US Forest Service To Log VA Creeks
By: Kevin Colburn
The USFS is making way to proceed with devastating logging in the steep and flashy Little Stony/Big Stony watersheds in Southern Virginia.
In the Little Stony watershed, the plan calls for the logging of approximately 175 acres in the Joel Branch and 215 acres in the Daveyland Branch. Several smaller private holdings have been logged creating sedimentation in the stream which once ran crystal clear even after several inches of rain. Now after just 1/2" of rainfall, the creeks usually runs a muddy brown color. The logging in the Big Stony Creek watershed will impact several sections of Mountain Fork, Bark Camp Branch (one of the LAST clean drinking streams) and Big Stony Creek itself. The planned logging will impact aproximately 422 acres in the Mountain Fork area and 56 acres in the Bark Camp Branch watershed. In addition to impacting paddlers and the many rare aquatic species that live in the watershed, this plan will also displace several sections of the nationally recognized Chief Benge's Scout Trail which traverses High Knob from the Lookout Tower to Hanging Rock near the mouth of Little Stony Creek.
American Whitewater Regional Coordinator John King has worked closely with the Clinch Coalition in attempts stop these risky and ecologically damaging logging plans. The Clinch Coalition is made up of local people who were concerned after flooding in 2001 caused an estimated $55.7 million in property damage (their property) along the Clinch River and killed at least one man in Scott County. The worst flooding reportedly occurred in association with USFS logging on steep slopes. As a result, the Clinch Coalition sought to have the public land in question protected as a National Recreation Area but was tharted by industry supported groups that spread misinformation and lobbied hard against the land protection. The Clinch Coalition and other environmental groups then sued the USFS, demanding that the forest officials halt the timber sale until a more thorough analysis could be conducted on its impact on the region. This lawsuit was recently lost and the logging is set to proceed. Check out the Clinch Coalition's press release about the law suit: http://clinchcoalition.org/news.html. While in some parts of the country the USFS is doing a great job of protecting wildlands and water quality, as well as human life and recreational opportunities, the Jefferson National Forest is convinced that logging must proceed regardless of the risks to the ecosystem and lives of neighboring residents.
John King recently wrote, "We as a local group have done all we can do, the US District court judge has ruled in favor of the USFS and they are planning on cutting by September." To add insult to injury, regional USFS Ranger Doug Jones, recently referred to the environmental groups seeking to protect the watershed as "terrorists". We strongly support the great work of John King and the many local people in the Scott County area who have fought hard to protect their lives, their property, and the places they love. Thanks John for your tenacity and excellent work on this very frustrating and challenging project, the relationships you have built and the skills you have learned will undoubtedly pay off with future conservation efforts. It is reassuring to know that the creeks and rivers of Southern Virginia have a voice.