Silence is Golden

The Frankfort Station
Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Frankfort resident works to increase conservation awareness

By Lauren Traut

(Rebekah’s Award Winning Essay is at the bottom of this post)

Lincoln-Way East senior Rebekah Isack doesn’t think of green as a trend.

She wants to keep green around for a long time and has taken steps to help it happen. Despite her proximity to a big city, Frankfort resident Isack has learned to love land and wants to do what she can to keep acres pure.

Last summer, Isack traveled to Amistad National Recreation Area in Del Rio, Texas as a learning initiative through the Student Conservation Association.

She returned to her Frankfort home with a renewed sense of commitment to preserving “roadless areas,” or 58 million acres of land in the United States free of development, logging and mining.

Under the 2001 Roadless Conservation Rule, put in place by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the acreage was protected from logging, mining, or other destructive activities.

With each change in administration, though, comes the risk that the rule, which is markedly less firm than a law, could be erased, said Chris Lancette, communications director for the Wilderness Society, a national organization dedicated to preservation.

But if Isack has anything to say about, the rule will stay firmly in place.

In an editorial submitted to the Wilderness Society, Isack penned her personal position on the rule. She eloquently expressed her inherent sense of connection to the wilderness and her fervor to keep it alive. Click here to read Rebekah Isack’s award-winning essay!

“I was just blown away that a young person living in a big city had such an amazing passion for protecting the environment,” Lancette said.

Lancette doesn’t often see such a strong commitment for conservation in someone living in an urban setting; sometimes it’s hard to appreciate and fight for something a person can’t experience firsthand.

Isack’s time with the Student Conservation Association left her wanting to contribute more. She agreed to become an ambassador for the program on her return to Illinois. The SCA asked her to write a piece to help spark politicians’ interest in keeping the roadless rule alive.

The Wilderness Society is hoping to attain backing from President Obama. In the meantime, Isack scripted a need for an interim directive that would prohibit people at the ground level of an activity like mining or logging to allow activity to take place.

Without a “time out” or an interim directive, Lancette said smaller entities can act against the rule on their own.

“I cannot imagine living in a world entirely and utterly bound by the confines of concrete, buildings, and inescapable traffic jams,” Isack wrote. “Without federal protection, the destruction of these forests for the profit of logging industries is not only anticipated but also inevitable. Decisions to eliminate the Roadless Rule’s protection over national forests morally debase the ideals of a supposedly ‘green-thinking’ America while ignoring the expertise of scientists and the concerned voices of the American people.”

Lancette was moved by her reflections and passion.

“I was also just struck by what an exceptional writer she was,” he said. “When a student does something like this, we just think people need to know about it.”

Isack will take another journey with the SCA this summer, to Voyageurs National Park in International Falls, Minn.

“My most significant moments of great emotional growth typically occur in nature,” Isack wrote. “I used to think of it as a curious coincidence, but then I experienced a moment so profound that it convinced me wholeheartedly that my fate and that of nature are permanently intertwined.

“Used to a life near the bustling city of Chicago filled with school, practices, electronics, and ultimately noise, I was not accustomed to appreciating silence. Rather, the most common silence in my life was either that of sleep or the awkward kind of silence emanating from two strangers riding in the same elevator. The silence I experienced at the top of Emory Peak was neither of those and it caught me off guard. Life is funny like that; sometimes it takes a profound silence for someone to finally be able to hear.

“That is what the wilderness is to me; it is the “silence” that lets me put the rest of my life into perspective.”

Copyright 2009 Frankfort Station

… . .


Rebekah’s Award Winning Essay

Why did we ever stop listening to the “Once-Ler”?

By Rebekah Isack

You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.

And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.

Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care.

Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.

Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.

Then the Lorax

And all of his friends

May come back.”

—Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

My most significant moments of great emotional growth typically occur in nature. I used to think of it as a curious coincidence, but then I experienced a moment so profound that it convinced me wholeheartedly that my fate and that of nature are permanently intertwined.

I was standing at the peak of the highest mountain in Big Bend National Park in Texas. In that moment, despite the fact that I was surrounded by the other volunteers from my Student Conservation Association crew, I experienced a most intense, moving silence that allowed me to truly hear and experience everything around me.

Used to a life near the bustling city of Chicago filled with school, practices, electronics, and ultimately noise, I was not accustomed to appreciating silence. Rather, the most common silence in my life was either that of sleep or the awkward kind of silence emanating from two strangers riding in the same elevator. The silence I experienced at the top of Emory Peak was neither of those and it caught me off guard. Life is funny like that; sometimes it takes a profound silence for someone to finally be able to hear.

That is what the wilderness is to me; it is the “silence” that lets me put the rest of my life into perspective. Fortunately, Chicago’s own President Barack Obama has a tremendous opportunity to protect some 58 million acres of land that give me and people across the country a chance to experience such moments. Called “roadless forests,” these areas are largely free of destruction from development and mining but are not lands classified with a greater degree of protection.

President George Bush has spent the previous eight years trying to run bulldozers over the silence of these forests and obtained what I hope is just a temporary victory in the federal court system - getting a judge in San Francisco to remove protection for an estimated 13.6 million acres of roadless national forests in 29 states including Illinois. For us, that’s 11,000 acres of our state’s heritage that could be destroyed. The good news, though, is that the Obama administration is considering an idea that would protect our forests until a longer-term solution can be found: The U.S. Department of Agriculture is examining the possibility of issuing an interim directive that would require the Secretary of Agriculture to approve any forest-destroying projects on roadless lands such as logging and mining that the Forest Service proposes that would be inconsistent with the intent of the “Roadless Rule”. More than 100 U.S. representatives and 25 senators have endorsed the idea in a letter they sent to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak on March 18.

The Roadless Area Conservation Rule was created by the Clinton Administration more than eight years ago, declaring approximately one-third of national forests safe from new roads, logging, and development. These are forests that provide opportunities for the kinds of quiet reflection I crave. They also protect our sources of drinking water, provide habitat for wildlife and provide a defense against global warming.

Roadless forests exist in contrast to the cities and development of the United States. I cannot imagine living in a world entirely and utterly bound by the confines of concrete, buildings, and inescapable traffic jams.

It’s time to end the assault on these forests. Without federal protection, the destruction of these forests for the profit of logging industries is not only anticipated but also inevitable. Decisions to eliminate the Roadless Rule’s protection over national forests morally debase the ideals of a supposedly “green-thinking” America while ignoring the expertise of scientists and the concerned voices of the American people.

I know President Obama must continue to focus much of his energies on boosting our economy. I hope, however, that part of the change he brings involves making his voice heard on how important it is to argue for the safety of our national forests, and to actively appreciate and enjoy our undeveloped lands.

We are the current guardians of the “Truffula Trees” as the oh-so-wise Once-ler once said. Maybe, in the perfect silence of a protected national forest, the “Lorax and all of his friends may come back”.

Rebekah Isack is a Frankfort resident who is a senior at Lincoln-Way East Community High School. She is also an alumna of the Student Conservation Association.