Editorial: Restoration means clear-cutting?

By Frank Schier
Editor & Publisher

Clear-cutting in the Winnebago County forest preserves violates the spirit of the Illinois Forest Preserve District Act of 1913.

For all who favor trees over what has seemed to evolve into relentless prairie cultism, despite the public protest and preference, please tell the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District (WCFPD) their funds could be better spent repairing existing infrastructure and MARKETING our forest preserves to foster tourism and the accompanying tax dollars. Marketing would bring people to appreciate and actually use our underutilized 44 forest preserves, and save and restock our trees instead of killing one species, trees, to plant another, grasslands.

Ask how much the entire prairie program will cost the taxpayers this year. How many acres of trees will be planted? How many acres of prairie will be planted?

Ask why elm trees are the new enemy if they bear the name “Siberian.” In the early 1900s, Frank Nicholas Meyer was employed by the USDA, yes, our federal government, to bring in more than 2,000 non-native species, the Siberian elm being one. Ironically, you may know him by the fruit that was named after him, the “Meyer Lemon.”

If we took down all the trees that were non-native or invasive, we’d decimate our FOREST preserves. Ask how many trees that are more than 2 feet thick will be cut down. The Siberian elm can live to be 100 to 150 years old. It doesn’t look that different from the Minnesota or American elm.

AND make sure to ask if they are going to change the name of this TAXPAYER-SUPPORTED entity to the Winnebago County PRAIRIE Preserve District.

What would you rather do, go for a walk in the woods or go for a walk in a prairie? Will a prairie shade you from the sun? The prairie cultists do not understand their aesthetic is not the aesthetic of the general public who will actually be enjoying and camping in the forest preserves rather than perpetuating staff employment and making a salary off clear-cutting large portions of our woods. Do you camp and have a picnic under a tree or out in the middle of a field? Preserve our woods.

This continued assault on forested areas is elitist and non-democratic. I dare the WCFPD to have a referendum on what people prefer, prairie or forests. The cited goal of restoring the land to pre-settlement condition is ridiculous. Many “restorationists” don’t like to talk about the extent of our original woodlands. I suggest they — and you — read American Canopy: Trees, Forests and the Making of a Nation by Eric Rutkow. Try to restore those pre-settlement conditions.

Most interestingly, the restorationists at the DeKalb County Forest Preserve District may have misrepresented the early forest conditions along the walking trail that was clear-cut on the Kishwaukee River. In the early 1800s, most of the creeks, small and large river banks were all wooded in the area, so beware of any claims of “pre-settlement prairie” without forests or oak savannas near any waterway or wetland.

We live in a modern age with modern farms eliminating their habitat-providing hedgerows and woods for more plantable acreage. Harvesting the corn and burning its ethanol creates more carbon global warming. Add in the ever-sprawling treeless, open urban areas.

Moderns need forests. Native Americans burned the prairies for wide-open ranges to make hunting easier. They modified the “natural state” of the environment to fit their needs. We have the same right, and defining “natural” is very subjective. Native Americans only cut down trees for canoes, tools, weapons and shelters. They also hunted and lived in the woodlands and tapped maple trees for sustenance. Native Americans will tell you if you cut down a tree, you ask its forgiveness, tell it what you will use its wood for, and thank it for the gift of its life. Trees give us life.

Consider the following from About.com: “A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 lbs./year and release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support 2 human beings.” — Mike McAliney, “Arguments for Land Conservation: Documentation and Information Sources for Land Resources Protection, Trust for Public Land,” Sacramento, Calif., December 1993

One acre of trees annually consumes the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent to that produced by driving an average car for 26,000 miles. That same acre of trees also produces enough oxygen for 18 people to breathe for a year.” — New York Times

A 100-foot tree, 18 inches in diameter at its base, produces 6,000 pounds of oxygen.” — Northwest Territories Forest Management

On average, one tree produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year. Two mature trees can provide enough oxygen for a family of four.” — Environment Canada, Canada’s national environmental agency

Then, considering global warming and carbon reduction and carbon sequestration, contemplate this from http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov: “… the NETT production of oxygen in a field of grass is very small, because the carbon products are not as long lasting as wood is.

This locking up of carbon is a hot topic at the moment, with terms like carbon banks and carbon sequestering and carbon trading. By locking carbon up, either in living forests or as underground reserves of carbon dioxide, we are helping to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and hopefully reducing the greenhouse effect which is helping to drive global warming. Industries which produce a lot of carbon dioxide by burning coal and oil etc, can offset their emissions by investing in the planting of carbon bank forests. The effectiveness of this strategy is debated, though. To offset the emissions resulting from the production and burning of 1 gallon of ethanol (biofuel), you would have to grow approximately 10 pounds of timber — (not including leaves, etc.). To make the offset effective, you have to grow 10 pounds of WOOD for EVERY gallon of ethanol. That’s a 5,000-pound tree for every car every year. If you keep using petrol or gasoline, the tree has to be even bigger!”

In other words, we need every tree we can get and every tree we have.

Additionally from http://nativeplantwildlifegarden.com: “An acre of established temperate forest can hold from 2,000 pounds up to 6,000 or more pounds of carbon per year, depending on the age of the trees and other conditions. Mature grasslands sequester 2,400-3,600 pounds per acre each year. And, except through natural disturbances (decay, fire, etc.), these ecosystems emit only small amounts of carbon dioxide, when they respire at night.”

Wait! Prairies must be burned, producing much more carbon dioxide! Hello, global warming. How are your allergies doing; what about your asthma? How close is a possible “prairie preserve” to your house?

To really restore prairie, corn, soybean and wheat fields should be purchased and replanted as prairie because farming really took the prairie. Do you think that will happen? Have you seen it happen? Of course not. So much for true prairie restoration.

Finally, these are “Forest Preserves as proved by the Illinois’ Forest Preserve District Act of 1913, which allowed for the creation of Forest Preserve Districts to:

acquire … and hold lands … containing one or more natural forests or lands connecting such forests or parts thereof, for the purpose of protecting and preserving the flora, fauna and scenic beauties within such district, and to restore, restock, protect, and preserve the natural forests and said lands together with their flora and fauna, as nearly as may be, in their natural state and condition, for the purpose of the education, pleasure, and recreation of the public.”

I stress “restore, restock, protect and preserve the natural forests” is the mission of the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District; flora and fauna in the forest is secondary — prairie is not mentioned! Forests are primary in this Act, and clear-cutting violates that Act!

According to the Act, district funds should be used to plant trees and protect them. Yes, these districts were created to restock and preserve forests, not prairies.

If you did not attend the April 1 land restoration open house, please e-mail the WCFPD Board members and tell them “TREES FIRST!” Judith Barnard, 2203 N. Church St., Rockford, IL 61103 — jbarnard@wcfpd.org, Mary McNamara Bernsten, 130 Lawn Place, Rockford, IL 61103 —mmcnamarabernsten@wcfpd.org, Mike Eickman, 11114 Harrison Road, Rockton, IL 61072 — meickman@wcfpd.org, Audrey L. Johnson, 2321 Halsted Road, No. 516, Rockford, IL 61103 — ajohnson@wcfpd.org, Gloria Lind, 1122 Greenwood Ave., Rockford, IL 61107 — glind@wcfpd.org, and Cheryl A.Maggio, 6351 Dandbridge Blvd., Rockford, IL 61103 — cmaggio@wcfpd.org, and Randal Olson, 6423 Thedorff Road, Box 506, Pecatonica, IL 61063 — rolson@wcfpd.org. Call the WCFPD at (815) 877-6100.

The report on the April 1 Land Restoration Open House at the WCFPD headquarters should be very interesting.

From the April 2-9, 2014

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