A very small group of people are proposing to change the Shawnee National Forest.  These same people have for more than 25 years been trying to control the management of the forest.  Their main goal has been to stop active management especially logging and controlled burns.  They have taken the Forest Service to court numerous times always with the goal to stop the active management of the forest.  With selective logging and controlled burns now taking place, these people are trying another route.

The new push is to change control of the management by putting the Shawnee under the Dept of Interior/ Park Service specifically. Essentially changing from active management (no matter how poorly it has been done in the past) to the goal of preservation (no active management to improve forest health).  

Part of the new designation would be CLIMATE PRESERVE.  This is completely new type of designation, and it plays into the hands of the general public as a "good way" to help the Global Warming agenda.  And the objective for this designation is the same as a National Park, limited active management.  The main problem with this is our ecological area, one of the most diverse areas in the nation.  Everything seems to thrive here, especially invasive species.  Even the Sierra Club has finally endorsed use of chemicals for control of the invasive species, after years of denying the need.

The photos they post misrepresent that the Forest Service is using clear-cut logging, but in fact is the "staging areas" where logs are loaded onto trucks for transport out of the forest.  It has to be an "open" area for semi's and logging equipment to navigate the loading.  


Please read the information below and make your own decisions. And better yet, do your own research and make an informed decision.  Make no mistake - this push should not be ignored.  The Wilderness areas in the Shawnee were created by the average public not paying attention and voicing their concerns.  

Then contact your legislators and national organizations voicing your support either for or against.


HISTORY OF AMERICA'S FOREST LAND

Native Americans Used Fire to Protect and Cultivate Land - HISTORY 

Remember there were no invasive species to take over because they were not introduced until people from other countries moved here.  And only native people lived in what is now America.    

Read further in the above article and you will see the subtitle European Arrival Brings Disease & Outlawing of Fire

When naturalists like John Muir first entered the Yosemite Valley of California in the 19th century, they marveled at the beauty of what they believed to be a pristine wilderness untouched by human hands. The truth is that the rich diversity and stunning landscapes of places like Yosemite and other natural environments in the United States were intentionally cultivated by Native Americans for thousands of years. And their greatest tool was fire.

“Fire was a constant companion, a kind of universal catalyst and technology,” says Stephen Pyne, an emeritus professor at Arizona State University, author and fire historian. Yosemite itself was routinely burned to clear underbrush, open pasture lands, provide nutrient-rich forage for deer, and to support the growth of woodland food crops to feed and sustain what was once a large and thriving Indigenous population. “If you look at the early photographs of Yosemite and you see the great big, majestic stands of oaks, you would be led to believe that those are natural,” says Frank Kanawha Lake, a research ecologist with the USDA Forest Service, wildland firefighter and Karuk descendent. “But those trees are a legacy of Indigenous acorn management. Those are tribal orchards that were managed for thousands of years for acorn production and for the geophytes or ‘Indian potatoes’ that grow beneath them.”

One of the reasons why John Muir and other naturalists would have believed that the grandeur of Western America was shaped entirely by natural forces is that they had no idea how many Native Americans had once lived there.

Examples of Native American cultural burning can be found across the American landscape. In the Appalachian forests of the Eastern United States, the dominance of oak and chestnut trees was the product of targeted burning that resulted in vigorous re-sprouting of the desired nut crops. The iconic tall grass prairies of the Midwest were also likely cleared and maintained by Indigenous burning as pastureland for herd animals.

Native Tribes Are Taking Fire Control Into Their Own Hands | WIRED 

A 1911 federal legislation made it illegal to ignite fires on public forest lands, a hundred years later, though, western science and policymakers are rethinking the subject. Federal forests are now choked with dead leaves, brush, and dense fir trees, a tinderbox for wildfires whirling out of control. Between 1975 and 1985, wildfires burned just over 2,000 acres a year in the Klamath area. In the decade from 2005 to 2015, that number averaged more than 350,000 acres a year.

FOREST SERVICE LOGGING HISTORY

It has been hard to find clear facts on logging in the Shawnee specifically but:  

Between 1984 and 1997, clearcutting accounted for 59% of the area harvested  for regeneration in the national forests. (This excludes salvage, thinning, and other harvesting not intended to establish new stands.) Other “even-aged” cutting systems
(which result in areas that appear similar to clearcut areas) accounted for another 28% of the area harvested. Because of the continuing public outcry over clearcutting, the Chief of the Forest Service announced on June 4, 1992, that the Forest Service would reduce clearcutting by 70% from 1988 levels, and that this would reduce short-term harvest volumes by about 10%. Data show that half of the proposed reduction in acres clearcut had already been accomplished by 1991, but the total harvest volume declined proportionally (because of the economic recession, litigation to protect spotted owls, and a variety of other factors). Acres clearcut annually over the past 5 years (FY1993-FY1997) were 71% less than the FY1988 level, fulfilling the
promised reduction. However, average annual harvests were 66% below the FY1988 level, much more than the projected 10% decline. 

This was 34 years ago.  The Forest Service policies are not perfect, but in southern IL our climate is like a jungle - everything grows so fast.  We need active management whether it is in our own yards, pastures, fields and certainly in forested land. Otherwise, the invasive species will overtake the forest to the point it cannot be accessed even by foot.

PROBLEMS WITH NATIONAL PARKS

Now, here are 10 problems that our national parks are facing, in no particular order. I gathered much of my information from National Geographic, as well as a few other sources included in hyperlinks throughout the article.

1. Waste Management   2. Air Pollution   3. Things Are Getting Old   4. Wildlife Trouble   5. Invasive Species*   6. Climate Change   7. Water Shortages   8. Tourist Attraction: Too Much and Not Enough   9. Budget Problems   10. Energy 

Re:  10 Problems Our National Parks Are Facing (theodysseyonline.com) 

The National Park Service currently manages 423 sites, with 15 percent of them — or 63 — classified as national parks. Altogether, the agency controls more than 85 million acres in all 50 states; Washington, D.C.; and U.S. territories, a mass of land that’s more than twice the size of Florida. 

There’s no doubt about it: Americans love their national parks. So much so, that grassroots U.S. national park advocacy groups are often trying to build upon “America’s best idea” by giving more spaces this designation. 

But growing pains in some of the newest parks show the National Park Service’s crown-jewel status isn’t flawless. 

More visitors mean more money for local communities—so isn’t that a good thing?  It can be. It can also leave local communities behind. 

For the first time in its history, Indiana Dunes National Park will require entrance fees beginning March 31, 2022. These fees—including rates of $15 per person (maximum of $25 per family), or $45 for an annual pass—will fund maintenance and new projects. This includes trails, parking, transportation, and visitor services, which are all increasingly important with growing crowds, the NPS says. Longtime Indiana resident and community organizer Samuel Love, who lives near the park in Gary, Indiana, worries this move will price out the very people who rely on Indiana Dunes recreation most: local residents.

According to Love, the communities bookending the park include low and high-income housing, with much more racial diversity than other communities in the region. He sees the park’s national park designation as “more of a negative” because of the increasing property values and decrease in affordable housing near the park. Plus, he said the new entry fees create a major barrier lower income and working-class people.

“The decision makers clearly don't want those people in the park,” Love says, noting a nearly $50 expense (for the annual pass) isn’t feasible for many in the area. “And in the case of communities like Gary and Michigan City, it's literally our government telling citizens they're no longer welcome to recreate in something that is in their own neighborhoods.” 

As Indiana Dunes shows, national park status comes with its fair share of faults, particularly for local communities. 

While a flurry of new national parks would protect natural resources, some argue it won’t solve another issue plaguing existing national parks: crowds. New parks don't automatically break up existing crowds in other destinations.  

Litter, human feces, and the widening of social trails (unofficial trails created via erosion from foot traffic) are among the many byproducts of recent increased visitor numbers. And unprecedented visitation in 2021—Great Smoky Mountains National Park alone reached 14 million guests, a 57 percent increase in the past decade—means these problems won’t simply go away on their own. That’s why, instead of creating new parks, some experts suggest allocating the national park budget to manage visitation at existing, crowd-throttled parks. This could be new shuttle systems to ease car traffic, building new campgrounds to disperse visitors, or hiring more staff, according to an article on The Land Desk. Yu-Fai Leung, a professor of parks, recreation, and tourism management at North Carolina State University, agrees with prioritizing existing parks. “Using funds to improve visitor management, maintain facility conditions, and protect resources would help ensure the right balance between conservation and use of these existing national parks, especially those that contain sensitive resources or suffer from overuse,” he said. What’s more, national park budgets fluctuate by administrations, Leung says. Some administrations may boost the overarching NPS budget, but others slash it, leading to extensive maintenance backlogs that make these parks feel like an afterthought—rather than America’s best idea.

Re: STEPHANIE VERMILLION, Is National Park Status Always a Good Thing? | Condé Nast Traveler (cntraveler.com) 
 


‘A gigantic amount of land’

Editorial in Southern Illinoisian by Mike Baltz who has a doctorate in ecology, a 20-plus year resident of Jackson County and a former Southern Illinois area director for The Nature Conservancy.   This his letter to the editor is from Oct. 22, 2022. 

At a recent Carbondale City Council meeting, there was a presentation specific to a proposal to create a Shawnee National Park and Climate Preserve, presented by a representative of a group calling themselves the “Shawnee Defenders.” 

To summarize the 30-plus minute presentation in a few words: A National Park would be better than the current National Forest and it would also help fight climate change. The group has been actively trying to drum-up support for the change in designation, suggesting, among other things, that a National Park would be a boon to local economies. 

What’s important to know, however, is that the Forest-to-Park idea has not been supported by a virtual who’s who of national conservation groups active in Southern Illinois, including The Nature Conservancy, National Wild Turkey Federation, American Bird Conservancy, and Sierra Club. Put simply, the professional conservation community’s opposition to the proposal could be summed-up as, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” 

But to elaborate, opposition is mostly specific to concerns about forest management, or the potential lack thereof, as a National Park.

First, it is important to understand that the ecology of our Southern Illinois oak forests is currently out of whack. Oaks have historically dominated Illinois forests, but while the number of forested acres in Illinois is increasing the dominance of oaks is waning. This is due in large part to almost a century of fire prevention that began in the 1930’s. Prior to that time, relatively frequent fires favored the survival of fire-resistant oaks and discouraged the growth of shade-tolerant tree species, like beech and maple. Invasive species have also become a huge threat to oak regeneration and forest health in the last 100 years. Today, oak saplings make up just 1% of young trees in some forests while many of the mature oaks are reaching the end of their lifespans. Our Southern Illinois forests have essentially become ‘old oaks homes’, which is bad news for our wildlife.

The approximately 300,000-acre Shawnee National Forest is ground-zero for this forest conversion and researchers at SIU have predicted that the oak forests of the ‘Illinois Ozarks’ may convert to beech-maple forests in less than 30 years. The good news is that it’s not too late to save our oak forests and current management by the U.S. Forest Service of the Shawnee National Forest for oak regeneration is being guided by the best available science — management actions that are supported by, and contributed to, by all the professional conservation interests in the region. Having said all that, the concern of the professional conservation community is that a change in designation from National Forest, managed by the Forest Service, to a National Park, managed by the Park Service, could jeopardize our Southern Illinois forests because National Parks, by definition, are managed more for recreation than they are for forest health. And as stated above, without proper management, our oak forests will soon cease to be the forests that our wildlife depends on. 

Unfortunately, an ugly part of the ‘pro-Park’ campaign has been an effort to smear the Forest Service and misrepresent their management of the forest, with an emphasis on timber harvest activities. 

So, here is some clarification: First, there is no clear-cutting on the Forest. Rather, there are areas that are selectively cut, reducing the density of trees and canopy cover so as to let more light into the forest. The result is a less-dense stand of trees that will encourage oak regeneration. I have recently walked areas that are being actively harvested on the Shawnee and I have seen this with my own eyes. Second, the level of planning, regulation, oversight, and monitoring involved in timber harvests on the Shawnee guarantees that these efforts dot every ‘I’ and cross every ‘T’ legally and that they are ecologically beneficial to the forest. In comparison, there are really no legal constraints on timber harvests on private land, often resulting in timber harvests that are ecological disasters. 

Finally, there are just a few hundred acres being cut on the forest, annually, in contrast to pro-Park references to thousands of acres scheduled for harvest. To clarify, when the Forest Service plans a project, only a fraction of that project area is scheduled to be harvested, and only a fraction of that fraction is actually harvested. 

Regarding a Climate Preserve designation for a new park, restricting the selective cutting of a few hundred acres of forest, which is all a Forest-to-Park transition might actually accomplish, would clearly not qualify as a contribution to the fight against climate change, above-and-beyond what the Shawnee National Forest already contributes in the form of carbon sequestration. 

In summary, friends I’m siding with the scientists and conservation professionals on this, and they are saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And if there is some potential economic benefit to a few business owners to be gained from a National Park in Southern Illinois, but forest health suffers because of it, then, in the end, we all lose.


Contact us at info@shawneetrailconservancy.com with comments or questions.