This is from Indian Country Today media network.
In July, another Examiner article ran that claimed the Forest Service knocked down more than one hundred trees and blocked the primary trail without the permission of the Creek and Cherokee people.
Wettstaed was quick to debunk the accusation.
“We went to [the nations],” he said. “I’ve kept them appraised with everything that’s going on. … They’ve all endorsed what we’ve done.”
Judy Toppins, public affairs staff officer with the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest Service, said that in March not one hundred, but less than two-dozen trees were chopped down to obscure the user-created trail.
“The mitigation activity that we did for the unauthorized trail … included the taking of about 20 or so dead or damaged trees, non-merchantable timber,” she said. “There also was quite a bit of brush cut and pulled into that trail area. … Nothing was cut within the archeological zone.”
Lisa LaRue-Baker, acting tribal historic preservation officer with the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma, affirmed that Wettstaed has been in consistent contact with the nation in reference to the site and trail.
“We consult with the Forest Service in our historic area of interest on a regular basis,” she said. “[They] made us aware of [the chopping down of the trees] and we didn’t object to it.”
LaRue-Baker said a film crew had submitted an application with the Forest Service to film a documentary within Track Rock Gap. LaRue-Baker told Wettstaed that the nation was adamantly opposed to the idea to filming at their sacred site.
“Our initial response was that we didn’t wish to see the permit be approved because it’s an archeological site that we would like to remain pristine,” she said. “It’s a sacred site and we don’t want sacred sites commercialized and exploited.”
She added that the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians do not want the site “violated and forever altered for curious and recreational purposes.”
LaRue-Baker, who said she’s “baffled” by the “fabricated Mayan-Cherokee connection,” said her nation, in partnership with the Forest Service, are working on a plan to further protect the site.
“It’s the last stronghold we have on our homeland,” she said. “It’s very near and dear to us.”
The Examiner article said:
He added that Oklahoma Cherokees had informed the USFS that the stone terraces and building ruins at Track Rock Gap were the burial places of many great Cherokee warriors and therefore could not be photographed or filmed. The administrator was asked if opinions of officials at the Seminole Nation, the Muscogee-Creek Nation or the Miccosukee Tribe had been considered in the matter. The administrator didn’t answer the question. Shortly thereafter, it was confirmed that Creek officials had not been consulted by the USFS concerning Track Rock Gap.
My question is that if the Oklahoma Cherokees said “no” and other Nations said “yes” does that mean it would have been OK? I would think that one “no” would be sufficient.
Also, it seems like it would be easy enough to check 100 vs. 20 trees.
I suspect that there is a good news story that could be written about this controversy, that would explain both sides so we could understand their perspectives, and also go out and count the darn trees.
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