Forest Should Be Managed By Sustainable Practices

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Andy Towle/Roundup - atowle@payson.com

Tommie Martin Gila County supervisor

Local Democrats reached across the aisle recently and invited Supervisor Tommie Martin, a Republican, to present to them her self-proclaimed “gospel according to Tommie.” This chapter involved trees.

Martin is an ardent promoter of forest health, and actively works to reinstate industry to local dying forests to revitalize them.

Democrats are associated on a national scale with organizations like the Sierra Club, another ardent promoter of forest health. However, the organization actively works to file lawsuits to block people like Martin from reinstating industry, because it says industry will destroy forests.

The age-old tug-of-war has traditionally stoked hostilities. On a recent Wednesday, however, at the Democratic Club of Northern Gila County, those present listened with interest. One local Democrat even said the talk transformed her views.

“The forest is either dead or dying or desertifying,” began Martin. Anywhere from three to 30 trees used to sprout per acre, now that number reaches as high as 3,000.

With that many straws in the cup, said Martin, dry spells inevitably turn into droughts.

Forests have been managed according to the so-called “urban elite esthetic,” said Martin, with management guided by court battles instead of sustainable practices.

Forest Service officials should receive pay based on how well the forest functions, said Martin. Instead, they spend time appeasing divergent groups, or as Martin put it, “balancing the squeaky wheels.”

Industry needs to return to the forest, and not just mom and pop endeavors. Making bowls out of tree stumps won’t rejuvenate the forest.

Burgeoning endeavors like the Four Forest Initiative could help bring industry into Northern Arizona, Martin said. The collaborative effort includes representation from industry, the Forest Service and environmental groups and spreads across the Tonto, Apache-Sitgreaves, Coconino and Kaibab national forests. The group is working to open a chipboard plant in Winslow.

Similar industrial operations could improve the forest’s all-around health, but Martin said the soil needs organics to fully regain health.

“We can’t just go cut trees and it’s healthy,” she said.

Martin said the best way for people to help is to learn about the issue, to “become the next squeaky wheel.”

Local Democrat Chris Tilley said Martin’s talk transformed her.

“I am a tree hugger,” she announced, adding that she also belongs to the Sierra Club. However, Tilley said Martin convinced her industry and cutting would help her beloved forests.

Perhaps, Tilley said, people could even educate the environmental groups.

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