The U.S. Forest Service is proposing to reduce protections for endangered bats in an effort to increase logging on the Daniel Boone National Forest. Comments on the Draft Environmental Assessment (Draft EA) are due by Monday, April 8th. A public meeting is being held by the Forest Service in Berea on Tuesday, March 26th at 4:30 pm. Directions on how to submit comments are at the end of this alert.
Hibernating Indiana bats in a protected cave in the Daniel Boone National Forest
The Forest Service is proposing to amend the management plan (Forest Plan) for the Daniel Boone National Forest. The proposed amendments would weaken protections for federally-endangered Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis) and federally-threatened northern long-eared bats (Myotis septentrionalis). The Forest Plan currently includes binding standards that restrict logging in some areas during certain times of the year to reduce risk of harming endangered bats. These restrictions are particularly important in protecting maternity colonies during the especially vulnerable period when young are nonvolant (cannot fly). The restrictions have also contributed to the Forest Service’s inability to log much more than about 1,000 acres per year on the Daniel Boone since the Forest Plan was adopted in 2004. But they want that to change. The agency, however, is not being honest about why these changes are being proposed. In the Draft Environmental Assessment, the Forest Service states that lifting logging restrictions is needed to shift logging to drier parts of the year, and therefore better limit sedimentation in streams which could impact aquatic species listed under the Endangered Species Act. These species include the Kentucky arrow darter, Cumberland darter, blackside dace, and a wide range of threatened and endangered mussels. That sounds reasonable, until you dig deeper.
A mountainside in the Redbird District bulldozed to remove timber to “improve wildlife habitat.”
In the environmental analysis for each and every timber sale on the Daniel Boone National Forest, the Forest Service states emphatically that the amount of sediment reaching streams from their timber operations is minimal, and will not impact threatened and endangered aquatic species and their habitats. Every. Single. Project. If the Forest Service needs to reduce protections for endangered bats to protect vulnerable aquatic species from logging, does that mean that their logging projects are, in fact, degrading aquatic habitats? If so, will the Forest Service commit to cancelling all active timber sales until the projects can be revised to adequately protect aquatic species? It’s doubtful. But the agency can’t have it both ways.
So what’s this really about?
An invasive stiltgrass-infested landslide cutting across multiple “temporary” logging roads bulldozed to cut timber and “improve habitat.”
The need to increase the “pace and scale” of “restoration” (read: logging) has become an ongoing narrative across the U.S. National Forest system. In recent years, we’ve had to respond to a non-stop barrage of legal and regulatory attempts to roll back public participation and environmental protections on our public lands. From the “Resilient Federal Forests Act” to the Forest Service’s proposed revisions of its NEPA procedures to President Trump’s recent Executive Order on national forests, it’s all about getting more logs out of the forest, and faster.
Nowhere in the Draft EA does the Forest Service actually say that they intend to increase the amount of the forest getting cut. But it’s clear that increasing logging is the reason behind this proposal. The Draft EA states only that “The Proposed action will not increase vegetation management volume extracted identified in the 2004 Forest Plan.” What’s left out is that meeting the established Forest Plan timber harvest goals – which were widely opposed during the Forest Plan revision process – would mean nearly tripling of the amount of timber cut on the Daniel Boone National Forest.
Kentucky arrow darter (Etheostoma spilotum) Matt Thomas KDFWR
Periodically revising management plans based on updated science and evolving conservation strategies can be a responsible thing to do. Amending the Forest Plan with respect to endangered bats or other at-risk species is not necessarily bad. But even the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been critical of the proposal, stating in their early comments that “If the action is carried out as proposed, an increase in adverse effects on federally-listed species is anticipated.” This proposed Plan Amendment is not coming out of concern for protecting endangered bats, or protecting our most imperiled aquatic species. It’s coming from a desire to see more timber cut on more acres, and we think that’s a problem. If you share these concerns, please submit a comment to the Forest Service letting them know.
A public meeting hosted by the Forest Service is scheduled for Tuesday, March 26th from 4:30-6:30 pm at the Boone Tavern Event Center, 100 Main Street, Berea, KY 40404.
Comments need to be submitted to the Forest Service by Monday, April 8th, 2019.
Be sure to include “Plan Amendment” in the subject line of your email. Comments can also be sent via postal mail to: Dan Olsen Forest Supervisor 1700 Bypass Road Winchester, Kentucky 40391 Documents for the project can be found on the Forest Service’s website here.
Note: Make sure when you copy/paste that there is no space or period at the end of the email address. If you have any issues sending your comment in, please let us know. 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 a confirmation email, that means they did not get your message.
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What the Forest Service calls a “temporary” logging road in the Redbird Ranger District.