The Monongahela National Forest has proposed to conduct large-scale commercial logging on 3,394 acres in Pocahontas County in West Virginia. They also propose to apply herbicides to 2,025 acres, burn 1,904 acres, build 8.7 miles of roads and 49.1 acres of skid roads, install 34 log landings, and turn 125 acres into open fields.
Friends of Blackwater and the Center for Biological Diversity believe that this proposal is much too broad, and that it would have a negative impact on wildlife and forest users.
The massive “Greenbrier Southeast” logging project would lie along the Virginia/West Virginia border – an area that is full of beautiful scenic views, endangered and rare species, and high elevation mountain streams flowing into the
“Ginny,” the West Virginia northern flying squirrel lives here, as well as the rare (and federally protected) candy darter fish and the hellbender. The streams is the proposal area are famous for their rich aquatic life, including brook trout — with fishing in Buffalo Fork Lake. Historic sites include the Camp Allegheny Civil War Battlefield, and the Smoke Camp Knob Fire Tower viewing point, at 4,237 feet. This area also backs up to the Laurel Fork Special Biological Area on the George Washington National Forest. Laurel Fork contains one of the finest examples of
northern boreal natural community complexes in Virginia, and is the only representative of the Alleghany Plateau Ecoregion within the Commonwealth. (“Ginny” lives here, too.)
Before the U.S. Forest Service conducts logging operations in a National Forest, they must involve the public – pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). Friends of Blackwater and the Center for Biological Diversity have commented to the Service that the proposal information shared with the public is not compliant with the requirements of NEPA. For example, it does not include important information about the project’s potential impacts to the candy darter and other protected species.
The Forest Service’s failure to include this information deprives the public of the opportunity to provide meaningful and informed public comment. It also precludes the Forest Service from taking the necessary “hard look” at the environmental impacts of the proposed project. And finally, it fails to provide a reasonable range of alternatives to provide a clear basis for the choice among options by the decision maker and the public.
We are very concerned that the current Administration is ducking its legal requirements that are designed to protect environmental values. We have urged the Forest Service to suspend this proposal until consultation with Fish and Wildlife Service on the candy darter, endangered bat, and the rusty patched bumblebee is completed.
And we have asked that the agency provide an additional comment period, so that the public can meaningfully contribute to the decision-making process. With your support, we will continue to engage with the Forest Service and take whatever steps are necessary to see that the law is followed. Thanks for caring about our beautiful Allegheny Highlands!
Find the official comments here.