UPDATE: First tree-sitter removed in Montgomery County identified, negotiations to resume Wednesday with other person still protesting

DCW50
Claire Marian Fiocco was removed from her tree stand on March 23, 2021 in Montgomery County. (Photo: Courtesy Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office).

UPDATE 9:50 p.m.: The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office has released the name of the tree-sitter removed earlier Tuesday evening.

According to authorities, 23-year-old Claire Marian Fiocco from Dorset, Vermont was arrested and charged with interfering with property rights of another.

She is currently being held without bail at the Montgomery County Jail.

At sunset on Tuesday, crews concluded working and have secured the worksite.

Law enforcement from the sheriff’s office, Virginia State Police, and the Christiansburg Police Department will continue to be on the scene through the night to maintain the worksite and surrounding areas.

Negotiations with the remaining tree-sitter will continue in the morning on Wednesday, March 24.


UPDATE 8 p.m.: A representative from the Mountain Valley Pipeline has released the following statement to WFXR News regarding the Yellow Finch tree-sitters.

The first Yellow Finch tree-sitter is being extricated from a tree in Montgomery County on March 23, 2021. (Photo: Courtesy Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office)

“We appreciate the work of local and state law enforcement personnel who are working to safely remove trespassers from private property today. We strongly condemn the illegal and dangerous behavior of the activists who put themselves, law enforcement authorities, project crew members and others at risk today and during the last several months.

These opponents had every opportunity to comply with the court’s order more than four months ago and to leave on their own. Instead, they chose to defy the law and continue trespassing and interfering with construction of a critical public infrastructure project. In doing so, they created unnecessary safety risks for everyone involved, and while we respect the opinions of those opposed to MVP, and to natural gas pipelines in general, there is no excuse for the unlawful actions taken by these activists.”

Natalie Cox, MVP Spokesperson
The first Yellow Finch tree-sitter is being lowered from a tree in Montgomery County on March 23, 2021. (Photo: Courtesy Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office)

UPDATE 6:40 p.m.: The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed that one of the two remaining tree-sitters has been removed.

Virginia State Police’s extraction team worked from a crane-suspended basket to remove that person from the “sleeping dragon” and the tree.

That person was then lowered to the ground in the basket and was checked by medical personnel. No injuries were noticed during the extraction and she will be taken to the magistrate.


UPDATE 3:50 p.m.: The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office continues to work toward removing the Yellow Finch tree sitters.

In a news release, the department says the removal of the two remaining tree sitters is on schedule.

Crews have spent the morning providing access for and setting a crane, which is now in place, to assist with the removal. Negotiations are continuing with the two remaining tree sitters in hopes that they will come down on their own.

The area is said to be extremely steep and is proving hard to access.

Crews will continue to work slowly and steadily to provide a safe environment for everyone on-scene.

“Though the work site has been closed for safety purposes, we have been able to arrange for site visits by both Montgomery County Board of Supervisor member Sara Bohn and Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Pettit. Supervisor Bohn has acted as a liaison for local protestors and Commonwealth Attorney Pettit has been consulted regularly for legal guidance since the court order was issued. Legal observers for the protesters have also been provided access to observe the work from a safe zone.”

Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office

Work will continue into the evening to remove the last of the tree sitters.

WFXR News has a crew on the scene and will be providing additional information as it develops.


UPDATE 9:33 a.m.: Montgomery County authorities completed the staging Tuesday morning and started negotiating with the Yellow Finch tree sitters as part of an extraction operation amid protests over the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office says deputies distributed the flyer attached below to approximately 80 residences around the Cove Hollow community from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday in order to make them aware of the situation:

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — After more than 900 days of sit-ins protesting the Mountain Valley Pipeline, law enforcement officers from across Montgomery County began the process of accessing, staging, and safely extracting the Yellow Finch tree sitters Tuesday morning.

According to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, pursuant to the Montgomery County Circuit Court injunction from Nov. 12, 2020, Montgomery County deputies kicked off this multi-day operation around Yellow Finch Lane on Tuesday, March 23, with some assistance from the Virginia State Police Device Extraction Team and officers from the Christiansburg Police Department.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline protesters were given until Nov. 16, 2020 to vacate the trees they had been sitting in for over 800 days at the time.

Days later, a Montgomery County judge found them in contempt of court for staying and imposed a daily fine of $500.

However, more than four months later, a number of tree sitters are still up on their platforms in the trees off Yellow Finch Lane.

“This action follows months of planning and coordination in order to provide the safest operation for everyone involved,” the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday. “It is our hopes that the remaining tree sitters will vacate the area on their own; however, we are prepared to extract them safely if necessary.”

From 7 a.m. on Tuesday until the operation concludes, officials say access to Cove Hollow Road will only be allowed for area residents.

In addition, citizens living on Cove Hollow Road will notice an increased law enforcement presence for the duration of this operation, according to the sheriff’s office.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

More DCW Featured

DCW50 Celebrity Interviews

More DCW50 Celebrity Interviews
More DCW Highlights

Trending Stories