- ForestWatch and partner’s Official Comment January 10, 2020
- Official Comment Reading Room
- Compilation of example comments
- Environmental Assessment – Forest Service 12/2/2019
- Foothills Landscape Project Documents – Forest Service Page
- ForestWatch and partner’s comments on project plans, December 2017
- Main components and potential to further the collaborative effort
One big problem with the Foothills Landscape Project:
it asks people to give up their rights to participate
for the next 20 years.
Over the years, people like you who care about forests have written to the Forest Service, and your comments have saved majestic oak forests, kept mud out of trout streams, and preserved vistas for the enjoyment of everyone. Now the stakes are higher than ever. Foothills is the biggest project in the history of the Chattahoochee National Forest. But there’s still time to improve the project. Tell the Forest Service how you want this unique area managed.
In the formal project review The Forest Service is refusing to identify the specific places they intend to cut trees, apply herbicides, and light fires in the formal project review, so they would be able to do those things across a fifth of the entire Chattahoochee National Forest without having to listen to the public.
The Forest Service (FS) has spoken—a two hour public meeting and 39 days (over the Holidays) is deemed to be enough for the public to read, digest and offer comments on 1000 pages of documentation in the Foothills Landscape Project Environmental Assessment and specialist reports. There will be no extension.
So, between now and January 10, 2020, we who value this National Forest for all it provides us (economically, environmentally, spiritually, recreationally) must review and comment on the Chattahoochee National Forest plans for 157,625 acres of public Forest land. That includes over 60,000 acres of logging and chemicals application, untold temporary roads, 50,000 acres of prescribed fires, and up to 111 miles of trail reroutes.
The Forest Service has taken over a year-and-a-half to write their plans, and they include “new ways of doing things.” But crucially, Project documents do not include the actual locations of most these actions. The Forest Service wants approval of this general Environmental Assessment before any site level analysis of potential impacts to soils, streams, trees, wildlife and recreation. If that happens, the Public will be signing away their legal ability to be involved for the next two decades or more. Even though today’s Forest Service includes many knowledgeable and dedicated individuals, there is no guarantee that the Forest Service will be the same in ten years let alone 20. We the Public who care must stay involved and not give the Forest Service free reign over Our Forest.
Tell the Forest Service that they need to give the public site specific information before making a decision.
- Adjacent land owners should be able to tell if the Forest Service is planning to spray herbicide in their backyard.
- Mountain bike riders should be able to tell if they are planning to burn along their favorite trail.
- Trout fishers should be able to tell if they are planning to log around their favorite stream.
This is not asking the Forest Service for anything new.
This is what they have given the public for years.
The Foothills Landscape Project spans from the South Carolina border to Chatsworth and encompasses 157,625 acres, more than a fifth of the entire Chattahoochee National Forest. The project includes vegetation, road, and recreation management, and proposes up to 55,000 acres of commercial timber harvests and 63,000 acres of herbicide application. It also includes some of our most cherished places:
- the lower Chattooga River, well-known for whitewater rafting, and one of our major wildlife habitat corridors
- the Jake and Bull Mountain trails, enjoyed by mountain bikers and horseback enthusiasts, and one of the most popular multi-use trail systems on the forest
- Grassy Mountain, home to the biggest block of old growth forest we have left in north Georgia
The Foothills are the gateway to the mountains, and the effects of this project will be difficult to avoid when visiting the mountains. Previously, the Forest Service has pursued logging and land management projects one watershed at a time, leaving similar areas untouched. But with Foothills, they’re doing the entire landscape–and if they take the wrong approach, the whole area will be impacted. The scale of the project and lack of information identifying what and where require us to call on your presence and participation to continuing protecting and preserving the Chattahoochee National Forest.
Here’s the situation: if Foothills goes through as it is currently written, our federal dollars will be funding the following DIRECT IMPACTS to the Chattahoochee National Forest:
This project sets aside actual old-growth forest to be preserved as old-growth! This is good news because ForestWatch has spent many hours out in the forest surveying and identifying these unique areas. The Forest Service is using the best information and protecting the right areas for old-growth!
Experimental logging on over 20,000 acres. If the Forest Service needs to call in researchers to help test new treatments on our forests, they need to start small. Tell the Forest Service to limit their experimental expanding gap and hemlock silviculture treatments to a handful stands.
- 60,000 acres of commercial logging. The Forest Service can find something wrong with any unmanaged forest they meet, and cutting trees is always part of their solution. How many trees they want to cut may differ between a pine ridge and a hardwood cove, and many areas they can’t get to, but they want to cut trees. Tell the Forest Service we can’t cut our way to a healthy forest.
- The project also calls for constructing 360 miles of new dozer lines to facilitate prescribed burning, grinding vegetation to wood chips on up to 83,000 acres, and building an undisclosed amount of “new temporary” roads.
- Up to 74,500 acres of herbicide application. In conjunction with timber harvests, mixtures containing undisclosed chemicals would be applied directly to the forest, and the people spraying the chemicals won’t be watching out for blueberries, persimmons, azaleas, or hundreds of other species that make our forests so amazing. The Forest Service has other ways to accomplish the same goals, like prescribed fire. Tell the Forest Service we can’t spray our way to a healthier forest.
Official Comment (ForestWatch and Partners):
…The staff of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest has clearly put significant time and energy into this project, which we greatly appreciate. But they are being told to force a square peg through a round hole – and its shows. As a result, these comments are overwhelmingly critical of the analysis in the Draft EA but they are certainly not critical of the staff or the effort they have put forward. We know the agency can complete sufficient analysis; we have seen it do so before. Its flawed pursuit of condition-based management has led it far afield here.
Every major concern raised in this letter has been brought to your attention previously, most of them over two years ago. We paired our concerns with suggested resolutions that would allow the agency to expeditiously pursue its goals, including, in the spirit of partnership, goals we do not share. Regrettably, the Forest Service has wholly disregarded our core suggestions. The Draft EA is rife with errors stemming from the same fundamental problems we have been pointing out to you for years. If this project is delayed because the agency has to take extra time to resolve these problems, it is not because we have not been exceedingly upfront about our concerns… read more