USFS review of management plans



GWNF is preparing draft plan

Will include proposals for wilderness designations

Wilderness does …



Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a summer person.  Summer is the season of life; when the annual cycle of virtually all life forms take advantage of the solar energy, reproducing, growing, and preparing for the winter season of scarcity.  So, here we are in the ‘dead’ of winter.  Of course, every season has its advantages.  Nothing can be much more fun than observing all of the animal tracks in a few inches of newly fallen snow.  And it is nice to be able to see through the woods without the green screen of leaves obscuring the view.  But, it’s seeing the trees for the forest, that tells me so much about the environment I’m hiking through. 


Hiking through the Shenandoah National Park,  it’s not uncommon to find oneself in a forest of tulip poplars; a monoculture of a single species, with similar girth and heights; all competing together to reach the limited sunlight above.  Or, as I round the next bend, I may find a large population of white pines; again, all the same age and size.  Such monocultures of trees tell me I’m viewing old clearings, which served the mountain residents as fields or pastures.  Usually, if the clearing was cropped, a number of rock piles or rock fences will be present.  A pasture will not require such rock clearing.


These forests will normally not have a large component of woody shrubs or herbaceous forbs.  Such forests provide limited habitats and food sources for wildlife. 


Winter enables the alert hiker to identify mature forest communities.  A variety of tree sizes, ages and species, along with shrubs and lots of deadwood and upturned stump sites all signify that the hiker has found a unique habitat.  The hiker has found a rich and valuable community.  The hiker has found the closest thing to wilderness that can be found in the eastern US deciduous forests. 


The fallen and standing deadwood, snags and cavities are all significant parts of a mature forest.   They provide habitat for a variety of birds, small mammals, and insects. Fungi and bacteria first colo­nize these dead trees, followed by insects and other organisms like the pileated woodpecker. The wood­pecker digs deep into the trees in search of carpenter ants to eat. In the process, it creates holes that serve as habitat for other creatures, such as chickadees, bluebirds, and bats, who cannot dig holes themselves.


Researchers in the United States have found up to 100 snags per hect­are in old-growth forests. These trees can stand for more than 40 years, and once they fall, they decompose on the forest floor, creating new habitats for up to 300 years more.


In an old-growth forest, rotting trees sprouting new saplings are a common sight. It is often assumed that these rotting logs, dubbed nurse logs, provide nutrients that help the seedlings grow. But studies at the University of British Columbia have found that nutrients released by rot­ting trees are largely unusable to seed­lings. Most nutrients in the soil actu­ally come from fallen needles and leaves. The real benefit of nurse logs is their ability to protect seedlings from pathogenic fungi in the soil, which can kill seedlings but cannot survive in the deadwood.


To the modern logger, oaks reach maximum value at 60-80 years. Beyond then, the tree is no longer adding wood as rapidly, and delaying its harvest only risks disease, or injury from lightning or wind.

To the squirrel or deer that feeds on the oak's acorns, the same tree will not even come into its own until it has lived a century or more, when its acorn production begins to peak. The oak may sustain that level of food production for wildlife for another century.

To woodland birds, vireos, warblers and the like, a forest studded with oaks two, three and even four centuries old is living at its finest. The remarkable habitat afforded by the canopy and structure of such an old-growth forest maximizes niches for nesting and feeding.

As the tree ages, decays, begins to rot from within, its value to animals only increases. More than 49 species of North American mammals and 85 species of birds find prime habitat in the cavities of deteriorating forest giants.

The forest itself might say the most productive oak is the old giant that has spanned half a millennium, nourished generations of squirrels, cradled millions of songbirds, died, rotted in place and, at long last, crashed to the ground.

A sizable pit created by the oak's uprooting, along with the bulk of the fallen tree, creates unevenness on the forest floor, damming up leaves that will rot into rich piles of compost, regenerating forest soils.

The "dead" carcass of the oak bristles with new communities - mosses, fungi, lichens, beetles, ants, microbes, new oak seedlings sprouting. A whole new ecosystem has been created, further enriching the diversity of life in the forest and ensuring its perpetual health.



USFS is to make the best use of lands

National forests supply the majority of open space, scenic beauty, clean water, clean air, wildlife, and outdoor recreation opportunities in this country.  According to the USDA Forest Service, the projected 2000 economic benefits from recreation would be $110 billion, while timber harvest would account for $3.5 billion.  In 1996 (last figures I have), the Forest Service lost $204 million on commercial logging in national forests.  Across the U.S., losses occurred in 86 of the 104 national forests that have commercial logging. The value of these non-extractive benefits far outweigh the value of extractive activities.  In fact, only between 5 and 10% of all wood products are logged from National Forests.  The vast majority comes from private land ownings.


According to Congressional mandate, the Forest Service must manage the forests to maximize the net social and economic contributions of our national forests so that they provide the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people. By law, the agency must also fully account for all the benefits and costs of management decisions.  It clearly fails to do so.


Certain institutional biases reward Forest Service managers for favoring money-losing extractive activities like timber, mining, and grazing over protection of more valuable resources like wildlife, fish, soil, air, water, and recreation.  These institutional biases encourage managers to fund restoration and reforestation out of extractive user fees, provoking a perverse cycle of destroying the forest in order to raise money to protect it. Meaningful economic analyses of non-extractive uses of the forests are almost never included in decision-making documents.


Corridors are very important

Their thrust will be to close the gaps between the isolated tracts of publicly owned, protected habitat. The idea is to form a long chain, from one end of the region to the other, of "core" blocks of public forest linked by means of newly dedicated wildlands not necessarily in public ownership. The result will be an enlarged wildlands network with ecosystem integrity, capable of (1) sustaining the region’s black bear population, its keystone predators, and other wide-ranging native species and (2) providing an expanded protected physical setting for wilderness-based human recreational, educational, and spiritual experiences.


What can PATC do?

The ATC is now a conservancy.  This is a sign of the organization’s future goals.  A conservancy saves natural resources.  We are looking at rare and endangered species, water quality, air quality through volunteer monitoring programs.  That is the future of the club.


PATC, one of the leaders in ATC philosophy, has a start in these programs.


Leave no trace follows the concept of conservation.  But I prefer the philosophy of leave no trace over the rules.  If taken to it’s ultimate extreme, we wouldn’t walk in the woods. A more appropriate name, without the shine, would be Minimize your trace.


The philosophy is to conserve our natural resources. 


As with politics, all conservation ultimately is local.  Efforts to protect our remaining natural lands and waters are now the focus of unprecedented interest and activity.  Taking local conservation action, however, requires localized information and knowledge.

It is arrogant for any generation to consume and despoil all available natural resources, leaving nothing for the future.


PATC is dealing with wilderness designation


Constitution says

The PATC Constitution (November, 2001) includes the objectives:


 “…to support and encourage the permanent protection, conservation, and proper recreational use of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and other trails;


…to further the preservation of land for open space, conservation, and recreation;


…to encourage the careful use and conservation of these trails and the surrounding lands and resources by organizations and individuals…


…to educate the public on matters including the protection of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, other trails and related lands and resources…


…to foster public appreciation and use of the national and state parks and forests and other natural areas; and to assist, advise and cooperate with private land owners, federal, state and local governments to achieve these corporate objectives.”


But, two points of view

Easy to get engulfed in personal point of view (nimby).


Teddy Roosevelt set the tone for environmental and natural resource protection.  Before Roosevelt, politician were nearly unanimous in treating the land, water and mineral resources of the country as a treasure house to be sold off to the highest bidder.  He saw them as a public trust.  They were to be used only to the extent that they could be conserved, to be passed on to future generations.  With the man he called his conservation conscience, Gifford Pinchot, he brought Americans to the realization that you can’t keep cutting trees with no thought for the next generation.


Bob Marshall believed you couldn’t live in the city continuously without decaying morally, mentally and physically.  He believed that forest, mountains, and other wilderness areas should be preserved for recreation and inspiration and brought this view into public debate.


John Muir founded the Sierra Club in 1892, the first major organization in the world dedicated to using and preserving wild nature.  It is from this act that the modern ecology movement was born.  Muir was concerned with the protection of nature both for the spirtual advancement of humans and for nature itself.  “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything in the universe.”


Also said “Mountains are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating river, but as fountains of life.”


Finally, “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.  Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.”


Aldo Leopold graduated in the Yale forestry school, the first graduate school of forestry in the US.  “The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.”  He said “ a conservation ethic changes the role of homo sapiens from conqueror of the land community to plain member and citizen of it.”


            Recognize that trail work is secondary to forest protection   

Mountain top removal


Forest fragmentation

Acid rainfall

Poor land use planning


            Real issue to me is shelters along major trails, such as tuscarora and great eastern

            Existing shelters are ok in wilderness, but new ones would not be allowed.

            In such cases, PATC needs to work with USFS, when major trails are included in proposed wilderness, request special designations of ‘dispersed recreation’ or ‘remote backcountry’ areas.


LNT  Our footprint on earth, it’s life forms, and natural resources, must be within the allowable tolerances of mother Earth’s ability to cope and respond.


To me, this suggests our industrial ‘life forms’ must also perform like our Gaian model.  Our energy producing activities must diversify and utilize the maximum amount of energy in the most efficient manners possible.  In this case, ‘efficient’ means with the least amount of unused by-product, such as carbon dioxides and other air, water, or soil, which are taken out of the natural nutrient cycles.  In this case of energy production, this means using a variety of production techniques, including, where economically feasible, solar, hydroelectric, waves and/or tides, geothermal, and wind.  The production of energy through nuclear fission also needs to be included in the arsenal of energy production alternatives.  Future energy sources, including hydrogen fuel cells and nuclear fusion, among others, may become viable options in the near future.


It’s when Man’s industrial footprint on our world and it’s resources most effectively ‘leaves no trace’, that we, as a civilization, may find a successful niche as a workable part of our Gaian world.