WNF critics miss big picture of forest

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Reading The Ironton Tribune’s Sunday, July 20, 2008,

story “Groups Criticize Forest Plan,” my first thoughts were: Who died and made Mr. Jim Bensman, Ms. Christine Glaser, Heartwood or Greenfire in charge of anything?

Gadflies have regularly made print with absurd and unfounded accusations against the Wayne National Forest (WNF) management for the last few years, but until recently, I never really cared who or what they were.

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This story made me wonder if Heartwood sponges off some unjust enrichment or special interest earmarks from the labors of our hard-earned tax dollars, so I did a little research.

The bogus flag is thrown here.

It appears Mr. Bensman, should be a poster boy for tort reform. Mr. Bensman has an addiction: Frivolous lawsuits. He regularly plays the lawyer lottery, filing frivolous lawsuit after frivolous lawsuit until apparently he gets a winner.

In 2005, his group waited until a National Forest comment period expired, discovered something to the effect of a letter “i” not dotted or a letter “t” not crossed in the report, and sought relief.

Seems Mr. Bensman would also like to destroy the river lock and dam system essential to our region’s commerce, for which the FBI investigated him. But Mr. Bensman doesn’t intend to use a bomb, his weapon of destruction: the lawyer lottery system.

And Ms. Christine Glaser is a partner in Greenfire Consulting Group, LLC, and her bio is online. She would not disappoint me either, member of the Bloomington Peace Action Coalition group that has some questionable affiliations.

Both purposely distort the big picture of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Mission. The USDA is the agency that manages WNF. Timber is an agricultural product. WNF is supposed to be a well managed, in their words: “tree factory.”

These timber harvest sales, while not bringing as much cash as Saddam’s blood money, it does help fund our cash-starved townships and county. Cash starved, because Uncle Sam owning the land denies us property tax income.

Locally, the timber harvest creates wealth as the harvest employs people. And timber sales provided $113K to Lawrence County in 2007.

And for what it’s worth, the WNF employees are doing a fabulous job as stewards of this renewable agricultural resource. They’re not well paid, but as true environmentalists, it is their chosen livelihood.

Their vision of abandoned strip mines for ATV trails was a wonderful dual use initiative. The ATV users, like all WNF trail users, purchase trail permits.

The permit fees help fund trail improvements. And our trail users are always packing out the litter trash. Probably left behind by some environmentalist wacko caught up in the moment of hugging a tree. And these ATV users are “the public.”

So contrary to what our radicals might say, the public does benefit.

Mr. Bensman and Ms. Glaser ought to spend a few hundred volunteer hours as WNF firefighters for the next fire season. Otherwise, they shouldn’t even broach the subject of wildfire. Over two hundred acres of WNF wildland interface burned near my neighbor’s homes in 2006.

So while Mr. Bensman and Ms. Glaser smugly sit atop their ivory towers comfortably out of state, their distal ignorance of the wildfire danger significantly threatens our families, neighbors and livelihoods.

So Mr. Bensman and Ms. Glaser, what you’re doing for WNF doesn’t impress me. You’ve been watching WNF for over ten years.

Have you put your money where your mouth is; I don’t suppose either of you purchased 1998-2008 trail permits?

Joseph Benning is a U.S. veteran who is originally from Illinois but now calls Lawrence County home. He and his wife have an agribusiness in Lawrence Township. Benning can be reached at Whisperer45645@yahoo.com.