Shawnee Climate Preserve
Contact your U.S. Senators Durbin and Duckworth and ask them to act to save the Shawnee and our climate.
The Shawnee National Forest is currently under assault by the USDA Forest Service (FS). Hundreds of acres of commercial logging projects are either underway or are about to commence, including those within sensitive watersheds and around popular recreation sites. Logging coupled with the artificial burning of 10,000 –15,000 acres annually on the Shawnee, agency staff are despoiling our natural heritage and setting the stage for disaster.
As the impacts from global warming bear down on our planet, our country and our region, incredibly, Shawnee FS personnel push on with outdated management practices that actually create hotter, drier, and more flammable forest conditions. These management schemes not only release vast amounts of stored carbon into the atmosphere, logging and burning diminishes the forest’s ability to effectively sequester carbon. As wildfires, made more severe by climate change, rage in western forests, the relatively wildfire free Shawnee is being made more susceptible to future wildfires by Forest Service management.
The cooling value from the shade of closed canopy, eastern forests is well recognized. Scientific studies now document the importance of mature, deciduous forests as being most efficient at sequestering atmospheric carbon and remaining as valuable carbon sinks, thereby mitigating climate change impacts from burning fossil fuels. i
To add insult to injury, we as taxpayers continue to fund these agency schemes. Below cost timber selling is encouraged on national forests via an archaic law and FS managers dishonestly pursue government funds to log and burn projects under the premise of “forest health.” Agency claims of logging and extensive burning for forest health and oak regeneration simply defies logic. Past logged and burned Shawnee sites are drier, contain more flammable debris than unmanipulated forests and have very minimal oak regeneration. Published studies scientifically support the assertion that logging and
fire increases flammability and clearly degrades the forest. ii, iii
The 1.5 Degree (Celsius)Warming Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2018) states the dire situation we face and the need for “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changesin all aspects of society.” Intact and/or older, eastern forests more effectively remove atmospheric CO2 and sequester more carbon than do other forests, tree plantations or younger, managed forests.
Now is the time to stop the perverse and expensive logging and large scale burning projects on the
Shawnee. Doing so will help offset rising local and global temperatures, it will demonstrate a
commitment to addressing the existential threat facing humanity, climate change; it will help to reduce
wildfires as well as invigorate a tourism-based economy. There is simply no better public land available
than what is currently the Shawnee National Forest for helping to meet President Biden’s commitment to
the UN’s IPCC Report “30 X 30” initiative. i
Industrial logging and large scale burning on the precious, Shawnee National Forest must stop! Join efforts to designate the precious Shawnee as the nation’s first Climate Change Preserve! Shifting the Forest Service management away from a production based, USDA agency mindset and into the more appropriate, US Department of the Interior, would be an important first step. In contrast to the current mentality favoring resource extraction, which benefits a few, this proposal best serves Gifford Pinchot’s philosophy (the founding Chief of the U.S. Forest Service) of managing for, “the greatest good for the most people in the long run.”
Write and/or call Illinois Senators Richard Durbin and Tammy Duckworth and ask them to protect the Shawnee as a Climate Change Preserve so that it may maintained as a carbon sink forest, for scenic beauty, for watershed protection, for wildlife habitat and for multiple recreation uses (i.e. hiking, horseback riding, biking, wildlife watching, camping, hunting, fishing, rock climbing and boating). Stopping past destructive management would help the forest recover, prevent future wildfires and truly serve the greatest good.
Honorable Senator Richard Durbin
711 Hart Senate Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
phone: (202) 224-2152
Honorable Senator Tammy Duckworth
524 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-2854
i. Intact Forests in the United States: Proforestation Mitigates Climate Change and Serves the Greatest Good, W.R.
Moomaw, S.A. Masino & E.K.Faison; Frontiers in Forests and Global Change (June 2019)
ii. Climate change and fire management in the mid-Atlantic region, K.L. Clark, N. Skowronski, H. Renninger, R. Scheller; Forest Ecology and Management (2013).
Effects of repeated prescribed fires on the structure, composition, and regeneration of mixed-oak forests in Ohio,” T.F. Hutchinson, E.K. Sutherland, D.A.Yaussy; Forest Ecology and Management, 218 (2005) 210-228
iii. Reassessment of the Use of Fire as a Management Tool in Deciduous Forests of Eastern North America, G.R. Matlack, Ohio University, Athens Ohio; Conservation Biology, Volume 27, No. 5 (2013)
Smokescreen: Debunking Wildfire Myths to Save Our Forests and Our Climate (University Press of Kentucky, 2021) by Dr. Chad Hanson.
Dr. Hanson also devotes a chapter of Smokescreen specifically to the role of fire in the eastern US. Here he explains why many eastern land managers “mistakenly believe that historical fire frequencies were much higher than they really were. This leads to forest mismanagement, including the imposition of prescribed burns at rates that far exceed natural historical fire frequencies…”
By exposing fire myths and then presenting real solutions, Smokescreen ultimately offers a positive pathway. As Dr. Hanson wryly notes, “Now for the good news: you are being deceived. If everything you were told almost daily about forests, wildfires, and climate were true, there would be little hope. The truth, however, is that hope lies just beyond the falsehoods.”