Plan for logging in Daniel Boone National Forest threatens rare flowers

This is about a formal objection to a logging project.  I think it illustrates one of the major issues we see in a lot of conflicts about logging (and an eastern example to boot):  what role should timber sale economics play in project selection and decision-making?

From the objectors:

Instead of focusing restoration efforts where they’re most needed, the Forest Service is going where the timber is,” Scheff said.  Scheff said there is a genuine need for appropriate measures to improve the health of the area, which is home to unusual or rare features including sandstone glades, Appalachian seeps and spots of native grassland. But the Forest Service could use methods other than commercial logging at many sites to achieve the goals of the project, Scheff said.

From the Forest Service:

The Forest Service said logging as part of the Greenwood project would help the local economy.  Reed said commercial logging is a tool to help improve the national forest, bringing in money for work the Forest Service would otherwise have to pay to get done.  “It’s an efficiency and it’s common sense,” Reed said.

I at least hope the NEPA process clearly laid out the differences in effects between these alternatives, and the reasons for the choices made.

6 Comments

  1. By coincidence I’ve just completed an analysis of the timber management intensity and poverty level on the Daniel Boone. The Daniel Boone National Forest is young: proclaimed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937 with the Red Bird Purchase Unit established in 1967. In contrast to the national forests in the west, which were created mostly from never-harvested public domain land, eastern forests were formed from cut-over and repeatedly burned lands purchased from private owners (somehow the rare plants survived). The forest is harvesting 2% of its annual timber growth on unreserved timberland, while 24 times that volume dies each year.

    The forest lies in the Appalachia poverty pocket and every county in the Daniel Boone has a poverty level much higher than the national average of 13.5%. For example, McCreary County with 52% of its land in the national forest has a poverty level of 27%. Local governments are striving to reduce these extreme poverty levels by diversifying and expanding their economic base. Prudent husbandry of the Daniel Boone National Forest with its large, rapidly growing, and essentially un-tapped timber resource offers a promising opportunity to lead the way in replacing “King Coal” with a sustainable, renewable, environmentally sound economic base.

  2. It might be possible to provide national forest timber as a local social welfare program, but that isn’t what the Daniel Boone decided to do when it revised its forest plan in 2004. From the Record of Decision:

    “Alternative A (1985 Forest Plan) and Alternative E-1 are based on an earlier management
    emphasis related to the timber resource—an emphasis on harvesting timber for the
    products that are produced… In recent years the Forest Service has recognized that it is time to adopt a new approach for the harvesting of timber on the national forests… By choosing Alternative C-1, I am establishing a new role for timber harvesting on the Daniel Boone National Forest. Timber harvesting in the future will be used first and foremost as a tool to achieve desired ecosystem conditions, including thinning to reduce overcrowding and establish more open woodland, woodland/grassland, and woodland/shrubland conditions; and regenerating to control age and species diversity. It is the desired ecosystem conditions spelled out by the Revised Forest Plan that will determine when and where timber harvesting is used.” (Note that this is the policy now incorporated into the 2012 Planning Rule.)

    Given that, I think asking why restoration requires logging is a good question for an objection. According the forest plan, the purpose of timber harvest is not to raise money either.

  3. Your first philosophical question has been endlessly debated, but the practical question is the second one. On national forests, the answer to that question in the Planning Rule is:

    §219.9(b) Social and economic
    sustainability. The plan must include
    plan components, including standards
    or guidelines, to guide the plan area’s
    contribution to social and economic
    sustainability, taking into account:
    (1) Social, cultural, and economic
    conditions relevant to the area
    influenced by the plan;
    (2) Sustainable recreation; including
    recreation settings, opportunities, and
    access; and scenic character;
    (3) Multiple uses that contribute to
    local, regional, and national economies
    in a sustainable manner;
    (4) Ecosystem services;
    (5) Cultural and historic resources and
    uses; and
    (6) Opportunities to connect people
    with nature.

    The Forest Service can take this into account up to the point that it impairs ecological sustainability (including species viability). I think that is a way of saying that national public welfare depends on ecologically healthy national forests, which are expressed in the “desired ecosystem conditions spelled out by the Revised Forest Plan.”

  4. This is the first time in my 95 years that I’ve heard anyone question the fact that Homo sapiens is part of the global ecosystem. This is not a “philosophical question that has endlessly been debated”. Jon, perhaps you would like to clarify that statement?

  5. Maybe it was only endlessly debated within the Forest Service where it was a shorthand for what level of human impacts should be considered in determine the natural range of variability, which in turn became a debate about what point in time should be used as a historical reference point. My take on the result of this is that some level of native “management” led to pre-European ecological conditions that were sustainable, so providing those conditions is a legitimate way of maintaining ecological diversity. If we just accepted “whatever happens” with today’s human society, we’d have no assurance of sustainability. So my point was really to focus on the management question rather than the shorthand.

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