Photo by Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
David Govus, a Georgia ForestWatch board member, and Jess Riddle, a forest ecologist for the organization, look at logging maps spread out on the hood of Govus' SUV near Cooper Creek in North Georgia where the Forest Service has proposed logging.
David Govus and Jess Riddle bounded off the mountain ridge and into the forest below filled with tulip poplars, white oaks, Ohio buckeyes and black cherry trees and carpeted with a spongy mix of leaves, ferns and bark. The U.S. Forest Service, as part of the largest timbering operation in this Southern Appalachian region in at least a decade, wants to log a 40-acre stand to help “rejuvenate” the woods.
Govus and Riddle, opponents of the plan, descended deeper into the Chattahoochee National Forest.
“Ooooh, look at that one,” Govus, a board member of Georgia ForestWatch, said upon discovering a 100-foot-tall white ash. “This is a pretty nice forest here. I don’t know if that turns on a lot of people, but it’s like a cathedral to me.”
The Forest Service’s stated goal is to restore, in ever-larger chunks, the overall health of the North Georgia forest — a playground for metro Atlanta outdoor enthusiasts. An environmental assessment released last month calls for restoration of native plants and an improved habitat for wildlife. The public has until Feb. 5 to comment on the 202-page plan that has touched off a debate about who can best ensure the health of a forest, man or Mother Nature?