Wild places sustain and define us; we, in turn, must protect them.
On April 27, the Kentucky Resources Council sent a letter on behalf of Kentucky Heartwood to the Daniel Boone National Forest demanding an immediate halt to ongoing logging from the Greenwood Vegetation Management Project on the Stearns Ranger District in McCreary and Pulaski Counties. The letter comes after a series of surveys by Kentucky Heartwood found that the Forest Service has sold an estimated 13,163 more trees to loggers than what the Forest Service analyzed, and ultimately approved in their 2017 decision.
Kentucky Heartwood also found that the Forest Service is violating mandatory Forest Plan Standards by marking trees for harvest in designated riparian buffer zones meant to protect streams. Riparian buffer violations were observed in tributaries that flow directly into Beaver Creek and Beaver Creek Wilderness, which provides habitat for the federally-threatened blackside dace (Phoxinus cumberlandensis).
See our report documenting our findings at the bottom of this post.
The violations found in the Greenwood project come shortly after Kentucky Heartwood documented Forest Plan violations and multiple large and ongoing landslides caused by logging in the Group One project in the Redbird District of the Daniel Boone National Forest in Clay and Leslie Counties. The Forest Service has been working to increase the “pace and scale” of logging across the Daniel Boone National Forest, with around 8,000 acres of new logging projects approved (or nearing approval) over the past several months. It appears that the Forest Service, in their efforts to sell more timber from the national forest, and sell it more quickly, is failing to monitor their own operations and are ignoring rules meant to limit environmental impacts.
The Greenwood project was developed between 2013 and 2017 after a series of public meetings, field trips, and public comment periods with 171 comment letters submitted to the agency in response to the proposal. The Forest Service ultimately approved 2,143 acres of commercial logging after several revisions. Most of Kentucky Heartwood’s surveys in the Greenwood project area focused on the Woodland Establishment management prescription, which affects 674 acres.
The Woodland Establishment prescription was designed to manage for mid-density, fire-adapted upland forests which were historically important in the area. However, after surveying 256 acres across 6 harvest units allocated to this prescription (including one site already cut), we found that the Forest Service was consistently cutting to about half the density of forest cover that was prescribed in the project. Another 36-acre stand prescribed for a Shelterwood Preperatory Cut was also examined and found to be marked more heavily that the prescription allowed, but not as severely as the Woodland Establishment harvest units.
This hyperlapse video shows one of the harvest units surveyed by Kentucky Heartwood. Blue paint means that the tree has been marked for harvest.
Kentucky Heartwood will continue in earnest until the U.S. Forest Service and Daniel Boone National Forest correct this timber grab and provide a full explanation of how and why it has happened.
Please consider supporting our work to defend the Daniel Boone National Forest. We are the only organization in the Kentucky, or anywhere, monitoring logging and other resource management on the Daniel Boone. We are a small organization with just one full-time and two part-time staff, and a very small budget.
Thank you for helping us help the forest you love.
Kentucky Heartwood has documented multiple ongoing landslides in the Redbird District of the Daniel Boone National forest caused by logging in the Group One project in Clay and Leslie Counties. To date, we’ve identified at least 6 landslides, including two that dumped sediment into streams and one that took out about 200 feet of mountainside. All of the landslides started at “full bench” skid trails that the Forest Service allowed to be bulldozed across the mountainsides for loggers to get at the timber. We also found that the Forest Service had allowed far more of the forest to be bulldozed and scraped clear than is permitted under the Forest Plan.
Prior to our bringing these landslides to their attention the Forest Service claimed that no landslides or other major erosion was happening as a result of their logging operations. Their position has been that Forest Plan Standards for the Daniel Boone National Forest, as well as Kentucky’s state forestry Best Management Practices, were effectively protecting forest soils and streams. They’re not.
In addition to erosion and landslides, infestations of non-native invasive plant species (NNIPs) is especially bad in the Group One project. We conducted surveys of one logging unit harvested in 2012 and documented 18 species of NNIPs. We sampled twenty-four 25 ft. by 5 ft. plots running perpendicular to skid trails and found that average cover of NNIPs was 39.8%. Thirty-eight percent of plots had more than 50% coverage of NNIPs. The Forest Service contends that all contract provisions for minimizing NNIP infestations were followed.
The Group One project was approved in 2008 after being withdrawn twice after challenges by Kentucky Heartwood. Over 1,000 acres of logging were ultimately approved for various "forest health" and "habitat improvement" purposes. The Forest Service is now nearing approval of over 3,000 more acres of logging in the nearby South Redbird project. The South Redbird project will allow the same types of logging on the same types of slopes and soils, but at a much larger scale - with individual logging tracts over 300 acres in size (10 times bigger than those in the Group One project). Up to 91 miles of full-bench skid roads could be bulldozed across the mountains. Most of the South Redbird logging will occur in watersheds that provide critical habitat for the federally-threatened Kentucky arrow darter (Etheostoma spilotum), and habitat for the federally-endangered Snuffbox mussel (Epioblasma triquetra).
In February, Kentucky Heartwood produced a video using drone footage showing logging at several sites in the Group One project. The video shows some of the landslides, along with the astounding amount of bulldozing that the Forest Service has allowed for removing timber. Shortly after we produced the video, we found an even larger landslide in a harvest unit on Ulysses Creek (unfortunately we did not have access to a drone at the time).
If you think this is valuable information, please consider supporting Kentucky Heartwood's work! We are a small organization anticipating significant shortfalls this year. Any bit helps.