An Opportunity to Protect Our National Forests

The Ozark-St. Francis National Forest in Arkansas. Photo credit: Rhea S. Rylee, U.S. Forest Service.

Don Parks has been involved in protecting national forests since the 1970s. For him, they're a place to take a nice hike to enjoy nature and relax. His favorite national forest is the Okanogan-Wenatchee because of its variety of forest-types.

Beyond relaxation and exercise, national forests provide a valuable lifeline for all Americans. "National Forest Service lands produce large quantities of domestic water, clean our air, and contain very important wildlife habitat," said Parks, a lead volunteer for the Sierra Club in Seattle, Washington.

To protect our forests in a rapidly changing world we need to change how we think about forest use and conservation. Forest management policies put in place more than 20 years ago are no longer effective. My favorite national forest is the Pisgah in North Carolina—I can't imagine not having it around.Parks has joined many other forest activists in making sure the latest round of national forest management planning is done correctly. Right now the U.S. Forest Service has stepped forward with a landmark opportunity to prepare our national forests for climate change by proposing new protections to manage the water, wildlife, and other natural treasures American families enjoy and depend on.

Parks and many others spoke out for commonsense protections at one of the National Forest Service's public hearing in Seattle last month. "We want to see the Forest Service manage for climate disruption," explained Parks.

"We want them to be lighter in their touch - so we're looking at the importance of wilderness designations and the retention of unroaded lands. These values help build resiliency in the climate changing world."

Beyond the resiliency for animals and plants, the wildlife, clean water and scenery provided by our forests are crucial to supporting the nation's $700 billion outdoor recreation economy and the people it employs.

Parks and the Sierra Club know that through working with the public, the forest service can develop a forest policy that safeguards the health, jobs and outdoor heritage of the American people.

Graham Taylor, a Sierra Club Conservation Organizer in the Northwest, said every American should care about how our national forests are managed. "Many Americans live by national forests, or recreate in them - that's all impacted by how (the Forest Service) manages," said Taylor.

"The management of our lands in any one aspect can affect all other aspects. Even the littlest decision we can make can have a huge impact."

Parks sees that, which is why he's been so active for national forests for several decades. "What happens on public land is a personal matter to me. I have seen to many poor decisions made on our public lands, development such a road building, timber sales, and off-road vehicle abuse. I want the Forest Service to act as true stewards and retain the natural values that make these lands special."

You can help make sure the Forest Service creates a smart management plan. Take action today to tell the agency that helping natural and human communities adapt to the impacts of climate change should be the Forest Service's top priority, with forest managers being given clear tasks, standards and guidelines to meet this tremendous challenge.

Read more about national parks:
25 US National Parks Under 'Grave Threat' From Climate Change
No Child Left Inside: Economist on National Parks
Are You a National Parks Wiz? (Quiz)

Tags: Activism | Conservation

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