Editor’s Note: The following notes come from a listening session/meeting we held with members of the public. The notes were supplied by a third party professional; we submit these notes without changes except to fix name spellings. If you have any questions, please email us at L[email protected].
Land Between The Lakes
Listening Session Notes
Stewart County Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center
June 16, 2015
Jerry Mayes (facilitator) welcomed the approximately 180 attendees and thanked everyone for attending tonight’s meeting. He announced that this is the 2nd public meeting and 3rd informational meeting that the Forest Service has had with the public. The Forest Service staff is interested in listening to comments and integrating them into decision-making over the next few months and years. He asked participants to make their comments issue-oriented, problem-oriented, and not person-oriented. Everyone was asked to participate in the meeting in a manner of professionalism and respect.
The format for tonight is similar to the previous meetings held. Volunteers who wish to speak will be given three minutes; Jerry asked speakers to come to the front microphone. Preference will be given to those who have not had a chance to speak at a previous meeting. If you’ve spoken at another meeting, we will be happy to hear from you, but we would like to hear from those who have not had a chance to speak yet. The format is not designed to limit how much you say, but to maximize the number of people who want to speak. If there is time left at the end of the meeting, those that wish can have more time to speak.
An audience member asked the Forest Service to define the issues. Tina Tilley responded that tonight’s meeting is focused on getting input from as many people as possible. It is an opportunity for Tina and the Forest Service staff to listen and better understand what the concerns are of people who utilize Land Between The Lakes, and to use that information to make more effective decisions down the road. They want to bring people into the process, which hasn’t been done well in the past. Tonight is about listening and hearing from citizens and find ways to work together.
Speaker #1: The speaker works with TN Wildlife Resources Agency. Their mission is to preserve, conserve, manage, protect, and enhance wildlife and their habitats. The TWRA supports the savannah project for several reasons. First, it will restore an extremely rare habitat area in North America. This will benefit those who hunt for deer and turkey while increasing the habitat for quail, rabbit, and other smaller game. Open savannahs help other pastimes too. For birdwatchers, 92% of LBL is forest. You can see a diverse species of birds in the woodlands and in the open areas. The project will improve the habitats of bat species, which is of very high concern nationwide. It will benefit pollinators (such as bees and butterflies), who are essential for crops, fruits, and the pollination of most of the world’s plants. Creating savannahs means encouraging native plant diversity, not converting open areas to hay fields. It means an open canopy with grasses and shrubs. These kinds of projects have been done in TN in private and public lands. This proposed savannah would only impact 5% of LBL and be in line with other regional and national strategies that were tasked by citizens to complete. The savannah project is in line with the goals of TWRA.
Speaker 2: He disagreed with previous speaker about helping wildlife. Controlled burns are okay sometimes, but it hurts some species, such as the rattlesnake, which is on the endangered species list. Killing wildlife is not okay. People didn’t know about this meeting; it was only advertised in today’s newspaper. He’s seen roads closed for no reason and timber cutting as recently as last week. TVA wanted high-rise motels, but they didn’t do it. When the old people die, LBL will be changed again.
Speaker 3: The Forest Service wants a pre-European savannah. There is no proof that it existed from the beginning of recorded history. Some records say LBL was full of wilderness and timber. We can’t know for sure. Everyone likes wildlife; the speaker has no problem with a “wildlife habitat.” But there are 10,000 open acres with thousands more acres of former home sites, farms, and fields that were completely open less than 50 years ago. Take advantage of those areas if you want to increase the wildlife habitat. That ground could be cleaned up with minimum of effort. If I had 100 acres of mature hardwoods (like oak and hickory) and 100 acres of scrub ground, I would clean up the scrub ground. There would be minimal cost, it would create the desired wildlife habitat, and it could be done much more quickly than cutting mature trees and then burning it to get grass established. If you clean the scrub areas, the wildlife will be back next year. The speaker doesn’t like the look of northern end and wants to see the Pisgah Bay project cancelled.
Speaker 4: The speaker works with KY Heartwood. He agreed 100% with the previous speaker. Open forests and woodlands were probably part of the historical landscape at LBL, but there is no evidence that the nearly all of the LBL landscape was a savannah. The science of woodland restoration is still experimental. Whatever the historical landscape was, it was not created with chainsaws and herbicides. However, ice storms and wind storms are natural. The speaker quoted sections from the Area Plan explaining the Forest Service’s vision: “creation and development of two oak-grassland demonstration areas will establish open woodland conditions with rich and diverse understories of grasses and wildflowers, sustained by periodic prescribed fire.” Also, the Forest Service will “demonstrate the feasibility of ecological restoration at this scale, and the benefits it can provide to native wildlife and public recreational use.” “An emphasis on monitoring and research is part of the vision for these areas.” A 2007 LBL brochure stated “it will take approximately four years of tree thinning and controlled fire to establish the desired (area).” Logging is not new; TVA did it for years. However, the Forest Service cannot produce any real data to show the success of this project. This project was supposed to increase recreation and increased visitation; there were supposed to be additional trails, pull-offs, etc. Where is the increased traffic? The Forest Service is only interested in science if it supports their plans. They have failed to show the ecological success, but still want to expand their experiment into other parts of LBL. It is time for the Forest Service to focus resources on the 8,600 until you can prove the ecological and social benefits you have claimed.
Speaker 5: Speaker is from Chattanooga, TN and represents TN Heartwood and TN Sierra Club. Members from across the state of TN come to LBL to fish, hunt, camp, do other environmental things, including sending kids to environmental camps here. The forest restoration is unnecessary and very destructive. Oaks and hickories are not in decline. She has been in Pisgah Bay where oaks and hickories are dominate and regenerating. Nature hasn’t used herbicide or fires in the past and won’t in the future. The land base of LBL is one of the largest single areas in the eastern US. Don’t only focus on deer and turkey; they like interior forest too. The Forest Service needs to focus on a mixed dimensional forest structure. That would be a true pre-European character. The best way is to allow the secondary forest to mature. The Forest Service should not be in the business of climate change.
Speaker 6: The speaker is a former resident of Between the Rivers. Her deceased mother said she wanted to go “home.” Her last thoughts were of LBL. Former residents are weary of a government that does not honor the promises that were made to them. They are weary of cemeteries with impassable roads and locked gates. They are weary of watching remnants of the past decay (Silo, Bell City, and many homes). The Forest Service says historic preservation is not their goal. Former residents are weary of false empathy that the Forest Service offers. The original purpose (from 1964) says LBL will become a recreational asset that affects the economy of the region. Where is the economic development? How much timber did the Forest Service sell in 2014? Two Calloway County residents got rich from farming LBL for over 20 years. The speaker has no problem with loggers. If they weren’t logging, someone else would. So, there are farmers making money, loggers making money, and the Forest Service making money. But mom and pop businesses are struggling. The speaker reminded that they are charged with maintaining roads to cemeteries. TVA promised this, and the Forest Service promised this. But there are nice roads to farms (Ferguson Springs), nice roads for loggers (old Eddyville Ferry Road), and a nice road to Wranglers Camp that has a restaurant, store, etc. When it comes to maintaining cemetery roads, it’s not been done. That’s where your focus should be. We hear excuses of why. Then we hear it’s been neglected – yes, it’s been neglected 17 years by the Forest Service and 37 years by TVA. We’re not going to get anything from the Forest Service. They will smile, but we have legislatures that can make a difference if they audit the Forest Service.
Speaker 7: The roads to cemeteries are disrespectful. If you don’t have 4-wheel drive, you’re not going. When you can’t get a trailer/lawn mower down the road to maintain a cemetery, it needs to be fixed.
Speaker 8: The speaker is not a recreation person. She doesn’t camp, hunt, or fish, but does honor her family’s history. Her grandmother’s family lived in LBL, but she can’t get her car down the road to their former farm. There is a hole in the bridge to the cemetery. It’s not safe. This is supposed to be honoring and preserving the history of LBL? For her, the roads and bridges are recreation. Isn’t that just as important? She spends the day here, buying gas and drinks, and putting flowers on the family’s grave. She understands some trees need to be logged, but you are destroying it and we’re not getting anything back. The speaker said she was scared for when her great-nephew and -niece go to LBL, will she even be able to get there? Will these places disappear off the face of the earth? Money from the timber the Forest Service is logging needs to be put back into LBL. Finish the part you’ve begun. Show us how it looks before you go to another area. Her grandmother and other family that settled that area would be very sad if they could see what’s going on.
Speaker 9: The speaker was born, raised, and worked in LBL. He worked for TVA; when asked to cut trees, he thought he was helping the forest. What is the Forest Service doing? TVA got into trouble for cutting timber, so the Forest Service went across the road and cut again. What are they doing with the money from timber? There are too many people working in the office. The doors are all locked; you can’t get in to talk to anyone. TVA said they would keep roads as good as they were when they acquired LBL. When TVA logged areas, the loggers would go ahead and put a road through to a cemetery. The speaker put his job on the line to cut new roads or save a house. He complains about the road to his family’s cemetery, but it’s the same as the first day the Forest Service got it. Some roads are covered in bushes. He has seen bush hogs cut some roads but leave others. He saw some men from Vermont and disagreed with them about cutting/burning timber to make good timber. There has been timber cutting all his life; but sometime you have to have a stopping point.
Speaker 10: The speaker was born in LBL and lived there until he was 16 years old. He is a nephew of Mr. Griffin and helped take care of him (Mr. Griffin stayed in LBL for 24 years after everyone moved out. He eventually got ill, and family had to move him out). The speaker goes down to LBL a lot. He tries to see his old home place that is adjacent to Homeplace 1850 because it is restricted on both ends (Hicks Cemetery, Whitford Cemetery). He agrees the cemeteries and roads need attention. He realizes you have to have money, and maybe the Forest Service doesn’t have it. But how many acres of tillable land have been lost from fields growing in? Start with cleaning that up. I know it’s not the finished product, but it looks bad. When his mother talked about home, she meant LBL. You owe it to the people who you took land away from. We didn’t have a choice. TVA appraised it, and everyone who fought the government lost in court. It was a bad situation. It breaks my heart to drive around, look at his uncle’s house that is falling in. I thought it would be preserved. Obviously it’s not going to happen. The Forest Service owes it to the people to figure out a way to take better care of it.
Speaker 11: The speaker is a mental health therapist and mother of two young boys. She has 28 acres at her home, but only a few trees. They visit the lakes every weekend. Why? Because of the trees. I want the woods. It is a sanctuary. I see a cathedral. Lots of people go to church; I go to the woods. When people see a doctor, they hear “take a pill.” As a mental health therapist, I say “take a hike.” I use the trails, and I’ve also helped build the trails. I have kayaked and camped. I’ve done everything there is to do. I’m not from between the rivers, but I’m the public. I’ve lived here 23 years. To educate myself, I went to the 8,600. I couldn’t breath or speak. Please don’t do this. Sometimes in therapy we have to compromise, but sometimes compromise is the worst thing possible to do. This is violence to our community, to our souls, to our environment. There is no compromise that is acceptable. The only answer is to keep it in the 8,600. Do what you need to do there; let the rest of us have the healing of our sanctuary.
Speaker 12: The speaker worked for a company that maintains cemeteries and has camped and boated on LBL for 25 years. He has seen what TVA and the Forest Service have done. The Forest Service is a government agency. They are hired by the public; we sign their paychecks. TVA was fired. That can happen to the Forest Service. Their jobs depend on us. He has never seen a government agency that cares so little about public opinion. Person after person at the last meeting pleaded with them to stop what they are doing. Scientists gave data. They think they know everything about that land. If they cleared 5 acres and let it sit for 30 years, the hardwoods would come back. He loves that land, and doesn’t want to see it destroyed. When I see the devastation done by the agency that works for us, it makes me sick. The manager of this agency was asked where the money goes, and she said I don’t know. If I worked for a group and the board asked me that, I would be fired.
Speaker 13: The speaker is the sixth of seven children, all born in LBL. He is a professor at APSU in the focus of field biology. He helped document all of the flora and fauna on record in LBL. Tonight he is here to speak as a former resident. He was born on the south part of LBL. His focus is the heritage of LBL. Most people know that the home sites of LBL are fading away. Only a few people can go there and tell you where the families lived and how many children were born of that family. It is a travesty that no one has tried to digitize that heritage. There is no reason why all of the home sites of LBL cannot be put into a database so that future generations – who have no comprehension at all of LBL, but know an uncle or great aunt – can search and find their family’s heritage. The technology is here and available to the Forest Service if they make it a priority. It should be digitized, and every family site in LBL should be accessible by the computer technology available. People should be able to view information digitally and make plans to visit. Given another 30 or 40 years, people aren’t going to be here who can document where these family farms are. If the Forest Service procrastinates like TVA did (I made the same plea at their regional board meetings), it will be lost. [The speaker asked for people who wanted the Forest Service to prioritize the digitizing all the home places of LBL to stand. Many people in the room stood.] Forest Service, please stand up and see these people. Why can this not be accomplished?
Speaker 14: The speaker is retired military and has been all over the world. He retired here because he loves the area. In Washington State, you could see where the timber companies have made their mark, leaving stumps 5-8 feet across. He has seen Westvaco. The forest will take care of itself. He was at Ft. Bragg when they wanted to change the forest. In normal years, hunters would take 50-60 deer each day of the season. They took all the scrub oaks out, and only 30 deer were killed all season. In LBL, iron furnaces burned all the timber out in the 1700s, and the forest regenerated itself.
Speaker 15: The speaker grew up in the area around Blood River, which is still TVA land. Two weekends ago he and his two sons (9 and 12 years old) went to Mammoth Cave. His nine-year-old son asked, “Why doesn’t LBL look this pretty?” When they got home he did some research. He looked at the Land Management services of Mammoth Cave National Park. They have logged and burned there, but it has been very limited. LBL has had lots of logging and burning. I’ve hunted and fished in LBL since I was a kid. I have yet to have trouble finding deer, turkey, rabbit, squirrel, so I’m not sure we need to have landscape change to get wildlife. The US Forest Service’s mission is “caring for the land and the people.” So get out of the logging business and get back to caring for land and people.
Speaker 16: The speaker grew up in LBL and was forcefully moved out. He sat on porches and listened to a lot of lies. They were a lot of little things promised: you can always move back, you will have first priority of anything that happens here, etc. The government told us lies and mislead us. I’m not educated. I don’t know how far you go back in time to get grasslands. I do know that this area wasn’t owned by anyone in Native American times. They didn’t come here and hunt in a bunch of grass. They were smart enough to know that nobody needed to own a region because it could sustain them forever. The speaker doesn’t know about forestry, but several companies made a lot of money on this area by cutting timber selectively. Let the forest regenerate itself. It may be good somewhere else but not good here. The region needs to be taken into account anytime a decision is made that affects all the acreage in LBL. The Forest Service needs indigenous people involved in making these decisions.
Speaker 17: The speaker is a concerned citizen of LBL; his friend carried him on the back roads to show where his family lived. He has had friends who worked for the Forest Service. He knows timber. A controlled burn is not fire moving 12-13 feet up tree. The TWRA said the goal was 5% grasslands. The 8,600 is done, 4,700 is planned to be cut, that takes you way past 5%. If you bring back the grasslands, when are you going to let loose the buffalo, elk, cougars, etc? If you want the land to be pre-European, are you going to add the animals from that time? There was talk about releasing elk in LBL, but farmers stopped it. I haven’t seen what timber money was brought in or the projected profit. If you take it back to prairie lands, you know there were not stumps. It costs money to fix them. It’s not feasible. Take the money and take care of what your responsibilities already are. You can’t fix Jones Creek but you can make a new grassland. You want to cut 4,700 acres? How can we see that without binoculars? Are you going to cut new roads? I respect cemeteries. This forest is not an experiment. You don’t know if it’s going to work or not. I have friends who work for the government. I have done jobs for the government. I know how the government works. I quit a job at Ft. Campbell because of the under the table stuff. It’s common sense. The ice storm is another example. I was asked to go down to help the ice damage. In the main office, there were lots of people. They had wool blankets and kerosene heaters. But the doors of the Golden Pond building were wide open. There was a damaged tower after the ice storm. KY game and fish officers, MSU officers, and KY state troopers had no communication. We went and there were only three small trees across the road. LBL is the people’s land.
Speaker 18: The speaker’s family is from Sugar Bay and Higgins Bay. He asked Tina when she plans to retire. (Tina replied that she was not planning on retiring.) He asked Tina if the timber sales at Pisgah Bay have anything to do with her bonus or her boss’s bonus when they retire? (Tina answered no sir.) It doesn’t make any difference who runs LBL, it’s all politics. That’s why no one knows where the money goes. I’ve fought with others about camping fees. Others didn’t know you didn’t have to pay that. They tried to get me to pay, but I said no. I never paid, and I shouldn’t have to pay to camp now. I hope Tina is listening to the people talk about roads and logging. If she’s out of this role, they will put someone else in there and we’ll have to start all over again.
Speaker 19: The speaker is a retired wildlife biologist from Murray State and helped run the wildlife program there. He has been to the National Wildlife Refuge here in Dover. Students have contributed significantly to Murray and the surrounding region because of LBL. They won national awards because of what goes on at LBL. They used LBL as a laboratory site for 32 years, visiting/studying multiple times each semester. LBL has great educational opportunities. A report in the early 1990s said that LBL contributes $7 million to the local economy. He has heard a lot about forest ecology tonight. It is not an easy topic. There are a lot of differences between different species of maple and oak. There are differences between the top of a hill, side of a hill, and the bottom of a hill. There are questions about whether to farm up to a creek bed or stay thirty feet off the creek bed. You cannot compare LBL to redwood forests, Mammoth Cave, etc. LBL will never look like those places because of the soil we have and the kinds of trees that will grow in that soil. The Forest Service has a difficult and complicated job. They contribute in ways they haven’t been given credit for this evening. Thank you. Lots of students are being educated out of LBL. The forest is going to change. In 1963, it was 82% forest and now it is 92%. The forest will come along unless it is disturbed. Managing it is challenging, and academics are careful because it is an art. I have roots in West Virginia and Appalachia, and I can’t get to the cemeteries there because a 4 wheeler can’t make it. If the government can help us preserve those for a time, we should thank them. I can’t get to mine in West Virginia.
Speaker 20: The speaker read passages from a book of history of Trigg County, KY. Passages mentioned different types of timber. The land between the rivers was “more checkered of sloughs and swamps among the hills,” “taking all in all, it is not what would be termed as a good agricultural region,” there was “an abundance of timber and water,” and “covered with the growth of timber as luxurious as you can find.” You are not restoring the landscape because grasslands are not what were there. LBL was taken by a proclamation that has not been changed by Congress. You can do a demonstration area, but not alter the land. We have ignored what’s right. Laws and federal code say that you keep the roads to cemeteries open. No one has sued you yet.
Speaker 21: The speaker’s great-great-great grandfather was Henry Clay Leitchfield. His cemetery is supposed to be free, but it’s part of the Elk and Bison Prairie. LBL was farmland before TVA got it, but then TVA planted pines. Before the pines it was a field. In 1977 TVA ran a program around Higgins and Sugar Bays to study tick populations. They had to clear cut a field with lots of saplings before doing the tick count. If the Forest Service is going to make grasslands, use open fields. Timber doesn’t need to be cut. Someone else is making money. The people you stole the land from didn’t make money. They haven’t seen any revenue from you getting timber off their land. It’s a mistake what you all are doing.
Speaker 22: The speaker lived in LBL until they had to move. It’s personal to me. My grandparents are buried there. Three generations were raised there. We were robbed; they were robbed. There is only one solution: give it back to the people they stole it from.
Speaker 23: Last week Mike Pape told the speaker that the Forest Service couldn’t stop the logging contracts. I think they should be null and void. The Forest Service said they have to do their contracts so they aren’t sued by the logging companies. This is an emergency situation. I’m sorry you have contracts, but stop now, or you might be sued by all of us. And, also, this is our land, United States of America land. We don’t want you to cut another single tree. If you get sued, suck it up. You say you have to because you have a contract. We want the logging people out. Tina says you are committed to making these changes. What changes? The ones the Forest Service says, or the changes we want? You say it over and over again. What changes?
RESPONSE: Tina Tilley: I’m committed to working with the users of LBL to better involve them in the management moving forward in LBL.
RESPONSE BY SPEAKER: Then you need to break all the logging contracts.
Speaker 24: (repeat speaker) The speaker has dealt with national forest issues for 15 years. The Forest Service logs; this is what they do. In 1980s and 1990s there was a clear cut bonanza all over the US. They lose money. In the late 1990s environmentalists began to make an issue of it, and a lot changed. Logging levels came back down. They started changing the language to do the same thing (clear cutting, restoration). Now the Forest Service is bringing up logging levels all over the country. The Forest Service Regional Supervisor told a logging group in the northwest that the Forest Service would be dramatically increasing timber sales in the future. Very recently in Washington, legislation passed that guts environmental review. A new law lets them clear cut up to 5,000 acres with little/no environmental review. If citizens want to stop it, the people have to cover the bond. The Forest Service’s job is to get the cut out. The more money they lose on timber sales, the more money the Forest Service office gets. These are national issues. We’re caught up in the middle. Things can change, we’re on the right road here, and it’s an honor to be a part of it.
Speaker 25: The speaker is with Backcountry Horsemen of America, LBL chapter. She has ridden horses in LBL her whole life. She has a daughter who is five. She loves Wranglers. Her father helped build the first shower house. She wants to share her love for the outdoors with her daughter. Keep Wranglers open and the trails open/clean. She loves to fish, but the boat ramps are closed. Backcountry camping areas closed. Wranglers is full most of time. It’s not full of people who ride; it’s people who don’t have anywhere else to camp. A lot of people who camp at Wranglers do so because of the conveniences. Turkey Bay doesn’t have any conveniences. Those people take up sites that horse people want to be in. Reopen the campsites that you’ve closed and keep them up.
Speaker 26: The speaker noted that she is one of youngest people in the room. Her grandmother is older and should be home taking care of her husband with cancer instead of coming to these meetings or cleaning cemeteries. Her grandmother shouldn’t have to worry about how she’s going to get to the cemetery. The speaker is a 4th grade science teacher. She takes field trips. She wants to talk about what IS here, not what USED to be here.
Speaker 27: (grandmother of previous speaker) (Speaking to the Forest Service) If you will agree to the changes we’re asking for, we could be here and grow old together. It’s your choice. We’re not quitting, backing down, or accepting the way you’re doing things. I know you’ve listened, and you’ve heard a lot. Thank you TN; I was dreading tonight because I called your newspapers and they didn’t know the issues. I was appalled that Lyon Co knew so much about it, but here they didn’t even know. I’m thrilled that you’re here and what you’ve said. The language about what you’re doing has been argued back and forth. On the ground you’re still doing it. At what point are you going to stop that? Do you have intentions of stopping the logging? What is your timeline?
RESPONSE: Tina: We’re working on the process of moving forward together.
SPEAKER: Are the contracts gone for Pisgah Bay?
RESPONSE: Tina: Anything can be stopped.
SPEAKER: When can we have that conversation?
RESPONSE: Tina: Anytime.
SPEAKER: I’ve read that an acre can go for up to $4,000. We want an audit. We want to see how you budget and come up with this stuff. We want transparency.
[The speaker asked the Forest Service personnel to introduce themselves and their positions. Those present included: Tina Tilley, Area Supervisor; Jeff Laird, new Customer Service Department manager; Jan Bush, Communication Department manager; Dennis Wilson, acting Environmental Stewardship manager.]
Speaker 28: (repeat speaker) The speaker held up a map of LBL from 2006. If you look at a map from today, half the roads won’t be there. Because the government doesn’t want you to know what’s there and is waiting for the oldest generation to die out. It’s up to us to contact Congressman Whitfield, governor, senators, etc. The Forest Service people that are here can go in the office tomorrow and find a letter saying they are transferred. Another bunch of people will be in here, and we’ll be back doing the same things again. Empire Farm and Silo were taken away. We were told the stuff was in a warehouse in the south side of LBL and the warehouse burned. That is not true. It was taken to Chattanooga and auctioned off. Tina is doing what her boss tells her to do. I want someone there to run it the way it is supposed to be. I’m tired of arguing and fighting. We need somebody to do it right. I hope its Tina, but if it isn’t, we have to go to their leaders and get someone who will.
Speaker 29: (repeat speaker) At the end of the last meeting you said you want to work with us. How is the progress on Silo and Empire Farm coming? If you stop at the north entrance and ask where Silo is, no one knows. If you can’t make decisions, get your boss here. If they can’t make decisions, get their boss and we’ll talk to them. Bring the President here and we’ll talk to him. We said we won’t go away. We will fight to the end. Thank you.
NOTE: The remainder of the meeting was conducted in a question/answer style with Tina Tilley.
QUESTION: Tonight there has been lots of talk about cemeteries. Look at the LBL Protection Act (Public Law 105277, Title V) of US 16460, section 503 “Purpose” and section 528 named “Cemeteries.” The speaker read part of the federal law stating that the Forest Service “maintain inventory of and insure access to cemeteries within recreational area for purposes of burial and maintenance.” Do you know that it says? What is going wrong with that?
RESPONSE: Tina: We are the only unit of the Forest Service that has that specific obligation for cemeteries. It is a challenge. I don’t want it to be about money. I want it to be about providing access. Since I’ve been here, we have made it a priority. We have designated special money for cemetery access. This wasn’t done in the past. Do we have a ways to go? Yes sir. But we’re working on it. We have improved the responsiveness when people have called. I believe we are doing better. Should we have to have phone calls made to get access? I’d like to get us to a place where we don’t. It is a priority. I’m aware of that section of the law. I remind my counterparts in our regional office that it’s there. I have to do it.
QUESTION: Money to NWTF is not in the federal law. What gives you the right and jurisdiction to spend money on other programs when you have not fulfilled your obligations that are required by law? You accepted the contract with priorities (fix the dam on Hematite Lake, maintain cemeteries, etc.) that you have bypassed. How are you giving money to NWTF?
RESPONSE: Tina: The money we use in partnership with NWTF comes through allocation, some revenues, and must be used for habitat enhancement.
COMMENT: All money should be returned to the park.
RESPONSE: Tina: Our budget has two separate parts. For one part, we get an allocated budget from our regional office. This money comes with very specified direction on how they are used. The main areas are wildlife, soil and water, recreation, and timber. Those dollars have to be used by that. The second set of funds are from revenues in LBL, and that is the fund the speaker quoted law about. We have discretion on how we use those funds. That’s how we are making cemeteries a priority.
QUESTION: Will you agree that you are breaking the law?
RESPONSE: Tina: We are committed to moving forward.
QUESTION: Budgets around the country are being reduced by Congress. Is it your impression that Congress is slashing funds for recreation but not for timber? Do we need to go to Congress to adjust that? Can you make budget requests from your regional office? Can you ask that more money go to recreation and heritage?
RESPONSE: Tina: There are several areas from the national Forest Service budget that have taken a huge hit. Recreation is one of them, and we are now feeling it in southern region. Roads, facilities, and maintenance have taken a huge hit. Timber and fire budgets have gone down somewhat, but not in proportion to the other accounts. I do have some opportunity to make requests of budget needs, and when practical, the region tries to work with us. More recreation dollars for us means another region gets fewer dollars. We are a national recreation area, I’m pushing that to my superiors.
QUESTION: How many acres are used for farming?
RESPONSE: (not known)
QUESTION: Why can’t that land be used for your grassland?
RESPONSE: Tina: It’s something we can take into consideration
COMMENT: I went down Woodson Chapel Road yesterday. Two loads of gravel have been delivered, but it still needs a lot of work. My great-great grandfather is buried there. I want to be able to travel the road in a car, not a truck. It has large ruts and no gravel in some places. Gravel was brought in by Vulcan.
COMMENT: We asked for gravel from Westvaco, and they said that when the Forest Service gets the road graded, they will gravel it. Then there was an email from Golden Pond that said they needed gravel somewhere else. The gravel didn’t go on Woodson Chapel Road. That road was in terrible condition. We went out and asked for gravel, Vulcan gave it, but you decided to use it to gravel another place.
COMMENT: LBL has unique set of challenges. Most Forest Service locations don’t have to deal with this kind of stuff. PLEASE take this information to your superiors. This is a unique environment and heritage situation.
QUESTION: If you were in our shoes, raised in this area, brought up in LBL, would you want this done to your land?
ANSWER: Tina: I would want it managed to the best it could be managed. I would agree with the projects that have been proposed because that’s my history in forestry.
COMMENT: I didn’t have a choice. They slid the check over and said to move out in 30 days. They made promises to us. I will fight you to my grave.
ANSWER: Tina: I want us to get to a place where we’re not fighting. We need to work together.
COMMENT: I don’t have a problem with you. You seem nice. When you see this many people reaching out to you, you need to reach out to your boss. Find out answers and give them to us.
ANSWER: Tina: I believe there are ways to work together. I’m open to looking at how to manage things differently.
QUESTION: Do you have any suggestions of what we can do to work together, understand, and agree on what is going on?
ANSWER: Tina: I think there are a lot of things within the 8,600 that we can agree on: focus on heritage, find ways to better work on the access, environmental education, recreation, etc. We can work together.
QUESTION: Land Management can look differently and be applied differently on the ground. What is the first step together?
ANSWER: Tina: We need to make a commitment to each other that this isn’t the end of the meetings. It’s about listening and learning. We need a commitment from everybody about what action opportunities are available. We need your input. Stay engaged and work with us to have change.
COMMENT: Stewart Co. found out this afternoon about the meeting.
QUESTION: You are building a monument on a hill at Golden Pond. Why was it built there? People can’t get to it. Why is it not accessible? My mother is 96 years old and she can’t get there. What’s the purpose of it? How will old people get there? (several people agreed that it is not accessible to older people)
ANSWER: Tina: I don’t know why that specific location was chosen. I’ve made notes about problems with overall accessibility. We will look at ways to improve it.
QUESTION: Are they changing the speed limit on the trace? What about the signs?
ANSWER: Tina: I am not aware of any proposed speed limit changes. We value scenery. We need your input on how to use visuals in LBL.
Meeting adjourned at 8:32pm.