Photo: Runoff from the logging operation swamps the big horseshoe switchback on Highway 136 East near Cloudland Canyon State Park.
Dear Dade County residents, Lookout Mountain community members, Cloudland Canyon State Park visitors, and citizens of this planet--
Yes, I am talking to you.
I am writing to you in regards specifically to the ongoing deforestation along the steep switchback highway GA-136, and generally because we must plan our progress, otherwise we ourselves will be hacked down by it, like the old growth and the critters and the heritage up on that hill.
Wendell Berry writes that “the earth is what we all have in common.” I believe that the inhabitants of this planet are entitled to basic rights including (but not limited to) wild places. I believe that undeveloped patches of earth should be, must be preserved, and I believe this, not only because the people near it and animals in it deserve for it to exist, but also because I believe it deserves to exist for its own sake. The mountain and trees still standing on it are far older than any of us. What possible justification can be argued in favor of their demise? What possible explanation can be offered to our children for the destruction of such a beautiful, necessary place? Because even if we successfully manage the erosion and replant the forest (if, in fact, it can be done), generations will pass through life without even knowing what it was we took from them, without knowing what it could have been if we had not.
Now, I recognize the value of freedom, the prerogative of a landowner who has paid his taxes to do with his property what he will. But it is absurd to behave as though what he does has no consequences for his neighbor; it is narrow-sighted to presume that the resources of the earth are not intimately interconnected; it is lunacy to insist that we have more pressing issues with which to concern ourselves than breathable air, drinkable water, and soil that is able to grow food.
The Dade County, Ga., tax assessor records indicate that the land being clearcut belongs to “Klatt Ernest A & Violet & Winchester Bill” and is valued at “$910,100,” however, the rather uncooperative timber company you’ve probably seen driving equipment heaped with our trees along our roads is reportedly refusing to confirm to our Commissioners who exactly has hired them. In an article written by Earnest A Klatt in tribute to his father, Earnest F Klatt, the author boasts that this “real estate empire covers seven states. It remains in a family trust consisting of three children, their spouses, and eleven grandchildren.” Seven states. We should all be concerned. Do you know who owns the wild, undeveloped places near your home? along your daily commute? next to your beloved state parks?
Descendants of the Klatt patriarch have the authority to not only continue deforesting this mountain, displace its wildlife, and pollute the watershed in and around it, but also to repeat the process elsewhere, perhaps in your backyard or a little upstream from your river.
That is, unless we act.
Instead we could speak up for ourselves, for the land, for the trees, for the creeks, for the caves, for our children. Instead, we could organize, petition, communicate, negotiate, legislate. Instead we could protect and preserve. Instead we could prioritize plant-filtered air and root-filtered water. Instead we could convince these property owners that for the good of us all, we could salvage and save patches of earth which are connected to all others. It is, after all, “what we all have in common.”
I implore each and every one of you: get involved. Attend your local town hall meetings, write letters to politicians, research where and how other areas are safeguarding their landbase, donate to land trusts and conservancies, plant trees.
Please spread the word about what is happening and about how it impacts us all. Thank you.
--Jennifer Blair, a fellow citizen
PS: If this particular logging operation affects you, your own land, your business, your community, you are not alone, and we are stronger together. Please be in touch. Please show up for the next Commissioner Meeting and the one after that… These gatherings take place at 6 p.m. the first Thursday evening of every month in the Dade Administrative Building. If you have a Facebook profile, please join our group Community Members Against Deforestation and help keep it active. https://www.facebook.com/groups/2298043080426103/
(Photos provided by Jennifer Blair)