In June of 2019, Friends of Blackwater, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy filed objections to a large-scale timbering proposal for 171,579 acres on the Monongahela National Forest located near White Sulfur Springs– called the “Panther Ridge Habitat Enhancement Project.”
On November 21, 2019, the Forest Service filed their response, in which they acknowledged deficiencies in the way the timbering plan evaluates the effects on wildlife. This means that before the proposal can move forward, there must be more analysis by agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the plan may change after that analysis.
This is a good, but limited, result. Friends of Blackwater may still have to go to court if the final outcome is not supported by law and science.
Looking at the bigger picture, the Panther Ridge proposal is a classic case of misdirection and false labelling. It’s called a “Habitat Enhancement Project,” and is pitched as a way to help certain wildlife species, like turkeys. But — surprise surprise (!) — there is no shortage of turkey habitat in West Virginia! And what a coincidence (!) that the method of “helping turkeys” just happens to involve cutting down thousands of trees in sensitive species habitat, all to help meet massive logging quotas imposed by Washington!
Friends of Blackwater scientists and lawyers and our partners are watching this proposal closely, and we will keep you updated. Thanks to everyone who supports this effort!