- The Washington Times - Monday, October 7, 2002

ROANOKE (AP) The U.S. Forest Service will not cut trees in several flood-prone sections of the Jefferson National Forest and has agreed to end its practice of dumping logs in creeks in response to public outcry about its upcoming timber sale.
"Given the increased public concern in the Stony Creek drainage, I felt that it would be prudent to go ahead and drop these areas so that virtually any risk of debris slides would be eliminated," said Bill Damon, forest supervisor for the George Washington and Jefferson national forests.
Severe flooding along Stony Creek in far Southwest Virginia last year killed a 77-year-old man and caused an estimated $55.7 million damage to numerous roads, bridges and private property.
Many residents blamed logging in the national forest for loosening soil and creating some of the floods. A coalition of environmental groups sent a petition last year to Rep. Rick Boucher, Virginia Democrat, criticizing the forest service's logging practices.
The forest service, which already cut 700 acres of forest from the proposed Bark Camp timber sale, agreed Sept. 30 to cut another 80 acres along Stony Creek that are prone to flooding and mudslides.
Mr. Damon said he thought the risk of debris slides is "quite low," but he decided to make the changes on the recommendation of an advisory panel organized last year by Mr. Boucher.
The advisory committee of forest experts, loggers and environmentalists found that a variety of factors contributed to the floods, including forest management, agricultural practices, abandoned mines, home location and debris in streams.
The timber sale, which is now scheduled to proceed, is designed to improve wildlife habitat while generating about $1.5 million in economic benefits for local communities for the next four to five years, Mr. Damon said.
"In addition, the careful design and layout of this project will ensure that the magnificent vistas from High Knob will not be affected," Mr. Damon said.
Steve Brooks, a spokesman for three environmental groups the Clinch Coalition, Virginia Forest Watch, and the Wilderness Society said that despite the readjusted plans, if the forest service advertises logging contracts on any part of the Stony Creek watershed, the groups will try to block the timbering in federal court.
"We want it all protected," he said.


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