The Heartwood regional coalition of environmental groups in the east and midwest is spreading information about our national forests, their role in climate change and the threats facing them.
Council Chairman of Heartwood Ernie Reed, Heartwood Coordinator Becky Woodaman and Friends of Bell Smith Springs Education Coordinator Sam Stearns visited the Daily Register/Daily Journal office Tuesday to share information from Heartwood’s Forests, Carbon and Climate Campaign. The campaign’s goal is to educate people on the national initiatives to turn forests into energy and to offer support to those who want to protect them. Heartwood’s member groups are in proximity to 18 national forests in 13 states through the eastern and central United States.
“We are people helping people protect the places they love,” Reed said.
Among the threats to forests are hydraulic fracturing for natural gas; logging and burning; oil, gas and tar sands extraction, biomass incineration and mountaintop removal coal mining.
Heartwood says these methods of resource extraction all involve removal of the trees that contribute to carbon storage and the less carbon storage, the more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and the hotter the earth becomes. Resource extraction and alteration of our forested areas also remove a region’s cultural identify, Reed said.
“There may not be significance in one timber sale or one fracking site on the national forests, but representing 18 national forests in 13 states, what seemed insignificant on a small scale becomes very significant,” Reed said.
Woodaman said the goal of the campaign is to build support among individuals and to let organizations know Heartwood can help them.
“(The goal is) changing the mindset so one of the first objectives is to look at forests as essential as to the current climate crisis,” Woodaman said.
An issue facing forests in the east is burning of trees to produce energy — biomass incineration. While some groups talk of biomass as a green source of renewal energy, Heartwood says it is essentially destroying forests and forest diversity. Trees grow back, but forests don’t and the trees that grow back are typically a “tree farm” monoculture.
“Trees are renewable, but forests are not,” Reed said.
Incinerators burn three times the amount of fuel compared to coal and produce more carbon dioxide than coal, Reed said.
Forests in the east and south are being logged, turned into pellets and shipped to Europe where companies incinerate them for energy. Heartwood literature states one biomass company projects burning as much wood as a forest four times the state of Rhode Island each year.
“We are looking at the national forests as a last outpost of recreational activities, the headwaters of our drinking water, resources and air quality,” Reed said.
Page 2 of 3 - The future of the Shawnee National Forest is not clear. Recently Judge Phil Gilbert ruled to lift the 17-year moratorium on logging, drilling and mining imposed on the forest. That means the forests are open to these types of activities at the time when oil and gas drilling companies are signing leases with southeastern Illinois landowners for fracking.
Heartwood offers support to groups opposed to fracking such as Save Our Fractured Environment, Friends of Bell Smith Springs, Regional Association of Concerned Environmentalists and Vinyard Indian Settlement.
Reed has visited the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania and says fracking is abundant. He says there are or have been 45,000 fracking sites in the forest, each of which takes up about 7 acres of space. Those seven acres may be logged or if they are on hills those hills are flattened.
“There is large truck traffic on forest roads and county roads that were never built to maintain (large truck traffic),” Reed said.
He knows a woman in Doddridge, W. Va., above the Marcellus shale gas belt who lives in closed proximity to fracking sites. She opens her home to journalists and activists so they can see fracking first hand.
“She bought her retirement home and was setting up there when six months later the adjacent landowner sold the mineral rites and they started fracking,” Reed said.
He said the fracking site involves towers so tall they must be lit all night so airplane pilots can see them. He said the site is large enough to support 15 semi tractor-trailers that are constantly on the move.
“There are things they have to live with every day of their lives, every minute. And they are losing the quality of their water, quality of the air and quality of life,” Reed said.
Anti-fracking activists say there is risk to wells being contaminated and impoundment areas for fracking wastewater pollutes the air.
Reed said in fracking enterprises the jobs go to skilled workers out of the area who move in and later move on. Reed said every hotel within 25 miles of Doddridge was booked with fracking workers.
“It’s one thing to hear the stories put forth about the benefits to the county and it’s another to see what actually happens,” Reed said.
On Memorial Day weekend Heartwood holds its annual meeting which this year is called Reclaiming Our Natural and Cultural Heritage. The dates are May 24 through May 27 at Land Between the Rivers in Western Kentucky at Camp Kum Ba Yah, 4943 Barge Island Road, Benton, Ky. More information is at www.heartwood.org.
The Heartwood representatives have been in Southern Illinois this week, giving a presentation in Carbondale, appearing on radio, meeting with the U.S. Forest Service and enjoying the Shawnee National Forest hiking through Bell Smith Springs.
Page 3 of 3 - “We want people to appreciate the value of the national forests for all the benefits we get as far as climate, air and water. We’re hoping people again look at forests as something positive, not something to be extracted from and look at national forests as somewhere forests can reach maturity and the ecosystem can function as a whole to sequester carbon. These are all important things,” Reed said.