I felt a little sick when I heard that dead trees along the Joyce Kilmer Forest trails would be “cut down.” But after visiting the forest last month, I believe the Forest Service did the right thing — both in what they did and how they did it.
The point of preservation of the virgin forest is for people to see it, not seal it up in a capsule — thus the inclusion of minimum-impact trails and the prohibition of motorized vehicles and equipment within the forest, including no chainsaws.
Only dead or dying hemlocks along the trails were “blown up,” meaning that a small charge was placed in each tree trunk at a place to cause the decaying trunk to fall in a direction resulting in the least impact upon its surroundings. The trees were then left lying as if wind-blown, not removed, where they will replenish the forest floor.
The Forest Service clearly showed great skill in setting the charges, and I saw little evidence that falling trees had damaged their living neighbors.
The impact of any human action or non-action on the forest is not black and white. A totally anti-anthropocentric stance would decree that no trails should exist in the forest and that no human should ever set foot in it — but then that would defeat the ultimate purpose of its preservation, wouldn’t it?
— Betty Cloer Wallace