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The U.S. Forest Service’s Plan to Cut Our Old Growth Forests

In 2006, the U.S. Forest Service proposed the Globe Forest Management Plan which originally included clear-cutting over 200 acres of Pisgah National Forest near the Blowing Rock/Grandfather Mountain area including old-growth stands and many trees aged from 100-300 years old. After nearly 1800 comments opposing the sale, and appeals by conservation groups voicing their opposition, the Forest Service Service stands by their decision the cut, only reducing it by a few acres and changing it to a two-aged cut (meaning they plan 2/3 of the trees in each stand and leave 1/3).

Not only has the Forest Service ignored strong public opposition, but, defying all common sense, they claim the purpose of the timber sale is to create new wildlife habitat!  But we know their true motives – the Forest Service’s own documents say they plan to make a profit of over $100,000 from selling the Globe Forest to timber companies.  Old growth forests are considered rare ecosystems by ecologists, and should be protected from destructive timber sales.

Since When is Logging “Enhancing Wildlife Habitat?”

The U.S. Forest Service say their plan is to create “early successional habitat” (i.e. very young trees, and short shrubs) for wildlife like grouse, turkey, deer, some songbird species, as well as “travel corridors” for bears. However, ecological studies have shown that what is good for some game species is detrimental for other types of wildlife such as migratory birds who need long expanses of deep forest interiors in order to breed and nest.

It is also highly questionable that “early successional habitat” and “travel corridors” are any benefit to bears. So many areas around the national have been developed that bears are already in danger of being hit by cars or interacting with humans. There has been no study to determine how much “early successional habitat” is already provided for on private lands surrounding national forests in North Carolina. Dr. Roger Powell, Zoology professor at NC State, says that bears require many types of foods from insects and berries to acorns, all of which a mature forest like the Globe provides. ‘“Bears don’t need roads,” said Ben Prater, of Wildsouth. “What they need are undisturbed mature forests and, unfortunately, that is exactly what the Forest Service intends to destroy in this timber sale.”’

Globe Forest Facts
Herbicides will be used on 250 acres of forest in order to curb the expected growth of invasive plants due to the timber harvest. Sensitive bird species such as the Wood Thrush and Worm-Eating Warbler live within the cut areas, “What many songbirds need are mature forests for nesting and rearing their young, yet that’s exactly what the Forest Service want to chop down.” –Western North Carolina Alliance.

The Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project reported that previous timber sales in that area, such as Frankum Creek, eradicated populations of trout. The Southern Environmental Law Center surveyed the proposed timber cut areas and found old growth tree environments and trees whose ages spanned from 100 to over 300 years old. One Chestnut Oak was aged at 328 years.

The cut areas include Rich Cove Forest, Pine-Oak Heath, and Chestnut Oak Forest, all of which are considered regionally sensitive natural communities. “As a biologist and forest researcher, it is my opinion that all existing old growth should be protected…Old growth is very rare. It makes no sense and is disingenuous to log existing communities that are 200 to 300 years old while designating other, less mature communities to become old growth in the future.”

As of July 2010, after a year of campaigning by Earth First!, and multiple years by other environmental groups, the Forest Service is considering removing the 40 acre section of old growth from the sale.  This area still hangs in the balance, nevertheless, as the agreement is still unsigned, and other areas are not out of danger from being cut.  The other stands at risk of being cut are connected to old growth habitat and, if cut, will cause negative “edge effects” in that forest.  We do not believe any cuts should happen along Thunderhole Creek, and Earth First! continues to campaign for a cancellation of the entire sale.   Cutting one part of the forest will affect all of it.  Keep those chainsaws away from our national forests.

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Click to access rm_gtr229_402_407.pdf

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