Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 18, 2018

Contact:  Jason Totoiu, Center for Biological Diversity, (561) 568-6740, jtotoiu@biologicaldiversity.org
Judy Rodd, Friends of Blackwater, (304) 345-7663, info@saveblackwater.org 

Trump Administration Clearcut Plan Threatens West Virginia National Forest

ASHEVILLE, N.C.― The U.S. Forest Service is targeting more than 2,800 acres of West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest for logging, about half of it clearcutting, which would threaten endangered animals and the area’s waters.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of Blackwater submitted formal comments today challenging the nearly 400-acre Spruce Mountain Grouse Management Area logging project. A second project would allow logging on more than 2,400 acres in the Big Rock area ― the largest timber operation in decades.

“The Forest Service must conserve this magnificent forest,” said Jason Totoiu, a senior attorney at the Center. “Federal law requires the agency to look at the damage this ill-advised plan could do to our public lands and wildlife and consider less damaging alternatives.”

As today’s letter notes, the greatest harm could come from construction of more than 70 miles of new logging roads, which would cause erosion and runoff into rivers and streams. Many of these waters are already polluted by acid rain from coal-fired power plants, so disturbing the soil could increase acidification in local rivers and creeks. This would further endanger the rare candy darter, which is under review for federal protection. 

The forest is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including wild brook trout, the pearl dace, the West Virginia northern flying squirrel and federally protected Indiana and northern long-eared bats.

The squirrel was recently removed from the Endangered Species List with the expectation that the Monongahela National Forest would protect the animal. Logging threatens to destroy the squirrel’s critical breeding and nesting sites. Bats are already experiencing dramatic population declines caused by white-nose syndrome and other threats. The logging projects further threaten these bats by cutting down the trees where they roost.

“This proposal would violate our nation’s bedrock environmental laws so that logging companies can turn a profit,” said Judy Rodd, director of Friends of Blackwater. “Clearcut logging in this part of the forest would destroy prime habitat for the flying squirrel and could put this animal back on the path to extinction. Logging roads will pollute high-mountain streams at Spruce Knob and the Sinks of Gandy and leave permanent scars on the hillsides.”

The 919,000-acre Monongahela is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the nation and considered to be an area of global ecological importance. From Blackwater Falls State Park to the state’s highest peak to Cranberry Glades Botanical Area, the national forest is within a day's drive of about half of the nation's population.

The comment period for the Big Rock project ends Oct. 29. The public can find more information and offer comments on the Forest Service website.  

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

www.biologicaldiversity.org

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