Forest service project to improve forest health


The Wayne National Forest (WNF) Ironton Ranger District (IRD) is seeking public comments by May 26th, 2015, on a proposal that is intended to create diverse wildlife habitats within the project area, while supporting local economies.

The Buckeye Habitat Improvement Project is in the general area east of State Route (SR) 93, west of SR 141, north of the community of Aid and south of the community of Oak Hill. Symmes Creek flows through the project area. This location is within Jackson, Gallia and Lawrence Counties. The project area is 54,970 acres in size and includes an estimated 25,986 acres of National Forest System (NFS) land and 28,983 acres of non-NFS land, though habitat improvement activities would not occur on non-NFS. A portion of the Vesuvius Horse Trail is within the southwest part of the project area and the Symmes Creek – Morgan Sisters Hiking Trail is within the northern part of the project area.

The purpose of this project is to create diverse wildlife habitats by:

Creating early successional hardwood forests;

Creating early successional native pine forests;

Creating herbaceous or herbaceous/shrub habitat;

Improving forest health;

Restoring and maintaining oak-hickory forest;

Enhancing wildlife and plant micro-habitats; and

Improving fire regime condition class (FRCC).

In southeast Ohio, oak-hickory forests, native pine forests and early successional forests (i.e. young, brushy forests) play an integral role in native ecosystems, providing food and shelter for a variety of plants and animals. Oaks native to this region support over 500 species of moths and butterflies. Oak-hickory forests provide nuts that make up the primary fall and winter food for various wildlife species such as blue jay, wood duck, raccoon, black bear, deer, turkey and bobwhite. Native pine forests supply nesting and foraging areas for many bird and small mammal species and provide thermal cover for wildlife particularly during adverse winter conditions. Early successional forests are characterized by thick brush and young trees. They are an important habitat for approximately 35% of the land animals that are known to occur on the WNF.

Oaks, hickories and native pine species are shade-intolerant and disturbance-dependent (i.e. rely on disturbance events such as wind storms, fires and/or timber harvests for successful regeneration). The current trajectory of forests in southeast Ohio is towards more shade-tolerant species. Forests with current overstories of oaks, hickories and native pine are increasingly composed of understories of maple and other hardwoods. As the canopy trees die off and understory trees become dominant it is likely that species composition will move away from oak, hickory and native pine. Native pine is dropping out of forests at a rapid rate. Early successional forests are in decline on the WNF: in 1968 25% of NFS lands were covered in forests less than ten years of age, while only 5.4% was covered in this forest age-class in 2005.

During the winter of 2003 an ice storm occurred over a four-state region. In Ohio, the area including the IRD was heavily hit with 11-23 inches of snow and ice. This ice storm had far-reaching impacts to forests; initially breaking crowns and subsequently triggering the onset of forest insects and disease that continue to degrade forest health. The proposed action includes timber harvest treatments to regenerate forests, create grassy/shrubby openings within forests, or thin forests; and non-harvest treatments to foster conditions favorable for oaks, hickories and native pines. Prescribed fire, herbicides and road construction would be included. The Project would be implemented over many years (10-20 years).

Detailed information about the project proposal, including an interactive project map, is available on the project webpage found at:

http://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/wayne/landmanagement/projects

If approved, the project will contain requirements necessary to ensure full compliance with laws, regulations, policies and the Forest Plan direction.

Public comments can be made to Patrick Mercer at the IRD, 6518 State Route 93, Pedro, Ohio byMay, 26th, 2015, specifically stating that they are in reference to the scoping period for the Buckeye Habitat Improvement Project. In order for your comments to be considered, they must directly relate to the proposed action to a resource impact. Include your name, current physical mailing address, phone number and signature or other verification of identity with your comments.

You may also call to discuss this project at (740) 534-6500 during normal business hours (M-F, 8:00-4:30) or submit comments electronically to: comments-eastern-wayne-ironton@fs.fed.us

Information about this and other projects being developed and analyzed can be found online at the Wayne National Forest website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/wayne/landmanagement/projects .

In the area of the Buckeye Project, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is working with private landowners to restore and maintain oak-hickory forests. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Oak Management Program can provide forestry expertise and financial assistance to landowners wishing to conduct certain forestry activities. Those interested in finding out more about the EQIP Oak Management Program should contact their local NRCS conservationist at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/oh/contact/local/

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