By: Jess Riddle, Executive Director
In public conflicts, the side that cares the most usually wins. Over the past few months, I have been amazed time and again by how much the Georgia ForestWatch community cares about our forests.
ForestWatch volunteers have shown their dedication by wading through bureaucratic documents on the Foothills Landscape Project and then diving into the scientific references cited within to see where the research does and does not support the Forest Service’s claims. Volunteers have also gone into the field to collect hard data on potential impacts of future projects and actual impacts of past projects, which provides a better basis for evaluating projects and making decisions.
Volunteers have also been critical to the human side of issues by organizing public meetings and writing letters to the editor. These activities provide a public service since many people who are regular forest users or live nearby have no idea about all the decisions being made right now that will affect the future of areas they are passionate about. Less technical help such as sealing envelopes and making donations keep ForestWatch going and focused on the issues that impact the forest.
And we are not alone. Other groups like the Chattahoochee Trail Horse Association sent out alerts about Foothills and weighed in with their own comments. Our partners add to our abilities; for example, the Southern Environmental Law Center helping us with the finer points of the Forest Service’s legal obligations.
It’s easy for someone who cares about the environment to pick up a newspaper and be discouraged by the headline. If you zoom in though, you will find a whole community putting their time, effort, and voices into making sure our natural areas have a bright future. As a good friend recently reminded me, science, the law, and the public are ultimately on the side of the forest.