On the Shawnee Forest Money Trail

Sam Stearns inspecting piles of pines, near Garden of the Gods in Shawnee National Forest, destined to be shredded into livestock bedding.  Both the initial extraction of the wood and its ultimate commercial use release carbon into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change as well as degradation of the Forest.

In the past few years, ever since a 17-year federal court injunction was lifted, the Forest Service has been conducting massive logging on our little Shawnee National Forest.  It is no secret that this selling off of our natural heritage actually loses money as it damages the land, water, and air.  But like so many crimes against nature it does benefit a few folks financially.

The Forest Service falls under the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and they have no problem with disbursing our tax money as corporate welfare to the timber, chemical and prescribed burn industries.  This is accomplished with the help of sycophants in State bureaucracies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), some under the guise of “environmental” groups.   Some of these organizations are set up specifically and deliberately to channel money to adjacent landowners and fund “coordinators” who sell this scheme to the public under the guise of education, with a thin veneer of cherry-picked pseudo science.

By the 1930s our Shawnee Hills had been logged, burned, farmed, and grazed into a moonscape which could no longer sustain people.  The soil was gone and with it, the people.  When the Shawnee National Forest was created after the Dust Bowl, pines were planted to allow rebuilding of the forest soil we lost.  They have done a remarkable job of this and are today developed into mixed hardwood/pine forests.

During the 1980s what were initially pine plantations were deemed by the Forest Service to be “the pine problem” and they dropped chemicals and sprayed Agent Orange to kill our native hardwoods and thus allow the pines to flourish.  This poisoning of public land led to the formation of grassroots environmental groups which drew attention to the practice.  The Forest Service then declared they would solve “the pine problem” by clear cutting 50,000 acres of pines on the Shawnee through money-losing below-cost timber sales.  This was fine with some large “environmental” groups, even though it would rip the scab off the healing land and once again imperil the soil.

Forest Service “ecological restoration” in Robnette Hollow, Shawnee National Forest.

At the same time, plans to log the largest oldest hardwoods on the Forest were exposed, leading to more support for a cessation of Shawnee logging. The Forest Service and their accomplices assured the public that they would abandon below-cost clear cutting.  They would still cut the same trees and still lose millions of tax dollars doing it—but claimed that these were not timber sales:  they were “ecological restoration.”  The agency and biostitutes (biologists who prostitute themselves for industry &  bureaucracy) twisted facts, distorted reality, defied logic, and created new euphemisms such as “gap-phase dynamic group selection logging” and “ shelterwood” cutting to cover up what they were doing.  The public did not buy it and neither did the federal court.  For 17 years under a court injunction the  Shawnee was allowed to grow.  Native hardwoods regenerated in the pines and throughout the areas which were spared from logging.

Hardwood and pine stands which were logged prior to the injunction did not fare so well.  Instead of the oaks and hickories which the Forest Service promised would result from logging, it actually mostly resulted in more beech, maple, and pines so thick you cannot walk through them.  This is just the opposite of what agency biostitutes claimed would happen.

Today the Forest Service buys the fealty of logging supporters by giving them massive grants.  NGOs under the auspices of burning, poisoning, and “letting the sunshine in” have raked in literally millions of dollars in recent years for claiming that the best available science demands that the forest be logged, burned, and poisoned.

This is patently untrue.

There is now a growing body of independent science—not the studies funded by the Forest Service and related industries—which effectively refutes the notion that you can log, burn, and poison the forest back to health.  And there is a very clear money trail which connects logging supporters back to the Forest Service and their misuse of taxpayer money.  Locally this money has gone to groups dedicated to burning ($1,000,000+), poisoning ($1,500,000+) and logging to “let the sunshine in” ($3,600,000+).  The money which has gone to industrial forestry proponents in academia bears scrutiny, too.

It is easy to stake out a small patch of forest land and garden it heavily so that it produces whatever result you choose.  Government agencies and NGOs do this to create small  showcase places that may convince some people of their good intentions and technical expertise.  But nowhere on the Shawnee have they been able to accomplish this on a larger scale.

No good, just the bad and the ugly in this “shelterwood” logging euphemistically designated an “oak regeneration project” along the River to River Trail, a popular tourist destination in the Shawnee National Forest.  Like most trees logged in recent years on the Shawnee, these are shredded into future livestock bedding.

To anyone who doubts this I offer an  eye test:  contact me and I will gladly show you sites on the Shawnee which have been “managed” for forest health.  They are all abysmal failures.  To continue this same regimen and expect different results is the definition of insanity.

In the words of Aldo Leopold, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, the stability, and beauty of the biotic community.  It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

For anyone who thinks I am too harsh in my assessment above, I offer a quote from another keen observer of human folly, William Shakespeare:  “O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth, That I am meek and gentle with these butchers.”

Join me for a tour and let the land speak for itself.