News | January 5, 2018

Timber oversight in Cherokee National Forest shows pattern of mismanagement

The steep slopes in parts of Cherokee National Forest are what draw recreational users to their unique challenges and vantages. Yet the forest has a pattern of problems caused by logging timber on those same steep and fragile slopes.

The most recent proposal for logging along Tumbling Creek, a pristine trout stream near the border of Tennessee and Georgia, has much in common with previous projects that have been disastrous for soil, water, and wildlife. The proposed logging project creates an unnecessary risk of soil damage, loss of plant and animal diversity, and sedimentation that could harm trout and other aquatic life in Tumbling Creek’s clear waters.

Areas like the Cherokee National Forest support recreation, hunting, fishing, and rural economic development. 11 million people visit the Southern Appalachian National Forests each year, including the Cherokee National Forest. The area near Tumbling Creek attracts recreation seekers from across the southeast accessing multi-use trails, the Ocoee River, and the iconic Big Frog Wilderness.

Before a logging project is approved, the Forest Service is required to hear citizen objections and respond to them truthfully, honestly, and out in the open. Although concerned citizen groups warned of environmental dangers throughout the project’s development, with evidence and examples of why the project is too risky, the Cherokee National Forest Supervisor declined to respond to their objections. Instead, he green-lighted the harmful project to move forward. This lack of transparency around risky decisions makes it impossible to trust that the Tumbling Creek timber sale will have any better outcome than previous projects.

SELC, on behalf of Tennessee Sierra Club, and in partnership with the Tennessee Clean Water Network, on behalf of Tennessee Heartwood and Heartwood, recently sent a letter to the Forest Service outlining the many concerns with this project.