Hellbender Journal Summer/Fall
Hiking and Logging:
A Bad Combination
By Bob Stanger
been hiking the Tanbark Trail in the Allegheny National Forest between
U.S. Route 62 and Pennsylvania Route 337 for a good many years now,
occasionally continuing on the trail to Hearts Content. The trail
up from the river affords a good workout of 45 minutes or so before
leveling off and crossing Slater Run, where it makes a sharp left
as it continues on to Sandstone Spring on 337.
used to accompany me on these hikes, and many years ago we even
used to carry our young sons, Billy and Jamie, on our backs as we
clambered up and down the trail. In those days we had a camper trailer
on the Allegheny River at nearby Cloverleaf Campground, which has
since closed some years ago.
knees are much too worn now for the steep Tanbark Trail, and my
son Jamie is too involved with his job at Youngstown State University,
golf and other sports to spend much time hiking in the ANF or canoeing
on the river.
a mentally handicapped fellow of 29, is still often with me both
on the Tanbark Trail and on the river. He lives in a group home
in Youngstown, and seems to enjoy his stays at our modest cabin
on the river (certainly a more pleasant place than his group home)
, our hikes in the ANF, and canoe excursions on the beautiful Allegheny.
On our walks, Bill often ranges so far ahead of me (I am now 70)
that it might not appear to others we meet along the trail that
we are hiking companions. When he was younger, I used to have to
wait for Bill on the trail. Now itŐs the opposite.
years, I have noticed that the contrast in the ANF along the Tanbark
certainly makes a strong argument against logging if one is concerned
primarily with the quality of a recreational environment, whether
it be for hiking, hunting or whatever. The river slope hasn't been
logged at least since the "great clearcut" 100 or so years
ago. The beeches, black cherry, maples and oaks interspersed amidst
huge rocks are tall and stately. There is much birdsong, and in
the morning, shafts of sunlight beaming down through the mist from
the high canopy create a cathedral effect.
morning a large hawk "attacked" Bill and me, swooping
low in the forest several times and admitting shrill cries as it
missed us by just feet. The hawk apparently had a young one in the
ago, this river slope area (known as the Allegheny Front) was considered
for wilderness status. Then Rep. William Clinger, whose seat is
now held by John Peterson, objected, saying that the Allegheny Front
"contained some of the best timber on the ANF." This Allegheny
Front area covers 7,393 acres.
reach the top of the river slope, they enter terrain which has been
logged, I would say, within at least the last 40 years. The trees
now standing amid a sea of fern are spindly, and many have fallen
down, in part the result of a gypsy moth infestation a few years
ago. The only birds one is likely to hear are crows. This is just
another "woods" rather than a mature forest, like the
tall tree area just a short distance below on the river slope.
place where Bill and I occasionally hike is in state Game Land 86,
a 14,000-acre area which lies across the river from the Allegheny
Front. Many hunting camps line the river along the road from Tidioute
to Althom which borders the game land, and signs bid hunters "Welcome,"
advising them to "hunt safely."
is that much of the area in Game Land 86 has also been timbered,
(some of it fairly recently) and is now covered with thick scrub
growth. It seems to me that the Game Commission is not being very
hospitable in "welcoming" sportsmen to an area so much
of which is covered with thick, impenetrable scrub growth. The steep
river slope area itself is fairly open, but hillside hunting must
be pretty arduous. Nearby Game Land 29, which lies within the ANF
near Chapman State Park, has also been extensively timbered, and
in fact a cut has been proceeding there this past summer.
Bill and I hiked in Game Land 86 between Thompson and Conklin runs,
following game land roads. Above Conklin Run there is a large area
which was timbered about 30 years ago which is now covered by an
immense maple thicket, certainly impenetrable to this day by even
the most intrepid hunter.
of our walk as we neared the end of the game land road, we saw a
pickup truck parked at the edge of the maple thicket. In a stretch
of nearby forest which overlooks the river, Route 62, the former
Cloverleaf Campground, and the ANF beyond, two fellows were busy
marking trees with red paint for future cutting. I could scarcely
believe it, but their truck bore a bumper sticker reading "Hunters
and fishermen make the best environmentalists." I just said
"Hi" to them as Bill and I continued on down the steep
slope to Conklin Run.
didn't chat with the pair as I was afraid I would have made some
very critical remarks about what they were doing. A couple of weeks
later as Bill and I were hiking up another road in the same game
land, a Game Commission truck passed us, followed by the same two
tree markers in their truck. My wife, who was waiting for us in
our car at the gate to the game land, spoke to the men as they opened
and shut the access gate. They told her they had been marking more
trees some distance down that road, which they said was to be used
to haul out the timber. To facilitate the hauling, the road has
been covered over with yellow dirt and gravel taken from two huge
borrow pits located down in the game land.
|State Gamelands Number 283. Photo by Rachel Martin
its lands of timber, the Commission is acting at cross purposes
with itself, since the oaks, black cherry, beech and other trees
harvested provide food and habitat for game, including the bear,
deer and turkeys which are the quarry of sportsmen.
swaths for hunters that the Commission cuts through the timbered
land are in themselves an acknowledgment that the land has been
left impassable. One cannot help but wonder about the relative safety
of hunting along such open swaths. In attempting to rationalize
the Game Commission's questionable timbering policy, I can't help
but wonder if the Commission hasn't entered into some sort of Faustian
pact with timber consumers.
I am quite well acquainted with Erie's International Paper (my sister
worked there when the plant was called Hammermill), and the huge
piles of timber in the mill's log storage complex tower over the
graves of generations of Stangers in adjacent Lakeside Cemetery.
The graves include those of my father, Chris, an ardent life-long
hunter and fisherman who would certainly deplore the loss of game
habitat those same logs represent.
of a past conversation with a timber hauler in Game Land 86, I do
know timber from there has in the past helped meet the paper mill's
seemingly insatiable appetite for logs. How much of the present
planned cut is intended for IP? A Game Commission official once
told me that the Commission has its own foresters, and that the
timbering really does benefit hunters by providing more browse for
deer and "refuge areas for bear."
still ring in my ears as a real "PR" effort.
to Table of Contents