Guest Column: Vote: Forest Preserve District must listen

By Georgine Arena
Roland Olson Forest Preserve Neighbor

Almost six months have passed since the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District (WCFPD) removed more than 2,000 trees from Roland Olson Forest Preserve. There were also trees removed from Fuller Memorial and Pecatonica forest preserves. More than 4,000 living trees, in total, were cut by Premier Forest Products, LLC. The WCFPD received less than $10,000 for the timber generated from the forest preserves. Remember, these were live trees only. The dead trees were left.

I live by Roland Olson, so that is my focus. Many of us who live around the forest preserve called WCFPD to find out why this was happening, and to please stop. The plan was to remove 4,000 trees at Roland Olson and restore it to prairie because that is how it was back in 1835. The silver lining is that because of the complaints of the community, they stopped cutting. We saved 2,000 trees.

The WCFPD board of commissioners began damage control by fielding all complaints to one of the directors. We were invited to a meeting to help with the revised master plan for Roland Olson. We had a walk-through so we could point out specific areas that we felt were visually unacceptable after the tree harvest. WCFPD held an open house to reiterate the new master plan. There will be 187 new trees planted over the next three years. They have planted nine to date.

I do believe there are individuals within WCFPD who do understand there are citizens who are deeply upset by the tree cutting and are willing to listen. I also believe that no matter whose suggestion it was to bring back prairies, the responsibility of the destruction falls straight into the lap of those on the Board of Commissioners. With the exception of Lee Johnson, who was not on the board at the time of this vote, every member on the board voted to sell off our forests. It was unanimous. If they felt they were not fully informed about the impact of the bid accepted from Premier Forest Products, then why didn’t they speak up?

Nov. 6, 2012, we get to vote. One key question I will be asking those running for the seats on the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District is, “What is your opinion on the harvesting of trees done at Roland Olson, Fuller Memorial and Pecatonica forest preserves?” I am hopeful there will be candidates who respect the citizens who use and support the preserves with our tax dollars.

We need independent candidates who value trees and seek out our opinions before voting.

From the June 20-26, 2012, issue

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