Letter to the editor: Our forests need good stewards

Have you heard that President Biden has nominated Charles F. “Chuck” Sams III to become the next director of the National Park Service? He has been a tribal leader in Oregon for years. He lives, with his family, on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon. The Senate needs to confirm this nomination. If yes, then Chuck would become the first Native American to head the National Parks Service.

What does it mean to be a good steward of the land? A person needs to know the responsibility of taking good care of the land so the land can take care of you for today and future generations. What does it mean to be a good steward of the forest? A person needs to know the responsibility of taking good care of the forest so that the forest can take care of you for today and future generations.

Who manages our forests, here in Vermont? Can we enlarge the idea of “managing” forests to become, being a good steward of our forests? Can the managing system be open to the idea of inviting a representation of Western Abenaki to become part of the decision making regarding our forests? And this Western Abenaki representation must NOT be a token. It must carry weight. The Western Abenaki have lived here much longer. I think they have some wisdom to share.

After reading “Clear-Cut, Climate crisis spawns a push to ban logging in the Green Mountain National Forest” in the Aug. 8 Seven Days, I am left with many questions. If timber is to be harvested, why does clear-cutting have to happen? Are forests even a place for timber harvesting? Can timber be “grown” on certain land outside the forests? Don’t we need to leave trees alone, so that they can do their vital photosynthesis work? (Light + carbon dioxide + water transform into sugar + oxygen.) Yes, we human beings need to breathe first before we get carried away with consumption.

Here are more questions: If a forest is to be “restored” does it not need a balance of native trees that were originally there, in that old-growth forest? Biodiversity is reduced, isn’t it? A forest is NOT a place for one single species of fast growing trees, so that they can be harvested, once again in X years. Are herbicides applied to the land where trees to be harvested are grown? Clear-cutting affects erosion, does it not? What percentage of our forests are allowed to be turned over to timber harvesting? How does “logging” impact our waterways? In addition to clean air we, as humans, also need clean water. It is vital and imperative that we “manage” our forests with long-term wisdom.

I have been moved by Robin Wall Kimmerer’s essay “Old-Growth Children” in her book “Braiding Sweetgrass.” Here are some quotes from her essay. “Native peoples of the coastal Pacific Northwest made rich livelihoods here for millennia, living with one foot in the forest and one on the shore, gathering the abundance of both … Wise use and care for a huge variety of marine and forest resources, allowed them to avoid overexploiting any one of them while extraordinary art, science, and architecture flowered in their midst. Rather than to greed, prosperity here gave rise to the great potlatch tradition in which material goods were ritually given away, a direct reflection of the generosity of the land to the people. Wealth meant having enough to give away, social status elevated by generosity.”

In “Old-Growth Children” I was introduced to Franz Dolp. Franz lived from 1936 to 2004. In 1987 he bought 40 acres of cutover forestland on Shotpouch Creek in the Oregon Coast Range. He wanted to allow the land to heal. He observed his best teachers, which were old-growth forest plots. For years he worked by himself and planted those trees which inhabit old-growth forests. Dawn Jones then became his new partner and wife. Over 11 years, they planted over 13,000 trees.

Franz was also an economist and a poet. One of the higher education institutions he worked at was Oregon State University. On the land, Franz built a wood cabin with tall ceilings and large windows, inviting light. Franz worked with a colleague, Kathleen Moore. They co-created the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word. When Franz died in a car accident in 2004, he was ready to have his work continue to thrive. Cross fertilization of ideas is vital to our present and future lives. To this day, “the cabin is a gathering spot for fertile collaborations among artists, scientists, and philosophers, whose works are then expressed in a dazzling array of cultural events” (“Braiding Sweetgrass”). If you are so moved, read Franz Dolp’s essay “To Plant an Ancient Forest.”

We need a wise team of people to solve these problems we are facing in our lives. Who are the stewards of our forests? How do we communicate with each other? How do we express our gratitude to the trees, the water, the air, the soil, the animals, the plants …? How do we learn lessons regarding taking no more than we need and sharing what we have?

Patricia Heather-Lea


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