editor: I was delighted to read the article on how opera star Ara Berberian wants to protect his 20 acres of forest near Detroit ["Oratorio of an Oxygen Farmer," Summer 2001]. That he welcomes people walking on his land, even while he lives there, shows how much he cares about people.
Too often owners of large tracts of land think only of the money that they will get from selling it for development. I hope that others who own forested land will follow Ara Berberian's example and work to protect their land for future generations. Who knows--yet another child may find inspiration to sing among the trees!
Sue Anne Brenner, MD.
Atlanta, Georgia, via email
Deborah Gangloff: While fighting a forest fire that is still burning on the Wenatchee National Forest, four firefighters have lost their lives. However, several mare firefighters were saved by deploying their individual fire shelters. One, Rebecca Welch, is reported to have saved the lives of two civilians who were hiking in the area by taking them into her shelter.
If my memory serves me correctly, AMERICAN FORESTS has a medal available for heroic action by wildland firefighters. Based on news reports, I very much feel that this is a case which deserves nomination for that very award and urge you to contact the Chief of the Forest Service for details to see if you should consider this person for the award.
Thank you for your consideration.
Archer Wirth Retired, USFS
Deborah Gangloff responds: Your memory is excellent. In Henry Clepper's history of AMERICAN FORESTS, Crusade for Conservation, he writes: "In 1937, at the suggestion of John D. Guthrie, a veteran Forest Service officer, AMERICAN FORESTS created the American Forests Fire Medal for Heroism. He proposed the medal after a forest fire in the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming had taken the lives of 15 fire fighters. The first award was made in 1939 to USFS ranger Urban Post and to Civilian Conservation Corps foremen Bert Sullivan and Paul E. Tyrell, the latter two posthumously. On the Shoshone fire the three medalists saved the lives of 25 CCC enrollees.
Additional awards followed, but only infrequently and then only to individuals for heroic acts on actual forest fires, acts above and beyond the call of duty. Of the 13 awards since the medal was created, four were conferred posthumously."
We have sent your suggestion on to the U.S. Forest Service.
MORE TREES NOW?
editor: My understanding is that there are more trees east of the Mississippi River today than in 1900. I live in North Carolina near the Pisgah National Forest, which was in large measure destroyed by logging during the early part of the 20th century. It has since been largely reclaimed.
Much of the replanting of trees in this country has been accomplished without organized environmental groups and well before the turn of this century. My home in New Jersey was cleared of all trees in 1965... today it is replete with both hard- and softwoods as well as evergreens, thanks to family endeavors throughout the area.
So-called "sprawl" is inevitable, as most sensible people do not want to live in close proximity to each other... particularly those with children to raise. Yet it seems that in large measure it is the wealthy of this country who wish to deny those of lesser economic means the chance to escape dense urban centers of populations.
How unAmerican can you get? I believe it is these folks who are the people to truly fear for they are challenging the so-called American dream through selfish environmentalism.
Bob Von Hoene
AMERICAN FORESTS responds: You're right: There are more trees in the U.S. today than in 1900 or 1920. The gasoline engine released many acres used for feed for horses and other work animals, which was estimated to be 28 percent of the total area of farmed land. In addition, the so-called green revolution increased crop production per acre, so fewer acres are needed for farms. On the other hand, urban sprawl--with its highways, airports, shopping malls, and so on--takes away from the forest base. There is much debate these days over the establishment of wilderness. The debate is not over whether we need wilderness--we do--but over how much is appropriate for our nation. People have different views of what wilderness is. Some think it is unbroken miles of back country. Others think they are in the wilderness if they are out of sight of a road. It's a continuing debate. Peel free to wade in! Every citizen should.
LESS GOVERNMENT, PLEASE
editor: The informative article "Sudden Death Looms for Oaks" (Summer 2001) is appreciated even here in the Southeast (at least seven species of oak in North Carolina), as is the accurate reference to the vicissitudes of Mother Nature. Equally interesting is news like "In Memory: Memorial Trees" and "A Northern Forest Fairy Tale."
Fine articles like these are a tribute to American Forests. Regrettably, in each circumstance the recruitment of the federal government reflects upon the continuing saga of Big Government. Perhaps the most profound and sad exercise is the confiscation of some 68 trees for a visitors' building that a bipartisan commission approved.
If the Congress was really magnanimous, it would save the trees, reduce the size of its staffs, and provide space in existing buildings near the Capitol for the "real visitors." I am sure the "big buck givers" don't need a visitors' building. Shame, is there none? It would be interesting to know where AMERICAN FORESTS' Board (see objectives) stands on these specific issues and, generally, on the role of the federal government (other than the USDA Forest Service).
Robert Gruninger. Life Member
Gerry Gray responds: AMERICAN FORESTS has not taken a stand on the planned visitor's center, but we understand your concerns about "big government." Many of the federal programs on which we work relate to the U.S. Forest Service. (The Forest Service, particularly the State and Private Forestry branch, generally works cooperatively with other federal and state agencies, landowners, community groups, and other entities.) With respect to other federal agencies, we encourage the federal government to work in collaboration with other entities through voluntary incentive-based measures where possible. We generally believe an important role of the federal government is to help build community capacity by providing technical assistance and financial resources with which communities can plan and take action to restore and maintain healthy ecosystems.
Editor's Note: Due to a printer error, the Wildfire ReLeaf insert in the Summer issue was paginated incorrectly. For a corrected version of that insert, please send a self-addressed stamped envelope to AMERICAN FORESTS, PO Box 2000, Washington, DC 20013.
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