Chicago Tribute: In Shawnee National Forest, a debate swirls around how to best protect trees amid climate change and wildfires
On September 27th, the Chicago Tribune carried a front-page story on the Shawnee and the movement to create the Shawnee National Park and Climate Preserve.
The following are excerpts from the story, which can be read on the Chicago Tribute’s website.
The Forest Service want to take a more active role in encouraging woodland health and mitigating wildfire risk while many environmentalists want to create preserves where nature can heal itself.
To encourage new tree growth, the Forest service has invited timber companies to log parcels of both forests, a practice environmentalists in Illinois have encountered before.
In 1990, John Wallace left his career as a public land manager in Carbondale and dedicated his life to stopping commercial activity in the Shawnee.
The mature oaks in the 289,000-acre forest must be left alone so they can optimally sequester carbon and the forest can naturally heal from human disturbances, according to Wallace and his allies at the Shawnee Park and Climate Alliance.
These environmentalists are campaigning to transfer oversight of the Shawnee from the Forest Service to the National Park Service, whose mission to preserve natural ecosystems puts a near-total ban on for-profit resource extraction.
Healthy forests offset greenhouse gases, which are the main driver of climate change, by absorbing more carbon than they release.