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Citizens are eager to “stop the chop”

By Eugenia Jones {Editor}

The map (pictured above) is from the JMRA (Jellico Mountain Recreation Area) group and indicates the areas in McCreary/Whitley Counties impacted by the Forest Service’s proposed Jellico Mountain Vegetation Management Project if it becomes a reality. The group, composed of citizens from McCreary/Whitley Counties, strongly objects to components of the project, particularly the amount of clearcutting and use of herbicides.

It’s a recreation vs clearcutting, herbicide issue

The breathtaking colors of spring in McCreary County’s Jellico/Little Rock Creek Mountain area are already peeking through the brown and gray shades of winter as the budding red maples, blossoming dogwoods, and brilliant redbuds herald the coming arrival of spring greenery and wildflowers.  Overflowing with spring rains, Little Rock Creek in southeastern McCreary County gushes rapidly around and over the stones and boulders of its curving creek bed, welcoming flowing tributaries into its depth.

With the rugged beauty and history of the area, perhaps it is no real surprise that a local citizens’ group is opposed to the U.S. Forest Service’s proposed Jellico (& Little Rock Creek) Vegetation Management Project, which incorporates the use of clearcutting and variations of clearcutting to harvest approximately 5,000 acres of the area over a period of forty years.  Seeking to “stop the chop,” the group is putting forth a proposal of their own in the form of JRMA (pronounced jam-rah).  JRMA is the group’s grand vision to create a Jellico Mountains Recreation Area (JMRA) in the Daniel Boone National Forest and private vacant land along I-75 in southern Kentucky.  Their hope is to save much of the mature forest and transform McCreary County and Whitley Counties into an outdoor recreation destination that will be the envy of rural America.

The citizen group’s proposal presents itself as an alternative to the USFS (Stearns District) Jellico Vegetation Management Project, a project proposal encompassing a total of about 10,000 acres in the Jellico Mountain/Little Rock Creek areas of McCreary and Whitley Counties.  Approximately 4,600 acres of the impacted area are in McCreary County.  According to the Forest Service, the project action is being considered due to the dominance of mature forest and lack of young/mid-aged forest in the area.  The proposed actions consist of multiple silvicultural treatments to be implemented over a period of forty years.

Citizen concern over the Forest Service’s plan to log more than half of the Jellico Mountains, led to the citizen group’s vision of JMRA   The group emphasizes they are not anti-logging but are against irresponsible logging.  They are particularly concerned about the amount of effective clearcutting (approximately 5,000 acres) and use of herbicides throughout the area.  The group is particularly outspoken about clearcutting in the steep slopes of the Jellico Mountains, fearing the practice will lead to flooding, landslides, invasive species, and herbicides and sediment in nearby creeks, including McCreary County’s Osborne, Hayes, and Little Rock Creeks.  By offering the JMRA as an alternative proposal, citizens are asking the U.S. Forest Service to modify its logging plan to support recreation and preservation by creating hiking and equestrian trails, campgrounds, playgrounds, and vistas in the Jellico and Little Rock Creek Mountain area.  The group of citizens feel the alternative JMRA proposal will more effectively impact the economy of the local area, leading to jobs, new business opportunities, outdoor recreation, and clean water/air.  With 2/3 of McCreary County owned by the federal government, JMRA is viewed as a way for McCreary County to directly benefit from some of its federal land-particularly since the impacted area is in close proximity to Interstate 75 and State Hwy 92, which is currently being assessed for its potential as a state scenic highway meandering from Williamsburg to Monticello, KY.

The JMRA group of citizens have definite goals.  First, by May 1st, they would like for everyone, including community officials and leaders, to know about JMRA.  By June 1st, the group is hopeful tourism groups and business leaders will create a task force to build a McCreary-Whitley County outdoor economic cooperative.  Finally, the group would like to see at least 1,000 comments (ideally, in opposition to the current USFS clearcutting plan and in support of the JMRA alternative plan) submitted to the USFS in their next official comment period, likely in July.

The group encourages residents of McCreary and Whitley Counties to support their effort to “stop the chop” and focus on development of recreation in the impacted area.  A few ways to support the effort are:  (1) sign the group’s petition at Mountains, (2) sponsor, walk, or run in the Cumberland Darter 5k Run/Walk in Williamsburg on Saturday, May 20, (3) stay informed by joining the group’s Facebook group at

All interested McCreary Countians are asked to attend next month’s McCreary County Fiscal Court meeting on April 13 at 6:00 at the McCreary County Courthouse when the JMRA group will address McCreary County Fiscal Court.

The JMRA citizens emphasize they wish to work with the U.S. Forest Service as well tourism groups, business leaders, politicians, residents, investors, preservation groups, and others to fulfill an opportunity to do something special with the Jellico Mountain/Little Rock Creek area of McCreary and Whitley Counties.


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