By DYLAN T. LOVAN
Associated Press Writer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - The U.S. Forest Service has halted a proposal that would permit timber sales on a portion of the Daniel Boone National Forest in southeastern Kentucky.
Officials said the plan, which includes cutting and burning on more than 12,000 acres of forest land, could be altered and will likely proceed on a delayed schedule.
Two environmental groups - Heartwood of Bloomington, Ind., and Kentucky Heartwood - wrote an appeal to the Forest Service earlier this year. The groups called for a broader environmental impact test and more time for public input.
"I think it's still a very good project, but I wanted to make sure I considered all the issues that these two groups brought up to me," Jerry Perez, supervisor for the 700,000-acre forest, said Thursday.
The Forest Service said the project's focus is improving water quality and wildlife diversity in the Redbird area, which spreads over 145,000 acres and six counties. Part of the cutting and burning would make way for 10,000 acres of habitat for ruffed grouse, a popular game bird. It also calls for timber sales on about 1,250 acres over five years.
Paul Lovelace, director of Morehead-based Kentucky Heartwood, said the delay of the project was a "victory for the forest."
"We're not naive to think this is over, so we just prepare ourselves for the next decision," Lovelace said. He prepared a 37-page appeal of the project sent to forestry officials.
Lovelace said volunteers interviewed about 50 local residents about the project, and most weren't aware of it.
"We even spoke to a family, who, right behind their home would've been converted into a road. They had no idea this was happening," he said.
Perez said he will resubmit plans for the project, which also includes building or refurbishing more than 20 miles of roads, the construction of two road culverts and developing ridge-top ponds.
The plan "may change, it may stay the same," Perez said. He said he hopes to reissue it by the end of the year.
Forestry officials have argued that trees in portions of the Daniel Boone have grown so thick that they're forced to compete for nutrients and moisture and that cutting selected trees will allow others to grow stronger.
Lovelace said leaving the landscapes alone is a better policy.
"These 200-year-old forests are ever diminishing and rare, and they deserve protection," Lovelace said. "These forests can withstand disease and storms better than any other forest because time has allowed them to adapt a balanced ecosystem."
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)