Wild places sustain and define us; we, in turn, must protect them.
More landslides from logging in the Daniel Boone National Forest, Complaint submitted to Division of Water
Kentucky Heartwood has submitted a formal complaint to the Kentucky Division of Water after repeated failures by the Daniel Boone National Forest to stabilize or remediate multiple, ongoing landslides caused by logging in the Redbird District. Recent reconnaissance found that several major landslides previously documented and reported by Kentucky Heartwood have grown in size, and new ones have occurred. Large amounts of silt, rock, and other debris continue to be dumped into streams and on roadways. The complaint includes extensive ground and aerial imagery, along with detailed unit maps, showing how these landslides have developed and worsened over the past 16 months. The complaint be viewed at the end of this post.
The landslides at issue are a result of logging in the Group One project in the Redbird District in Clay and Leslie Counties. Most of the landslides begin on the full-bench skid roads bulldozed across very steep slopes. The Group One project was approved in 2008, after being withdrawn twice following administrative appeals by Kentucky Heartwood. The U.S. Forest Service has insisted that the effects of these landslides are minimal, with sedimentation only being a problem when it rains.
The agency has provided a wide range of bogus and shifting rationales for why landslides like those happening in the Group One project won’t happen in the recently approved and South Red Bird project. The South Red Bird project is directly adjacent to the Group One project, with the same types of slopes and geological hazards found in the Group One area. The South Red Bird project includes around 4,000 acres of logging with nearly 100 miles of full-bench skid roads to be bulldozed across steep slopes to haul out timber.
The Forest Service knew in 2008 when they approved the Group One project that there was a strong possibility of landslides resulting from their logging activities. But they failed to disclose this fact in the project record. Among the nearly 16,000 pages we recently acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request, we found internal discussions about the propensity for landslides in the Redbird District. Among the records, former Daniel Boone NF soil scientist George Chalfant (who worked on the Environmental Assessment for the Group One project) provided a report to the current Daniel Boone NF soil scientist describing how and why the Redbird District is especially susceptible to landslides. He clearly describes in the report how logging and road building dramatically increase the chances of a landslide occurring. In an email he told current Forest Service staff that “I recall inventorying over 20 slides in clear cuts on the Red Bird and all but about 3 or so were associated with a coal seam. Most of these occurred around 5 years after harvest. The Fire Clay seams I recall were involved with most. I did write something up on that but I don’t have a clue if it's still around.”
And now that landslides are happening, the Forest Service is refusing to take any responsibility. They continue to argue that these landslides are of no significance, and that there’s no connection with their logging and road building. Their only interest has been to move forward with South Red Bird project, quickly and aggressively. They’ve refused to incorporate any reasonable restrictions that would limit logging and road building on steep slopes and other highly susceptible locations. They’ve demonstrated a willingness to repeat the same mess, and put endangered species like the Kentucky arrow darter and snuffbox mussel at risk in order to maximize timber production at any cost.
As bad as this is, the work to protect Redbird isn’t over. Please consider supporting our efforts with a donation to Kentucky Heartwood, and be sure to sign up for emails to get updates on this and other projects. You can donate here. And join our email list here.