Wild places sustain and define us; we, in turn, must protect them.
Forest Service and Trump Administration Propose Eliminating Public Disclosure, Input, and Environmental Review: Comments Urgently Needed by August 12, 2019!
The United States Forest Service and Trump administration have put forward a dangerous new proposal to end longstanding requirements that the Forest Service notify the public, allow for public comment, and analyze environmental impacts when approving logging, road building, pipeline construction, and other activities on 193 million acres of national forest lands across the country, including the Daniel Boone National Forest and Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in Kentucky. Comments on the proposal are due by August 12, 2019. Directions on how to comment are at the end of this post.
What are they doing?
The proposed rule would amend the agency’s procedures for implementing the National Environmental Policy Act, commonly known as “NEPA.” The proposed changes fundamentally undermine NEPA’s bedrock principles of government transparency, accountability, public participation, and science-based decision-making.
In more technical terms, the Forest Service’s proposal would allow most land management activities to take place under a “Categorical Exclusion” or “CE,” whereby the Forest Service can approve projects without first conducting an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Traditionally, CEs have been used for minor, non-controversial activities like removing hazard trees from campgrounds and roadsides. The proposal also does away with requirements that the Forest Service notify the public and allow for public comment on projects before a decision is made, whether carried out under a CE or with a full Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement.
The types of projects that the Forest Service wants to apply Categorical Exclusions to include:
In effect, every single logging project, and nearly all utility and road building projects on the Daniel Boone National Forest and at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area could be proposed in secret, with no environmental review and no public input. Adding to the audacity and absurdity of the Forest Service’s proposal, the 4,200 acre logging exemption was created by averaging project sizes from across the country, with the 170,000 acre Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area treated the same as the 17,000,000 acre Tongass National Forest in Alaska.
And these aren’t the only destructive provisions in the proposal.
Why are they doing this?
According to the Forest service, this radical proposal is about “increase(ing) the pace and scale of work accomplished on the ground.” But the bottom line is that it’s about cutting more timber, building more roads, and allowing more pipelines and utility development without the hassle of public participation, oversight, or environmental analysis.
But NEPA isn’t the problem. The main reason that the Forest Service has trouble getting work done – whether it’s maintaining campsites and trails or selling timber – is that they are severely underfunded by Congress and woefully under-staffed which shockingly high turnover. Over the last 10 years, the Daniel Boone National Forest has had four Forest Supervisors and eleven District Rangers in charge of the four Ranger Districts. Forestry and wildlife personnel – the people that actually plan most land management projects – are often temporary fixtures, coming and going from other national forests and agencies from all over the country. It’s become rare to have consistent Forest Service personnel throughout the development of even a single project on the Daniel Boone National Forest.
Why does this matter?
Public lands belong to the public, and the Forest Service can make some really bad decisions. Whether you care about hiking trails or rare plants, old-growth or clear streams, your voice matters. Without the currently mandated system of public participation and environmental analysis we never would have identified and saved the forest above Climax Spring and old-growth in Little Egypt from logging in the Crooked Creek project, or stopped thousands of acres of deeply unpopular logging in Land Between the Lakes in the Pisgah Bay project, or saved old-growth “Core Areas” in Land Between the Lakes from getting logged in the Birmingham Ferry Salvage project, gotten hundreds of acres of logging dropped in the Greenwood project (saving the trailhead to the Beaver Creek Wilderness and Three Forks of Beaver Creek Overlook), stopped road building in the Beaver Creek project near Cave Run Lake, or identified old-growth that the Forest Service wants to log in the South Redbird project…the list goes on.
What can you do?
Send in your comments!
The Forest Service is accepting comments on their proposal through August 12th, 2019. Although you can submit comments directly through the Forest Service’s website here, we recommend using the web portal set up by our friends at the Southern Environmental Law Center at OurForestsOurVoice.org. This web portal will assist you in submitting unique comments, and help us track the number of comments getting submitted. There have been indications that the federal government has been “losing” comments submitted through federal portals and we want to make sure your voice is heard.
Spread the word!
We need help getting the word out. Our social media feeds and inboxes are all packed these days, and we’re not seeing much about this from many of the big national organizations that have a big reach. By helping to amplify this message you can make a real difference.
Call your members of Congress!
While this proposal is coming from the Trump administration and U.S. Forest Service, make sure your members of Congress know that you strongly oppose the Forest Service taking away public participation and oversight of national forest management. Public opposition has stopped similar proposals in the U.S. House and Senate in recent years.
For more details and a great explainer on why this matters so much, head on over to our friends at Tennessee Heartwood. They’ve done a fantastic job going deep on why NEPA and public participation are critical for protecting our public lands.
You can also read these articles from The Hill and NPR.
Official documents for the Forest Service's proposal can be found on the Forest Service website here.
And if you find this useful, please consider supporting our work by donating or joining Kentucky Heartwood here.
Please note that commenting on this blog post does not send your comment to the Forest Service.
To comment, we recommend using the web portal set up by our friends at the Southern Environmental Law Center at OurForestsOurVoice.org.
This web portal will assist you in submitting unique comments, and help us track the number of comments getting submitted. There have been indications that the federal government has been “losing” comments submitted through federal portals and we want to make sure your voice is heard.
The Forest Service has released their formal proposal (scoping document) for the “Improving Conditions in the Blackwater Watershed” project, which would approve thousands of acres of logging on the east side of Cave Run Lake.
Comments on the Blackwater project are due by Friday, June 21st, 2019. Directions for commenting are at the end of this alert (comments made on this blog post do not go to the Forest Service).
Despite having held a series of public meetings and conversations during the development of the project, the Forest Service has failed to provide critical information in the proposal - including the actual locations of where they would sell timber. Instead, the agency has provided maps that show nearly 12,000 acres of areas where logging could happen over the next 10 to 30 years if they approve the project.
A breakdown of the confusing information provided in the proposal indicates that the Forest Service plans to log nearly to 1,200 acres per decade under this proposal, with an open-ended timeframe. The actual locations of logging areas won’t be determined or disclosed until after the environmental analysis and final decision approving the project – and well after the public has any meaningful opportunity to provide input or challenge the project. This is a radical change from decades of management and planning on the Daniel Boone National Forest, and follows an alarming trend happening on other national forests.
What we do know is that most of the logging would be in the form even-aged shelterwood cuts, where about 85% of the canopy is cut across units (stands) of 20 to 40 acres. A small amount of the shelterwood cutting (less than 5%) would take place to restore ecologically important limestone and cedar glades. Depending on the specific locations and practices used, some timber harvest to restore these glades could be beneficial.
The Forest Service has also proposed a small amount of uneven-aged management through group selection. However, what the Forest Service is calling “uneven-aged” management would consist of 1 to 2 acre clearcuts, rather than more selective, finer-scale silvicultural approaches that could support the development of true, multi-age forest structure.
The project would also allow for a variety of activities meant to improve streams across the project area, which we support. Stream restoration and improvement work could include reshaping stream channels, adding coarse woody debris, and planting native vegetation, as well as road work replacing culverts, hardening stream crossings, and relocating roads. The proposal also includes upgrading and seasonally opening certain roads in the project area to increase recreational access.
A summary of our main concerns:
What we do support:
We’ll post our full comments on our website once we get them submitted.
The official proposal, maps, and other project files can be viewed here.
Comments are due by Friday, June 21st, 2019
Make sure to include the full project title "Improving conditions in the Blackwater Watershed" with your comments.
Documents for the project can be found on the Forest Service’s website here.
Comments can be submitted in the following ways:
The Daniel Boone National Forest Service website has a comment form on their website here.
They have also a reading room, where you can read comments that have been submitted by the public.
Comments can also be sent by postal mail to:
Cumberland Ranger District, DBNF
2375 KY 801 South
Morehead, KY 40351
And if you find this information helpful, please consider supporting Kentucky Heartwood so that we can continue to help connect you with what's going on with your public lands. Join or donate here.
The Forest Service has granted an extension for submitting comments on the proposed Forest Plan Amendment. The new deadline is Monday, April 15th at midnight. Several important documents and reports that are incorporated by reference in to the Draft Environmental Assessment had not been made available to the public until recently after requests were made. The extension was granted by Supervisor Olsen to allow the public more time to send comments now that those documents are available on the Daniel Boone National Forest website.
Get more information, links to official documents, and directions for submitting comments on our website here.
Forest Service proposes to weaken protections for endangered bats to increase logging on Daniel Boone National Forest. Comments due by April 8th.
The U.S. Forest Service is proposing to reduce protections for endangered bats in an effort to increase logging on the Daniel Boone National Forest. Comments on the Draft Environmental Assessment (Draft EA) are due by Monday, April 8th. A public meeting is being held by the Forest Service in Berea on Tuesday, March 26th at 4:30 pm. Directions on how to submit comments are at the end of this alert.
The Forest Service is proposing to amend the management plan (Forest Plan) for the Daniel Boone National Forest. The proposed amendments would weaken protections for federally-endangered Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis) and federally-threatened northern long-eared bats (Myotis septentrionalis). The Forest Plan currently includes binding standards that restrict logging in some areas during certain times of the year to reduce risk of harming endangered bats. These restrictions are particularly important in protecting maternity colonies during the especially vulnerable period when young are nonvolant (cannot fly). The restrictions have also contributed to the Forest Service’s inability to log much more than about 1,000 acres per year on the Daniel Boone since the Forest Plan was adopted in 2004. But they want that to change.
The agency, however, is not being honest about why these changes are being proposed. In the Draft Environmental Assessment, the Forest Service states that lifting logging restrictions is needed to shift logging to drier parts of the year, and therefore better limit sedimentation in streams which could impact aquatic species listed under the Endangered Species Act. These species include the Kentucky arrow darter, Cumberland darter, blackside dace, and a wide range of threatened and endangered mussels. That sounds reasonable, until you dig deeper.
In the environmental analysis for each and every timber sale on the Daniel Boone National Forest, the Forest Service states emphatically that the amount of sediment reaching streams from their timber operations is minimal, and will not impact threatened and endangered aquatic species and their habitats. Every. Single. Project. If the Forest Service needs to reduce protections for endangered bats to protect vulnerable aquatic species from logging, does that mean that their logging projects are, in fact, degrading aquatic habitats? If so, will the Forest Service commit to cancelling all active timber sales until the projects can be revised to adequately protect aquatic species? It’s doubtful. But the agency can’t have it both ways.
So what’s this really about?
The need to increase the “pace and scale” of “restoration” (read: logging) has become an ongoing narrative across the U.S. National Forest system. In recent years, we’ve had to respond to a non-stop barrage of legal and regulatory attempts to roll back public participation and environmental protections on our public lands. From the “Resilient Federal Forests Act” to the Forest Service’s proposed revisions of its NEPA procedures to President Trump’s recent Executive Order on national forests, it’s all about getting more logs out of the forest, and faster.
Nowhere in the Draft EA does the Forest Service actually say that they intend to increase the amount of the forest getting cut. But it’s clear that increasing logging is the reason behind this proposal. The Draft EA states only that “The Proposed action will not increase vegetation management volume extracted identified in the 2004 Forest Plan.” What’s left out is that meeting the established Forest Plan timber harvest goals – which were widely opposed during the Forest Plan revision process – would mean nearly tripling of the amount of timber cut on the Daniel Boone National Forest.
Periodically revising management plans based on updated science and evolving conservation strategies can be a responsible thing to do. Amending the Forest Plan with respect to endangered bats or other at-risk species is not necessarily bad. But even the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been critical of the proposal, stating in their early comments that “If the action is carried out as proposed, an increase in adverse effects on federally-listed species is anticipated.” This proposed Plan Amendment is not coming out of concern for protecting endangered bats, or protecting our most imperiled aquatic species. It’s coming from a desire to see more timber cut on more acres, and we think that’s a problem. If you share these concerns, please submit a comment to the Forest Service letting them know.
A public meeting hosted by the Forest Service is scheduled for Tuesday, March 26th from 4:30-6:30 pm at the Boone Tavern Event Center, 100 Main Street, Berea, KY 40404.
Comments need to be submitted to the Forest Service by Monday, April 8th, 2019.
Email comments to: email@example.com
Be sure to include “Plan Amendment” in the subject line of your email.
Comments can also be sent via postal mail to:
1700 Bypass Road
Winchester, Kentucky 40391
Documents for the project can be found on the Forest Service’s website here.
The Daniel Boone National Forest Service website has a comment form on their website here. They have also a reading room, where you can read comments that have been submitted by the public.
Note: Make sure when you copy/paste that there is no space or period at the end of the email address. If you have any issues sending your comment in, please let us know. Feel free to copy firstname.lastname@example.org on your comment email. Also, you should receive a confirmation reply from the Forest Service letting you know your message was received. Sometimes it takes a few hours to receive the notice. If you do not receive a confirmation email, that means they did not get your message.
And if you find this information helpful, please consider supporting Kentucky Heartwood so that we can continue to help connect you with what's going on with your public lands. Join or donate here.
Sen. Rand Paul introduces legislation to sell off Daniel Boone National Forest land. Calls urgently needed!
UPDATE #2: The Senate voted 92-8 in favor of S. 47 without Sen. Rand Paul's amendments. Thank you to everyone who took time to call our legislators in support of our Daniel Boone National Forest.
UPDATE #1: T he Senate will be addressing the Paul amendment, along with other amendments, TODAY (Feb. 12) at 4:30 pm and then move to a roll call vote on final passage. Keep those calls coming!
U.S. Senator Rand Paul has introduced two amendments to the Senate Natural Resources Management Act (S.47) that could devastate the southern half of the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky. Calls to legislators are urgently needed.
One of Senator Paul’s amendments (S.Amdt.141) would require the U.S. Forest Service to sell an undisclosed acreage of the Daniel Boone National Forest in McCreary and Pulaski Counties. The language directs the Secretary of Agriculture (currently Trump appointee Sonny Purdue) to sell national forest land “along” U.S. 27 from Burnside to the Tennessee border, liquidating a highly biodiverse section of Kentucky’s national forest lands. The bill leaves the acreage and locations solely to the discretion of the Secretary of Agriculture, with no limitations or public input. The sale could be anywhere from 1 acre to 150,000 acres, and could potentially affect Beaver Creek Wilderness, the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail, Barren Fork, and habitat for a large number of state and federally listed endangered species.
While this particular region includes a great deal of public land, there is ample private land in the Burnside, Pine Knot, and Stearns/Whitley City areas – and in between – that are open and situated for development. In fact, less than a third of the section of U.S. 27 identified for land sales passes through or abuts national forest land (see map at the end of this post). And there are plenty of locations with closed businesses and deteriorating structures in the area that are in need of redevelopment.
The other amendment introduced by Senator Paul (S.Amdt.140) would compel the Forest Service to allow the development of roads and utility right of ways through nearly the entire southern half of the Daniel Boone National Forest to reach “the waterways feeding into Lake Cumberland through the Daniel Boone National Forest in Rockcastle County, Pulaski County, Laurel County, Wayne County, McCreary County, and Whitley County, Kentucky, for the purpose of installing docks, boat slips, and marinas.” This covers the entire watersheds of the Rockcastle, Cumberland, and Big South Fork rivers. These waterways, and the forests that surround them, provide habitat for a wide range of federally and state endangered species and include some of the most cherished and popular recreational areas in the forest.
There are already several shuttered docks and marinas on Lake Cumberland, private areas with existing access, and current business owners struggling to sustain and grow their operations. To the extent that roads or other access are needed to reach any specific locations, the Forest Service can already allow access after following the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, and other laws and regulations - including allowing for public input into the process. Senator Paul’s amendment would take away authority and discretion from the U.S. Forest Service and completely cuts out public input.
National forest land is not an impediment to economic development in the southern part of the Daniel Boone, however Senator Paul chooses to spin the issue. Our public land is an asset. Whether Senator Paul is trying to curry favors with donors, or just exercise his ideological opposition the very idea of public lands, it doesn’t matter. He’s wrong, and this awful sell-off of our Daniel Boone National Forest needs to be vigorously opposed.
Calls to legislators are urgently needed.
In addition to Senators Paul and McConnell, please take the time to call other members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and ask them to oppose Senator Paul’s Amendments 140 and 141 to Senate Bill 47, the Natural Resources Management Act. Let them know that Rand Paul is not representing the interests of the majority of Kentuckians.
Recommended legislators to call:
You can see the full list for the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee here.
Thursday, January 24, from 6:30 to 8:00 pm at 2nd & Main in Corbin, 115 S. Main St.
Come learn about the proposed logging of up to 4,000 acres of public land in Laurel, Pulaski, and Rockcastle Counties. Presentation and forum to take place in Corbin to discuss the Forest Service’s proposed Pine Creek Forest Restoration Project on the Daniel Boone National Forest. The Pine Creek project proposes up to of 4,000 acres of commercial logging in addition to prescribed fire, pine plantings, non-commercial thinning of forests that were clearcut in the 1980s and 1990s, and other management activities.
This complicated project has the potential to benefit some parts of forest by implementing well-thought-out restoration efforts, while degrading other areas through heavy-handed and unneeded logging operations. The Pine Creek project was originally proposed in March, 2018. The release of the Environmental Assessment for the project, and an associated public comment period, are expected in early 2019.
This part of the London Ranger District of the Daniel Boone National Forest, which follows the Rockcastle River from just south of I-75 to its confluence with the Cumberland River, provides for a wide range of recreational uses and has become increasingly popular in recent years. Decisions and commitments made by the U.S. Forest Service as part of the Pine Creek project will set the management direction for this section of the Daniel Boone National Forest for many years. Public input is important.
The presentation and forum will take place on the evening of Thursday, January 24 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm at 2nd & Main in Corbin, located at 115 South Main Street.
This event is free and open to the public.
Click here for more information about the Pine Creek project, including maps and links to Forest Service documents.
For more information email email@example.com, or call (859) 334-0602.
Click here to view and share this event on Facebook.
On December 21st, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order directing the U.S. Forest Service to expedite logging on our national forests, and to increase the volume of timber harvested to 3.8 billion board feet – a 31% increase over 2017 harvest levels. While the order appears, on its surface, to be a response to recent wildfires in California, it goes well beyond that and could have implications for our national forest lands nationwide, including here in Kentucky.
Unsurprisingly, the order doesn’t acknowledge the influence of climate change in the severity of recent wildfires in the western U.S., nor does it address costly issues stemming from growing development in fire-prone areas. Most importantly, however, the order fails to provide funding or other meaningful support for non-commercial thinning and restoration work that can, in the right places, help to restore lands degraded from past logging. Instead, the President has directed the agency to quickly increase the volume of timber cut and sold from our public lands.
In Kentucky, we may see this filter through to the Daniel Boone National Forest, and potentially Land Between the Lakes, in the form pressure on local agency staff to approve more and larger timber sales - and to do so with expedited environmental reviews and abbreviated opportunities for public input. We suspect that this is already happening internally, but the Executive Order provides another formal mechanism to satisfy logging interests. At this time on the Daniel Boone National Forest there are roughly 8,000 acres of proposed logging in various stages of analysis, with Environmental Assessments for both the Pine Creek and South Redbird projects, and Scoping for the Blackwater project, expected in early 2019.
The Executive Order dovetails into the Forest Service’s ongoing Environmental Analysis and Decision Making (EADM) process that will include a revision of its regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Among the anticipated regulatory changes through the EADM will be to preemptively label most logging projects as non-significant actions that are exempt from most environmental analysis and public input, under what’s called a Categorical Exclusion (CE). The new Executive Order calls for the Forest Service to use “all applicable categorical exclusions set forth in law or regulation for fire management, restoration, and other management projects.”
Notably, sweeping legislative changes that would have allowed most large timber projects to be exempted from review under a CE recently failed passage through the 2018 Farm Bill. Provisions that would have allowed logging projects up to 6,000 acres under a CE had passed the House version of the Farm Bill, but not the Senate, and were ultimately rejected in the Farm Bill conference report. Nearly identical language passed the House in 2017 as part of the Resilient Federal Forests Act, but was never introduced in the Senate.
This week, Congress finally passed the 2018 Farm Bill. As our followers know, the version of the bill initially passed by the House of Representatives included several provisions that would have had devastating effects on our public lands. Among the legislative rollbacks was language that would allow logging on up to 6,000 acres at a time with essentially no environmental review and little opportunity for public input or recourse. Contrary to much of the news coverage that described the language as being to expedite “forest thinning” projects to address wildfire concerns, the actual language would have allowed nearly any type of logging, including clearcutting, for nearly any purpose.
We are very glad to say that the final version of the 2018 Farm Bill, passed by the House and Senate this week, did not include any of the House bill’s provisions that would have weakened the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, or other bedrock environmental laws. And the Farm Bill included passage of the Tennessee Wilderness Act, which protects an additional 20,000 acres of the Cherokee National Forest as federally-designated Wilderness. The bill did not include new Wilderness designations in Virginia that had previously passed the Senate.
Many thanks are owed to Congressman Jim Comer (R) of the 1st Congressional District in western Kentucky. Representative Comer was assigned to the conference committee established to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill. In that role, Mr. Comer was one of the only Republicans to oppose the regressive public lands provisions promoted by his House colleagues. His opposition came from his commitment to ensuring that Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area is protected from exploitation, and that the unique history of the land between the rivers is respected.
And thanks also to every one of you who took the time to call Congressman Comer asking him to oppose these rollbacks in public lands protections. You made a difference.
Please take a moment today to call Congressman Comer’s office at (202) 225-3115 to thank him for standing up for Land Between the Lakes and all of our public, national forest lands.
And if you think this work is valuable, please support Kentucky Heartwood today! Click here to join or make an extra contribution. Every little bit helps!
This is a cross-post from www.hopeforhemlocksky.org by Kentucky Heartwood's hemlock program coordinator, Austin Williams. You can visit that site to learn more about the decline of Eastern hemlock in Kentucky and how you can help, including information on treating hemlocks on your land.
The functional extinction crisis of the Eastern hemlock, Tsuga canadensis, is ongoing.
We’re doing all the right things, more or less. At our most recent (indoor) meeting with the Forest Service and Kentucky Division of Forestry we found out that Kentucky’s imidacloprid (the insecticide effective against hemlock woolly adelgid) treatment program is one of the most, if not the most, robust in the nation. More trees treated, more trees saved, than similar programs in New York or Vermont. That’s good, even if it gives me the feeling that we’ve sailed gracefully over a rather modest hurdle. Regardless, treatment has begun for the Winter 2018/Spring 2019 season, and we’re doing everything we can to make sure more trees are treated on the Daniel Boone. However, now that it's been seven years since the treatment program began, resources also have to go toward re-treatment of previously treated trees. The current level of available resources, mostly money, means that it will be increasingly difficult to designate new hemlock treatment areas on public land.
We’re now sharing data with the Division of Forestry treatment team, helping them identify previously treated stands, that should be prioritized for re-treatment. We’re also planning volunteer service days to begin in early 2019 (watch for specific dates soon!). Volunteers will help measure and mark trees for treatment and help carry equipment, letting crews from the Kentucky Division of Forestry handle the chemical. This gets the application done faster and increases the number of trees we can treat. At least one of these events will take place in an old-growth hemlock stand that would not be treated otherwise. All good.
We're using this shared mobile GIS system to check on previously treated Hemlock Conservation Areas and recommend new ones.
And we've got beetles!
Predator beetle release on October 25 in Laurel County. We helped release more than 500 L. nigrinus, which prey on HWA in the Pacific Northwest.
So far this fall we’ve helped to plan and implement two releases of the HWA predator beetle, Laricobius nigrinus, on the Daniel Boone in Laurel County. Over 1,000 beetles were released in total in October and November. The Larrys* (that is, Laricobius beetles) were raised at the Lindsay Young Beneficial Insects Laboratory at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
*Entomology note: No one involved in the research or rearing or release of Laricobius beetles says Laricobius. They say Larry. It’s a remarkably consistent shibboleth. Sometimes I say Laricobius and I feel a weird embarrassment. Like I’m the nerd. Entomologists are, it turns out, cool cats.
When the lab was having a hard time finding live adelgid to feed the beetles last winter and spring, Kentucky Heartwood trucked down infested branches from the Boone to supplement the food source. And so now some of those beetles are coming back north to get some of Momma’s cooking; we're releasing them in one of the same sites where we collected live adelgid for the lab. We sincerely thank Dr. James Parkman for providing the beetles for release on the Boone. He has no contractual obligation to do so, though we’re trying to formalize the relationship with the lab to guarantee beetles for release in years to come. For this season, Dr. Parkman has indicated that we are likely to get 1-2 more releases of roughly the same size as the first two.
Lots of good news.
So why do I feel so uneasy? Why do I keep finding myself grinding my teeth every time I walk up a holler and into an old hemlock grove?
Because the functional extinction crisis of Eastern hemlock is ongoing. Because branches and whole tops of trees and whole trees are starting to come down all over the forest.
The work we're doing is important, and it's crucial for future and long-term efforts to save, and restore, Eastern hemlock in our forests. The areas of forest we save may provide the needed genetic diversity for the success of future breeding and reintroduction programs. But at best we’re only saving a handful of trees in a handful of places, and it’s heartbreaking.
Last week we spent some time in the Redbird District of the Daniel Boone looking at ongoing logging from the Group One Redbird River Project, and forests now proposed for logging under the South Redbird proposal. The Group One project was withdrawn twice after administrative appeals filed by Kentucky Heartwood. The project, though smaller than initially proposed, was ultimately approved in 2008 and included nearly 1,500 acres of logging. The South Redbird project, as currently proposed by the Forest Service, would cut about 3,200 acres of forests in the district.
The Group One site we visited was a shelterwood cut to create early seral habitat (brush, young vegetation) on a steep mountain slope above Ulysses Creek. The logging happened sometime between 2010 and 2013 on a forest that was about 110 years old. The harvest methods used on the Ulysses Creek site are essentially identical to what's now proposed for nearly 3,200 acres of the South Redbird project. Spreading from the "temporary" roads bulldozed across the slope, infestations of invasive species are proliferating. Kudzu, autumn olive, Japanese stiltgrass, multiflora rose, Japanese honeysuckle, and sericea lespedeza are all well-established and expanding. Many of the trees left standing have been badly damaged from poor felling or skidding practices, and tree roots are tore up from dozers. Logging on 50 percent slopes caused a loss of soil duff and the exposure of mineral soil. It's really bad, and bad throughout. The stand that we looked at was 34 acres. The amount proposed for logging in the South Redbird project would be about 100 times that.
On that same day we also visited a site in the South Redbird project that's similarly proposed for a shelterwood cut to create early successional habitat. The forest above Flat Creek near the Redbird River includes high quality, functional secondary old-growth. While second-growth at about 130 years of age, the forest includes very large trees, large-diameter down wood and standing snags, den trees, and large canopy gaps. These are all classic, functional structures of old-growth forests in the region. They are also exceedingly rare in the generally young forests of the Redbird District.
Below are several annotated photos from the two sites. Pictures don't do either site justice, but we are planning a field trip in the near future. If you'd like the opportunity to join us on a field trip, or to be notified of the next comment period for the South Redbird project, please sign up for emails from Kentucky Heartwood. There's still time to save the forest above Flat Creek, and thousands more acres across Redbird.
This image shows a gorgeous stand of secondary old-growth high on the slopes above Flat Creek. The trees in the picture mostly range from about 18 to 30 inches in diameter, and include large black oak, white oak, American beech, yellow buckeye, sugar maple, black gum, and others species. The Forest Service has proposed to cut nearly every tree here, and bulldoze roads throughout to haul out the timber.
The lower slopes of the Flat Creek site are dominated by large American beech (Fagus grandifolia) trees, with just a scattering of oaks. Logging the site doesn't even make sense under conventional forestry systems. American beech trees are also dying across the northeastern U.S. as beech bark disease spreads (a result of the non-native scale insect Cryptococcus fagisuga), though it has yet to reach Kentucky.
This stand has some exceptionally nice, large black oaks (Quercus velutina).
A big, old white oak (Quercus alba). There's a lot of concern being expressed by foresters in Kentucky about the potential loss of white oaks in the future due to problems they're having becoming established in forest understories. However, the types of logging that are happening on the Daniel Boone and elsewhere in eastern Kentucky are largely shifting the forest away from white oak and toward more red maple and tulip poplars. It's a fact that the forest products industry doesn't want to grapple with. Instead, we're getting more and more calls to cut our way out of the problem and just making it worse.
There's nothing quite like a big shagbark hickory (Carya ovata).
Austin and Jim measuring a 30" black oak (Quercus velutina).
This is a bulldozed hillside in the Ulysses Creek site in the Group One project. The road grade was cut down about 5 feet and tore through the roots of oaks that were left standing. The vegetation established on the road in this picture includes some of the most notorious and problematic invasive plant species impacting our forests, including autumn olive, Japanese stiltgrass, and multiflora rose. This site is about midway up the slope.
The loss of forest canopy does create brushy habitat that's useful to a number of species, especially some migratory bird species. But this status lasts only a few years. And unlike the more natural impacts of ice storms, wind, and fire, logging can cause lasting damage that the forest is not adapted to. Beyond changes in forest structure and species composition, the roads bulldozed into the mountainside and infestations of non-native invasive plant species will likely persist for generations.
An awful infestation of Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica). This wasn't an isolated patch, as honeysuckle and other invasives were found throughout the cut stand.
An infestation of Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) working its way up the mountain slope.
An infestation of kudzu on a logging road bulldozed up the mountain.
A lot of the trees left standing in the Ulysses Creek site were substantially damaged by logging operations.
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