Texas tree protesters to descend as Keystone XL moves on

Protesters who camped in trees to stop construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas are set to descend in the coming days after a nearly three-month campaign, a spokesman for the movement said Wednesday.

The final two protesters, who have been part of a rotating group of activists in East Texas trees over 85 days, will end their standoff with pipeline construction workers there, said Ron Seifert, a spokesman for Tar Sands Blockade.

Tar Sands Blockade has organized protesters who have camped in trees, locked themselves to heavy machinery and stood in front of working crews near Winnsboro in an attempt to stop construction of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline.

But in the first weeks of the blockade effort, TransCanada decided to alter the route of its pipeline to move around the network of wood planks, rope and tarp that activists had used to construct a tree village more than 40 feet above the ground.

Construction crews have been working alongside the tree encampment to clear land, assemble pipeline and dig a trench  in which to bury it.

TransCanada’s maneuver around the protest camp led most of the initial eight tree protesters to descend, although two remained , vowing to stay in the trees  until it was clear TransCanada would not cut them down.

“Construction around the perimeter of the blockade area is reaching completion, so once it’s pretty clear that (TransCanada’s) work is done and the pipe is in the ground there will be really no need to protect that area,” Seifert said.

Still, the goal of the protest efforts is  to stop pipeline construction, he said, and Keystone XL opponents will continue their work elsewhere.

“Certainly it’s disappointing that the blockade  there in Winnsboro didn’t actually stop the pipeline,” Seifert said. “That was the intention, no doubt,” he said.

Despite that failure, the group did succeed in altering the pipeline route and in becoming an inspiration to other pipeline opponents, Seifert said.

The group still hopes to stop the pipeline and is supporting several efforts, including legal challenges, to that end, he said.