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Kentucky Heartwood Files Objection to Greenwood Project

By Eugenia Jones

Kentucky Heartwood has filed a formal administrative (pre-decisional) objection challenging the approval of the Greenwood Vegetation Management Project on the Daniel Boone National Forest (DBNF). Approximately two thirds of the project is designated in McCreary County.

Heartwood’s objection to the project proposal is based primarily on three concerns. First, Heartwood objects to the current proposal based on their belief that the Forest Service agency has not focused restoration activities in the areas of the DBNF most impacted by the severe southern pine beetle outbreak that lasted from 1999 to 2001.

Additionally, Heartwood’s objection expresses concern that the Forest Service did not do enough to look for rare, declining, and threatened species throughout the area and that the Environmental Assessment for the project does not adequately address how forest 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 a case of genuine restoration needs getting sidelined by the Forest Service’s continued emphasis on logging,” said Jim Scheff, Kentucky Heartwood’s Director.

Scheff agrees there is a need for measures to improve the health of the Greenwood area. However, he feels there is too much emphasis on commercial logging.

“There are always trade-offs in land management,” Scheff stated. “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.”

According to Scheff, Kentucky Heartwood and the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission asked the Forest Service several times to look for rare species such as the Quill flameflower, the Eastern wood lily, and the Easter silvery aster. He feels the Forest Service did not adequately search for such species or plan for their protection.

However, according to Tim Reed, U. S. Forest Service District Ranger for the Stearns District, the agency has completed an in-depth analysis.

“We feel we have conducted an adequate and in-depth analysis,” Reed commented. “However, we will take a hard look at all points made in the objection and see if there is a need for adjustments. We received a lot of input, and we seriously considered all comments and tried to incorporate them into the proposal. We will follow the required process from here and see if any adjustments are needed.”

Reed stated the agency had used the best methods available to develop the Greenwood proposal and had met all requirements for preserving rare plants on federal lands.

“I think we have done a good job,” Reed commented. “The National Forest is managed under a multiple use philosophy which is different from management in a national park or wildlife preserve. We are charged with trying to provide opportunities for many different users. One interest cannot dominate. We have to provide a mix of many things including recreation, habitat diversity, and timber commerce. The Greenwood proposal, with its purpose and its need, reflect all of these.”

“It’s a challenge to meet the needs of so many diverse stakeholders,” Reed continued. “It all has to mesh.”

According to Reed, the Greenwood Vegetation Management Project was proposed by the Forest Service in an effort to meet objectives of the most current, comprehensive DBNF Plan updated in 2004. The Plan serves as a road map leading to the type of forest desired in the future. By looking at the plan’s stated goals for the future, the agency develops actions to move the DBNF forward from what it is now to the type of forest desired in the future.

The Greenwood Vegetation Management Project proposal covers over 32,000 acres of national forest land in McCreary and southern Pulaski Counties and includes proposed activities for commercial management (logging) of approximately 2,900 acres, non-commercial management of approximately 3,575 acres, prescribed burns for 10,000 acres, management of wildlife openings on seventy-five existing openings, and construction of thirty-eight wildlife water sources. The proposal also calls for the establishment of more woodland forests.

The sixteen specific actions within the proposal include the thinning of forest plots to allow for better growth of dominant and fire-resilient trees and the cutting of undesirable stems to lessen competition for water, nutrients, and sunlight. Other actions include the conversion of white pine plots to the better suited shortleaf pine, and the use of controlled fire to restore habitats for species such as bobwhite quail and to improve the area’s ability to recover from wildfire.

The project also calls for 222 acres of broadcast spraying of herbicides (glyphosate or triclopyr amine) in wildlife areas, a matter of significant concern to some residents. The Forest Service says it is unlikely the spraying of the herbicides will affect water quality because of techniques used to safeguard against potential problems. Kentucky Heartwood does not support the broad use of herbicides, and Heartwood’s Scheff points to conflicting studies in regard to the safety of herbicides.

Reed emphasized that strict regulations govern any timber sales by the U. S. Forest Service.

“Regulations for our timber sales are very specific as to what can and cannot be done,” Reed noted. “Careful commercial logging can be used as a tool to successfully reach our goal of managing and producing a more healthy and resilient forest. By using commercial timber sales as a tool when it is appropriate and when market conditions are favorable, we are able to accomplish our goals and also put something back in the local and regional economy.

We also save money by not having to pay out for work we have to get done.”

While approval of the project would be the largest timber project on the Daniel Boone in thirteen years, Reed notes the project is spread out over a period of at least four to seven years.

The two sides are expected to meet to review the objection and determine what, if any, changes will be made to the proposal before a final decision is made about moving forward with the project.

(Kentucky Heartwood was joined in their objection by the Center for Biological Diversity and area residents Elizabeth and Michael Lolacono.)

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