A government watchdog agency is calling for recreation fees at parks and other public lands to be more coordinated. Lester Graham reports it could affect how you much you have to pay to get into parklands:
A government watchdog agency is calling for recreation fees at parks and other public
lands to be more coordinated. Lester Graham reports it could affect how you much you
have to pay to get into parklands:
For the past nine years, agencies such as the National Park Service, and the Fish
and Wildlife Service have been allowed to come up with new fees and fee collection
programs, with the idea of improving visitor services at certain sites.
The Government Accountability Office studied how recreation entrance fees and user
fees are applied and used. The GAO found that some sites were bringing in more money
than they could use and others didn’t pull in enough money to keep up basic
maintenance. The report also indicated that a new annual visitor’s pass that would allow
you to get into sites regardless of which agency owned it was to be issued starting the
first of next year, but the agencies still haven’t come up with a price for the pass.
Finally, the GAO says many sites don’t have proper controls or audits on collected fees.
Sites say they trust their staff to handle the money properly, but the GAO indicates that’s
not quite good enough.
For the Environment Report, this is Lester Graham.
The pine marten is a member of the weasel family that makes its home in yellow birch trees. (Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)
Yellow birch trees can be used for lumber and paper, but they are also home to wildlife. (Photo courtesy of the Virginia Department of
Environmentalists and the U-S Forest Service often fight over the best way to balance between cutting timber for lumber and paper, and preserving wildlife habitat. Lately, the battle is over whether government just looks at each tract of land where it sells timber or whether it looks at the cumulative impacts of logging on National Forests. The GLRC’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
Environmentalists and the U.S. Forest Service often fight over the best
way to balance between cutting timber for lumber and paper, and
preserving wildlife habitat. Lately, the battle is over whether
government just looks at each tract of land where it sells timber or
whether it looks at the cumulative impacts of logging on National
Forests. The GLRC’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
When some people look at a stand of trees they see lumber for a house or
wood for paper.
“Let’s go to the yellow birch.”
But when Ricardo Jomarron spots a stand of yellow
birch trees, he sees a valuable home for the pine marten – a member of
the weasel family. The marten is endangered in some states.
“The great thing about yellow birch is that it has a propensity to become
hollow while staying alive. So you have this wonderful den for pine
marten and other species to rear their young that isn’t going to blow over
in a windstorm.”
Jomarron is standing in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in
northern Wisconsin that’s near the border with Michigan. Last year,
Jomarron’s group, the Habitat Education Center won a federal court case
that has blocked timber sales on about 20-thousand acres in the million
and a half acre Chequamegon- Nicolet.
A judge ruled the Forest Service had violated the National
Environmental Policy Act by not considering the cumulative impact of
logging on other forest species. Logging not in just one place, but many
can have a larger impact on some wildlife that the judge said the Forest
Service didn’t consider.
But it’s not just the act of cutting down the trees that worries the
environmentalists. It’s the loss of shade that some plants need to survive
and new logging roads crossing streams where erosion damages trout
The Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center is representing the
Habitat Education Center. Attorney Howard Learner says the case is not
about banning logging in the national forests. He says it is about
restoring a system that he argues has gotten out of whack.
“In part because the Forest Service was looking at one timber sale and what the
impacts of that were, and then they’d look at another one and what the impacts of that were, and
they didn’t look at the overall impact – and what was the forest rather
than the trees.”
The Forest Service eventually decided not to appeal the judge’s rulings to
stop the disputed sales in this one forest. It’s taking another look at the
cumulative impact of the proposed deals, but the Forest Service says it
didn’t approve the timber sales without getting advice from state and
tribal experts on water and wildlife.
Chequemegon-Nicolet forest supervisor Anne Archie says her agency
has done a good job. She says if you really want to study the total effect
of forest management, look back a century when loggers cut everything
“70 to 100 years ago there was no national forest. It was shrub land and
burnt over grassland. Now the National Forest is there that provides a
habitat for the species. So cumulatively in 70 to 100 years, we’ve been
growing the habitat for the species that Habitat Education Center…we’ll
we’re all concerned for those species.”
But Habitat Education Center and other environmental groups say the
Forest Service still isn’t doing a thorough job of determining the impact
that logging might have. The environmentalists and conservation groups
say the agency’s follow-up study on the Chequemegon-Nicolet is like
Swiss cheese with many more holes than substance. Depending what
happens at the end of the current comment period, the groups could ask
the judge to keep the lid on the timber sales.
Logging companies that cut and mill the trees from the forest are not
happy about the legal battles.
James Flannery runs the Great Lakes Timber Company. He says if you
want to look at the cumulative impact to the forest, you should look at
the cumulative impact to the economy of the area.
“Part of the money generated from forest sales comes back to
communities. If we have no forest sales and there’s thousands of acres of
forests land that we harvest I’m more worried about the income of these
communities, which will be zero.”
But the environmental groups argue the broad expanse of the forests
need to be protected from multiple timber sales that cumulatively could
cause wider ecological damage. They say ignoring the health of the
forest ignores another important industry of the area: the tourism that
brings a lot of money to the north woods.
A new report by a forest protection group says the increase
in logging in National Forests shows no signs of slowing. The uptick in logging is also happening in the Great Lakes region. The National Forest Protection Alliance says the U.S. Forest Service needs to re-evaluate its mission. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tracy Samilton has this
A new report by a forest protection group says the increase in logging
in National Forests shows no signs of slowing. The uptick in logging
is also happening in the Upper Midwest/Great Lakes region. The
National Forest Protection Alliance says the U.S. Forest Service needs
to re-evaluate its mission. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tracy
Samilton has this report:
Logging companies are going after more acres in National Forests
because trees have regenerated after the large-scale clear-cutting of a
hundred years ago. But Jake Kreilick of the National Forest Protection
Alliance says the logging is a net loss for taxpayers, because the U.S.
Forest Service is heavily subsidizing it by building roads to get the
trees out. And Kreilick says it’s unnecessary – because lumber
companies have more domestic and global sources for wood than ever
“The federal government does not need to be in the logging business any
But logging companies say with half the nation’s softwood in National
Forests, they do need the wood. They say the Forest Service is doing a
good job in managing the multiple users who rely on National Forests
for recreation, hunting and logging.
The American Elm was devastated by Dutch elm disease. (Photo courtesy of VA Department of Forestry)
The American elm was found throughout forests in the Midwest before Dutch elm disease took hold. The disease cut the population of elms by more than half. Now, the U.S. Forest Service wants to re-establish the stately tree. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sandra Harris reports:
The American Elm was found throughout forests in the Midwest before Dutch elm disease took hold. The disease cut the population of elms by more than half. Now, the U.S. Forest Service wants to reestablish the American Elm. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sandra Harris reports.
The Forest Service is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a small tree-planting project along the Mississippi River. Randy Urich is a natural resources officer with the Corps. He says it’s one of several similar projects aimed at brining back American Elms.
The trees were once a major part of flood plain forests. Urich says the tree was lost to Dutch elm disease beginning in the 1930’s.
“One of the characteristics of elm is that it’s very tolerant of shade, and in these floodplain forests you have a tendency to get some very dense overstory canopy, and because of that shade tolerance, the elms are really good at regenerating themselves.”
Researchers are developing disease-resistant American Elms by using various cloning techniques, including cloning trees that have naturally survived the disease.
The Government Accountability Office is telling the Forest Service to improve how it deals with the woody material it clears from forests. (Photo courtesy of the USDA)
The government’s effort to reduce wildfires in forests has some
side effects, and a Congressional watchdog agency says the U.S. Forest
Service isn’t doing a very good job of dealing with those side effects.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
The government’s effort to reduce wildfires in forests has some side effects. A Congressional watchdog agency says the U.S. Forest Service isn’t doing a very good job of dealing with the side effects. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
The Forest Service clears out a lot of smaller trees, limbs, and underbrush from forest floors. The idea is to remove what could become fuel for wildfires. Generally, the material is turned into wood chips. The wood chips can be used as fuel or in wood composite products for construction.
The Departments of the Interior and Energy have been working together to try to find new ways to use what the government calls the “woody biomass.” But the Forest Service doesn’t have anyone coordinating with the other agencies.
The Government Accountability Office is calling on the Forest Service to appoint someone to take responsibility for overseeing and coordinating the agency’s “woody biomass activities.” The GAO indicated the material currently has little or no commercial value, but finding new markets for it would be helped if the Forest Service coordinated its efforts with the other agencies.
Beech bark disease often causes the tree's bark to become scaly. (Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR)
Researchers might have a partial solution to the problem of beech bark disease. The disease has killed millions of beeches in the northeast and is advancing on the woodlands of the Midwest. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tracy Samilton has this report:
Researchers might have a partial solution to the problem
of beech bark disease. The disease has killed millions of beeches
in the Northeast and is advancing on the woodlands of the Midwest.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tracy Samilton has this report:
Beech bark disease happens when an insect infests beech trees. Then the
trees are killed or crippled by an opportunistic fungus. Where the
disease has struck, researchers found one to five percent of the trees had
natural resistance to the insect.
Jennifer Cook is a USDA Forest Service researcher.Her experiments found that seeds from two resistant parent trees produced progeny that are also resistant. That could set the stage
for reforestation and even pro-active plantings.
“People can plant them before the disease gets there and
therefore lessen the impact on their forest lands.”
Cook says if you’ve got a big beautiful beech tree you want to save, you
can scrub the tree’s bark with insecticidal soap once a year. Of course
it would be impossible to scrub every beech tree in the forests.
Aldo Leopold found fame by writing "A Sand County Almanac"... but even sixty years after his death, scholars say his theories about living in harmony with nature are influencing conservation practices today. (Photo courtesy of the Aldo Leopold Foundation Archives)
Aldo Leopold writing near the building he called "the shack" with dog Flick in 1942. (Photo courtesy of the Aldo Leopold Foundation Archives)
If you feel you just cannot live without wild things, you have something in common with a conservationist who’s still influencing conservation practices almost sixty years after his death. Scholars say the theories of Aldo Leopold continue to help shape wildlife management and land preservation, especially in the Upper Midwest. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
If you feel you just cannot live without wild things, you have something in
common with a conservationist who’s still influencing conservation practices almost
sixty years after his death. Scholars say the theories of Aldo Leopold continue to help shape wildlife management and land preservation, especially in the Upper Midwest. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
Aldo Leopold is probably best known for writing A Sand
County Almanac. That’s a collection of essays about finding harmony
with nature. His ideas about preservation changed while working for the
Service in the southwestern U.S. Rick Stel of the Aldo Leopold
says one day in the early 1900’s Leopold shot a wolf thought to be a threat
cattle. The female had pups with her.
“And he says he got there in time to see the
fierce green fire die in her eyes… and it was at this time he realized
we’re going about this in the wrong way… we really need to look at all
creatures and everything as a community.”
Leopold’s epiphany led to writings that won him national attention. he
eventually moved to Madison, Wisconsin – first to work in forest
research and later at the University of Wisconsin. There, he taught the
first course in game management.
In 1935, he bought an abandoned farm in the sandy floodplain of the
Wisconsin River. It became the inspiration for many of the essays in A Sand County
(sound of unlocking door)
Most tours of the site start at an old chicken coop that was the only
building left when Leopold bought the place and is the only structure
now. The shack, as Leopold called it, has no electricity or furnace.
(sound of fire)
On chilly days tour guides light a fire in the fireplace and talk about
the ideas Leopold developed while visiting the shack with his family.
The Leopold Foundation’s Buddy Huffaker says Leopold worried about
becoming disconnected from nature.
“His February essay talks about the two spiritual dangers of
not owning a farm. One is to assume food comes from a grocery store, and the second is that heat comes from a furnace.”
Outside the shack Leopold and his family worked to return the land to its
pre-agricultural state. They planted thousands of pine trees. The also undertook
the first prairie restorations. The Leopold family spent a lot of time
people were damaging the environment.
(sound of brushing)
About one hundred yards from the shack Buddy Huffaker brushes off
a plaque that’s set in the ground. at this spot, Leopold sawed apart a
lightning-damaged oak tree that he called the good oak. He wrote
about the experience in a famous essay that Huffaker says is really
about natural history.
“As he and his family saw through the growth rings of the oak, he
goes back in time to see how people have disregarded other natural
elements in the landscape – the decimation of turkeys and other
species that we hunted into extinction locally or entirely.”
But turkeys, sandhill cranes and a few others species have come
back–in part because of Leopold’s conservation ethic. Now his
followers are trying to protect more things.
To spread Leopold’s message some groups have started sponsoring
readings of Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac. At a library in Lake
Wisconsin Jim Celano reads from the essay about the good oak.
“Now our saw bites into the 1920’s the Babbittian
decade when everything grew bigger and better in heedlessness and
arrogance – until 1929 when stock markets crumpled. If the oak heard them
wood gives no sign.”
Celano is a former commerical real estate developer who now heads
a land conservancy group. He says he’s trying to convey Leopold’s
ideas to other developers.
“That we’re not here to say no to development… but to ask
they be sensitive to what they’re developing. And when you step on
their parcel, after their development is done, that the first thing you
notice is what they’re preserved and protected.”
(sound of woodpecker and traffic)
But even Aldo Leopold’s famous land around the shack is not immune
from modern threats. As a woodpecker hammers overhead, the noise
from a nearby interstate highway intrudes into the scenery. The
Leopold foundation’s Buddy Huffaker says Aldo Leopold knew the future
would bring new threats to the natural world.
“But I think that’s Leopold’s challenge to us. He
understood progress was going to continue. He just wanted us to
contemplate what we wanted that progress to be. And how far it
And with sales of A Sand County Almanac bigger now than when it was
published in 1949, it ‘s a future Aldo Leopold might be helping to
A government watchdog group says a slew of recent court rulings against the U.S. Forest Service show that the agency isn’t doing its job. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports:
A government watchdog group says a slew of recent court rulings
U.S. Forest Service show that the agency isn’t doing its job.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports:
The group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility – or
PEER – cites 44 cases over the last two years in which the Forest Service violated
environmental laws it’s supposed to enforce. PEER cites an internal Forest Service memo. It details instances in which the agency had to pay attorney fees to environmental groups that
successfully sued over issues like illegal logging and over-grazing on forest lands.
Jeff Ruch is the executive director of PEER. He says during the
Administration, there were only a handful of adverse rulings each year.
“And they’re now losing these cases at a greater rate than two a month. So
roughly every 10 days, the Forest Service is found guilty of violating a law
they’re supposed to be implementing, in a federal court.”
But a spokeswoman for the Forest Service says a closer look at the
shows a different picture. She says almost half the cases cited by PEER were
based on decisions the Forest Service made prior to President Bush taking
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Sarah Hulett.
The Bush Administration has decided to make some changes on the National Forest Management Act, and many environmental groups are not pleased about it. (photo by Stefan Nicolae)
Environmentalists are suing the Bush administration for repealing rules that protect wildlife in national forests. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Environmentalists are suing the Bush administration
for repealing rules that protect wildlife in national
forests. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester
During the Reagan administration, regulations were
put in place that required the Forest Service to
ensure non-timber resources such as water, wildlife
and recreation were given due consideration and that
the wildlife be managed to maintain viable populations.
Tim Preso is a staff attorney for Earthjustice, one of
the groups that filed the lawsuit in federal court.
“Now, through a quiet rule-making, the Bush
administration is proposing to strip that protection
away and make it legal to drive wildlife toward
extinction in the national forests. We don’t think
that’s right and we don’t think that’s what the
majority of Americans support and we’re going to
seek to overturn it in the federal courts.”
Without public notice or public comment, the Bush
administration set aside the rule in favor of a less
restrictive guideline that relies on what’s called
“best available science.” One Forest Service official
says it doesn’t change things that much.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester
Stands of pine like this have been clear-cut to demonstrate an option that forest owners can take to manage their property. (Photo by Keran
Most forests in the Great Lakes region are privately owned. That concerns the U.S. Forest Service because the agency says many forest owners don’t know how to properly manage their woodlands. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Grant reports that a new education project that demonstrates tree-harvesting techniques has angered some residents:
Most forests in the Great Lakes region are privately owned. That concerns the U.S.
Forest Service because the agency says many forest owners don’t know how to properly
manage their woodlands. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Grant reports that a
new education project that demonstrates tree-harvesting techniques has angered some residents:
(sound of chain saws)
Workers are cutting down trees in a fifty-year-old pine crop. At the same time, state
foresters are leading a botanist, a private tree farmer, and a reporter through this forest
education site. One of the foresters, Rick Miller, is directing the chain saws to show what
needs to be cut for what’s called a “crop tree release.”
“This one here we selected out with the orange flags, the trees that show the best form and
dominance in the crown. They have a nice big healthy crown. And then what we’re doing is removing
any trees that are touching the crowns of those ones that are orange, and just opening it up
to give the crown more room up there to spread out and possibly increase their growth and their
A forest owner who wants to make money off his pine stand might do a crop tree release to
improve the quality of the remaining timber. The bigger the tree, the more money it’s worth
to a logging company.
Heading deeper in, a crop of pine trees lined up like soldiers trails to our right, and wilder
hardwoods shade us from the left. There are signs to demarcate different timbering techniques:
improvement cut, understory removal, selective cut. Project manager Frank Corona stops at one
section of oaks, maples and cherries.
“You have small trees, medium trees, some larger trees. Trees are probably selectively
harvested in here and you have all different ages of trees in this stand…”
The cool shaded path abruptly opens up. The lush canopy is replaced by harsh sunlight.
GRANT: “Oh wow, so this is the clear-cut…”
CORONA: “This is the clear-cut.”
The forest is gone… cut to the ground. All that remains are the 120 hardwood stumps on
the torn-up dirt. Botanist Steve McKee suports construction of the demonstration site.
But he also loves trees.
GRANT: “What do you think when you see that clear-cut?”
MCKEE: “Well, clear-cuts are never pretty, ya know? So, uh, I think the most shocking thing
for me is I’ve walked in this my whole life and it was surprising. But I knew it
was coming too, so…”
But some people in the community say they didn’t know the demonstration project would include
clear-cutting older trees. Anne McCormack hikes the Mohican nearly every day, clearing trails,
cleaning garbage, or enjoying the woods. The education site has been roped off from the public
during construction. But she found out there was a clear-cut demonstration in an old growth
section of the forest.
“So, I just was… I was just shocked. I mean I can’t say anything more. I just felt
terrible for… I felt terrible for the trees that stood there since before white settlers
were even in Mohican. And there they just were bulldozed and chain cut for education.
I mean, it doesn’t add up.”
McCormack’s not the only one who’s upset. A lot of people didn’t realize this is what
the Forest Service had in mind. Back at the clear-cut site, Corona says many trees suffer
from disease when they mature to 120 years. He says it’s a good age for private land owners
to consider the clear-cut option.
“This was a time where before they would rot out or anything and we see more damage, more
susceptibility health-wise in the entire stand, we could make a harvest in here and utilize
those trees and start this whole new cycle of growth in here.”
The foresters and forest owners say clear-cutting is a viable option, and just one of the
many examples at the demonstration project in the Mohican forest.
Tree farmer Scott Galloway says people need to understand that owning a forest is another
form of family farming. For instance, he got a call recently from a man who inherited 30
acres and needed money right away. He doesn’t know how to manage his tree crop.
“Where does he go? How do you make the right decisions quickly? The faster he can make
decisions, in his lifetime with his forest, the sooner he’ll be able to enjoy the benefits
of those decisions. It’s all about forestry, wildlife, natural resources. So the more education he
can get, the better those decisions will be and the better off all of us are environmentally because of it.”
The Forest Service says a demonstration project is needed because forest acreage is getting
cut up into smaller and smaller parcels. That means the forests are owned by more and more
people who need to know how to manage their timber. The Forest Service hopes this project
will help them make better decisions.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Julie Grant.