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Watch now: 'Shawnee Showdown: Keep the Forest Standing' documentary premieres Wednesday

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Trailer for "Shawnee Showdown: Keeping the Forest Standing" documentary film which looks at activists' efforts in the late 1980s and early 1990s to stop clear cutting, drilling and ATV use in the Shawnee National Forest of Southern Illinois. Documentary by Cade Bursell, professor in the Southern Illinois University Carbondale School of Media Arts.

The battle over clearcutting and commercial logging in the Shawnee National Forest during the 1980s and 1990s will be the focus of a documentary that premieres Wednesday at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The showing of the film will be followed by a question-and-answer session with the filmmaker and a panel discussion featuring local activists.

“Shawnee Showdown: Keep the Forest Standing,” a documentary by Cade Bursell, professor in the SIU School of Media Arts, looks at the efforts of area activists who protested, fought and litigated against the U.S. Forest Service to stop clear-cutting, oil and gas drilling in the Shawnee National Forest.

Their efforts lead to a 17-year injunction against drilling and timber cutting; an injunction that was lifted in 2013. Many of the activists remain involved in conservation and preservation efforts in the national forest. Bursell interviewed many for the film.

Shawnee Showdown documentary

"Shawnee Showdown: Keep the Forest Standing," a documentary by Southern Illinois University professor Cade Bursell tells the story of protests aimed at stopping clear cutting, drilling and ATV use in the Shawnee National Forest in the 1980s and 1990s.

“I asked them to reflect back on that time and so this is their story,” she explained. “I interspersed a lot of the news footage and photographs with interviews of their memories and their reflections of what it meant to them to be in the forest – to live there – for 80 days and what their relationship is to the forest.”

She said her goal is not only to preserve the story of their efforts but also to bring a focus on public land use today.

“My intent is to create a space for dialogue about what should be happening on our public lands and to get that dialogue started.

Bursell, who said her own property boarders the Shawnee National Forest, wants to bring attention to the area.

“If we live here, we are impacted by this place and so it is important for us to take care of it and to be involved in what is going on there,” she said.

She explained that as a professor of cinema, she often has taken students into the forest for special projects or lessons, but it was many years before she learned of the protests in what is known as the Fairview area of the forest.

“I was surprised that I hadn’t heard about it and I thought it was important for me to pursue this story and that it was an important story to tell,” she said.

The documentary will be premiered at 6 p.m., Wednesday, in the John C. Guyon Auditorium within Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Morris Library.

The event is open to the public and is free. The hour-long film will be followed by a panel discussion featuring several of the activists featured in the film.

“These are people who put their bodies on the line, who spent time learning how to litigate and who were trying to protect the forest,” Bursell said. “I think these are voices that need to be listened to.”

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