WINNSBORO, Tex. — Deep within the oak and pine forests that blanket this stretch of East Texas, the chug of machinery drones on late into the day, broken only by the sounds of a band of activists who have vowed to stop it.
Here, among the woods and farmland, what might be one of the last pitched battles over the Keystone XL oil pipeline has been unfolding for weeks now, since construction of the controversial project’s southern leg began in August.
As bulldozers and diggers churn up a 50-foot-wide path for the pipeline — this portion will run from Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf Coast — a small group of environmental activists have taken to the towering trees in its way.
And with the blessing of some landowners who live here, and whose property the pipeline will cross, the protesters have fashioned a web of tree houses, structures and pulleys in a last-ditch effort to keep the enormous project from rumbling forward. [...]
“In one case, protesters jumped underneath a truck and tied themselves to the rear axle with plastic,” Shawn Howard, a TransCanada spokesman, said by e-mail. “They were fortunate that the driver saw them go under — if he had not, it could have had very serious consequences for everyone.”
Mr. Howard said the company was making sure that work sites were safe, “even for those who are breaking the law and trespassing on these locations.”
Still, as protesters have staked out positions in tree platforms 70 feet high and along a 100-foot-long wall lashed together with timber, tensions in East Texas have risen along the route of the pipeline — slated for completion next year.
Off-duty police officers, hired by a TransCanada contractor, patrol the perimeter of construction sites day and night. This month, one man chained himself to a concrete capsule buried in the dirt before police managed to disconnect and arrest him, Mr. Seifert said.
And on Oct. 4, the actress Daryl Hannah was arrested alongside a local landowner, Eleanor Fairchild, 78, after they blocked heavy equipment clearing a path through Ms. Fairchild’s property.