Get facts on plan for Shawnee National Forest

2012-06-12T01:00:00Z Get facts on plan for Shawnee National ForestBY CORINA LANG The Southern
June 12, 2012 1:00 am  • 

In 1996, Federal Judge J. Phil Gilbert put a permanent injunction into place against the U.S. Forest Service, disallowing further resource extraction practices on the Shawnee National Forest. He found the Forest Plan in place to be inadequate to protect the overall ecological forest health. To lift the injunction and continue any such practices, the Forest Service was required to produce a revised plan addressing several issues as set forth by Judge Gilbert.

In 2006, the Forest Service issued a new Forest Plan which allowed tens of thousands of acres of new logging, as well as oil and gas drilling on most of the Shawnee. On Feb. 16, 2012, Judge Gilbert heard arguments presented by the Forest Service as defendant and the Regional Association of Concerned Environmentalists together with the Audubon Council of Illinois as plaintiffs. The Forest Service wants the injunction lifted and claims they have complied with the judge’s orders.

Attorney Tom Buchele, representing RACE and ACI, presented compelling arguments opposing lifting the injunction at the present time. He stated that although a revised plan has been produced, it does not address the issues originally put forth by Judge Gilbert and does not protect the overall ecological health of the Shawnee.

He also pointed out the continued improvement of forest habitat health, which has resulted in population growth of threatened and endangered species since extraction practices have been halted for the past 16 years.

The Forest Service countered this by stating that even though this may be true, improvements were because of their management practices before the injunction. Also, the Forest Service believes some habitat is degrading without their management practices, resulting in the predominant oak and hickory being replaced by beech and maple. Both of these responses are truly preposterous!

The Forest Service saying their past practices resulted in improved habitats is like the fox saying he is responsible for an increased number of chickens in the hen house after he hasn’t been able to enter for a while.

The Forest Service has long used the fallacious argument of the desired oak/hickory forests succeeding to beech/maple deserts to push through their destructive timber harvests. They tell the public forests must be cut for the oak and hickory to come back. First, if there are areas where this succession is taking place, I believe, as do many others knowledgeable about forest ecosystems, it is a direct result of the continuing disturbance of the forest caused by logging, burning, grazing, farming and development over the past 200 years.

Illinois contains only a small fraction, far less than 1 percent, of its original virgin forest. In these few remaining areas that have not been logged, you do not see beech and maple taking over. In addition, if you visit any of the areas logged in the last 30 years, you do not see a proliferation of oak and hickory, as the Forest Service promised would happen as a result of allowing commercial logging to take place.

I am not aware of any monitoring processes in place by the Forest Service that would validate their conclusion. Many ask the question, if you want to reduce the number of beech and maple trees, why not cut those species? Could it be that beech and maple are not desirable for wood production?

When the Forest Service was clear-cutting large tracts of forests during the 1980s, many local people became alarmed and spoke up. Challenged in court, the Forest Service stopped clear-cutting because the practice was deemed destructive to the forest ecosystem. Their subsequent plans for timber sales, group selection (basically patch clear cutting), gap phase dynamics (removing all large oaks and hickories) and finally ecological restoration (removal of pines at Bell Smith Springs, originally planted in rows after clear cutting oaks and hickories in the early 1900s) were all found destructive, as well. This final court challenge led to the 1996 injunction.

It seems obvious the Forest Service was hoping enough time had passed, the injunction would be lifted, and they could go on with business as usual without changing their way of doing things. Judge Gilbert is currently reviewing the information presented to him at the hearing and will be making a decision soon.

Another important issue we must consider is the possibility of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, which could take place in the Shawnee if the injunction is lifted. This unconventional, high-volume practice of oil and gas drilling has caused horrendous damage to public and private lands in other states, although touted as safe. Information is available at

Our remaining, recovering forests are at stake. Even though fragmented, these last remnants of wild Illinois are all we have left. Many people have worked tirelessly and sacrificed much to help preserve them. I urge everyone to learn more about the issue and let your voice be heard. It is time to speak up once again.

CORINA LANG of Cobden is a council member and member of the Heartwood Board of Regional Association of Concerned Environmentalists.

Copyright 2015 The Southern. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(16) Comments

  1. Earth is Our Home
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    Earth is Our Home - June 17, 2012 5:58 pm
    Ecosystems allowed to exist without interference do not need to be "managed." Natural ecosystems are the result of millions of years of evolution; it took nature a long time to find the perfect, natural balance of living and non-living substances. Anytime we interfere we stand to do damage.

    Also, with regard to hydraulic fracturing, PLEASE do your research before saying it is safe. I have personally met victims who STILL have to purchase their own water because their water wells became contaminated after nearby fracking. Conduits for contamination include abandoned oil/gas wells, cracked well casings, vertical faults in the rock layers, opening of and connection with natural fractures in the rock layers, surface spills, and waste pits overflowing or leaking. There are HUNDREDS of reports flied with local and national authorities regarding water contamination happening at the same time as hydraulic fracturing. Lawsuits and settlements keep many residents quiet about losing their clean water and breathable air. This is not an esoteric, intangible idea; it is an assault on our most basic life resources and our long-term economic prognosis.
  2. madblogger
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    madblogger - June 14, 2012 11:38 pm
    Somebody releases a movie called "Gasland" in which was not based on facts, but rather scare tactics so they could make a buck and get environmental acclaim. There are environmental laws surrounding fracking as well. They "frack" well below the water tables, and have to do so in legally prescribed methods. I so tire of the fear tactics used to prevent fracking. It's not like fracking is unregulated. Strip mining and fracking have nothing in common. Nor does hilltop mining and fracking. I really wish the pundits here would research how fracking is done, where it is done, and if still not convinced, demonstrate where vegetation does not grow for miles around a frack site.

    As far as timber, I would think the "Forest" service would know the ideal conditions for certain trees to grow. If I'm not mistaken, the Forest Service is charged with the preservation of the forests, if not, they would be putting themselves out of a job. It's not like they are condoning getting rid of the forests. With that said, I don't think there are many Oak and Hickory forests, nor has there been dense acreage of oaks and hickories. They are slow growth trees that require a lot of sunlight and room for their vast root systems.
  3. job creator
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    job creator - June 14, 2012 8:57 pm
    I'm back. Just got back from Wisconsin and after went to was invited to Mitt's dressage. What a fine sport for the rich!! got to sit with the Koch brothers, Sherman Adelson, and the guest of honor, Scott walker. It is amazing what 30 million from us outside groups can do for an election!! We put those union thugs in their place!!! they could only raise about 4 mill.

    Well you all ain't seen nothing yet. Good old Sherman just gave 10 million to Mitt and will be on board for another 190 mill. the Koch brothers are going to match that, I can only afford a couple million, but that gets you invited to special functions such as the dressage, and next week I am invited to Mitt's house in California to see the car elevator that is just installed.

    I tell ya, the rich are gonna buy this election and then it will be time to make some serious money!!!
  4. job creator
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    job creator - June 14, 2012 8:41 pm
    Frack baby frack, we need that oil!!! who gives a crap about the environment anyway, when Mitt gets elected as promised, he is going to do away with all regualations and the EPA and we will be able to drill baby drill!!!
  5. Old Forest Lover
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    Old Forest Lover - June 14, 2012 4:33 pm
    Frackimg enters the picture because it could happen in the Shawnee Forest if the injunction is lifted, This process will destroy ecosystems as much, if not more than clear cutting and will have devastating effects on the surrounding area. To get more in depth is the site to visit. .
  6. treelovintart
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    treelovintart - June 14, 2012 3:56 pm
    I recently returned from western Pennsylvania where I personally witnessed drilling on the Allegany National Forest. It is unbelievable to imagine this taking placing place on our National Forests, BUT it is, and I never want to see it happen here on the Shawnee..
  7. Stan Isley
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    Stan Isley - June 14, 2012 1:48 pm
    Thanks for your article Corina. We all want the Forest Service to manage the Shawnee responsibly and sustainably.
    This seems an odd argument the USFS is making about oak/hickory forests being replaced by beech/maple forests. I recall from my days working for SIU-C's Shawnee N. F. Wilderness Evaluation Project that dry oak/hickory upland forests and beech/maple mesic forests have very different environmental habitat conditions/requirements. In other words, oak/hickory uplands will never succeed to beech/maple forests.
    The Shawnee has a mix of forest types, with mixed mesic forest being the dominant probably. Beech/maple forests are limited in extent on the Shawnee. I recall seeing beech/maple forests in deep ravines and slopes in the Clear Springs area, but not in many other areas.
    Oh, jtvarro: several species of oaks are climax species in the mixed mesic forest community. I promise you... most oaks are shade tolerant.
    Perhaps there are some areas where USFS wants to retain the forest in a sub-climax seral phase because the oak/hickory forest is more economically valuable than the climax forest trees would be, for timbering that is. Then again, maple is a valuable hardwood product, so I can't see the logic there.
    So what the heck is wrong with letting some of our remnant forests in the Shawneee succeed to sustaining climax vegetation conditions (i.e., climax forests)? Keep up the good fight Corina.
    Stan Isley
  8. Charles Morrill
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    Charles Morrill - June 14, 2012 11:19 am
    I agree with the last comment that we all need to pay attention to what the Forest Service may have planned for the Shawnee. I know for certain that fracking is taking place in other National Forest areas and I don't want to see it happen here. I want to see the Shawnee preserved!
  9. Frank Hopper
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    Frank Hopper - June 13, 2012 11:55 pm
    I'm glad someone is standing up for the forest. The Forest Service will manage the Shawnee to death without intervention. I saw the clear cuts the FS said was sound science years ago. It made me sick to see it. They would still be doing the clear cuts if it weren't for the local people standing up to them. People need to pay attention about the fracking it does seem like the FS is up to something.

    jtvarro, This woman is far from being a "loon". Can't believe people expect to be taken seriously when they resort to name calling.
  10. jtvarro
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    jtvarro - June 13, 2012 9:55 am
    Where did the Southern Illusion dig up this loon, and where did they get any inkling that she has any credibility?

    RACE, ACI, and even Judge Gilbert don't seem to realize that the Shawnee is a National Forest, not a National Park. The two are so different in the reason for their establishment and the laws for their governance as to make them distant cousins at best. One of the over-arching statutes for governance of national forests is the Multiple Use - Sustained Yield Act of 1960, as amended. the MUSYA "authorizes and DIRECTS national forests to be managed under principles of multiple use and to produce a sustained yield of products and services,.." National forest are managed for CONSERVATION. National Parks are managed for PRESERVATION. The best definition of conservation I have ever seen is simply "wise use".

    Perhaps RACE and ACI would be better served in spending their energies in trying to get congressional passage of legislation to move the Shawnee from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Interior and proclaimed a national park. Good luck with that, but be careful what you wish for. Conversion of the Shawnee to a national park would mean an immediate cessation of all indiscriminate horseback riding, all hunting and all resource use except public recreation (which would become subject to entrance fees).

    Ms. Lang portrays herself as knowledgeable and informed about forest ecosystems. If so, how can she overlook the concept of shade tolerance. Different species of trees require different amounts of direct sunlight. Oaks and hickories require a lot of sunlight, beech and maple do not. Oaks and hickories will not grow in heavy shade no matter how much Ms. Lang believes or proclaims that they will.

    And how did fracking enter the picture? Her arguments and her support from the referenced website have nothing to do with her article titled "Get Facts on Plan for Shawnee National Forest.' I wonder if she has ever looked at the forest plan, or has any idea of the federal oversight of oil and gas extraction on federal lands. I think she needs to better informed on the facts before presenting such an inaccurate and biased article.
  11. earthsfriend
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    earthsfriend - June 13, 2012 7:24 am
    Is anybody else tired of all this manure? The Shawnee scientists researched for years after the injunction was put on the plan and came up with a jewel of a plan that these extremists refuse to read or understand. Read a forest ecology book, lady! You might learn something new and stop shoveling this stuff.
  12. Governor Number 40892-424
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    Governor Number 40892-424 - June 12, 2012 11:21 pm
    Hydraulic fracturing would “slaughter our tourism industry”? Really? How?
  13. Shawnee Hollar
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    Shawnee Hollar - June 12, 2012 11:02 am
    I find it very interesting that the injunction is being reviewed for lifting, right as the frackers are moving into the region. To horizontal gas frack in the region would be devastating. To do it in our Shawnee National Forest would be beyond heartbreaking, and would slaughter our tourism industry.
  14. MickeeD
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    MickeeD - June 12, 2012 10:05 am
    The Forest Service sounds disingenuous. The best way for the forest system to bounce back is to leave the old growth tress alone. I have no problem with harvesting some of the pine since their not native to the Shawnee. Not all of it. Even dead trees provide habitat for the various creatures in the forest.

    Fracking should not occur at the Shawnee at all. It's right up there with hilltop mining and strip mining as an ecological nightmare for forest ecosytems.
  15. Governor Number 40892-424
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    Governor Number 40892-424 - June 12, 2012 9:12 am
    How did “hydraulic fracturing” get into this story? So why not also mention the endangered spotted owl and the white-tufted deer tick? This sort of eco-propaganda from the Club Sierra and has Heartwood-Board-of-Regional-Association-of-Concerned-Environmentalist nannies has become a yawn.

    ps: And what’s with the 8-word title? How about just “Wood Head Meddlers”?
  16. Carl Das
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    Carl Das - June 12, 2012 5:28 am
    I am going to side with the Forrest Service on this one. When a tree is mature it should be harvested and made into furniture, instead of using plastic and fake wood made of non renewal oil poducts. Sooner or later those large oak trees will die,or get blown over like the ones still laying on the ground in the Carbondale area from the May 8, storm several years ago. Forrest, timber, or woods, whatever you call it, must be managed, and I think the Forrest Service knows best, after all their boss is President Obama.

    forrest Service
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