Chesterton Tribune

Guest Commentary: NPS plan for Cowles Bog would destroy thousands of trees open natural area to industrial viewscape

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Guest Commentary

By RICHARD HAWKSWORTH

I am writing in response to your article, dated 4/12/12, regarding the restoration of Cowles Bog Wetland Complex.

While I support the NPS's ongoing efforts to restore the Cowles Bog wetland, this particular aspect, which entails clear-cutting 25 acres of mature woodland, is misguided and unnecessarily destructive of the environment. It will have dire consequences for the local region and will most certainly diminish the enjoyment of this rich natural resource for the vast majority of park visitors. One need only visit the site to understand the tragic magnitude of the proposed project. More than 3,000 trees will be needlessly eliminated. In turn, this will expose the wetland's flora and fauna to marked increases in environmental pollution and obliterate the natural panorama which currently exists.

Disturbingly, none of this is apparent from reading the NPS environmental assessment or press releases. Their publicity campaign emphasizes only the project’s positive characteristics while obscuring or dismissing unfavorable aspects of it. In so doing, the NPS has intentionally misled the public in order to quell the inevitable opposition to such heavy-handed deforestation.

Case in point, in your 4/12 article, NPS concedes, “some trees will be removed” but “these are generally small in size...” This is patently false. According to NPS documents more than 3,400 trees will be removed. This represents 97% of the trees on the site. And these are not "invasive species" as suggested by the NPS. The vast majority—maple, oak, blackgum, sassafras—are indigenous to the region.

This woodland provides a critical natural buffer between the wetlands and the industrial encroachment to the south. Destroying it will not “provide a view-shed reflective of that experienced by Henry Cowles...” as NPS has boasted. It will open all of Cowles Bog to the rail yards, high tension wires, semi-truck traffic and steel mills that define much of the neighboring area. What good can come from such destruction? NPS documents tell us: “Although the action alternatives may improve visitor use and experience, the increase would not be considered appreciable.”

When the IDNLS was created in 1966, the NPS was legislatively bound to “preserve in its present state...” that which had been entrusted to their care by the American people. It does not have the authority to customize the landscape to their whims. This is just one more example of a park administration that is dangerously out of touch with the concerns of local residents.

Posted 5/10/2012