Nature Noted

Notes on a changing Nature

Location: Bellville, Texas, United States

I never would have predicted this one

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Wandering the Woods

There are many reasons for land conservation. And we usually hear the big ones: stopping global warming, saving habitat and preserving species. But one of the best sales pitches is sometimes forgotten, the sheer joy of wandering the woods. That argument is highlighted by this article by the AP on forest preservation efforts in Michigan. As noted here before, several big deals have been closed in Michigan in the last few years, particularly in the Upper Peninsula (the Yoop, as the natives call it). Most of these deals have come about as timber and paper companies rearrange their portfolios, selling some land, subdividing other. Here's how the article puts it It has inspired a campaign to preserve public access and protect ecological values such as wildlife migration corridors when private forests go on the auction block. The effort has produced success stories, including several transactions that will keep thousands of U.P. acres open, but other land remains vulnerable. "There really are some crown jewels that stand to be lost unless the public takes some action," said Alan Front, senior vice president of the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit conservation organization based in San Francisco. Randy Swaty, a U.P. forest ecologist with The Nature Conservancy,described the parceling of large tracts as "the biggest threat to biodiversity and the way of life up here."
"There's a lot of uncertainty about what the companies are going to do," Swaty said.
Wandering the woods is regarded as a birthright in the Upper Peninsula, where about 40 percent of the land is public -- two national forests, three national parks, 22 state parks and scenic sites and local parks. Additionally, private timberland enrolled in the Michigan Commercial Forestry Program is open for hunting, fishing and sometimes other activities such as snowmobiling and birdwatching. The program taxes woodlands at a lower rate than other real property in exchange for public access. It covers 2.2 million acres -- nearly all in the U.P. -- with a combined 1,300 owners, from timber companies to hunting clubs to the guy with a cabin on a 40-acre spread. Many states have similar programs, a crucial supplement to publicly owned land -- "a secondary network of open space," Front said. But when commercial forestland is sold, the new owners sometimes opt out, particularly buyers of smaller parcels who crave their privacy.

But while everyone seems pretty happy that the forest land is being preserved, others don't think the deals go far enough.
Skeptics question the ecological value of such projects. By letting activities like logging and snowmobiling continue, they don't repair fragmentation that has devastated wildlife habitat, said Doug Cornett, Michigan coordinator of the environmental group Northwoods Wilderness Recovery. "We've got these machines ... wreaking havoc on communities with their noise and pollution," Cornett said. "I don't think that's a good way to have a sustainable economy." Defenders say initiatives like Snow Country Byways are good-faith efforts to balance the needs of people and nature. If the land around Lake Gogebic hadn't become part of the national forest, it might have been chopped into 20- and 40-acre parcels with cabins, septic tanks and clearings, drastically altering the landscape, forest spokeswoman Lisa Klaus said.
I can see the argument for keeping the machines out, but the deals do seem to be better than the alternative, and it builds a politically powerful coalition of environmentalists and outdoors enthusiasts. It's one thing to argue the benefits of keeping snowmobiles out of Yellowstone, but I think it's self defeating to keep them out of areas where people have been using them for years. And frankly, I don't think the environmental lobby is strong enough to pull off these deals by itself. In politics, compromise is necessary. For too long, politicians have been able to drive a wedge between these groups, demonizing the greens as radicals who want to take away people's snowmobiles (as well as their guns, and probably their daughters). There is common ground here, and it's time to take it.


Blogger Quit Smoking said...

Hello fellow fisherman,

Did you know that 16% of the U.S. population goes fishing at least 16 days a year?

Did you also know that over 75% of the nations fishermen do not fish during "prime time"; fish feeding hours?

Those precious few moments before twilight can be absolutely magical. Even up until 11pm at night, the largest predators of any species feed ravenously.

Don't believe me? Check out Daniel Eggertsen's story, and a picture of a couple of his catches here : "Evening Secrets plus more"

I want you to do me a favor and try it out so I can see what you think of it, and if it works for you as well as it did for me.

You will be one of the first to try it out.

Gone Fishin',


1:49 AM  
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