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Forest Service Extends Comment Period in Proposed Timber Cut

The public hearing was organized by The Clinch Coalition, a local member of Virginia Forest Watch.

Scott County Virginia Star
From Staff Reports Sept. 13, 2006

Forestry officials decided to extend their initial comment period following a Monday night public meeting in Dungannon.
About twenty-five Scott County citizens attended the public meeting to voice their concerns about a timber cut planned by the U.S. Forest Service on Dry Creek near Dungannon. Many of the residents attending had suffered extensive property damage from flooding as recently as 2001 and they were upset that the Forest Service had not informed them about its plan to log 400 acres above their homes.
Forestry responded by extending the public comment period another 30 days for what they are calling the “Back Valley Timber Sale.” Ron Bush, the new head of the Clinch Ranger District of the Jefferson National Forest, and four of his staff members attended the meeting. The public hearing was organized by The Clinch Coalition, a local member of Virginia Forest Watch.
Bush agreed to the extension after citizens protested they did not receive adequate notice of the timber sale when it was first announced in late July. The Forest Service placed the required public notice in the “Coalfield Progress”, a Wise county newspaper that is not widely circulated in Scott County.
Steve Brooks of Virginia Forest Watch said the Forest Service neglected to place the notice in the Scott County paper and only sent notice to landowners that owed property adjacent to the sale, not to families that actually live on Dry Creek.
Members of the Clinch Coalition and Virginia Forest Watch had asked Bush in August to extent the comment period, but at that time he refused to do so. According to Federal regulations, the Forest Service is required to: “Provide public notice…so as to inform those persons and agencies who may be interested or affected.”
Clinch Coalition members wrote in their request for the extension, “We believe the citizens who live on Dry Creek are very much affected by this proposal and should have been given public notice.”
The request went on to say, “As far as we know, none of the residents of Dry Creek received a scoping notice from the Forest Service nor was the announcement published in their local newspaper.”
The main concern of those attending the hearing was that additional timbering in the Dry Creek watershed would increase the danger of future flooding. Both residents of Dry Creek and the surrounding watersheds still very much remember the extensive flooding that occurred in 2001 when many homes were damaged along with roads and bridges.
“Not only was there destruction of private and public property, but we lost a neighbor in that flood.” said Tom Gillenwater, who lives on Big Stoney Creek above Ft. Blackmore.
Gillenwater was referring to one home that was completely washed off it foundation killing it’s occupant. Clinch Coalition members believe extensive timbering on both public and private land at the headwaters was the cause for the excessive flooding.
Citizens of Dry Creek brought photos of the flooding that took place in 2001 and told the Forest Service of the major damage that took place.
Charlie Osborne, whose home was flooded by three feet of water during the 2001 flood told Bush, “It would not be so back if they would spread this cutting and burning out over a longer period of time, but to do it all within three years time is just too much!”
“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,” Osborne added.
Bush agreed to consider all the comments that were received. He passed out forms for folks to fill out and gave them his email address for sending comment. He said the additional comment period would begin in a few days with an official notice sent to the papers.
Dick Austin, who lives outside of Dungannon and has been dealing with issues under the authority of the Forest Service for over thirty years, wanted answers to three questions directed to Bush.
“Have you prepared figures comparing the financial benefits of the timbering that you propose, with the costs of repairing Route 653 where it crosses Dry Creek, as well as the road up Dry Creek?” Austin asked. “Are you and the Forest Service willing to accept moral, legal, and financial responsibility if your timbering causes death and damage to private property, as Forest Service timbering caused on Stony Creek a few years ago?”
“Finally, are you — or perhaps a member of your staff — prepared to move to Dry Creek to personally share the consequences of the timbering you propose? ”
Bush answered the final question, by saying that if a home had been available on Dry Creek when he moved here a few months ago he would have considered it then, but not now. He conclude that these and all questions that are put to them will be answered in due course.
“Having participated in many Forest Service hearings over the past three decades, it is my expectation that the Forest Service will pay absolutely no attention to anything said here this evening.” Austin added. “It is their pattern to ignore the public.”
For more information on the Back Valley Timber Cut, visit the national forest web site at for a full range of proposed actions planned by the forest service.

Courtesy of Virginia Forest Watch





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