Wild places sustain and define us; we, in turn, must protect them.
The Daniel Boone National Forest has proposed to amend the forest's 2004 management plan with respect to the federally endangered Indiana bat. The Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) was first listed as an endangered species in 1967, and has been in decline ever since. Since 2006, the spread of the disease White Nose Syndrome (WNS) has caused remaining populations of Indiana bats (as well as other species of bats) to crash.
Some of the Forest Service's proposed changes simply align terms and criteria with those currently in use by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. However, the Forest Service is also proposing to loosen several protective standards that limit timber harvest near maternity colonies of both Indiana bats and northern long-eared bats (Myotis septentrionalis). Northern long-eared bats are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act on account of catastrophic declines from WNS.
One of the reasons provided by the Forest Service of the need for change is that logging restrictions near maternity colonies during the summer roosting season mean that more logging has to take place during the wetter winter months. But over last decade, several aquatic species have been listed as threatened or endangered, meaning that sedimentation of streams from logging has to be taken more seriously. For example, the Forest Service just proposed around 3,000 acres of intensive logging on steep slopes in the Redbird District in designated Critical Habitat for the Kentucky Arrow Darter, which was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2015. The Redbird District includes most of the remaining habitat for this species. We'll post more about the South Redbird Project in the near future.
The bottom line is that the only changes the Forest Service should be making with respect to Indiana and northern long-eared bats are those that are demonstrably protective and support their populations. These important, imperiled species cannot afford the loss of a single maternity colony - especially to facilitate logging on our public lands.
For now, the Forest Service is accepting comments on their proposal until Monday, March 26th. The agency will likely prepare an Environmental Assessment sometime in the near future.
Links to project documents can be found on our website here, and the Daniel Boone National Forest website here.
Here is a link to the page on the Daniel Boone National Forest website where the public can comment on this proposal. Comments are due by 3/26/2018.
Comments can be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or sent by postal mail to:
Dan Olsen, Forest Supervisor
Daniel Boone National Forest
1700 Bypass Road
Winchester, Kentucky 40391
Please state "Plan Amendment" in the subject line when providing electronic comments, or on the envelope when replying by mail.
Here is where you can read comments that have been submitted by the public.
Rare Species and Restoration Take Back Seat to Logging Plans
Kentucky Heartwood has filed a formal administrative objection (“pre-decisional objection”) challenging the approval of the Greenwood Vegetation Management Project on the Daniel Boone National Forest in McCreary and Whitley counties. This project would be the largest timber project on the Daniel Boone in 13 years, and would allow commercial timber harvests on over 2,500 acres of public lands, along with a wide range of other management actions including the construction of 139 log landings, planting of shortleaf pine, herbicide use, and over 10,600 acres of prescribed fire.
The objection focuses on the Forest Service’s unwillingness to focus restoration activities in areas most impacted by the severe southern pine beetle outbreak that lasted from 1999 to 2001. The objection also addresses the agency’s failure to survey for many rare, declining, and threatened species, as well as their lack of adequate consideration in the Environmental Assessment for how management could harm or benefit these species.
“Instead of focusing restoration efforts where they’re most needed, the Forest Service is going where the timber is. This is a case of genuine restoration needs getting sidelined by the Forest Service’s continued emphasis on logging,” said Jim Scheff, Kentucky Heartwood’s Director.
National forest lands in the Greenwood project area are home to a wide range of rare and declining species, as well as unusual, rare natural communities including native grassland remnants, sandstone glades, and Appalachian seeps. Fire suppression and past logging have degraded many of these habitats, and appropriate management could help toward the recovery of some species.
Both Kentucky Heartwood and the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission repeatedly requested that the Forest Service survey and manage for state-listed threatened and endangered species, including rare wildflowers like Quill flameflower, Eastern wood lily, Appalachian sandwort, and Eastern silvery aster. The Forest Service asserts that they are not required to survey or manage for these species – a contention that Kentucky Heartwood has challenged in the objection.
“There are real opportunities to get this right. But the Forest Service needs to take a step back and re-evaluate their plans,” said Scheff.
The project also includes 222 acres of broadcast spraying of herbicides in wildlife openings, a matter of particular concern to some area residents.
“There are always trade-offs in land management. But we don’t think it’s acceptable to log thousands of acres of our public lands in the name of restoration, all the while ignoring many of the species and sites most in need of help,” Scheff added.
Kentucky Heartwood was joined in their objection by the Center for Biological Diversity and area residents Elizabeth and Michael Loiacono.
Kentucky Heartwood was founded in 1992, and seeks to protect and restore the integrity, stability, and beauty of Kentucky’s native forests and biotic communities through research, education, advocacy, and community engagement.