Dear friends of Georgia ForestWatch,
When we return to favorite places in the forest where warm memories flood back from decades ago, forests seem strong, stable, and permanent. Indeed, some trees shading our north Georgia mountains sprouted before the U.S. was founded, having survived droughts, storms, and fires. Their resilience and tenacity inspire us.
Immediate Threats to Our Forests
However, forests can also be fragile and change disturbingly quickly. I’ve witnessed this first hand with the current die-off of ash trees due to an invasive pest, emerald ash borer. Last year, our ash stands looked fine. This year, everywhere I go I see dying trees, no matter whether I’m driving through White County to a hike or rafting on the Chattooga River. Georgia ForestWatch is working with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Save Georgia’s Hemlocks to save groves with chemical treatments. Many of you have donated to our special fundraiser for those efforts and/or put your boots on the ground to protect individual groves. Thank you.
Man-made changes can also rapidly degrade our environment. ForestWatch has been working with the Southern Environmental Law Center and Georgia Sierra Club to get the Forest Service to reconsider constructing an ill-conceived target range between the Mark Trail and Brasstown Wilderness areas, within a mile of the Appalachian Trail. If completed, it would shatter wilderness solitude and dump sediment into streams, while also threatening lead leaching. Your financial support allows us to stay on top of such immediate threats.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
But sometimes man-made threats to Georgia’s forests feel as perennial as the trees. ForestWatch warned of bills proposed in 2017 and 2018–and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives–that would have exempted massive logging projects from public and environmental review, but thanks to the calls and comments of forest advocates like yourself, they were defeated.
This issue came back yet again this summer in the form of proposed changes to Forest Service administration of the National Environmental Policy Act, which would permit timber harvests up to 4,200 acres in size, without environmental review or opportunities for public comment. Thankfully, the public responded with 40,000-plus comments opposing the change, including many by ForestWatch supporters. There’s hope that the comments will force the Forest Service not to implement the changes, and ForestWatch and our partners will carefully monitor the situation. Thank you.
We have to remain vigilant, knowing what’s at stake in current Forest Service projects, and knowing that the interests pushing bad plans will not simply go away. With the help of Georgia Sierra Club and the Southern Environmental Law Center, ForestWatch is currently in litigation over the Cooper Creek Project that we have been seeking to improve for over five years and which, among other deficiencies, proposes logging in areas the Forest Service’s own rules identify as “unsuitable for timber production.”
Combating these slowly developing and severe threats takes dogged and dependable engagement, which takes matching support. As we consider the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests we’d like to survive us—magnificent trees in unscarred landscapes, with intact ecosystems and abundant wildlife—I want to invite you to take part in our new legacy giving program, and consider becoming a Forest Legacy Partner by including Georgia ForestWatch in your estate plans. Forests have a long memory, and the consequences of management decisions can last for centuries. We hope you will help ForestWatch prepare for the future as well, by making a legacy gift through your will or other planned giving instrument. Legacy gifts are the best way to ensure that your commitment to protection of Georgia’s national forests endures. For more information on our Legacy Giving Program, visit https://gafw.org/planned-giving/. Please also give us a call at (706) 867-0051, or email Development Director Janice Eaton at firstname.lastname@example.org , and of course, you’ll want to consult your attorney or tax advisor about your options.
The Future Never Stands Still
Challenges are also creating new ways to help. We expect that the 150,000-acre Foothills Landscape Project will ramp up again soon with more public meetings. Foothills is the first of a new management model that we believe the Forest Service will apply to other areas, so it’s critical that they get it right and hear robust public input at the next meetings—especially since the Forest Service is still saying it will not disclose the specific sites of planned logging until after the opportunity for official comments is ended.
Given attacks on public review and the gravity of Foothills meetings, ForestWatch needs your help to speak for wise forest management, by joining our new ForestRoots Advocacy Coalition. ForestRoots is designed to provide advocacy training and connect pro-forest advocates throughout North Georgia to respond to immediate threats and to help communities prepare for the next Forest Plan revision. Watch for information about advocacy trainings, local forest issues, and opportunities to meet up with satellite community groups organizing near you. Visit https://gafw.org/forestroots-appeal/ for more details.
Your financial support for this Appeal will enable Georgia ForestWatch continue our work at this critical juncture in national forest management. For 30-plus years, loyal members, faithful donors, and field volunteers have helped ForestWatch fulfill its mission to preserve and protect Georgia’s National Forests. Some of you are new, some have stood with us since our very beginning in 1986, and we’re profoundly grateful to you all. Now and in the future, by working together we can make sure future generations can see the same magnificent trees we see today. Thank you for your help.
For the forest,
Jess Riddle, Executive Director