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"Getting the cut out" in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

  Distributed to TAP-RESOURCES, a free Internet Distribution List
  (subscription requests to listproc@tap.org) 
  (please distribute freely)
  July 25, 1996
  This post was prepared by the Environmental Resources 
  Information Network (ERIN) for TAP distribution.  
  Many thanks to Don Henson and Ned Daly for their 
  assistance in preparing this post.  -Arthur Clark, 
  ERIN Project Coordinator
  	The National Forests of the United States, along 
  with other public lands, are an increasingly important 
  part of our natural heritage.  In addition to providing 
  recreational opportunities, our national forests contain 
  a wealth of biological resources.  While the economic 
  value of timber, oil, gas, and coal extraction has long 
  been recognized, our society is only beginning to truly 
  appreciate the full economic and aesthetic importance of 
  the plant and animal life of our forests, their biotic 
  diversity (biodiversity).  
  	The scientific trend towards cataloging and 
  protecting the rich diversity of plant and animal species 
  found on public lands has often been resisted by the 
  forest products industry and the Forest Service.  The 
  Forest Service remains more interested in "getting the 
  cut out" than cataloging and protecting rare species.  
  The story that you are about to read is not, unlike the 
  plants its author studies, at all rare.  Don Henson's 
  particular circumstances are doubtless unique, but the 
  general theme of Forest Service indifference and 
  sometime hostility towards rare species protection is 
  a fact of life for conservationists who have dealings 
  with the agency.  To many conservationists, the Forest 
  Service often seems to see what it manages not as living 
  forests, but as mere collections of timber, rotting on 
  the vine every day it remains uncut.
  	The following narrative of botanist Don Henson 
  illustrates how Forest Service resistance to studying 
  and preserving biodiversity is squandering the wealth 
  of our nation in more ways than one.  As taxpayers 
  whose money is being wasted, and as citizen-owners 
  of the national forests whose natural heritage is being 
  destroyed, we should all be concerned and outraged by 
  Don's experiences.
  My (So-Called) Life as a Botanist in Michigan's U.P.
  By Don Henson
  In August 1970, my wife and I hiked into an interesting-
  looking forested area along a rural highway north of our 
  home near Manistique, Mich. The purpose of that first 
  venture into the natural world of Michigan's upper 
  peninsula (the "U.P.") was simply to take a break from my 
  career as a still-life painter. Jane and I had moved to 
  the North Woods only weeks earlier, and we were eager to 
  spend our leisure time outdoors investigating the beauty 
  of our new-found paradise. 
  That hike was the beginning of a 25-year journey of 
  botanical discovery that has taken me up high emotional 
  peaks ~ locating numerous rare plant sites in Michigan, 
  including the first known site for Carex heleonastes  (a 
  sedge) in the contiguous 48 states ~ and down low 
  emotional valleys ~ witnessing the destruction of 
  thousands of acres of the unique habitat necessary to 
  support many of the plants I have found.
  My artist's knack for sensing fine subtleties in my 
  surroundings proved to be a crucial element of a good 
  botanical field eye. Within a few years, my botanical 
  discoveries were attracting attention from the botany 
  community at the University of Michigan (UM).  I 
  donated all plant specimens collected each season 
  to the UM botany staff, as required by the terms of my  
  Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) permit 
  for collecting rare plant species. It became obvious that 
  my avocation was becoming my second vocation.
  In the 1970s and 1980s, amateur and professional 
  botanists regularly made field trips to the U.P. to see 
  the previously unknown sites of many interesting plant 
  species that I had discovered.  Federal and state agencies, 
  private individuals, and companies increasingly asked me 
  to conduct threatened and endangered plant surveys. In 
  1982, I was chosen as a member of a Michigan committee to 
  determine the threatened and endangered plant list for 
  the state.
  Throughout my first 20 years of field work, I often 
  experienced resistance from state and federal forest 
  managers when I insisted they follow laws that protect 
  rare plants. Since 1991, when I discovered a grass 
  species new to science and plants new to Michigan on 
  Forest Service and other lands, I have not received 
  any requests for bids to conduct rare plant surveys 
  on public lands.
  In 1993, a private landowner hired me to survey a 
  proposed timber sale on the Ottawa National Forest in 
  Michigan. I found a listed endangered sedge and rare 
  morphological specimens of the genus Botrychium (moon worts 
  or grape ferns). Subsequently, the Forest Service forbade 
  me from collecting any more plants on the Ottawa NF without a 
  newly invented "special use" permit.  In order to be issued a 
  "special use" permit, I had to agree to turn over all my 
  collected specimens to the U.S. Forest Service.  This 
  requirement, of course, conflicted completely with my Michigan 
  DNR permit which required me to deposit all my specimens at the 
  UM herbarium.  My eight-year study of plants in the Ottawa NF 
  has been halted.  Neither the Michigan DNR nor the Forest 
  Service will give me written permission to avoid compliance with 
  their respective requirements.  As such, I have not collected 
  any specimens in the Ottawa NF since July of 1993.
  The end of my specimen collecting has frustrated both 
  me and the University of Michigan herbarium curator, A. 
  A. "Tony" Reznicek. We were especially frustrated when 
  I encountered the second-known site in all of the the 
  eastern U.S. for Prosartes hookeri, a species of fairy 
  bells, in the Ottawa NF this past summer. There will be 
  no Prosartes hookeri among the specimens I am preparing 
  to send to Reznicek from last summer's work. I will be 
  sending a color slide of the plant to the herbarium, but 
  this is hardly adequate. As Reznicek said, "It is hard to 
  dissect a slide."
  My loss of surveying work on the Ottawa NF (and Hiawatha 
  NF as well) has not only caused financial losses for me 
  and scientific problems for the UM Herbarium, it has also 
  greatly increased the cost to taxpayers of inventorying 
  rare plants in the national forests.  I have calculated 
  that the average cost for me to locate one rare plant 
  species was around $1,000.  The Forest Service, which now 
  does the surveying work in-house, is spending around 
  $30,000 per rare species located.  This is especially 
  infuriating in light of Office of Management and Budget 
  regulations (OMB Circular A-76) which prohibit government 
  agencies from duplicating services that are already 
  available from established small businesses.
  In the mean time, the Ottawa NF Forest Service staff has 
  not been able to work out a memorandum of understanding 
  (MOU) with Michigan DNR and the UM Herbarium regarding 
  the collection and deposition of rare plant specimens. 
  Discussions between Ottawa NF staff and DNR had been on-
  going for at least five years. The Ottawa NF Forest Service 
  wanted to develop a MOU with the University of Michigan 
  Herbarium concerning species to be deposited there. Reports 
  I have received indicate that the Ottawa NF staff was so
  unprofessional in these discussions that the University of 
  Michigan participants terminated the dialogue and ruled out 
  any future resumption. I cannot see how this could be such 
  a problem for the Forest Service, since I have been able to 
  deposit specimens at the UM herbarium for the past 25 years 
  without any formal written agreement.
  After 25 years of botanical research, I can see that the 
  upper peninsula of Michigan provides a unique environment 
  for investigating several scientific puzzles. The U.P. is 
  bordered by Lake Superior to the north, Lake Huron to the 
  southeast, Lake Michigan in the south-central, and the 
  state of Wisconsin to the southwest.  Multiple periods of 
  glacial advance and retreat which ended 10,000 to 15,000
  years ago formed the present Great Lakes configuration and 
  left behind huge drainage systems in the U.P:  the Menominee 
  River in central and southern part and the Ontonagon River 
  in the western part. A large portion of the Menominee River 
  system is within state forest lands, while the Ontonagon 
  River system is almost entirely within the Ottawa National 
  As the glaciers melted, water that created the original 
  branches of these rivers at times flowed south to the 
  Mississippi River, sometimes flowed east through Ontario, 
  Canada, and perhaps even flowed northeast to Hudson Bay. 
  In the thousands of years since, the rivers have provided 
  temperature buffer zones and unique microclimates for 
  plants and animals on their banks and in the floodplains. 
  The warmer water buffers against frost, providing a 
  longer growing season in these areas. This has preserved 
  habitats for some communities of plants in the U.P. which 
  are now usually found further to the south. Some of these 
  plants are not found anywhere else within hundreds of 
  miles of the U.P.
  I have discovered numerous "disjuncts" in the U.P. more 
  common to far regions of the United States and Canada, 
  such as Bartonia paniculata, or screw-stem, from the 
  Atlantic coastal plain. Western disjuncts have also been 
  located, such as the large yellow western monkey flower 
  that Reznicek and I found in the Ottawa National Forest 
  some years ago. Many years of investigating such clues 
  has led me to realize that the U.P. encompasses a 
  laboratory of stranded, lost worlds which are similar 
  in many ways to the islands of the world's oceans that 
  have provided insight into the evolution of plants and 
  animals. These lost river habitats are ideal monitoring 
  zones for measuring the effects of changing weather 
  patterns, fire suppression, the diminishing ozone layer, 
  and other phenomena of scientific concern.
  However, federal and state forest managers, as well as 
  the private forest products companies, continue to 
  clearcut, plow, spray herbicide on, and replant trees in 
  many of the most sensitive areas. Pieces of nature's 
  puzzle are being destroyed at an alarming rate. The U.P. 
  is losing its invaluable natural scientific laboratories. 
  Acquiring an understanding of how ecosystems naturally 
  function requires intense effort and time spent in the 
  less-managed areas of the upper peninsula of Michigan and 
  Meanwhile, I remain banned from collecting plants on the 
  Ottawa NF. Foresters from the Michigan Department of 
  Natural Resources are plowing up and planting monoculture 
  red pine on a previously unplowed 10,000-acre oak-pine 
  savanna/prairie in Menominee County. Private timber and 
  paper companies have punched many new logging roads into 
  previously inaccessible wilderness in Marquette County, 
  adjacent to the McCormick Tract designated wilderness. 
  Many of these areas are rich in rare plant species.
  So far, outcries from politicians, lawyers, and 
  scientists have only slightly slowed the devastation of 
  the unique, lost worlds of Michigan's U.P. Most of the 
  laboratories of nature in other parts of the country have 
  already been gobbled up by urban sprawl, agricultural use, 
  or gigantic swaths of pavement; and pressure remains 
  intense on the tiny patches left. It is often said that 
  the timber barons of the turn of the century knew no 
  better when they clearcut the original timber stands. 
  Today, we know that even-aged timber management 
  (clearcutting) and monoculture reforestation are 
  disastrous to biodiversity. We know that these approaches 
  can also cause severe erosion and water quality degredation.  
  Hopefully, today's managers of Michigan's upper peninsula 
  will reassess and change their approach before our 
  priceless treasures are lost forever.
  [Portions of the above article by Don Henson were first published in the 
  March/April issue of the Association of Forest Service Employess for 
  Environmental Ethics (AFSEEE) journal, The Inner Voice, and are reproduced 
  here with the author's permission.]
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