Wild places sustain and define us; we, in turn, must protect them.
The Forest Service, Kentucky Heartwood, and the Sierra Club reached an agreement over the Freeman Fork Oak Woodland Restoration Project that will result in fewer negative impacts as the project is implemented. The agreement was an outcome of our predecisional objection challenging the project, and a subsequent meeting with Forest Supervisor Frank Beum, District Ranger Tim Reed, and Administrative Review Coordinator Elizabeth Robinson. This logging project is a joint research endeavor with researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
As part of the agreement, the Forest Service will amend the Environmental Assessment to include clear language that emphasizes the retention of larger trees in thinned areas. They will also switch the logging prescriptions for Block 2 and Block 3, which will result in better conservation of an outstanding stand of large, old hickories. These changes to the project are in addition to changes already made at Kentucky Heartwood’s urging that removed foliar spraying of herbicides on native understory trees. The project still includes commercial logging on 389 acres, prescribed fire on 1,028 acres on 2-year intervals, and herbicide treatment of non-native invasive plants.
While Kentucky Heartwood continues to oppose commercial logging in the Daniel Boone National Forest, we hope that the research associated with this project yields useful information on the ecological effects of artificially creating woodlands in this part of the Cumberland Plateau. In particular, understanding the differing effects of frequent spring versus fall burns on vegetation will be of great interest. Whether or not these types of burns result in the return of less common species to the forest or otherwise affect forest structure in any meaningful way could help us understand our forests better. Researchers will also be looking changes in bird populations as forest structure changes.
There is a great deal that we don’t know about our forests, their historical composition and structure, and their long-term development and recovery. Whatever the results of this project may be, Kentucky Heartwood remains dedicated to ensuring that the best in ecological science and the wisdom of natural processes trump commercial extraction in the management of our Daniel Boone National Forest.