A proposed project in the Monongahela National Forest (MNF) has evoked strong concerns from the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (Conservancy), the state’s most prominent conservation organization and a founding member of ABRA. The stated purpose by the MNF of the Gauley Healthy Forest Restoration Project (GHFRP), located in Nicholas and Greenbrier Counties, WV, is to “improve forest stands by developing healthy stands that are more resistant to insects, disease and fire.” The project is one of those covered by ABRA’s Conservation Hub program and its National Forest Integrity Project (click here for the Hub page about the GHFRP).
In a November 3 letter to the MNF, the Conservancy said that the proposed GHFRP does not fit the requirements established for such projects by the relevant authorizing statute, the Healthy Forest Restoration Act, originally enacted in 2003.
“None of the information that was provided to us provides an explanation of how the proposed clearcuts fit the requirement to maximize retention of old-growth and large trees, nor does the information explain how clearcutting would maintain or restore ecological integrity, structure, function, composition, and connectivity. Under natural conditions, mixed hardwood forests of the Monongahela National Forest are dominated by uneven-aged, old-growth stands (see Monongahela National Forest Final Environmental Impact Statement for Forest Plan Revision, USDA Forest Service 2006, p. 3-108). While clearcutting may meet objectives established for timber production or habitat enhancement for early successional species, it does not constitute ecological restoration in the forest types of the project area.”
The Conservancy’s comments point out that the GHFRP, as proposed, indicates the potential for significant effects to several resource areas. The letter also points to the need for there to be an analysis of the cumulative impacts on the Candy Darter, an endangered species whose limited habitat includes that portion of West Virginia. A copy of the Conservancy’s comments is available here.
West Virginia Highlands Conservancy is a founding member of ABRA and is a prominent supporter and sponsor of ABRA’s Conservation Hub program.