Friday, August 11, 2006
It's Hard Being a Tree in North Georgia
Living in north Georgia has been great overall. But one of the discouraging aspects about life up here is that trees disappear in favor of asphalt or concrete at an alarming rate. During this election season, I've been constantly amazed by "slow growth" candidates for local offices (including long time incumbents) and their spiel about saying "no" to developers. Meanwhile, you look around and trees that were here yesterday are gone today in preparation for the next strip mall, drug store, bank, or gas station.
Well, according to Georgia ForestWatch and the Southern Environmental Law Center, it looks as if the federal government, particularly the U. S. Forest Service, needs to be held in check as well. The Forest Service has denied a 2004 appeal by environmental groups challenging their management plans for several southern forest areas including the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.
From the Macon Telegraph:
"At the highest levels, the administration has decided not to respond to what the citizens and public wanted," said Sarah Francisco, a staff attorney with the center. "It's going to have real impacts on the forest. The plans allow for logging at much higher levels and forests are already aggressively pursuing this."
She pointed to north Georgia's Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, where the new plan could allow 50 million board feet of timber to be harvested every year. That's nearly double the 28.9 million board feet a year gathered through much of the 1990s.
The other plans targeted by the groups involve Virginia's Jefferson National Forest, Tennessee's Cherokee National Forest, South Carolina's Sumter National Forest and the National Forests of Alabama.
Here was the response from the Forest Service:
"Conservation of the forest in the South requires a lot of active management," said Chris Liggett, the Forest Service's director of planning for the southern region. "You can't just stand back and let things go everywhere."
He said the plan wields timber harvest as a tool to thin forests that have become fire hazards, encourage species growth and ward off invasive species.
What Mr. Liggett says is sensible to me. But DOUBLING the amount of timber harvested each year for 10 to 15 years sounds excessive.
However, local environmental groups are seeking to pressure local officials:
Local environmentalists have reacted by staging rallies and passing out petitions in hopes of pressuring state officials to step in.
On Wednesday, dozens of members of Georgia Forestwatch rallied at the Capitol in Atlanta, brandishing more than 4,000 postcards that urge Gov. Sonny Perdue to expand wilderness designations and protect roadless areas.
"Once again the forest service has ignored the desires of many citizens to protect important forest areas," said Wayne Jenkins, executive director for Georgia ForestWatch. "Instead, they propose to increase logging and road building at the expense of water quality and rare habitats."