Voices Crying out in the Wilderness.
“I have read many definitions of what is a conservationist, and written not a few myself, but I suspect that the best one is written not with a pen, but with an axe. It is a matter of what a man thinks about while chopping, or while deciding what to chop. A conservationist is one who is humbly aware that with each stroke he is writing his signature on the face of his land” (Leopold, 1949 p. 68)
About fifteen years ago, my extended family gathered in Elizabethtown, New York, in the eastern Adirondacks, for what had been entitled the Shirley Forests Labor Day Bash. For over half a century my grandfather and then my uncles and mother had owned and managed nearly five-thousand acres of forest land. The bash was a family reunion with cousins seeing one another for the first time in over twenty years, and spouses and second cousins meeting for the first time. At the same time, it was also a business meeting, as the younger generations were introduced to the family forest and discussions began about whether the business could be sustained for the next fifty years.
No definitive decisions emerged out of our weekend, but my immediate family volunteered to be trained to see whether we would be capable of taking over primary management control of the forest. As I began my training during the summer of 2008, it immediately became clear that there are a broad range of ethical dilemmas inherent in the management of the forest. Given the importance and complexity of these issues, it seemed appropriate to reflect on the major ethical questions of private forest land management and to see what resources exist within my family and my broader experiences to resolve these dilemmas.
I have title this piece “The Lorax and the Lomax” to identify the two key resources which I will be drawing upon. The Lorax is of course Dr. Seuss’ highly influential parable of environmental degradation. It will be used as a lens to explore the preservationist view of forest management. The Lomax refers to my grandfather, Hardy Lomax Shirley, who was the Dean of the SUNY Forestry College in Syracuse University and a United Nations Representative who helped to establish forestry education programs in developing countries, as well as the founder and first president of Shirley Forests.