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sean mcdaniel

Hi Sam,

Your comment..."But the fact of the matter is that most of the people engaging in this "theater" stuff are from far afield"...sounds a lot like the kind of southern "outside agitator" during the heyday of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s. Yes, I know it's an entirely different matter of civil rights for human beings and whatever kind of rights for tree...the idea of the locals knowing what's right for their forest...or their negroes...really is the same mindset.

sit-ins...protest songs...and all the rest are part of the deal for those who think that a wrong is being done...to humans, animals or trees...and i think that it takes a bit of a goofy track when applied to non-human issues.

i mean...what did the trees have to say for themselves? nothing? or was it a silent scream...akin to the anti-abortion movement people who show up at the all star game with 6-foot high photos of scrambled fetuses?

all protestors have the right to express their point of view...no matter how visually or orally repugnant...and i don't agree with violence at all...even in the cause of humans.

on a side note...i'm all for the humane treatment of animals and the wise use of natural resources...but it galled me to see that stray dogs and cats were living in an air conditioned warehouse in a part of louisiana after katrina, when thousands of families who lost their homes and loved ones were still living under highway underpasses and in tents months after the hurricane.

once again, there's a middle ground...if people are willing to meet half way or somewhere along the way.

everything is polarized in america. everything. it's just one great big talk show where people shout opposing views at each other without hearing a word the other side is saying. and disagreeing just for the sake of disagreeing.

Mark Stroup

Now you went and did it. I find myself agreeing with Sean.

The newspaper article presents a conundrum: How do you make the case to the broader public of the forest area when it might be necessary to use non-traditional means of discourse? Perhaps making the case for leaving the forest alone can't be made with ten-year plans, spreadsheets, and Power Point presentations. And perhaps being an environmentalist means doing a better job of reaching across the table.

I do think Sam might be selling the locals short. Maybe they're enjoying the sideshow. I'm also guessing that the locals are probably are only a degree or two away from some crazy bohemian who has gone to Pitt or perhaps acted in community theatre, maybe one of them has even taken a yoga class. Maybe a very interesting dialog has just begun.

Sam M

Sean and Mark,

Perhaps I am not being clear. Which I guess is a risk you run when you try to condense a book into a blog post. So allow me to clarify:

I think it is fine that the lady had the plants do the talking. And I can certainly guess at what she was getting at. Which is also fine.

But I think there might be a larger problem at work. Mark mentioned that perhaps an interesting discussion just got underway. And that perhaps many of the locals are a bit closer to the activists than I think.

Well, I get your point. And in fact, I know quite a few people in the timber industry who have sent kids off to college and gotten environmental activists in return. There is a consulting forester in Sheffield whose kid went on to be the number one activist type at Allegheny College.

But here's the thing: In many of those cases, the activists have expressed real problems with the ADP. In fact, there is now a rival environmental group on the forest called Friends of Allegheny Wilderness. The guy running it split with the ADP because he was opposed to the confrontational tactics. That kid from Sheffield has fallen in with the more moderate group. And this kid is no moderate. Believe me.

But hey, the ADP is the ADP. It's their group and they can communicate however they want. And I don't oppose that.

But I do see something of a flaw in their worldview. I don't know if it has something to do with their funding or something to do with an aesthetic and political outlook, but the group insists that it is a "grassroots organization" with all sorts of support.

I spent three years on the Allegheny trying to find that support and could not.

Which is also fine. If this is three guys and a lawyer throwing a monkeywrench into the forest plan, great. That's the system. But just go ahead and say it.

And you know what, those guys have had an impact. The Mortality II lawsuit got underway in 1997, morphed into East Side and finally stopped just a short while ago. And the activists lost. But not before delaying a timber harvest for ten years, and not before conditions on the forest had changed so much that the timber sale had to be scrapped. But again, that's the system. A system that activists learned to challenge during battles like the one over the spotted owl.

Well, my problem with the whole thing is that conditions on the Allegheny are so different, and the history is so different, that "spotted owl" style activism seems like a poor fit.

I think that there is a reason that the activists try so hard to claim support that isn't there: They do not want to come across as a bunch of college kids and upper-middle-class urbanites telling rural people how to live. That is especially important on a forest like the Allegheny. Out west, where corporations were mowing down virgin forests that were thousands of years old, activists could make a good case for caution.

But the Allegheny isn't old growth. It was a brush patch 100 years ago. And local communities, in cooperation with the Forest Service, have spent the past eight decades bringing back the deer and the turkey and the bear and, by the way, one of the most valuable stands of hardwood in America. They built the forest. Quite literally. They have been the stewards of that land for generations. So to come in and tell them they don't understand it doesn't play all that well.

See, it's a different kind of forest. Which I would hope might lead to a different kind of dialogue than the one we saw out west. But it has not been different so far. That's not entirely the activists fault. But the locals don't deserve all the blame, either.

So how might the ADP gain a bit more support? In my view, they ought to dump the idea of zero-cut. (The book explains it.)

And honestly, I think they ought to measure out the theater in really careful doses. I know. I know. But here's why:

They have been struggling for years to shake the "outsider" label. To prove that they are not just college students and other people who are seeking "a non-traditional means of discourse." But that's exactly how they have come across all along. And part of the reason is... well, because they don't really have broad grassroots support. In point of fact, they are mostly college students and people who use words like "discourse." To be fair, there are some other folks. But not many.

All I am saying is that if you really do want to broaden your appeal in Kane, PA, telling people to listen to a plant for five minutes is not going to do the trick. Especially after activists have spent ten years gumming up a timber plan--despite the fact that the annual harvest has already fallen by a huge percentage. And especially if activists know (and in fact brag) that activist litigation has been at least partially responsible for that declining harvest. And especially if you know that real people with real families have been displaced by that action. No matter how justified it is in your mind, and no matter how good you think it is for that communitiy in the long run, you have to be pretty tone deaf not to take that into account when thinking about how to talk to those people.

It will likely just sink people further into their position. In the same way that going to an Earth First rally and asking people to sit and listen to a taped message from George W. Bush would likely solidify opposition to your position.

But honestly, with zero-cut on the table, I don't think the conversation is going anywhere.

Like I said, read the book. But if you are interested, zero-cut is the position that holds that there should be not commercial cutting on any public property. None. Ever. For any reason. And that any attempt to do any commercial cutting--even one single tree--should be opposed through litigation, street theater, protests, etc.

And this holds on all public property, regardless of its history, its biological condition, its location.

So you tell me: When that's the ADP's position, how do you think a roomful of loggers is going to respond to their discourse, traditional or otherwise?

Again, let me be clear: I don't know this lady. And I don't know if she knows anything at all about zero-cut or the ADP. I suspect she is very nice and has sincere opinions about the forest. Whatever they are. And I think it's nice she came all the way from Erie.

I just don't think it's the start of a productive dialogue.

Because sadly, I don't know if there is one to be had.

sean mcdaniel

as i've said again and again...there's a middle ground. zero cut is extreme in a forest that's been replanted and nurtured by prudent stewards. as you've said before, not so smart locals nearly wiped out the forest a century or so ago...before some others wisely stepped in...i agree with you, sam, that the forest probably needs to be pruned a bit at this point.

as for the tree mime theater...it might be clever...but it's not the right show for the audience. the locals might cooperate better if the other side was willing to see the forest instead of just the trees.

Susan Swanson

I have so enjoyed this discussion. I am the director the the Allegheny Hardwoods Utilization Group, based in Kane Pa. I am also an avid gardner, 60's flower child, do yoga and many other things that apparently some of you would not expect from an advocate for forest management.
While I agree with many of the statements that Sam made about the ADP, many of us have made a concerted effort to bring a larger conservation voice into this discussion on the future of the Allegheny National Forest. People with strong forestry and conservation credentials, like State Forester James Grace, the Pa. Dept. of Agriculture, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the Nature Conservancy, as well as additional industry and local organizations. We do not always agree! But we have very interesting, respectful dialog. The ADP still and probably always will engage in street theater, but please don't assume that is the only dialog going on. We have moved on and will continue to look for any and all avenues to bring positive, constructive resolutions to issues that do have different perspectives and value judgements attached to them. Please don't see either all the locals or the many other genuinely sincere outsiders that care about the forest and also care about finding a true balance of those position. The ADP can not be including in that, but many others can. The hearing may have been more polorized because wherever the ADP goes they bread contention. But there is another whole realm that they do not belong to that is hopefull that a balance can be created that many of us thought were impossible a couple of years ago.

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