Massive new timber project threatens endangered darter: Comments needed by April 2, 2018

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​The U.S. Forest Service has proposed 3,200 acres of intensive logging on the steep and rugged slopes of the Redbird District of the Daniel Boone National Forest. Comments need to be submitted by Monday, April 2nd. The “South Redbird Wildlife Habitat Enhancement Project” threatens critical habitat for the Kentucky arrow darter (Etheostoma spilotum), which was listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act in 2016. The darter is found only in clean waters of the upper Kentucky River, and has disappeared from 44% of its range since 1990. Nearly 900 acres of proposed logging is in the watershed of Elisha Creek, which is also home to the federally-endangered Snuffbox mussel (Epioblasma triquetra). The snuffbox was protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2012 on account of a 62% rangewide decline. Unlike the mainstem of the Redbird River, which is too polluted by mining runoff, oil and gas development, and sewage for these species to live, the clean tributaries in the project area provide habitat needed for these species’ survival. 

A steep slope above Spring Creek approved for logging in 2015.
​Of the 32,300 acres of national forest land in the South Redbird project area, 27% has been harvested since 1980 and only 15% is over 100 years old. This is a stark contrast to the centuries-old forest at Lilley Cornett Woods, just 25 miles to the east. And yet the Forest Service is proposing to log 23% of all forest over 100 years old in the project area. Several areas ranging from 200 to 350 contiguous acres have been proposed for logging. Combined with previous cuts, some sections of forest, up to 800 acres, will hardly have any trees over 30 years old left standing.

Kentucky arrow darter (Etheostoma spilotum), photo USFWS
The Forest Service proposed the South Redbird project at the same time as a Forest Plan amendment to loosen logging restrictions designed to protect endangered Indiana bats. And another proposal to log several thousand more acres of the London District (the Pine Creek project) was just posted on the Daniel Boone National Forest website. Expect to see more on that soon.

The South Redbird project follows a series of public meetings that the Forest Service refers to as “collaborations.” While Kentucky Heartwood is listed as a “collaborator” in the scoping letter, our good-faith input throughout the process was largely ignored. In fact, the project reflects few of the concerns raised by participants – other than those of state and federal agencies pushing for more clearcuts and “regeneration” harvests for ruffed grouse habitat. While the forest has been characterized by some as “too old,” the fact is that less than half the forest is over 70 years old. 

Protected forest in the Right Fork of Elisha Creek proposed Research Natural Area.
​In 2008, the Forest Service approved 1,200 acres of logging immediately north of the South Redbird project area as part of the Group One Redbird River Project. The Group One project included a Forest Plan amendment that established a 12,000 acre “Ruffed Grouse Emphasis Area” to be maintained under 60 year timber rotations in cooperation with the Kentucky Division of Fish and Wildlife Management. Kentucky Heartwood successfully appealed that project twice before it was approved after a third revision. Despite the specific grouse emphasis, after 10 years neither federal nor state managers can answer questions regarding the success or failure of their grouse management. And yet they insist we need more forests cleared across the district for grouse. Kentucky Heartwood suggested early in the process that the Forest Service consider meeting forage needs for grouse by incorporating small to medium-sized group selection cuts in a matrix of thinning oriented toward old-growth structural development. But this would mean less timber getting cut, and apparently that’s not worthy of serious consideration. 

Despite its rugged beauty and rich diversity, the Redbird District is being treated like a throw-away district by the U.S. Forest Service. There are no hiking trails and no campgrounds – issues that were raised repeatedly during public meetings by members of the public and U.S. Forest Service staff. The only recreational infrastructure is the extensive Redbird Crest ATV trail, which the Forest Service proposes to reroute with 12 new miles of ATV trail construction. National forest lands in the Redbird District are an island in a landscape of vast strip mines and clearcuts. The forest here needs to be protected and nurtured, and we think that the Forest Service can do better. Please help encourage them to do so.

Official documents for the project can be found on the Daniel Boone National Forest website. And more information can be found on our website here.

Comments are due by Monday, April 2, 2018, and should be emailed to:

Please note in the subject line that the comments are for South Red Bird Project.

Comments can also be mailed by U.S. Postal Service to:

Robert Claybrook
Redbird District Ranger
91 Peabody Road
Big Creek, KY 40914

Email Address Correction:
We have heard from several people that the Forest Service email address we linked to is invalid. Thanks for letting us know! We tracked down the error in the email address and corrected it on our website. There was an invisible extra dash that was in the email address between the word southern and daniel. This happened because we copied the email address from the scanned pdf provided by the Forest Service, and the optical character recognition must have added this extra dash. Many programs will turn two dashes in a row into one dash, and that is what happened in this case, resulting in an invisible extra dash. I deleted it and now it should work. Sorry about that!!

The correct email is (the one in the post above has been corrected as well):

Make sure when you copy/paste that there is no space or period at the end of the email address as well. If you have any issues sending your comment in, please let us know.

Feel free to copy 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 note, if you go to the page for sending comments on the DBNF website, old information for sending comments to Jared Calvert is posted there. The correct instructions for commenting are in the scoping letter, posted on this page of the DBNF website

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