Birmingham Ferry Salvage Project

The Forest Service at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in western Kentucky has proposed commercial timber harvests on approximately 120 acres in response to a tornado that impacted the area on July 6. Most of the harvests proposed in the Birmingham Ferry Salvage Project are on the north end in the Birmingham Ferry/Pisgah Bay area near Kentucky Lake and the Cravens Bay area near Lake Barkley. There are several problems with this proposal, and we encourage the public to submit comments in opposition.

While the Forest Service has already been able to clear most roads and trails, they have chosen to propose to harvest timber under a “Categorical Exclusion,” or “CE,” which means that there will be no Environmental Assessment and only one opportunity for the public to comment. Comments must be submitted by September 30, 2016. Kentucky Heartwood’s comments for reference, and information on writing comments that the Forest Service will accept are on down this page, along with lots more information and background on the project proposal. Maps showing details of the proposed project area, including Core Areas, are below.

The Forest Service hosted a field trip in the area on Friday September 16, 2016.
news story was aired on local television station, WPSD Local 6, and can be viewed here.


Tornados are natural!

Natural disturbance events like tornadoes and ice storms are as much a part of the forest as leaves falling in autumn. While it can sometimes be sad to see trees fall, the fact is that broken, dead, and dying trees are often an important part of natural, healthy forests. They provide habitat and food, and create “gaps” in the forest where different species thrive and new trees grow. Neighboring trees, relieved of competition, can grow faster while the forest moves toward the more complex structures characteristic of old-growth forests.
Canopy gaps from ice storm in Pisgah Bay project area
Canopy gaps from ice storm in Pisgah Bay project area

Unavoidable impacts

Good forestry practices work to mimic natural disturbance, but also come with unavoidable impacts. The Forest Service will have to bulldoze temporary roads in the forest, establish skidder trails, and build large log landings to stockpile and load logs. These disturbances to the forest floor create ideal conditions for infestations of non-native invasive species in forest interiors. While not currently proposed, multiple follow-up treatments with herbicides or intensive manual efforts will likely be needed deal with invasive species.
Large trees in the Pisgah Bay Core Area
Large trees in the Pisgah Bay Core Area

Core Areas

​About 42,000 acres, or one quarter of Land Between the Lakes, is designated as “Core Areas.” These special areas are supposed to be managed without timber sales and for the development of old-growth characteristics, and to operate as a comparison to more intensive management elsewhere. Though the Forest Service did not disclose this information in their proposal, the salvage areas include 28 acres of the Pisgah Bay Core Area and another 19 acres of logging in a Core Area near Cravens Bay. Logging these areas goes against the expressed intent of the Core Area designation in the Area Plan.
Large trees in the Pisgah Bay Core Area
Large trees in the Pisgah Bay Core Area

Wildfire and Forest Health Risks

The Forest Service cites their interest in reducing the risks of “catastrophic” wildfire as well as potential insect and disease outbreaks as their purpose for harvesting timber. Wildfires are not common at LBL, and because nearly all of LBL is bounded by water there is little risk of fire impacting private property (in fact, fires started in the project area would have to travel more than 30 miles to reach private property). The Forest Service even insists elsewhere that most of LBL is a fire adapted landscape and would benefit from fire. As for forest health risks, the impacts from the tornado are normal, natural, and not on an extraordinary scale. Any insects or disease resulting from tree damage should be localized and a normal part of the forest’s ecology.

Lack of information

The Forest Service says that they plan to log “approximately 120 acres” within a 230-acre salvage area, but are lacking in specifics. The only location information they’ve provided in their maps actually includes over 300 acres across 7 salvage units. They haven’t provided any information about the locations or sizes of log landings and temporary roads, or criteria for the trees that they plan to harvest. And while Forest Service officials have stated verbally that they don’t plan to log any Core Areas, they nevertheless included them in their proposal without disclosing this information to the public. Usually these issues can be addressed in an Environmental Assessment, but because the Forest Service has decided to use a Categorical Exclusion with no Environmental Assessment or future opportunities for public comment, the public is being left largely in the dark.

​Comments are due by Friday, September 30, 2016.

Comments can be sent by email to:
Be sure to include “Birmingham Ferry Salvage” in the subject line.

Comments may be sent by postal mail to:
Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area
100 Van Morgan Drive
Golden Pond, Kentucky 42211

Project documents can be found on the Forest Service website at