enviros at the table got “rolled” like crooked dice by Bill Clinton. We all knew it but the deal makers to this day would never admit it. Option 9 or the Northwest Forest Plan was what they labeled it. 


Roy never let go of the Clinton Forest Summit sellout of our last ancient forests by the compromising regional environmental groups most notably the Oregon Natural Resources Council now called Oregon Wild. He always referred to the sellout and compromise as “Cutting the Baby in Half”. His integrity surrounding that sellout always stuck with me and it had a great impact on my subsequent positions on public lands policies.  

 

In 1995 after the adoption of the Northwest Forest Plan in 1994 President Clinton stabbed all of us in the back again when he signed the infamous Salvage Logging Rider. 


Roy, his band of happy forestry hombres and his loved no compromiser Earth firsters quickly embarked on many battles against corrupt “timber grabs” after the enactment of Bill Clinton’s “salvage logging rider”. Places like Warner Creek, Judie in the Hardesty wild area, Helldun, Fall Creek and North Winberry timber sales in the Willamette Nat'l Forest received Roy’s and forest defenders undivided attention into 2003. Following the Clinton Salvage Rider “timber grabs” Roy threw some of his ire against the Goose sale in the McKenzie in 2011, White Castle sale in the South Umpqua in 2012, and John’s Last Stand BLM Sale in the Hardesty Mt wild area in 2016. Roy and forest defenders protected all those wild areas and timber sales minus one, the Frissell wild area which the Goose timber sale pillaged a large chunk in 2018-19 after a road blockade was violently ripped down and protesters assaulted by a logging outfit from Idaho.


Many connected and respected Roy so deeply because he was unabashedly tenacious when it came to protecting ancient forest biomes and the wild things within. Maybe it was because he would more times than not throw down with the no compromising direct action contingent or tree sitting rif raf to oppose what he called “timber grabs” by the timber industry proposed by captured agencies like the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. 


Starting in 1999 Roy became a pivotal voice in exposing the sellouts and egregious compromises by Oregon’s Democratic Governors beginning with John Kitzhaber’s elimination of timber harvest taxes on the largest industrial forest land owners like Weyerhaeuser, Seneca, and Roseburg Lumber. He was also extremely publicly critical of instances of malpractice committed by Oregon and west coast based enviro groups by increasing public lands logging through “collaborations.” He also threw some of his efforts into protecting the Elliott State Forest near Coos Bay from logging and privatization in 2014-15. 


Starting in 2020 Roy exposed the recent sellout by Oregon NGOs over so called "Oregon Forestry Practice Reforms" regarding herbicide spraying and industrial forestry practices. Roy rarely shied away from calling a spade a spade or exposing groups who sold out for short term gains or political favors from Oregon Democratic politicians.


Roy couldn’t stomach the fact Oregon forest protection groups were continuously compromising away real mitigation measures that could curtail rapid liquidation of forests on industrial lands, save Northwest ancient forests, and help save ancient forests globally. He would state the rampant and unsustainable liquidation of forests on industrial forest lands was creating a timber supply “water bed effect”. His premise contended that when the wood fiber supply couldn’t be met from Northwest industrial forest lands the supply would need to be come from pristine forests like those in northern British Columbia, Alaska or even Siberia.


He believed some logging could be done reasonably sustainably on industrial lands here in the Pacific Northwest without the use of massive clearcuts and unquantifiable amounts of herbicide poison spray to meet the demand for wood products. He didn’t believe commercial logging of native forests on public lands was ecologically sustainable nor sane. Roy understood that the timber industry and agency servants had already destroyed 90% of the native ancient forest stands across the Pacific Northwest in the U.S. and it was well past time to set those remaining stands off limits to logging. No excuses. Not for so called forest health, fire fuels thinning, or forest restoration because he knew the agencies and industry would “greenwash” their projects by labeling them "restoration" or "fuels thinning" to justify more commercial logging dwarfing any small amount of good that might be included in a project. 


Roy lived a life based on integrity. Of the nearly 30 years I knew and worked with Roy I never witnessed him compromise his integrity or positions for short term gains. However, for this he paid dearly for it. Roy and PFF were never able to attain the kind of funding other compromising groups could from corporate foundations and entities that funded “collaboratives”. Roy and Patty decided to discontinue  PFF around 2000. However around 2011 Roy with some of his old cohorts launched a new 501c3 called "Our Forests" . (See bottom of page to support.) He continued to attain published guest opinions all over Oregon and beyond as well as worked on anti herbicide spray initiatives in Lincoln and Lane County for at least a decade. 


I think Roy was deeply respected by many in his inner circles because they understood that he and no one in that circle placed any importance to attaining recognition, rewards, a cushy enviro job if it came at the price of giving up their integrity and sacrificing places for short term gains or future political favors. 


Roy had formed a great love for the wild lands and wild rivers of the Siskiyou Mountains, the rugged and hostile Kalmiopsis Wilderness and the Klamath Mountains of Southern Oregon and Northern California. Soon after Roy’s overseas military service he moved inside the heart of the Kalmiopsis wilderness and began to live a mountain man’s way of life by prospecting for gold and trapping. Any supplies were 20 miles away and at least a days travel in the best conditions. He relayed to me only a few thrilling and vibrant stories from his life in the Kalmiopisis. 


In the early 1980’s Roy would use his knowledge and the power the wilds granted him to achieve the addition of another 100,000 acres to the existing Kalmiopsis Wilderness and the creation of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness in the headwaters of Umpqua and Rogue River watersheds.


Perhaps for Roy it was his unpleasant duties in the military followed by his experience living as a mountain man in the wilds of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness that welded his integrity and tenacity to fight for the wild and wild things within. 


Roy’s expansive legacy apart from the many places across western Oregon he saved as wilderness or from pillaging via logging was empowering future forest defenders to stand fast to their integrity and tenacity. For the last 30 years he was able to reveal to future ancient forest advocates how integrity, knowledge of a place, and tenacity was pivotal to saving wild places and the wild things within from plunder and ruin.


When I visit and patrol the wilds around my community and throughout Cascadia I will remember and honor Roy’s spirit and tenacity. This remembering and honoring as well as the same for all our relations on this spectacularly rare living planet grants us the courage and strength to carry on with our shared struggle dedicated to protect our creator, Mother Earth.


Roy’s legacy is all around us and within each of us especially those who knew his vibrant and tenacious spirit.

Rest In Peace Roy. My elder and brother.


Roy Passed on March 31, 2021 While at Home in Eugene, Oregon with his Family.

In lieu of flowers, a contribution can be made in Roy's memory to Our Forests, P.O. Box 684, Eugene, OR 97440. 

Note: Corrections were made to Roy past military service in the 1960s. When Roy talked about such things as heavy artillery he never elaborated any details about where exactly he served and I never asked because I thought it might be very inappropriate subject for a non veteran to ask about another's military service during the 1960's. I assume Roy had no interest in talking about such and I never pursued it out of respect.
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