White’s Woods is a public good: It is available to everyone in the community, with no fees charged for use. The value of this public good is not measured by revenue streams or attendance data, much less board feet. We measure its value by its proximity to Indiana, its relatively undisturbed nature and the ecosystem services it provides.
These statements may ring philosophical, but they are based on White’s Woods legal status, for White Township purchased the land with help from the commonwealth under Project 70, a piece of legislation mandating that the land be used for conservation, recreation and historical preservation.
We might also measure the value of this public good by its living potential, one realized in recent weeks as more local residents have safely escaped their confinement by frequenting the woods.
A public good does not belong to public officials, and when their “forest management plan” (see Millstone Land Management’s document titled “White’s Woods Timber Valuation”) calls for removing “about half of said volume” of the timber from White’s Woods, it is clear that those more mindful of the park’s history and status must be allowed to weigh in. Only a forester familiar with park management practices and Project 70 rules should determine which specific trees need to be removed to promote the long-term health of the forest.
I urge residents to walk the woods and see for yourselves the surprising number of mature trees that have been marked for removal in only a 50-acre tract — plans call for timbering in seven designated tracts.
Is it coincidental that the township supervisors have opposed virtual or in-person public hearings on this issue? Or are they recalling the results of surveys conducted in both 1995 and 2007, both of which yielded a two-thirds majority of respondents who were opposed to timbering? Injecting a little democracy into the process of managing White’s Woods will, of course, be dangerous for them.