PHILADELPHIA – There is potentially a very harmful outcome waiting to happen in a well-known hiking area and recreational retreat known as Tracy Ridge. Tracy Ridge is located just south of the New York/ Pennsylvania state border in the beautiful Allegheny National Forest (ANF).
According to Richard Hatfield, the ANF’s Bradford District ranger, “utilizing prescribed fire for oak regeneration and maintenance is a fairly standard tool.” However, the question that arises is will this cause more damage to the already fragile ecosystem and fight against the current climate crisis?
Chris Robinson (Philadelphia), of the GPPA Communication Team, pointed out that “the Green Party Platform says, ‘From oxygen production to water conservation to carbon sinks to stratospheric ozone regulation to medicines and homes for all kinds of creatures, forests are indispensable to human and animal life and must be protected.’ Therefore, the Green Party calls for actions to protect our forests, including “overhaul state and U.S. Forest Service rules to protect our forests and use them wisely’ and ‘restructure all federal and state land use policies so that our practices become environmentally sustainable.’”
The first, of potentially several burns at Tracy Ridge is scheduled to make its debut in spring of 2021. However, the details for said burn have not been made clear. Barbara Laxon (McKean County), a member of the GPPA Steering Committee, stated in a comment to the Forest Service, “so we are told that we will have a few burns every ‘few’ years. How many is ‘few’? And to continue for how long? [….] And who benefits from an increase in oak over other species? Not the public.”
“In my opinion, the ANF biodiversity which already exists would be destroyed, including the nests of our most protected national bird – the Bald Eagle,” said Noah Alter, a Green Party member from Westmoreland County. “Moreover,with the current climate crisis, the evergreen population found at Tracy Ridge is able to pull more CO2 from the air which helps to provide for a cleaner environment for our Commonwealth as well as surrounding states.These trees are pivotal in the fight against climate change. Oak trees, on the other hand, are only active in pulling out harmful chemicals from the air during the months when leaves are on the trees. Hence, the evergreen population is much more beneficial for the current and well-established biodiversity and contributes significantly more in the fight against climate change. I believe that the benefits of retaining the evergreens seriously outweighs the proposal of destroying an ecosystem with the hopes of replacing it with more deciduous trees which would not be nearly as beneficial.”
“While I understand that the prescribed burn is intended to help biodiversity, such a fire can also completely devastate the local ecosystem,” said Doug Mason, a leader of Centre County Green Party and Progressive Greens of Central PA. “This outcome can adversely impact the animals, insects, soil and water in the Tracy Ridge area. The stream water may even receive pollution from the smoke and ash. Without fish, there are fewer options for animals. This cycle continues until there is nothing left, the biome starts restoring itself, or everything leaves because the resources are so few. The Allegheny National Forest is already stressed by human pressure. Therefore, I say, ‘No,’ to the prescribed burn on Tracy Ridge.”
The Green Party of Pennsylvania (GPPA) is an independent political party that stands in opposition to the two corporate parties. GPPA candidates promote public policy based on the Green Party’s Four Pillars: grassroots democracy, nonviolence, ecological wisdom, and social justice/equal opportunity. For further information about GPPA, please visit www.gpofpa.org. Please follow GPPA on social media: Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/gpofpa/; Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/pagreenparty/; and Twitter, https://twitter.com/GreenPartyofPA.
“Platform,” Green Party of the U.S., III. Ecological Sustainability, L. Forestry Practices,
“Forest Service Proposes Fires in Part of Allegheny National Forest to Help Oaks Grow” by Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 13, 2020, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/environment/2020/10/13/oak-tree-regeneration-Allegheny-National-Forest-prescribed-burn-Forest-Service/stories/202010130144
“Tracy Ridge Oak Ecosystem Conservation,” Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, September 10, 2020,