As we wrap up Kentucky Heartwood’s 25th year of working to protect our public lands and native forests, I want to thank each of you for your support of what we do. With your help, Kentucky Heartwood has continued to make a tangible difference in how public lands in Kentucky are managed.
Together we have helped to keep logging levels on national forests lands in the Commonwealth as some of the lowest in the nation. While there are alarming political trends portending an uncertain future, logging on the Daniel Boone National Forest in recent years has hovered around 4 million board feet cut from about 900 acres per year. Though some beautiful forests continue to be logged and roaded, what we see today is a far cry from the peak levels of the 1980’s and 1990’s, which reached 47 million board feet annually. Of 108 national forests with active timber programs in 2017, the Daniel Boone ranked #87 for the volume of timber sold. And Land Between the Lakes ranked #107. Compare these numbers to our neighbors in Missouri. In 2017 the Mark Twain National Forest sold 63 million board feet of timber. The Mark Twain had the 8th largest harvest volume of any national forest in the nation, and ranked an astonishing 4th in timber revenue with more than $8 million in timber receipts. There are no environmental organizations routinely monitoring or working to protect the Mark Twain National Forest. Advocacy matters.
Keeping logging limited on our national forests is important. But logging is not the only – or even most severe – threat to biodiversity and the integrity of our forests. That is why Kentucky Heartwood has worked to expand our programs and reach to make positive impacts across an increasingly broad range of forest-related issues.
The following are some of the things that we were able to do in 2017 because of your support:
- We worked with regional and national organizations to oppose a host of unprecedented legislative assaults on our public lands. In November, we travelled to Washington D.C. to meet with our congressional representatives and their staff to discuss the Resilient Federal Forests Act (the Westerman bill) and other legislation designed to gut environmental protections and curtail opportunities for public participation and recourse. We helped convince Congressman James Comer to become one of the only Republican members of Congress to vote against the Westerman bill.
- The Forest Service continued with three ostensibly collaborative landscape analysis processes for the Blackwater, South Redbird, and Pine Creek areas in the Cumberland, Redbird, and London Districts, respectively. These processes will invariably result in logging and other management proposals. Kentucky Heartwood participated in nearly every public meeting and field trip for these assessments, and in almost all cases we were the only environmental group present. In some instances, we were the only non-governmental participants.
- We continued with our opposition to Kinder Morgan’s Tennessee Gas Pipeline project throughout 2017. Kentucky Heartwood is one of only two Kentucky organizations with intervenor status, which is required to pursue any administrative or legal challenges to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) approval of the project. We recently filed a formal administrative challenge to FERC’s decision with our partners at the Kentucky Resources Council and Allegheny Defense Project, and are laying the groundwork to pursue our challenge in court.
- We’ve continued as active participants in the Cumberland River Fire Learning Network (CRFLN), a working group that includes the Forest Service, several state agencies, the Nature Conservancy, and Kentucky Heartwood. Through the CRFLN, we’ve worked to ensure that prescribed fire management on the Daniel Boone is directed toward the most suitable locations, emphasizing the restoration of rare and uncommon fire-adapted natural communities.
- We worked with the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission and Kentucky Native Plant Society to monitor, protect, and collect seed from our dwindling wood lily (Lilium philadelphicum) populations, most of which remain on only a handful of roadsides in the Daniel Boone National Forest. During our 2017 surveys we located at least one new population in Jackson County. Dropseed Nursery is now working to propagate plants from the collected seed, with plans for reintroduction to suitable sites managed by the KSNPC, and eventually the Daniel Boone National Forest.
- Kentucky Heartwood accepted an invitation from the Forest Service at Land Between the Lakes to take a new look at the Devil’s Backbone project in the field, and to discuss the Forest Service’s intention to move forward with stalled logging plans. The project was approved in 2014, with marked timber left standing as a result of the logging moratorium we helped secure in 2015. We advocated for a more ecologically appropriate management design to sustain the regionally unusual shortleaf pine community, and worked in earnest to dissuade the Forest Service from regeneration harvests in particular. We then coordinated a response from the Coalition for the Preservation of Land Between the Lakes, asking for only non-commercial restoration, including prescribed fire, to proceed. We also met with Congressman Comer and his staff on several occasions to discuss a range of issues affecting Land Between the Lakes.
- We continued in our efforts to redirect the Greenwood Vegetation Management Project from a typical timber project toward a more ecologically-oriented restoration plan emphasizing rare fire-adapted communities. In May, we submitted lengthy and detailed comments on the Environmental Assessment. The Draft Decision for the project was then published in August. Extensive field work that we conducted in the spring provided us with more detail and data for our administrative challenge (our “predecisional objection”) that we filed in September. We then participated in a four-hour, formal meeting with the Forest Supervisor and other Daniel Boone staff to resolve our objections. Aside from commitments to re-evaluate the management of rare communities in the Greenwood project area in some future project, and overtures toward doing better moving forward, we gained little through the objection process. While the project ultimately included around 600 fewer acres of logging, the decision is nevertheless disappointing. We are evaluating our next steps, and will provide more detail in our upcoming newsletter.
- We worked with the U.S. Forest Service and Kentucky Division of Forestry to dramatically expand the areas in the Daniel Boone that can be treated to protect our hemlock trees from the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA). We’re also working on a plan to accelerate and increase the acquisition and release of predator beetles in an effort toward long-term control of HWA in our forests. Our surveys across the forest this year revealed an alarming level of infestation and decline in our hemlocks – particularly in more southern areas. This means that we don’t have a lot of time left to take action. Just this month, we secured a two-year grant from an anonymous donor that will support a half-time position working solely on saving our hemlocks. Expect to see a lot more information and opportunities to help protect our hemlocks in the near future.
- In June we initiated the pilot phase of our new private lands program, Cumberland Ecoforestry. We attended the Loving the Land Through Working Forests conference in Pennsylvania hosted by the Foundation for Sustainable Forests, and the week-long Steep Ground Logging Workshop and Biological Woodsmen’s Week focusing on horse logging approaches with Jason Rutledge and Ben Burgess in Russell Springs, Kentucky. We’ve nearly completed assessments of two properties in Jackson and Rockcastle Counties, in the Horse Lick and Roundstone watersheds. Both properties are in proximity to the Daniel Boone National Forest and provide habitat for endangered bats and other species of concern. The assessment and management plan for the Horse Lick property focuses on preservation management without any logging. The Roundstone property will offer a demonstration site for restorative forestry and horse logging approaches.
We’ll provide more in depth write-ups on these and other topics in our upcoming Winter newsletter. And you can always follow our activities year-round on a variety of platforms, including our website at www.kyheartwood.org, our email alert list (sign up through the website!), on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KentuckyHeartwood, and on Instagram @kentuckyheartwood.
While Kentucky Heartwood continues to grow, we are still a small organization with just four staff employed for a total of 2.5 full-time equivalents. We are fortunate to receive some foundation support, but donations from individuals like yourself are the backbone of our efforts. If you’ve already donated this year, thank you. If you haven’t yet donated, or can send a little extra at this year’s end, we would certainly appreciate it and put it to good use!
Thanks. We’ll see you in the forest.
Jim Scheff, Director