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SIU professor's new documentary tells story of activists who fought to protect Shawnee National Forest

Courtesy of Cade Bursell
"Shawnee Showdown: Keep the Forest Standing," a documentary by Southern Illinois University professor Cade Bursell tells the story of protests aimed at stopping clear cutting, drilling and ATV use in the Shawnee National Forest in the 1980s and 1990s.

Maiden Alley Cinema in Paducah is premiering a new film highlighting the actions of activists who fought to stop logging operations at the Shawnee National forest in the late 1980s Thursday.

Cade Bursell, director of Shawnee Showdown - Keep the Forest Standing, hopes to inspire viewers with her new hour-long documentary.

“I want people to get involved. I want them to think about the forest they love,” Bursell said “And to get involved and start thinking about what’s happening to the forests.”

Bursell, a professor at Southern Illinois University School of Arts and Media, tells the story by using archival footage from the time plus photos and contemporary interviews from the activists who participated in the struggle – both in the courtroom and at the forest.

“There’s also a juxtaposition of the current state of the forest,” Bursell told WKMS. “So there’s a lot of footage of the beautiful Shawnee national forest, and the beautiful spaces there, but also what occurs after logging at this point.”

Bursell said that, while the film is a collage of different media from different time periods, it attempts to ask questions about public land and how climate change also relates to those issues.

The film follows the activists to their legal courtroom victory that led to the stop of logging operations for 17 years. That injunction has since been lifted which renews questions about how public land should be used and whether or not logging practices should continue in places like the Shawnee National Forest.

There will be an open Q&A held after the film screening which includes three panelists who were activists featured in the film in addition to Professor David Nickell from West Kentucky Community and Technical College who will help lead discussions about issues related to public lands closer to Paducah at Land Between the Lakes.

Bursell hopes the film and discussion panel will be a call to action for people to support and protect national forests.

Shawnee Showdown - Keep the Forest Standing will premiere Thursday at 7 p.m. at Maiden Alley Cinema in Paducah. Admission is free and open to the public. Masks will be required to be worn at all times during the event.

Zacharie Lamb is a music major at Murray State University and is a Graves County native.
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