OHIO VALLEY — An environmental analysis of the Sunny Oaks Project, an effort aiming to potentially harvest and clear parts of Wayne National Forest to promote diversified growth, has been completed and is available for public comment, as announced by Wayne National Forest representatives, Thursday.
According to an email from forest representatives, the analysis, video presentations and project maps can be found at www.fs.usda.gov/projects/wayne/landmanagement/projects by clicking on the title “The Sunny Oaks Project.”
From initial information presented to Ohio Valley Publishing by the Wayne National Forest, The Sunny Oaks Project, originally was located east of State Route 93, west of State Route 141, north of the community of Aid and south of the community of Oak Hill. The project area was also located in parts of Jackson, Gallia, and Lawrence Counties with the aim of creating young, brushy forest areas.
If approved, the proposal had aimed to authorize the harvest of about 2,700 acres of forest through a mix of clearcut and shelterwood harvests. These harvest types were designed to favor Oak and Hickory forest regeneration to create young, brushy forest, especially when combined with other “timber stand improvement” (TSI) treatment, according to forest representatives. TSI treatments included in a previous proposal were prescribed fire, manual girdling/felling of competing trees, and herbicide treatment of competing trees. Prescribed fire had previously been discussed to potentially occur on 2,000-4,000 acres per year across the totally described 25,000 acre project area. Natural re-growth could be supplemented with planted trees.
Around 1,000 acres of forest had also been previously discussed to be harvested in Gallia, predominantly in Greenfield Township and some in Perry Township. The cutting process, if approved, could potentially take up to eight years.
Wayne National Forest representatives had met with landowners with property adjacent to the forest at Oak Hill High School in May of this year to address concerns.
According to a recent newsletter statement written by Ironton District Ranger Tim Slone,”Based on the input you and others (individuals and landowners who had previously expressed concern with the project) provided, as well as continued work by my team of staff, we developed another alternative to consider in order to meet the project goals. Some of the main issues that we focused on include placing a higher emphasis on the oak-hickory objective of the project, determining whether or not there was the potential to increase flooding in small localized watersheds, and addressing recreation and scenery impacts identified by the public.”
The second alternative proposed seeks to address concerns with flooding, impact of cutting near horse trails and disagreements on the use of clearcutting.
According to Sunny Oaks Project information, alternative two says there are no strict clearcut plans for stands with an oak growth objective.
A forest stand is a contiguous group of trees uniform in structure, size, composition, condition and location near other groups of trees. A community of trees, some call stands.
Forest representatives would potentially work with landowners adjacent to the forest to determine reasonable no-harvest areas to reduce visual impacts to landowner homes as well as to consider buffer areas around trails or roads.
A description of a proposed action on the Wayne land management website would clearcut harvest around 1,595 acres of forest with around 1,145 acres of shelterwood harvest. The alternative two option described a clearcut harvest of 795 acres and have 1,425 acres of shelterwood harvest with 390 acres dedicated to stands with two differently aged types of trees and 100 acres dedicated for re-inventory.
The best Oak stands, according to Wayne Forest representatives, are proposed to be clearcut and have reserved harvest to result in a two aged stand. Some trees would remain, spaced apart, with Shagbark and Shell Bark Hickory trees being among them, potentially along with seed producing White Oak trees. Moderately ideal Oak stands would have a sequence of shelterwood harvests.
Shelterwood harvesting takes mature trees but leaves a few of them standing to prepare an area for new seed growth and regeneration as well as to modify a forest environment to promote types of seed germination and the survival of select species.
Existing stands with low potential to meet Wayne’s Oak goals would be clearcut harvest for mixed hard wood objectives, a Wayne newsletter said.
Harvest target areas in the alternative two proposal were also reduced in certain locations to avoid issues with flooding or water concerns.
Concerns, comments and questions can be directed to Rachel Reed at 740-534-6500 or comments can be emailed to [email protected] Comments will be taken for the next 30 days.
Wayne National Forest representatives have previously said that much of Wayne can be considered old forest and with land management, the park hopes to strengthen wildlife populations in brushy, young forest areas as certain wildlife types reportedly survive better in such conditions. The project also seeks to promote the growth of Oak and Hickory trees as reportedly Maple trees have come to dominate some parts of the forest.
Money raised from the sale of timber would reportedly in part go back to local counties, schools where the forest resides and county government. In order to reach the habitat goals of the forest, Wayne Forest representatives previously said the timber had to be a “product that is financially beneficial” to harvesters in order to pay for the land’s diversification.
Some nearby landowners in the previous May meeting expressed concern that they felt the Sunny Oaks Project was a reincarnation of a previously abandoned effort called the Buckeye Habitat Improvement Project.