From: Nancy Freeman
Date: December 16, 2010
Subject: Request for accounting of current projects supporting conservation, health and diversity of trees in Forest Service lands in Arizona
Dear Mr. Tidwell,
Some of Arizona 's most unusual forest habitats, including groves of special and unusual trees, are targeted to be destroyed in National Forest lands. This planned and permitted devastation brings to the forefront an important topic for consideration: Why were the National Forests created?
The Forest Service website states that the agency's purpose is twofold:
As a resident of Arizona , I would like to receive the facts and figures for the accomplishment of these goals in Arizona . For the most part, Arizona is an arid, desert region; therefore, it cannot be managed with the same methods as forests in Vermont and Washington state, for example. Although principally a desert, there are also some large stands of significant trees here. How healthy are these trees? How stable is the environment of these trees? What are the special trees that we have here? I would like to see an inventory of the oaks, elms, cottonwoods, ashes, walnuts, sycamores, birches, aspens, firs, spruces and any other significant trees by region.
Since Arizona is not a lush forest suitable for logging, the forests here were set aside for special purposes. The Tonto Forest was set aside for watershed. The North Kaibab Ranger District was part of the lands included in the Grand Canyon Forest and Game Reserve created by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. The game preserve was “set a side for the protection of game animals and birds.” This jewel—the North Rim of the Grand Canyon —is the only region in Arizona with deciduous maple, aspen, birch and oak trees scattered among the tall Ponderosa pines and the Engelmann spruce of heights of 100 ft. What is currently being done to protect the “game animals and birds” and their unique habitat?
In southeastern Arizona , the Coronado Forest was set aside “for yet another resource, recreation.” Quoting from the Coronado Forest website:
Roads such as the Swift Trail out of Safford and the Control Road and Catalina Highway from Tucson were built to provide access to the new recreation areas. Campgrounds, picnic areas and trails were added by the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's. Today, the cool forests and magnificent scenery of the Coronado National Forest 's five Ranger Districts continue to attract visitors in numbers that have grown to the point that they threaten to overcrowd some of the very attractions that drew them. The history of this exceptional area is, of course, still unfolding. With such an illustrious and colorful past it seems assured that its future will be notable as well. (1)
This recreational use is more important today than ever, for there is a growing concern for the loss of natural places and how that loss will affect our children. This critical issue has been highlighted in the best-selling book, The Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. Currently, several universities are conducting studies on the link between connection to nature and human mental health.
I would like to receive a report on what the Forest Service personnel in the Tucson office of the Coronado National Forest have been doing to promote and increase such interaction with nature, especially by our children, to fulfill their stated mission of “urban recreation.”
What is the status of the forest watersheds in Arizona that provide water for a growing population and significant habitat for many unique animals and birds plus outdoor recreation, camping, hunting and fishing? How many trees have been lost in the past twenty years? What percentage of the forest is this number? For what reasons were they lost? To fire? Development? Lowered water table? How much has the water table been lowered? What caused the lowering of the water table? Infringement on water supply from development? New water users? Mining operations? Power/energy facilities? Cattle grazing? Bark beetle is not a reason, for bark beetles only attack weak trees, as in weak from a lowered water table. When I lived in Sedona, the County Agent diagnosed the pinon pine in our yard with bark beetles. His remedy, “water it.” That tree is alive and thriving 15 years later. These are questions that must be answered and addressed if we are to continue to have viable forest lands in Arizona. In their summary of goals, the Arizona Bureau of Land Management has listed “Sustainability of Public Lands” as their first goal with water the consideration. (2)
Two proposed mining projects would take out large oak groves in the Coronado and the Tonto forests in areas specifically set aside for recreation. In addition to the Coronado region, the Oak Flat campground was protected by two U.S. Presidents for recreation due to its unique natural beauty. Further, the damage to be accomplished to the environment on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon due to numerous proposed uranium mines is impossible to fathom.
As stated in a recent (2008) EPA report, uranium mining makes a region unfit for human recreation and harmful to water, forest and its wildlife. Following is a quote from EPA's Technical Report on Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials from Uranium Mining.
Please note that if uranium mines can be easily reclaimed, why do thousands remain un-remediated after some 40 years? There are not even clear records of how many old uranium mines exist—with estimates from 4,000 to 10,000; the majority (up to 7,000) on federal lands with the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service the two primary land management agencies. (4)
When mining permits are written is an inventory taken of the number of trees to be destroyed in our public forests, including the species and level of rarity in Arizona and the Southwest? Is the loss of watershed, trees, and recreational areas calculated? Is the percentage of loss calculated for that individual forest and for the state forests as a whole?
How will the continued loss of trees change the rainfall patterns in Arizona ? Regional authorities decry that we are in a drought. Is it a drought or a permanent degeneration of the rainfall patterns due to continual deforestation and lowering of the water table by non-natural means of development and industry? There's a current theory and evidence that the drought that caused the demise of the Chaco Canyon culture in the Southwest was due to deforestation. The National Park Service is attempting to reestablish vegetation typical of the Chaco Canyon culture, but they are finding it impossible because of soil degradation.
What is the value of a forest? What is the value of an oak grove with trees that are centuries year old? Environmentalists are accused of pitting jobs against the value of the forest ecosystem. When our forests are gone and our metals reserves are depleted, what will a few jobs have been worth?
Thank you for your time and consideration.
(1) Coronado National Forest website: www.fs.fed.us/r3/coronado/forest/heritage/heritage.shtml
(2) Bureau of Land Management Arizona Strategic Goals Summary , page 3.
(3) Technical Report on Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials from Uranium Mining, Volume 2: Investigation of Potential Health, Geographic, And Environmental Issues of Abandoned Uranium Mines
(4) Ibid.; Table 2-4, page 2-7.
U.S.D.A. Associate Chief
Map of Arizona showing sparse forest areas and large surrounded by large areas