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Cancel the Forks of Scotts Run - Pisgah timber project

This petition had 1,197 supporters


Coopers Rock State Forest is a high traffic recreational area in close proximity to Morgantown, West Virginia. The Forest is an important public recreational asset enjoyed by residents of Monongalia and Preston Counties and visitors to the area. In 2014, the Forest was estimated to have over 187,000 visitors. Coopers Rock is popular among outdoor recreationists for its many recreation opportunities including hiking, sightseeing, wildlife observation, picnicking, and photography. Magnificent scenic views of the Cheat River canyon are achieved through short and long hikes within the Forest. This State Forest has varied between most visited and second most visited State Forest in West Virginia since 1994.

Coopers Rock State Forest is jointly managed by the West Virginia Division of Forestry (WVDOF) and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR). A 375 acre timber project, known as the Forks of Scotts Run-Pisgah project, is proposed for the south side of Coopers Rock State Forest. This project is estimated to produce around 1.2 million board feet from an area of the Forest that has not been touched since it was designated as a State Forest in 1936. In a single harvest, this project will produce over half the amount of timber (~1.2 million board feet) that has been logged from all the projects completed in the 27 years prior to 2006 (*From 1979 to 2006 2.3 million board feet were harvested at Coopers Rock State Forest).

The Forks of Scotts Run-Pisgah project was first proposed in 2012 but was canceled due to exclusion of this project in the Forest’s 10-year Management Plan. The project was re-proposed the summer of 2014.

WV Code 19-1A-1 states “The Legislature further finds that the state forests are an important resource for silviculture and scientific research, developed and undeveloped recreation; propagation of forest trees, fish and wildlife; wildlife and fisheries management; aesthetic preservation; hunting and fishing; timber production; and demonstration of state-of-the-art forestry management and therefore should be managed on a multiple-use basis.” Thus we ask the following:

We the undersigned demand that the WVDOF cancel the Forks of Scotts Run-Pisgah project indefinitely.

  • Because this area does not have defined trails and is an example of an undeveloped recreation area, this area should be preserved as an old growth forest and should be managed for undeveloped recreation and aesthetic preservation.

We demand that since the Forks of Scott Run-Pisgah Project was re-proposed in the summer of 2014 and that guidelines concerning surveying for federally listed bats have been revised, that the WVDOF authorize to re-conduct surveys for federally listed bats (i.e., Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) using the 2014 Range-wide Indiana bat summer survey guidelines within the project area.

  • Summer surveys conducted for federally listed bats in June of 2012 (6/9-6/12) did not detect any Indiana bats. 
  • These surveys were conducted using the 2007 Range-wide Indiana bat summer survey guidelines, which required four mist-net nights per 123 acres (Forks of Scott Run-Pisgah Project is 375 acres which required a total of 16 mist-net nights).
  • In early 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) began to develop revisions to the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) Draft Recovery Plan.  In 2013 and again in 2014, the USFWS finalized and issued revisions to the Plan calling for new guidelines concerning surveys for Indiana bats.  
  • These revisions changed, among other requirements, the minimum level of effort required to adequately detect Indiana bats in a given location.  The 2013 revisions changed the minimum level of effort in West Virginia and other states in the Northeast and Appalachian Recovery Units from four net nights per 123 acres of suitable summer habitat (USFWS 2007 guidelines) to 24 net nights per 123 acres of suitable summer habitat (USFWS 2013 Range-wide Indiana bat summer survey guidelines).  Furthermore, the 2014 revisions increased the number of net nights for the same area to 42 (USFWS 2014 Range-wide Indiana bat summer survey guidelines).  

We demand that the WVDOF further enhance and develop the relationship between managing agencies and recreation users at Coopers Rock State Forest as mentioned in Goal #1 of the Recreation Plan for State Agency Managed Land at Coopers Rock State Forest.

  • According to the survey conducted within the Recreation Plan, “The survey comments section revealed that some recreation users feel that the agencies may not be effectively communicating to the public what is actually happening regarding the management of Coopers Rock State Forest (CRSF).”
  • A recreation committee no longer exists for CRSF. A recreation committee did exist at one point but was short lived. This committee should be re-established and be comprised of 1) independent recreation professionals and 2) recreational users of Coopers Rock State Forest.  An employee from the WVDOF shall attend committee meetings and serve as the liaison between the committee and the WVDOF.  

We demand that the WVDOF provide an extensive and thorough response to public comments received in response to the Forks of Scotts Run-Pisgah project walkthrough conducted by the WVDOF.

  • Public comments were submitted to the WVDOF regarding the re-proposed Forks of Scotts Run-Pisgah project on September 2, 2014. The WVDOF’s response to these comments was received by email 148 days past the public comment deadline. The WVDOF’s response letter consisted of a three paragraph description of the proposed project and did not address any concerns or answer any questions submitted as public comments.  

We demand 25% of revenue generated by all future proposed timber projects be returned to Coopers Rock State Forest and that revenue be managed by the WVDNR’s Parks and Recreation section.

  • According to the WVDOF document Guidelines for Managing West Virginia’s Seven State Forests, “As is customary, up to 25 percent of the revenue generated from the sale of forest products on State Forests is returned to the State Forest system for the enhancement of the overall forest environment, including recreation, wildlife resources, conservation education, forest fire prevention, and watershed protection.”
  • As stated multiple times during the most recent project walkthrough, WVDOF insisted revenue generated from this project “may” go back into Coopers Rock State Forest. There was no definitive answer to our question of the amount of funds to be returned to the Forest. 

We demand that the WVDOF and WVDNR Wildlife Section require surveys for rare species and “state species in need of greatest conservation” that may occur in future project areas, including the Forks of Scott Run-Pisgah Project, and that they will consult independent professionals regarding survey results, and authorize only forest management activities that will not jeopardize individuals and populations of each species. 

  • The Coopers Rock State Forest 10-year management plan states that “Several state and nationally rare plants and animals occur on the [Coopers Rock State] Forest. Special attention will be paid to the habitat needs of these species.” However, no attention was afforded to these numerous species of concern.  
  • Among these species is the green salamander (Aneides aeneus), the Allegheny woodrat (Neotoma magister), and the small-footed bat (Myotis leibii), all of which depend on forested habitats with rocky outcrops (10-year management plan, 2006).  While the woodrat is mentioned in the draft plan, the WVDOF does not include any potential negative impacts to the species and no surveys were conducted to document its presence or absence in the project area.  Surveys should be required for these and all other state species in need of greatest conservation.
  • The small-footed bat was detected to be using the project site during bat mist-netting surveys in June 2012; however, the WVDOF have not given any consideration to this fact in regards to the Forks of Scott Run-Pisgah Project and have made no indication that they will update their proposal to ensure the protection of the species.  
  • The northern long-eared bat (M. septentrionalis) another “WV species in need of greatest conservation” and a species that is proposed (October 2013) to be listed as “endangered” under the federal Endangered Species Act, was, by far, the most detected species during summer federally listed bat surveys in June of 2012 (6/9-6/12).  Even though there has been over two years to review this information, WVDOF have not given any indication of modifying the proposed project to ensure the protection of this species.  

We demand the WVDOF give adequate consideration to streams and only authorize forest management activities that will not jeopardize their health and integrity.

  • It is well documented in scientific literature that removing forest cover from stream areas can cause negative impacts to the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of a stream (Sweeney and Newbold, 2014)
  • An extensive review of the literature conducted in 2014 by Sweeney and Newbold at the Stroud Water Research Center determined that buffer at or above 30 meters (98.4 ft) is needed to maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of small streams (<100km2 or ~5th order watershed), like the Left Fork of Scott Run and the other streams that flow through the Forks of Scott Run-Pisgah Project area and the rest of Coopers Rock State Forest.  
  • For this reason, we demand that a 100 foot no-cut buffer zone be placed along all perennial and intermittent streams that run through the proposed project area, and all other future proposed projects.  In addition, a 25 foot no-cut buffer zone should be placed along all ephemeral streams.  
  • Cited literature: STREAMSIDE FOREST BUFFER WIDTH NEEDED TO PROTECT STREAM WATER QUALITY, HABITAT, AND ORGANISMS: A LITERATURE REVIEW (Sweeney and Newbold, 2014) 

 

We, the undersigned, agree with all terms laid out in the above text and demand the above actions be executed by the West Virginia Division of Forestry and any other necessary state and/or federal agencies concerning the Forks of Scotts Run-Pisgah project at Coopers Rock State Forest.



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