Friday, November 6, 2015

News from Hocking Hills

Hocking Hills State Forest and Park are arguably the most beloved of Ohio's natural areas.   Thousands upon thousands of people visit Hocking each year to commune with nature, view wildlife and hike the hills. Unfortunately the Ohio Division of Forestry looks at Hocking as just another "resource" to be timbered, mined or drilled.

Our dear friend, Paul Knoop, one of Ohio best known and well-respected naturalists, the National Natural Areas and Preserves George B. Fell award recipient for 2014 wrote to me today of his grave concerns for our State Parks and Forests. 

Paul's story starts here:

"The Keifel Road cut was a 20 acre section of Hocking State Forest that was put out for bid and sold to a local timber cutter earlier this summer. This cut is just down the road from our home so I was very familiar with the area, a ridge top with a community of old pitch pine mixed with older growth hardwoods on the adjacent slopes. Older pitch pine ecosystems are rare in Hocking County and I feel they should not have been cut. 

The bigger issue is the cutting of all the big oak trees, one with an age of 250 years plus (a chestnut oak). This tree started to grow before the Declaration of Independence and before Ohio was declared a state. Hardwoods of this age are rare today and common sense would say "leave it alone" to finish out its life. This tree weathered 250 winters and summers, warded off insects, diseases and numerous other maladies that impact live trees. This tree was a champion, it had good genetics and passed its strong traits along in bushels of acorns that were produced during its life time. Only we humans could defeat it and it was a chain saw and fifteen minutes of time and the old monarch came crashing down.

Many of us feel it is a criminal act to cut trees of this age but they are being cut on a regular basis in all Ohio state forests.These forests belong to all the people of Ohio and should be thought of as living museums and treasures for all of us."  Paul Knoop, Jr.

Doesn't Paul's writing raise a level of awareness and concern?  How does cutting down Old-growth trees in tourist areas help Ohio's economy or secure a better future for our children?  We've been told Ohio's State finances are doing fine, so why are we selling off our parks' and forests' trees?

Our highly visited parks and forests create annual tax revenue for their counties by attracting thousand to visit and view the most scenic areas in Ohio.  Who will come to Hocking to see the stumps?  This old giant served its ecosystem well for over 244 years, but now it will become pallets or pulp wood.  Is this the Ohio you envision for our children and their children?

Ohio has no shortage of timber products being produced on private land owners' property.  Why are we allowing our State to destroy some of the best natural habitats at a time the world is calling for an end to deforestation?  Short term profit is not a long term plan. We can do better. 

The Ohio Ornithological Society and seven other organizations are calling on our Governor to stop this needless cutting in our parks and forests. Help us protect our natural heritage. Please join us and send your letter of support to:
Governor John KasichRiffe Center, 30th Floor
77 S, High Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215-6117