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Marie_D

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Review for Georgia Forestwatch Inc, Dahlonega, GA, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

I didn't know Georgia Forest Watch (www.gafw.org) even existed, or that it needed to, until I moved to the forests of Northeast Georgia. I took up residence in my cabin at the edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest in 2007 and hoped that the idilic setting would always stay that way. My reasons for escaping Atlanta and moving full time to the mountains were typical--I loved to hike, paddle the lakes and rivers, breath fresh air, drink clean water and live in a place where the pace was slower and the community was closer. What I learned though was the reason for these wonderful conditions was the all pervasive forest. Nearly 70 percent of my Northeast Georgia county is National Forest land. Trees are everywhere now, although less than a hundred years ago much of this land was clearcut with the sides of mountains laid bare.

I was introduced to Georgia Forest Watch in 2009 on a long hike near the Chattanooga River with Joe Gatins, a gentleman who was passionate about protecting our forests from pollution, destruction, invasion and development. I naively though that that was the job of the U.S. Forest Service. Joe gruffly explained that the Forest Service was tasked to 'manage' the National Forest lands, not necessarily protect, and citizens who cared were needed to monitor Forest Service plans and practices involving burning forest, logging trees, spreading chemicals, mining on forest land and building highways through our National Forest . Joe was a long time leader in Georgia Forest Watch and eventually asked me to volunteer my time and talents (I'd been in the environmental and safety business a long time). He promised to teach me what he knew.

I joined Joe on excursions to forest areas threatened by logging projects and National Forest recreation sites with deep canyons carved and scarred from activity of all terrain vehicles (ATVs) run amok. We reviewed Forest Service burn plans and inspected poorly designed trails where sediment and runoff contaminated trout streams. Joe introduced me to leaders in the U.S. Forest Service and taught me how to work in cooperation with them but also how to to write a powerful letter that called them out on poor forest management practices.

In early 2012 Joe asked me to be co-District Leader with him for Georgia Forest Watch in our area. I was hesitant, but agreed. Then Joe died suddenly six months later. I had been a GFW volunteer for only a year and I knew I could never fill his big shoes. But with other volunteers and Georgia Forest Watch staff we carried on and have seen success in halting activities that would degrade our forest lands and change our environment for the worse.

Now every time I lead a hike into the National Forest, write comments on a Forest Service proposal to build new roads for logging, or join a group of volunteers to pull trash out of a forest trout stream I think of Joe. And, I know he would be proud of our efforts.

Role:  General Member of the Public