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U.S. Forest Services bulldozes old-growth



U.S. Forest Services bulldozes old-growth forest
Environmentalists charge they broke promises, own policies

PRESS RELEASE
Green Onion Resource Center
Rt. 3 Box 3465
Washburn, WI 54891
(715) 373-0882
-0896 fax
cray@ncis.net

CONTACT PERSON:  CHARLY RAY - Photo Available

TOWN OF MARENGO ‹ Citizens recently discovered a mile long swath
bulldozed by the U.S. Forest Service through an old-growth forest.  The
site, located just south of St. Peters Dome, is classified by the Forest
Service as an ecologically unique hemlock-hardwood forest ecosystem
which once dominated northern Wisconsin.  Less than one percent of the
forest in the state is close to this quality.

Federal environmental policy laws and Forest Service guidelines may have
been violated.  ³As far as we can determine, there was no public
involvement on this as required by federal law,² said Charly Ray of the
Green Onion Resource Center (GORC), ³They did not follow their own rules
on these lands.²  Conservationists claim the Forest Service has reneged
on a policy to stay out of sensitive ecological areas.

³The Forest Service is entrusted with protecting the biodiversity of 1.4
million acres of Wisconsin.  They told us these areas would be left
alone until after the management plan was revised.  We see here, once
again, they have chipped away at our trust by destroying acres of forest
which they had identified a critical to protecting our biological
diversity,²commented Ray.

Conservationists point out that only a few thousand undegraded acres of
this once dominant forest remain.  ³We have a hard time finding these
stands with old-growth qualities anywhere in the state,² said Jim
Meeker, a botanist at Northland College in Ashland.  ³State and federal
researchers have have found the same problems.² 

The Forest Service is revising the long range management plan for the
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.  A public meeting is scheduled for
August 29th in Wausau. Protecting biological diversity on public lands
is expected to be a major discussion point.

³Our frustration is that the Forest Service asks us to play along with
their planning and environmental review process, while they are
bulldozing critical sites without so much as a decent environmental
analysis.  This is obviously significant enough to warrant a NEPA
review,² states Ray. 

Forest Service officials in Glidden contacted by GORC were not familiar
with the trail project, but noted that projects with little impact on
the resource are regularly done without environmental review.  Other
Forest Service officials admit they have a hard time managing smaller
projects.

³If bulldozing a few acres of some of the last of our native forest is
not a big deal to the Forest Service,² commented Ray,  ³then I have a
hard time believing they are doing the best thing on the other million
and a half acres.  It is time we have some ecological accountability.²

The Green Onion Resource Center is calling on the Forest Service to stay
out of ecologically sensitive areas until a new forest plan is in place
and consider the environmental consequences of trail and road projects
by complying with the National Environmental Protection Act.

Citizens interested in monitoring public lands to protect their
biological diversity should contact Charly Ray at (715) 373-0882 or
cray@ncis.net.

-end-


FACT SHEET

Whiskey Creek Hardwoods

Green Onion Resource Center
Rt. 3 Box 3465
Washburn, WI 54891
(715) 373-0882
-0896 fax
cray@ncis.net

LAD - Landscape Analysis Design, an inventory of ecologically
significant and representative lands in the National Forest.

NEPA - National Environmental Policy Act requiring all federal actions
with a potentially significant ecological impact to go through a project
review and public involvement process.

1.  The Whiskey Creek Hardwoods LAD site has been identified by US
Forest Service ecologists as one a few thousand acres of forest
representing the true biodiversity of the Northwoods ecosystem.

2.  The US Forest Service has mapped these LAD sites for administrative
purposes and has made the information available internally.  It was
understood by the conservation community that these sites will not be
significantly disturbed until a new forest plan is in place.

3.  The USFS relocated snowmobile trail #9 across the Whiskey Creek LAD
site without public involvement as required under NEPA for any activity
with a potentially significant ecological impact.

4.  An internal Biological Evaluation for the site was inadequately
done.  

5.  The snowmobile trail reroute was accomplished by bulldozing a 30¹
wide trail for a mile through the Whiskey Creek Hardwoods LAD site,
resulting in approximately 4 acres of lost forest and the fragmentation
and degradation of the entire site. 

6.   Less than one percent of this forest type is left in the state of
Wisconsin. (Approximately. 1.8% of WI forest is sugar maple over 100
years. old, about a third of this may have a hemlock component. 
Wisconsin Forest Statistics, USDA - NCFES, Resource Bulletin NC -183,
1996)

7.  NEPA requires that less-impacting alternatives be considered.  There
was an alternative upland site adjacent which is out of the LAD site.

8.  The Whiskey Creek Hardwoods site represents a few hundred acres of
mature hemlock, sugar maple, and yellow birch.  It is a second growth
forest with old growth inclusions.  There are many living old trees too
large to reach around.  This was historically the dominant forest in
much of Northern Wisconsin.  An estimated 100,000 acres of mature
hemlock-hardwood forest are left in the entire state, or less than 1%,
where it once covered up to 60% of the forest.

9.  The Whiskey Creek Hardwoods site is part of a landscape reflecting
the hope we will some day restore the wild forests which once circled
the Chequamegon Bay.   It is part of the Marengo River Watershed,
adjacent to St. Peter¹s Dome, the Brunsweiler River, and several large
LAD sites, offering the possibility of a large biodiversity
conservation area. 

10.  Trails and roads are among the most significant impacts on the
ecosystem.  Among other things, this trail will: introduce exotic
species into a formerly healthy native forest, reduce habitat for rare
interior forest birds and animals, and add to the fragmentation of one
of the largest concentrations of remaining hemlock-hardwood stands in
the state.

August 11, 1998
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