Last Memorial Day ADP hosted Heartwood’s 22nd Annual Forest Council at Boy Scout Camp Olmsted in the Allegheny National Forest near Seneca Nation lands. Members of a number of regional environmental organizations were present, bringing skills, experience and inspiration to the weekend gathering.
Members of the Seneca Nation of Indians (SNI) were a big part of the program, as Heartwood examined a proposal for the transfer of management of the Kinzua dam pumped storage generation facility to SNI governance. The Kinzua dam, completed in 1965, was built as a “solution” to the catastrophic flooding of the 1930s, flooding that was caused in part by the widespread logging which took place in the region that is now the Allegheny National Forest. The dam flooded over 10,000 acres of Seneca Nation lands, forcing many Seneca families to move from their riverfront homes of many generations. Some of the Seneca land flooded was in Pennsylvania near the site of the Olmsted Boy Scout camp. First Energy Corporation has managed the hydroelectric power station at the Kinzua Dam since 1970, but with the 50 year permit expiring in 2015, the SNI is proposing to take over operation and management of this facility. The connections of this issue to the ongoing battles over Mountaintop Removal coal mining, the closing of coal-fired power plants, and the increase in drilling for unconventional shale gas made for an interesting discussion and powerful networking.
The presence of Heartwood in the Pennsylvania region represents a tremendous boost to grassroots activism in the region. Organizational partnerships with local Sierra Club groups are a traditional mainstay of building local networks. The addition of local groups like the Mountain Watershed Association (MWA), new to the Heartwood network, add vitality to the Forest Watch model. The MWA gave a fantastic, two-part training in Citizen Monitoring of the fracking invasion, imparting necessary skills in identifying violations in the field, reporting procedures to the DEP, and in understanding our rights and limits under the law when it comes to taking photos and gathering information on public lands that have been permitted for gas drilling, as well as sites on private land.
Heartwood put its money where its mouth is by awarding two minigrants to Pennsylvania member groups. The Allegheny Defense Project received $800 for their Forest Watch program, and the newly formed, Pittsburgh-based 3Rivers Forest Watch received $500. This kind of direct support is only one of the many great things about being a part of the Heartwood network. Next year’s Forest Council will be held in Western Kentucky, near national forest lands known as the Land Between the Lakes.
Heartwood is a regional network that protects forests and supports community activism in the eastern United States through education, advocacy, and citizen empowerment.