PEER first encountered Quentin Bass, an archaeologist with the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee, in 2003. He had uncovered Forest Service historical records showing from a century ago that the Southern Appalachian forests were once dominated by tall, old trees, some 300 years old or more, indicating a relatively stable ecosystem.
This information counters the Forest Service’s long-standing assertion that the forests require large-scale logging and prescribed burns to mimic natural conditions that generate an “early successional” forest. That meant increased logging and burning on almost 3 million acres of public land in Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, Alabama and South Carolina. In other words, they were treating these Eastern forests like Western forests, practicing a one-size-fits-all brand of forestry.
Quentin enlisted PEER to blow the whistle on the agency illegally ignoring its own ecological records to create a fictional “natural condition.”
His standing up earned him a national award.
Then in 2016, Quentin contacted PEER again to reveal that the U.S. Forest Service had illegally torn up a section of the Trail of Tears Historic Trail. Despite sending a private apology to tribes who regard the land as sacred, the agency had not held any officials to account. Nor was it publicly known that the USFS had dredged a series of 35 impoundment dykes and tank traps across a nearly mile long stretch of the Trail of Tears. Nor had the Forest Service yet to repair the damage or take any steps to prevent its recurrence.
PEER blew the whistle on the illegal destruction and coverup. As a result, the Forest Service issued a public apology, and began plans to repair the damage and develop a lessons learned analysis.