PDT Staff Writer
Everyone who knows me probably would describe me as a right-wing conservative weirdo - and they probably would be right.
So it came as a shock to me when I found myself standing on the side of what I used to call a “tree hugger.”
Last year, I traveled up Ohio 125 to do an interview with one of the area's few true activists. I didn't know what to expect when I pulled into the driveway of the home of Dot Culver, president of Save Our Shawnee Forest.
To tell you the truth, I was prepared to deal with someone who is out there, someone who must be wrong because she was going against the flow.
I researched my subject, as I always do, and all I could see was a single-minded, self-appointed defender of the trees. And after all, I had been told by people involved in the prescribed burning and clear-cutting at Shawnee Forest it is good, that it prevents what is happening in California from happening here.
Dot did something I was not expecting. She made sense.
In fact, it was refreshing to me to meet someone whose cause was carved out of common sense.
Now that I look back on my life, I ask myself a very simple question: “Why would burning and cutting the forest be beneficial to the forest?” But like so many others, I just assumed there was some reasonable explanation.
Then Dot, almost forcefully, insisted I go for a drive with her through the areas of 125, including “Odle Crick.”
She made me look behind what I have come to call the “forest facade.” The “forest facade” is that couple of rows of trees along the road that make you believe there still is a forest there. But Dot wanted me to get out and walk behind them.
When I did, I was amazed to see there is no forest there.
Clear-cutting and prescribed burning has destroyed it, and for what? I hate to say this, but I agree with Dot. I believe it is for the same reason we do a lot of destructive things in this world - money.
It's unbelievable how easy it is to look the other way if a few hundred thousand dollars go into your county, township, school system, and yes, the pockets of the companies that sell the timber.
I was in a meeting with Bob Walton several months back, and he unloaded on the burning and cutting.
Bob said his son in Cincinnati had friends who would travel several hundred miles just to find a good place to hike, but Bob told him to not come to Shawnee Forest because it was a mess, and because much of the forest is gone.
I said all of that to say this: While I was on vacation, Dot Culver died. My wife was reading a column by our managing editor, Art Kuhn, and told me about it. I was very upset, because I had just gotten to know her, and just as important, her cause.
Will she go down in history as one of the great activists? No. After all, she got little attention. All she wanted to do was preserve our God-given forest land, so our grandchildren and their grandchildren could come and commune with nature. In these days, we don't attach too much importance to causes like that.
I can tell you most people in this area never have looked behind the “forest facade” on Ohio 125. Most never have driven up “Odle Crick,” gotten out of their cars and looked at acre after acre of bare hillside, and the resulting erosion caused by the lack of trees.
Shame on us for not caring anymore for our future generations than that. And the worst part is the powers that be have plans to burn and cut more and more, and yet only a handful of people show up at the SOSF meetings.
I, for one, will greatly miss my friend Dot Culver, but what worries me most is unless someone steps up and takes up her cause, we will miss even more beautiful forest land.
You might want to plan what to tell your grandchildren when they ask, “Were there actually acres and acres of trees out here when you were a kid?”
Someone in authority has got to stop this madness.