After 3 years of negotiation, Forest Service compromises on timber project

Logging project moved off outstanding area of Jefferson National Forest

Mill Creek near Narrows, Virginia. 

The U.S. Forest Service has significantly scaled back its proposal to log nearly 1,500 acres of forest around High Knob and Pickem Mountain in the Jefferson National Forest. This follows negotiations with conservation groups that strongly objected to the original proposal.

A large logging project just made no sense here.”

—Kristin Davis, SELC attorney

“High Knob is one of the Jefferson National Forest’s most outstanding areas — a rich expanse of mature, unique hardwood forest that serves as an oasis amidst the coalfields,” said SELC attorney Kristin Davis. A beloved local landmark and popular destination for outdoor recreation, the High Knob area is also a tourism booster for local communities. “A large logging project just made no sense here,” said Davis.

The Forest Service approved the modified project earlier this month. Changes to the project respond to an administrative objection filed by SELC on behalf of The Clinch Coalition in 2018. The objection centered on protecting this special area of the forest, as well as water quality in the nearby Clinch River.

“The Clinch River is a national biodiversity hotspot with an extraordinary array of fish and mussels,” explained Davis. “Unfortunately, it is also already polluted with excess sediment. The Forest Service did not show it could log in this steep, wet area – which is prone to landslides – without making the problem worse.”

As part of the negotiated settlement, the Forest Service eliminated all logging around High Knob and Pickem Mountain, which reduced the total area of timber harvest to 577 acres to the west of the of these sensitive areas. The agency also dropped around 1,500 acres of controlled burning.

“The Forest Service’s agreements to move off of High Knob and Pickem Mountain were critical to protecting these incredibly special areas and the Clinch River,” said Davis. “In the end, the Forest Service listened to public concerns and worked with us to resolve them. I appreciate how committed everyone was to getting this right.”    

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