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Proposal calls for timber harvest in area including McCreary’s Little Rock Creek
Anyone with questions or concerns regarding the recently proposed Jellico Vegetation Management Plan which encompasses the Little Rock Creek portion of McCreary County is encouraged to attend the sole public meeting announced last week by the Stearns Ranger District of the Daniel Boone National Forest (DBNF). The public meeting is scheduled for November 17, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. in the Goldbug community at the Whitley County Cooperative Extension Office (4275 US Hwy 25W North, Williamsburg, KY). The purpose of the meeting is to explain the project proposal which impacts McCreary and Whitley Counties and to allow questions and discussion concerning the project.
The Jellico Project Area is in McCreary and Whitley Counties, Kentucky, along Kentucky’s southern border with Tennessee. More specifically, it consists of the National Forest Service (NFS) lands located south of Kentucky Highway 92 and between Interstate 75 and US Highway 27. Much of the area encompasses the Little Rock Creek area near Hayes and Osborne Creek in McCreary County. The project encompasses about 10,000 acres with approximately 4,600 acres in McCreary County.
According to the Forest Service, project action is being considered because the Jellico area is transitioning to mature (81 years and older) forest. While desired forest outcomes occur in mature forests, the biodiversity provided by young and mid-aged (0-80 years) forest is being lost in the Jellico area.
To counteract the loss of timber diversity and increase project area biodiversity by providing a mix of habitat for flora and fauna, the Forest Service feels action needs to be taken to adjust conditions so that all desired age classes, structures, and species compositions are represented across the Jellico area. Thus, according to Forest Service, the purpose of and need for the Jellico Project is to meet the Forest’s goals for management as defined in the Land and Resource Management plan for the DBNF.
“This proposal focuses on the use of silviculture to create a diversity of wildlife,” District Ranger Tim Reed observed.
The proposed action consists of silvicultural treatments and road work that would be implemented over the next 40 years (approximately 2023-2063), resulting in an addition of approximately four ten year age classes of forest and at least three new forest structures across the area. Silvicultural treatments would occur across 256 stands of timber encompassing approximately 9,800 acres. Road work would occur on National Forest System roads within the project area.
Proposed timber harvest activities include: clearcut, two-aged shelterwood, deferment harvest, thinning, and salvage. Harvests would be accomplished using ground-based equipment (e.g. skidders, dozers, etc.) where possible and alternative methods such as cable, tethered, or helicopter logging.
Proposed vegetation treatments include crop tree release, pre-and post-harvest site preparation, midstory removal, undesirable species removal (e.g. red maples), grape vine control, and invasive species eradication. These treatments would be accomplished by using herbicides and/or cutting tools.
Proposed roadwork action for the project is deemed necessary to implement timber harvests and vegetation treatments.
Chris Karounos, Ecosystem Defense Coordinator for the nonprofit environmental group Kentucky Heartwood, expressed concerns about the proposed project.
“The creeks in this area are not only incredibly beautiful, but they host three federally protected endangered species that are on the brink of extinction from logging,” Karounos noted. “If the Forest Service moves forward with their plans to log ½ of our public land then it will likely cause landslides like the ones Kentucky Heartwood has documented the Forest Service causing in the Redbird District of the DBNF near Manchester, KY.”
Referencing neighbors of the national forest in Whitley County who experienced some near misses during last August’s flooding, Karounos expressed concern about how much worse flooding could get if half of the national forest in the Jellico region is logged.
“Of the approximately 10,000 acres of logging, nearly half of it is a form of clearcut which the forest service calls either shelterwood or deferment harvests,” Karounos said. “This makes flooding risks even greater.”
Karounos expressed his belief that the Forest Service should take public input more seriously and reduce the amount of planned logging.
“Nearly 70% of people oppose logging on public land; yet, the Forest Service has ramped up logging in Kentucky over the past five years,” Karounos declared. “Never before in Kentucky has the Forest Service proposed logging this much of our public land. They have also never tried to approve a logging project that lasts so long (40 years).”
The public is encouraged to submit concerns and information about the proposed project. Comments, which will become part of the public record, will be used by Forest Service to help determine the appropriate scope of environmental analysis. The District Ranger of the Stearns Ranger District, Daniel Boone National Forest is the Responsible Official for this proposal and will decide whether to implement the proposed action.
District Ranger Tim Reed articulated the Forest Service’s desire to receive public input and comments.
“We always want and try to get public input to use in our decision-making,” Reed stated.
Comments can be submitted electronically by email to: SMLFS.email@example.com or on the project website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project/?project=63037. The following should be submitted as part of comments: (1) Name, address, phone number, email address, and organization (if applicable) (2) Title of the Project: Jellico Vegetation Management Project (3) Specific facts and relevant rationale you feel should be considered, along with supporting reasons the Responsible Official should consider in reaching a decision (4) Signature or other verification of identify upon request.
Comments can be mailed or delivered in person to:
District Ranger, Daniel Boone National Forest, Stearns Ranger District, 3320 Highway 27 N., Whitley City, KY 42653
Written comments can be sent by fax to: 606-376-3734. For submitting oral comments by telephone, call 606-376-5323 and identify the purpose of your call. The receptionist will connect you with someone who will document your comments.
For additional information about the project, please contact John Hull at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 606-376-5323.
The public meeting (open to the public) to discuss/explain the project and allow for questions and discussion will be: Thursday, November 17, 2022 at 6:00 pm. Whitley County Cooperative Extension Office, 4275 US 25W North, Williamsburg, KY 40769