Wild places sustain and define us; we, in turn, must protect them.
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The Group One project was approved in 2008 after being withdrawn twice after challenges by Kentucky Heartwood.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).
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