Join us Friday, April 19 for an outing to Hidden Cove Waterfall in Jackson County
Hang on to your wallets, taxpayers! U.S. Forest Service officials are chasing tax dollars to the detriment of the public and the Shawnee National Forest. The return of unpopular industrial logging on the forest violates the public trust. Notorious money losers, the only beneficiaries from Shawnee timber projects are the subsidized logging companies.
Due to an ancient law, rangers are encouraged to sell timber, regardless of the cost. Funds from timber sales get to be retained by local Shawnee officials. All other forest revenues go directly to D.C., resulting in the agency prioritizing timber extraction to help pad its ever-diminishing budgets.
Even though Shawnee wildfires are not realistically a management concern, Forest Service staff now pursue additional taxpayer monies designated by congress for artificial burning of forest land, under the guise of wildfire prevention. Extreme western fires driven more by climate change, have motivated lawmakers to take this misguided action. Logging operations leave behind stumps and unnatural amounts of woody debris or slash. Coupled with artificial burning, the Shawnee is opened up to increased heat and sun. This provides a new fuel load and dries the forest, conversely making it susceptible to fire.
Meanwhile, foresters spout terms like "fuels reduction" and "forest health," to help justify these disingenuous pursuits of federal money. Rest assured, burning the Shawnee will not reduce wildfire threats and no forest has ever been logged back to health. This waste and deception is unacceptable as budget constraints dictate the ever-diminishing recreation facilities and public services on the Shawnee. Forest users and fiscal conservatives must speak out before more tax dollars are thrown at logging corporations or frankly just go up in smoke.
II am writing to draw attention to our Shawnee Forest, and U.S. Forest Service plans to resume logging in there, after a 17-year moratorium against it.
Plans also include burning, and spraying invasive species with toxic weed killers. It’s my understanding this will be carried out in the Lake Kinkaid watershed. Our water, and our children's bloodstreams, have enough toxins already, including the Roundup that now comes already prepackaged with our breakfast cereal.
How far are we going to let this go?
Recent reports on the impacts of climate change, and the speed at which it continues to accelerate, are nothing short of frightening. I admittedly don’t know a lot about forest management, but I do know that mistakes have been made in the past with serious long term effects for our forest. Trees play a crucial part in the quality of our lives, and in our very survival, and the survival of the planet. We need every tree standing. There is much reason to reconsider this plan.
Ansel Adams, the famous photographer, said, “It is horrifying that we have to fight our government to save the environment.”
Adams died in 1964, at the age of 82, when I was 14. It is horrifying to me that both he and I have spent lifetimes having to fight our government to save the environment. So far, we are losing this fight. Please urge the Shawnee Forest Service to halt this plan.
A Global Call to Action in Order to Save Forests
Now that the 17-year injunction against logging has been lifted, the Forest Service has wasted no time in generating a rapid-fire succession of projects that include commercial logging of pines and hardwoods, spraying herbicides such as glyphosate over thousands of acres and scheduling burns for more than 15,000 acres of forest per year. Without close public scrutiny, the next projects could very well involve opening the forest to mineral or oil extraction. If you enjoy the Shawnee National Forest, now is the time to get involved.
Development of these new projects occur as we learn of the dire warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC is the United Nations body directed to assess the science related to climate change. Over the next 12 years, we must do everything possible to slow rising temperatures in order to avoid catastrophic consequences. This is a global call for action.
What does climate change have to do with the plans for the Shawnee National Forest? Logging and thinning forests, whether for commercial harvest or restoration, cause a net loss of carbon to the forest ecosystem. According to research, during harvest or wood processing, 45 to 60 percent of the carbon stored in trees is released into the atmosphere. If burned in biomass burners, the release of stored carbon increases to 100 percent.
It doesn't make sense to continue to log and thin the forest given climate change forecasts. Instead, we should be engaged in reforestation and afforestation.
Further, the stated mission of the Shawnee National Forest is to cultivate and maintain oak/hickory dominance. The plan involves logging many of the older oaks to "let the light in" for oak seedlings. This course of action is in addition to the cutting of maples and beech followed by spraying herbicides to ensure the trees don't re-sprout. Recent forecasts for climate change impacts on Southern Illinois forests suggest that maples will struggle and oaks will do well given the warming of the environment, so why not let the forest take its course and leave the carbon sequestered? Every time the forest is opened up or disturbed, more room is made for invasive species to take root, requiring (you guessed it) use of more herbicides in the forest interior.
When asked about how the forest service will respond to the impact of climate change in our forests, one employee said that because there was no quantifiable evidence of how climate change might impact the future forests here, there was little to be done, because little is known for sure. This flies in the face of the Forest Service’s own stated commitment to research and action related to climate change. Where is the research related to carbon sequestration and mitigation on the Shawnee National Forest? Where is the climate change management plan for the Shawnee such as the one published by Wisconsin researchers for their national forest?
What do current plans include? Management strategies include plans to harvest old oaks to thin overstocked areas and allow more openings for light to reach oak seedlings in the pursuit of sustaining oak growth. This strategy discounts the ecological complexity of forests systems. The implications for removing older trees from a mycorrhizal networked forest has been proven to negatively impact the growth of oak seedlings that the proposal seeks to promote. White oaks can live hundreds of years. Studies on mycorrhizal networks impact on seedling growth suggest the older oaks transmit nutrients to kin — younger oak seedlings. These older oaks are referenced in recent literature as node trees and have been demonstrated to play a critical role in the health of forest ecosystems. Since much of Shawnee National Forest lands have been logged many times, why not preserve large portions of the forest so future generations might enjoy what old growth forests have to offer.
The Shawnee National Forest Service does not adequately address climate change in the slew of proposals that have been put forward for public comment and this is a serious flaw. Please get involved and require the Forest Service to plan and cultivate our forests with future generations in mind.
To comment, visit the Shawnee National Forest web page, then to land and resources management, and under quick links on the right, select “Scheduled of Proposed Actions (SOPA)." For more information contact protectSNF@gmail.com.