The Forest Service is proposing to log 3,650 acres of the Redbird District of the Daniel Boone National Forest in Clay and Leslie Counties. Comments on the Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) of the South Red Bird Wildlife Enhancement Project (South Redbird project) are due this Friday, December 6th. This is a bad one folks, and we really need your help letting the Forest Service know that what they’re planning isn’t acceptable. Directions on how to comment are at the end of this post.
Huge skid trails bulldozed deep across a logging site on Ulysses Creek
Over the last few years the Forest Service has been logging the nearby Group One Redbird project, implementing the same prescriptions on the same slopes and soils that they’ve proposed for the South Redbird project. And the results? Mountainsides bulldozed into oblivion, landslides, erosion, and severe infestations of invasive species. The purpose? According to the Forest Service, it’s about forest health and habitat improvement.
In this post you’ll see pictures from several recent logging sites in the Group One project. The bulldozed “roads” in the pictures are skid trails. Most of the logging units in the Group One project are about 20 to 50 acres. In South Redbird, some logging areas would be from 200 acres to over 350 acres across. The Forest Service says that they may build up to 91 miles of these “skid trails” to remove timber in the South Redbird project, along with 150 log landings. As much as we’d love to fill this page with more pictures of some beautiful, at risk sites in South Redbird, we think it’s important for you to know exactly what the Forest Service is calling “habitat improvement” and “forest health” in the Redbird District.
This landslide, beginning on a big skid road cut into the mountain, caused soil and rock debris to land in a tributary of Lower Jack’s Creek.
We’re sending this alert so out late in the comment period because the Daniel Boone National Forest decided to release several major projects to the public at that same time. The Forest Service sent out notice of the 30-day comment period on the Draft EA for South Redbird on November 6th while we were working on our administrative objection to the Pine Creek project, which was due November 18th. And then on November 12th, the Forest Service sent out notice of the 30-day comment period for the Draft EA for Blackwater Project on the Cumberland District. We managed to get a 2 week extension on the Blackwater comment period, and you’ll be seeing information from us on that soon. Together these projects would approve about 8,000 acres of logging across the Daniel Boone National Forest.
A steep shelterwood logging unit on Lower Jack’s Branch. The skid roads and log landings occupy about 30% of the area – three times what’s allowed in the Forest Plan. Logging units in South Redbird will be as much as six times the size of this one.
Most of the streams in the South Redbird project are designated as Critical Habitat for the Kentucky arrow darter (Etheostoma spilotum), which was listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act in 2016. The project area also provides habitat for the federally-endangered snuffbox mussel (Epioblasma triquetra). The Forest Service insists that these species won’t be harmed by logging because of protective standards in the Forest Plan. However, we’ve documented numerous instances in the Redbird District where Forest Plan standards and state best management practices were woefully inadequate, or otherwise completely ignored to strip the mountains of their timber.
A landslide at a site on Ulysses creek. This landslide cut across three road contours bulldozed into the mountain to skid logs out. It’s covered in invasive Japanese stiltgrass.
There is one positive thing. We convinced the Forest Service to drop logging of the old-growth forest that we documented on the 46 acre Little Flat Creek site.You can read about our work on the Little Flat Creek site on page 6 of our Spring 2019 newsletter. Oddly enough, the Forest Service still won’t admit that it’s old-growth, insisting that it’s a young forest about 65 years old. However, our structural and age analysis demonstrates that it’s a multi-aged, old-growth forest, with many canopy trees from 150 to over 300 years old. Sadly, throughout the Draft EA for the South Redbird project the Forest Service demonstrates startling ignorance and hostility toward old-growth forests.
Forest proposed for logging along the Redbird Crest Trail.
Young forests and early seral habitat are important. But the Forest Service can manage for these habitat types without bulldozing and destroying whole mountainsides. In May 2017, the Forest Service led a field trip during the development of the South Redbird project to show off successful management for early seral habitat. The site that they chose to highlight was a non-commercial unit in the Group One project, where trees were cut but no skid roads and landings were used to haul out the timber. Clearly this is a viable option.
Logging debris and soil pushed and falling down over a large rock wall at a logging site on Granny’s Branch.
As part of the South Redbird project, the Forest Service has also proposed harvesting trees along 45 miles of roadways, adding up to 750 acres of logging. For the most part, that management could be done without bulldozing skid roads through forest. It’s not ideal, but does offer a reasonable approach that limits the more severe impacts that are likely to occur. The Forest Service also has the option of creating early seral habitat by managing the nearly 6,000 acres of the project area that were logged in the 1980s and 1990s.
Our surveys have demonstrated that those forests are dominated by tulip poplar and red maple, despite the Forest Service arguing that big cuts like these are needed to promote oak regeneration. The Forest Service could modify their proposed “crop tree release” on 1,900 acres of these old logging sites to cut back the young tulip poplar and maple more heavily, supporting oaks and hickories while creating and enhancing early seral and young forest habitat, especially for grouse. These are all viable options that the Forest Service can use to meet their goals.
Navigating a skid trail above Lower Jack’s Branch.
Kentucky Heartwood will be submitting detailed comments, where we’ll dig deep on the details. Comments from the public are also needed and very important. Please let the Forest Service know that the commercial logging prescriptions in the South Redbird project are not acceptable. Let them know we’re watching.
Comments need to be submitted this Friday, December 6th by midnight.
Be sure to include “South Red Bird Wildlife Enhancement Project” in the subject line.
Comments can also be postal mailed to:
Robert Claybrook, Redbird District Ranger
91 Peabody Road
Big Creek, Kentucky 40914
Feel free to copy firstname.lastname@example.org on your comment email. Also, you should receive a confirmation reply from the Forest Service letting you know your message was received. Sometimes it takes a few hours to receive the notice. If you do not receive one, that means they did not get your message.
Also, please note that commenting on this blog post does not send your comment to the Forest Service.
If you appreciate this information, and the work that we do, please consider supporting Kentucky Heartwood with a contribution! We’ve honestly been too busy with these projects to do any end of the year fundraising.