Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Agreement reached on logging in Pisgah National Forest

After years of debate, the U.S. Forest Service and conservation groups have reached a mutual agreement over logging plans for the Globe Forest area of the Pisgah National Forest near Boone and Blowing Rock.

The agency has agreed to drop from the timber sale one stand containing trees as old as 300 years or more. The agency also is reducing planned timber harvests across nearly 100 acres of forests within the view-sheds of local communities. The Forest Service addressed concerns about muddy runoff from road construction by reducing temporary road construction to only 1/2 mile and eliminating the need for any new permanent road entirely from the Globe Forest.

"We are thrilled we found a collaborative outcome that protects this old growth forest," said DJ Gerken, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC). "While we don't agree with the Forest Service about the impacts of logging on forest habitat, this compromise shows the win-win result of hard work by Forest Service professionals and by citizens who care deeply about protecting these public lands. I'm honored to have been part of this effort that will benefit the environment, and benefit a wide range of stakeholders. I look forward to showing off the ancient Globe Forest to my grandchildren some day."

"I'm glad that the outcome of this project is good for all parties involved," said John Crockett, district ranger for the Grandfather Ranger District. While reducing the project's visual impacts, project objectives will still be met by creating 346 acres of 0-10 year old wildlife habitat through two-age regeneration harvesting. Crockett adds "We were cognizant of the visual concerns within the viewshed of Blowing Rock as well as visual impacts from Globe Road. No harvest units or landings will be directly on Globe Road."

In addition to addressing the concerns of the conservation groups, the compromise design for the Globe Timber project will achieve several of the Forest Service's goals for the project. The new Mulberry Globe Stewardship Project, being implemented by the National Wild Turkey Federation, will use receipts from the timber sale to complete improvement projects in the area including site preparation to ensure healthy re-growth in harvested stands, creating wildlife habitat openings, placing boulders to managing unauthorized vehicles, relocating degraded trails that are causing damage, treating weeds and restoring streams. "The NWTF is conducting the work in partnership with multiple local contractors, NWTF volunteers, and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission," said Dave Wilson, director of stewardship services with the NWTF. "The project will provide much needed early successional habitat for the wild turkey and a multitude of other species."

Here's a timeline of events:

* In January 2005, USFS announced plans to log the Globe Forest, which harbors old-growth trees - increasingly rare in the region, some more than 300 years old. Over 1,800 comments from citizens were submitted to the agency, the vast majority opposed to logging the Globe.

* The Blowing Rock Town Council and the Watauga County Commission each passed unanimous resolutions opposing the project.

* The agency revised the logging project in November 2006, but reduced the area to be logged by just 19 acres.

* SELC, representing Wild South, Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition, and the Western North Carolina Alliance, appealed the project in early 2008.

* The Forest Service initiated collaborative discussions in fall of 2008 which ultimately produced the compromise design for the revised Mulberry / Globe Stewardship Project.


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