Georgia ForestWatch is a member-driven organization. You spend time in the forest and see what’s going on. You have protected soils, kept streams clean, and located previously unknown old-growth forests. You have helped control invasive species and spread the word about the most significant unprotected areas in North Georgia by putting on last spring’s wildly successful Georgia’s Mountain Treasures events. Your very membership gives us legitimacy with the Forest Service. And your generous financial contributions have sustained Georgia ForestWatch’s mission to protect, preserve, and restore Georgia’s national forests for 33 years.
Your help is only becoming more essential. I’ve attended multiple Georgia Botanical Society Spring Pilgrimages, and usually look forward to the keynote presentation. This year, though, I was tense. The Forest Service would be presenting about the Foothills Landscape Project. Foothills has such severe issues in its plans and process that I was anticipating a frustrating listening experience.
After a glowing introduction and with the authority of a Federal agency, they used humor and charm to help paint an enticing picture of the Eden-esque landscape Foothills would produce. They also left out some things. I raised my hand and asked if herbicides would be a major tool to accomplish the project. Herbicides had not been mentioned in the presentation, but I knew from project documents that the Forest Service was calling for up to 63,000 acres of herbicide application.
Forest Service presentations typically leave out what will have to be sacrificed to reach a new Eden: how many trees will have to be cut and how long the associated “temporary roads” and log landings will scar the landscape. They leave out the mixed record from past projects, and how in some projects only half of what the Forest Service plans is actually done. They also leave out how amazing our oldest unmanaged forests are.
Knowing what’s really going on, what’s not being said, requires people with the time to dig through all the details. Your support ensures ForestWatch has the time. You make it possible to wade through technical documents, meet with the Forest Service, and check plans and past projects on the ground. ForestWatch needs your financial support in order to continue to watch.
Of course, your generosity helps inform others too. Your kindness gets the word out through ForestWatch’s newsletter and enables us to organize our own meetings to inform local people, such as the one in Clayton in November.
Many people attended the November meeting out of interest in proposed sale of national forest land, but stayed to learn about Foothills. They also learned new information about the land sale, including the origins of the idea and how the Forest Service would be required to use the proceeds. People like you at the meeting also drew on their own expertise and helped develop strategies to make sure the land is really being managed for the public.
ForestWatch has been able to be persistent enough to be effective only because people like you have made a habit of caring for the forest. We are currently working to protect the forests of Cooper Creek through a lawsuit. That suit is built on more than five years of attempts to work with the Forest Service to find better ways to manage the area. I first worked for ForestWatch more than 15 years ago surveying old-growth forests. Many of those forests are only now gaining protection. The Forest Service has accepted ForestWatch data and used it to determine areas in Foothills they will set aside to designate for old-growth management, that is, to leave alone. Achieving results takes your steadfast support.
Before the end of the year, please make a tax-deductible donation to Georgia ForestWatch using the insert or online at gafw.org/donate. You can also help protect Georgia’s national forests with a recurring monthly donation (gafw.org/donate), an IRA distribution, or through our legacy giving program (gafw.org/planned-giving). Thank you for considering financially supporting Georgia ForestWatch.
With your support, North Georgia’s forests will become more majestic, more natural, and better habitat for plants and animals. Thank you for all you do for Georgia’s amazing national forests.
Jess Riddle, Executive Director
P.S. Foothills is reaching a critical stage with the imminent public meetings and release of the environmental assessment. Your help now will improve the direction of forest management for years to come through effects on the rest of Foothills, future massive landscape projects, and the Forest Plan. Your financial support will help us to set the right course.