Hellbender Journal Summer/Fall
Forest Activism 101:
The Eighth Annual
ADP Fall Gathering
By Beth Neely
For a brief
moment in time, it seemed like the world stopped spinning when I
stepped into the forest and out of the hecticness of everyday life.
I imagine the feeling was similar for about sixty other forest advocates
who converged in the Allegheny National Forest for the Allegheny
Defense Project's Eighth Annual Fall Gathering on September 21st-23rd,
2001. Gatherers from all backgrounds: students, parents, children,
activists, listeners and leaders came together for a weekend of
workshops, camping, and good company. We had the chance, at least
for one weekend, to remove ourselves far from the overwhelming images
of tragedy on TV screens, newspapers, and the internet. In a time
of sorrow, we found refuge in the forest, in its stillness, in relaxation
and in friends, new and old.
||Advisory Council member Tom Bachelder helps
Sarah Campbell, age 8 mix paint for the ADP art project. Photo
by Rachel Martin
actually the first time I attended the ADP's Fall Gathering and
I didn't quite know what to expect. Our camp sight in the middle
of an area known as the Duck Sheriff Timber Sale was definitely
not what I expected. Instead of the majestic forest of tall oaks
and maples, thick hemlocks, and wild beeches that I pictured in
my mind, our campsite was centered in an even-aged forestry plot
managed for the production of cherry. Almost all the trees were
the same: same height and thickness and same distance apart, with
ferns carpeting the ground. Not a hemlock in sight. Not much wildlife
except a couple of playful kids and two rambunctious dogs.
did expect were the cheerful faces, the warm campfire, and the great
workshops. The opening speaker was Tim Ream, a forest activist from
"Cascadia" in the Pacific Northwest inspired listeners
around a campfire as he told of a successful campaign to block a
salvage sale in an area known as Warner Creek. Tim told a very personal
story of a love for a forest and all that it stands for, and the
commitment of hundreds of people to protecting a place and all its
living creatures who have no voice of their own. "Could something
like this really happen in the East?" was the question I saw
on the faces around the fire.
|Tim Ream and Karen Wood-Campbell lead a workshop
on non-violence. Photo by Rachel Martin
over the next few days covered issues including the expected logging,
oil and gas, plant ecology, and forest watch. The most interactive
activities were the field trips, whose leaders taught stream ecology,
talked about sustainable forestry on private lands, visited old
growth, and even tree climbing! What an incredible classroom...
to be in the ecosystem you're learning about instead of just reading
about it in a book! I was especially blown away by a hike through
the Hearts Content Old Growth area early Sunday morning. The trees
were mostly hemlock and beech, which I learned are naturally dominant
in the Allegheny region. They were giants, reaching hundreds of
feet towards the sun. The ground was littered with nurse-logs, providing
necessary nutrients for new trees. New trees were sprouting up everywhere,
all different ages and sizes. We heard the rustling of the leaves,
the songs of birds, and the sounds of woodpeckers looking for breakfast.
Life was everywhere, and it was going on just as it had been for
hundreds of years!
||The 8th Annual ADP Fall Gathering was an opportunity to
learn about our forests and meet up with friends, old and new.
Photo by Rachel Martin
the most important issues discussed at the gathering was the "Allegheny
Wild!" campaign. Because the Forest Service hasn't taken the
initiative to revise its forest plan, as should be done every fifteen
years, ADP is going to give them something to work with when they
finally get around to it in 2003. This is an opportunity for the
ADP to take a proactive approach to forest protection, instead of
just reacting to the forest service. This is our chance, as forest
activists, to be part of a vision for the future of the Allegheny.
This is one of the ways that the ADP has progressed in its approach
to the issues in the Allegheny National Forest. This was the second
time that Kelly Mack attended the Fall Gathering and she noticed
that the ADP is gaining more experience and better ideas for achieving
their goals by trying to work more with the public. They are trying
to move away from the perception that forest protection is a polar
issue. It shouldn't be the Forest Service, loggers, and local people
constantly disagreeing with environmentalists. Both sides need to
come together. Both should be aware of people’s needs and the reasons
that natural resources have been exploited historically, but also
realize that the protection of forest ecosystems, their wildlife,
and their watersheds will benefit all in the long run.
|David and Yvonne Prather chat with Aubryn Sidle,
a Cornell student, after David's workshop on Religion and the
Environment. Photo by Rachel Martin
not sure how you feel about the issues in the National Forest, then
visit the Allegheny. Megan Thomas, a student at Allegheny College
had her mind made up by her experience in the forest that weekend.
"Going there, I noticed how beautiful the area is, how transcendent,
and then you realize this area could be logged and completely altered…
it makes the issue so much more dramatic and important."
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