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Land Between the Lakes Should Withdraw Demumbers Bay Project

Heartwood

On Dec. 12, the U.S. Forest Service Land Between the Lakes (LBL) National Recreation Area staff issued a decision notice and finding of “no significant impact” for a large logging, prescribed burning and herbicide application project in an area known as Demumbers Bay in the north end of LBL, in Kentucky.

The decision notice authorizes the following activities, which will damage the forest: prescribed burning on 3,245 acres, multiple times in either the dormant season or growing season; mechanical timber harvest on 1,825 acres; thinning (a non-mechanical cut-and-leave treatment) on up to 150 feet into the forest around each open land in the project area; use of herbicides, in conjunction with prescribed fire, on up to 600 acres per year (multiple treatments on those acres may occur in the same year, if necessary); collection of a portion of the woody biomass from areas where mechanical timber harvest has occurred (1,825 acres); development of a self-guided interpretive program showcasing forest management practices in the project area; addition of 4.25 miles to the roads system for access to open lands, and construction of 4.5 miles temporary roads for timber harvest operations.

This part of LBL is home to many important historical resources, and the LBL still does not have a complete heritage resource protection plan. In addition, this is the area hardest hit by recent ice storms, which essentially removed the canopy from the forest. The canopy in this area was also damaged by a tornado that passed through a year prior to the ice storm. Part of the justification for the project is to open the canopy to spur growth in the understory, so that maples don’t replace the oaks and hickories. However, the tornado and ice storms left huge gaps in the canopy and the existing understory is predominantly oak and hickory already. The Demumbers area has suffered intensive damage, and is in need of natural recovery—not mechanized logging, prescribed burning, and herbicide treatments. Additional road construction in the area will also cause adverse impacts to the forest.

Area residents have expressed concern that the project will not only have significant environmental effects from the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of the authorized actions, but will also result in the loss of critical heritage resources.

The Regional Association of Concerned Environmentalists and local citizens aligned with Heartwood announced that they are going to appeal the project, with support from Heartwood. Opponents are demanding that the Forest Service LBL office complete a full assessment of heritage resources, in consultation with former residents. They also note that in the face of global climate change, a shrinking federal budget, and current questions raised about corruption on LBL by a series of lawsuits filed by Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, this is not the time for the Obama administration to be authorizing such huge, damaging and controversial projects on LBL.

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