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Forest Service Whistleblower Wins National Award

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Forest Service Whistleblower Wins National Award

Agency Suppresses Records

Washington, DC — The U.S. Forest Service whistleblower who revealed that his agency was suppressing records from its own archives in developing plans for managing Southern Appalachian forests is being honored this week by a national organization. The Wilderness Society is presenting Quentin Bass, an archaeologist with the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee, with its annual Olaus and Margaret Murie Award in recognition of his disclosing ecological records from nearly a century ago that contradict the intensive logging and burning proposed for five Southern Appalachian national forests.

The award is given annually to a person who has shown extraordinary dedication to protecting the nation’s natural heritage. Wilderness Society President William H. Meadows will present the award to Quentin Bass on Friday, September 19 during the organization’s annual meeting, held this year at Wildacres Retreat in Little Switzerland, North Carolina.

The Forest Service contends that five national forests in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, covering almost 3 million acres of public lands, need extensive logging and prescribed burns to be restored to a natural condition. Bass, after combing through the agency’s late-19th-century and early-20th-century archives, as well as other records, marshaled convincing evidence that historically, the Southern Appalachian forest were a relatively stable ecosystem, much less prone to the major events that open up huge areas of forest canopy, which the agency’s logging and prescribed burn management prescriptions are intended to mimic.

The Forest Service suppressed Bass’s research despite a legal obligation to use the best available information in drafting the management plans for the five national forests. In June, Bass filed a disclosure with the federal Office of Special Counsel charging the Forest Service with violations of law for failing to reflect this information in the plans. Bass is represented by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) in making this disclosure.

“Quentin Bass put himself on the line, using the findings of his research into the ecosystem’s history to publicly challenge his employer’s management plans,” said Meadows. “That is the kind of boldness and commitment to protecting our natural legacy that we need from public servants.”

The award is named for Olaus Murie, an acclaimed naturalist who was president of The Wilderness Society from 1945 to 1962, and his wife, Margaret, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998. Both spent years promoting legislation that would protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and many other wild places from development. Bass is the 17th winner of the Murie Award.

“It is a great honor to see my name even mentioned in the same sentence as the name Murie,” said Bass. “The Muries’ life-long devotion to the land makes you proud to be a member of the human species.”

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Read the disclosure of Quentin Bass

Learn more about the historic archives of the Southern Appalachian forests