View the Opportunity to Comment letter from the Blue Ridge Ranger District.
Stay tuned as we continue to post more updates to this page!
Worst Project We’ve Seen in Years
Southwest of Blairsville, Georgia, lies one of the hidden jewels of the Chattahoochee National Forest. The Cooper Creek area in Union County boasts clear native trout streams, backcountry hiking trails, and magnificent towering forests, and is a favorite destination for locals and recreational users across Georgia. Yet the Forest Service feels this area needs to be “improved” and has proposed a massive timber project that would remove 30-80% of the trees from more than 2,000 acres.
The Cooper Creek Watershed Project (http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=44385) is the worst Forest Service project ForestWatch has seen in the last decade. Specific concerns on this aggressive project include:
- Over 80% of the stands in the watershed of Bryant Creek will be cut, threatening one of the best native trout streams in Georgia. Timber harvest activities, including the extensive road system that must be built to harvest timber, will increase soil erosion and raise water temperatures.
- Over 300 acres of commercial logging are proposed in an area that the Forest Service previously designated for dispersed recreation and “unsuitable for timber production.”
- The Forest Service is proposing to cut some of the best examples of mature, healthy oak forests and towering white pines. This includes one of only two old-growth stands in the area. Mature oak forests have high wildlife value because acorns are an important food source for a wide variety of species.
- The Forest Service claims that a dense forest canopy is unhealthy, “limiting hardwood tree diversity and wildlife habitat.” But abundant rainfall and fertile soils naturally lead to dense canopies on most Southern Appalachian sites. As trees age, some fall and create small openings that provide wildlife habitat and high light for young trees to grow. This process is already happening in the project area, and will increase as the forest continues to recover from the last round of logging.
- As much as 80% of the trees on 720 acres will be cut to “restore” woodlands (open stands with more sky than tree cover). But there is no evidence that woodland ever occurred naturally in the area. Herbicide will be used extensively to prevent trees from growing back in these artificial woodlands.
The Cooper Creek Watershed Project represents an alarming change from recent projects in the Chattahoochee National Forest because of its massive size, targeting of older stands, and lack of true ecological justification. Georgia ForestWatch submitted rigorous comments on the project scoping and Draft Environmental Assessment, but the Forest Service needs to hear your voice, too.
Please help us save these majestic forests and let Ranger Baker know how special the Cooper Creek area is. Project details can be found on the Forest Service’s website (http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=44385).
As always, you can contact Georgia ForestWatch at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 706-867-0051 if you have any questions.
Thank you for supporting Georgia’s national forests!
Want more information?
Forest News Winter 2016: “Cooper Creek Watershed Project Draft Environmental Assessment Released”
January 14, 2016 Press Release: Conservation groups call for improvements to proposed Cooper Creek timber sale
Forest News Summer 2015: “Cooper Creek Watershed Project Update”
Forest News Winter 2015: “Expanding Military Training Activities in Cooper Creek”
Forest News Summer 2014: “Cooper Creek Watershed Project”
Forest News Summer 2014: “Cooper Creek Project – Process for Environmental Analysis”