Front Porch Blog

Press Release: Forest Service Agrees to Public Hearing

The new Clinch District Ranger, Ron Bush, and his staff have agreed to attend a public hearing to discuss a proposed 400-acre timber sale they are planning for Dry Creek, a small watershed just above Dungannon in Scott County. The hearing will be held at the Dungannon Depot on Monday, Sept. 11 at 6 PM.

Citizens of that community, which received extensive flooding in the summer of 2001, were not notified of the proposal and only learned of it from members of The Clinch Coalition. Because of the past flooding, many residents were disturbed to hear that the Forest Service is proposing to log directly above their homes.

Charlie Floyd Osborne, whose home was flooded by three feet of water during the 2001 flood, went to the District office in Wise and spent over an hour talking with the Forest Service Planner, Steve Kuennen, about the proposed cut. Osborne says he is not satisfied with what he heard and will be present at the public hearing.

“If they would spread this cutting and burning out over a longer period of time it might be OK, but to do it all within three years time is just too much!” he said. “It was all we could do to get out of our house in time back in 2001 and then we had to replace the floors, walls and ceilings because of the damage.”

In addition to the cutting, the Forest Service is planning to burn 1,300 acres of land in the watershed, an action that folks also believe will increase runoff.

Roger Blevins, who lives at the mouth of the creek and has also received flood damage in the past, said he talked to Kuennen for over 30 minutes on the phone and was not at all happy with what he heard. Blevins stated, “I feel that the additional runoff created would be devastating to my property and the entire area.”

Anna Hess, a Field Biologist who lives in the Dungannon area warned the Forest Service in a recent letter: “Numerous studies have definitively linked timber harvesting to flooding, so the proposed activities seem nearly guaranteed to lead to another disastrous event.”

Pointing out that the Clinch River is home to many mussels which live nowhere else in the world, Hess went on to say, “Timber harvesting and road-building, in addition to
leading to greater quantities of runoff, also decreases the quality of runoff. Without trees to slow the water down, runoff from deforested areas tends to pick up silt and other particles which eventually run into the Clinch River and harm these endangered species.”

The comment period for the Back Valley Timber Sale ended on August 28, but a request was made by the Clinch Coalition to extend that period so citizens who had not been notified by the Forest Service about the proposed logging in a timely manner could express their concerns.

In a letter to the Forest Service, The Clinch Coalition stated: “We do not believe that ‘diligent efforts to notify the public’ [as required by Forest Service regulations] were taken in this process. None of the citizens that we are aware of that live in the effected area of Dry Creek were notified of the proposed sale, either by letter or by public notice in the local paper. Notice was only submitted and published in the Wise County Coalfield Progress which is not widely distributed in Scott County where this action is being proposed to take place.”

After first refusing to extend the comment period, Maureen Hyzer, the Forest Supervisor in Roanoke, agreed to reconsider that decision when District Ranger Ron Bush returns to his office on August 28.

Courtesy of Virginia Forest Watch





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