Throughout the 1990s, I led a huge environmental battle relatively near my home in the North Cascade Mountains of Washington State. A sand and gravel mining company wanted to put in an enormous gravel pit and hard-rock quarry in an extraordinarily sensitive area: The two-square mile proposed project was bordered by a salmon-spawning river on one side and a designated national scenic byway on the other.
The gravel company had strong local political ties; other companies involved had very deep pockets. So despite winning a landmark legal victory in 1995 (when the project’s Environmental Impact Statement was found inadequate on 10 counts), we lost in the end after local politicians altered or overturned every environmental law that stood in the way of the project. Our only solace was the fact that we cut down the proposed project by half, limiting the mining to one square mile and limited the number of truck trips to 512 trucks per day, half of the company’s original proposal. Still, I was angry.
Within weeks of that project getting a permit in 1999, I started photographing a small log I had found on my property nearly six years prior to that. I had found the log during the cleanup from a major windstorm that had blown over several hundred trees on my own 20-acre property (we had 17 truckloads of logs removed to allow us to get back on the land for replanting and rehabilitation caused by the winds).
The log was barely six feet long, with swirling burls of wood along one edge of it—none more than four inches on a side. Somehow I knew with certainty that photographing that log would give expression to my anger and depression.