I am writing to you to express concern and dismay with the proposal to change the designation of the Shawnee National Forest to a national park. As a local landowner and frequent user of the Shawnee for several different recreation types, I am adamantly opposed to the change. First, those instigating this change have an ulterior motive to stop logging and mining. They have been involved since the 1970’s in trying to stop both of these activities. From chaining themselves to trees to suing the USFS in Federal Court. Dollars spent on legal proceedings come out of the Shawnee budget, thus limiting the resources needed to actively manage the forest to enhance the oak/hickory stands of timber.
The selective timber cutting is to open the canopy so that sunlight can get through to the forest floor where oak & hickory saplings are being shaded out. This push is funded by Global Justice Ecology Project (GJEP). Their main page states: explores and exposes the intertwined root causes of social injustice, ecological destruction, and economic domination. This statement is taken from one of the founders of this group: GJEP, as an anarchist organization sees the holistic nature of environmental and social problems and refuses to remain passive by placing faith in mainstream NGOs to get us out of our environmental crises. Is the type of people you want in the state of Illinois?
Proponents statements are not accurate – stating 9,000 acres to be timbered. The cutting will take place in various places within the 9,000 acres so about 300 acres is where the selective cutting will take place. And it will amount to .011% of the forest. After researching other national parks and the debate on whether to make new parks or better maintain the parks already designated, it appears that since budgets have been cut to both the national park service and the national forest service in the last decade, neither has the resources to do the work necessary. Changing the designation will not help this.
Another very important point is that if there is this great advance of tourism; Is there the infrastructure to support such an influx of vehicles, people and whatever else comes with that.
Pigeon Forge has traffic issues and overcrowding; the Grand Staircase Escalante national monument has caused land prices to increase 10-fold and forced out local landowners. If the forest is changed to a national park; Will it or surrounding towns have the facilities and resources to keep up with the demand of visitors; and when it comes to funding, will the park be financially viable to fix the problems associated with crowds.
Presently the forest budget does not allow for enough personnel to maintain trails. Research shows that many of the national parks suffer from the same problems. As the 2nd smallest national forest, the Shawnee is visited by up to one million forest lovers annually already. https://www.fs.usda.gov/shawnee.
Trees are most renewable resource but must be managed, Yosemite is the perfect example of that, after hands off for decades, the proposed cutting and fire are being stopped by court proceedings by the very entity that is behind this push for the Shawnee as a national park. Perhaps we should be careful for what we wish for.
From NY Times article re: Yosemite battle over management litigation:
And what about leaving the park “unimpaired” for future generations? “It’s a tricky word,” she said. In the early years of the park service, Ms. Muldoon said, unimpaired would have meant “leave it exactly as it is out there, don’t touch anything.”
“But if we’ve learned anything it’s that we have been touching these lands forever — humanity has — and doing nothing is really doing something.” Most experts involved in the debate say it is not a question of whether forest thinning should be allowed — but how much needs to be done.