In mid-December, the U.S. Forest Service announced plans to withdraw a proposed timber project in West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest. The Big Rock Project, as it was known, called for logging on 2,400 acres of woodlands for timber harvest, road maintenance and general forest upkeep.
The agency stated the project was needed to improve habitat for grouse, deer, turkey and other animal species, as well as to foster conditions for sustainable timber production. But environmental groups including West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of Blackwater, submitted formal objections in July 2019, citing concerns about negative impacts on water quality and aquatic species.
The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy states that potential threats to the endangered candy darter prompted the project’s cancellation.The fish relies on clean, shallow water and rocky bottoms for shelter and egg-laying, which the environmental groups argued would be buried by excess sediment from the project. Based on the Forest Service’s decision, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy suggests the area formerly slated for the Big Rock Project could be designated by the Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the candy darter’s critical habitat. — By Meredith Alling