Hellbender Journal Autumn 2002
Stop Allegheny National
Forest Timber Sales!
Lewis Run Sale Threatens Endangered
Indiana Bat Habitat!
By Jim Kleissler
In the northeast portion of the Allegheny National Forest, thousands
of acres are struggling to recover from a long history of oil and
gas drilling and clearcutting. Although both activities had slowed
a bit in this area in the 1980s and early 1990s, clearcut logging
and oil and gas drilling have returned to the area known as Lewis
Lewis Run is a popular stop for hunters and hikers, conveniently
located within (and partially fragmented by) a triangle of state
highways - Route 59, Route 770, and Route 219. The Lewis Run area
is a common stopover for residents of Bradford. It was one of the
first places I camped at when I lived in Bradford as well. It is
also a site where illegal off-road vehicle use is becoming a problem,
and where a small endangered bat is trying to make a home.
The Lewis Run Proposal
Under the Lewis Run Timber Sale proposal, over 1,250 acres of the
more than 7,000 acres of national forest in the project area would
be logged. 620 acres would be clearcut and sprayed with herbicide
and converted into virtual black cherry monocultures. Another 500
acres of "Investments", a.k.a. thinning and shelterwood
cuts, are proposed with the expectation that most of these sites
will be clearcut over the next decade. While 35% of the older forest
is made up of the black cherry dominated "Allegheny Hardwood"
forest type, 90% of the areas clearcut within the last decade are
now in the black cherry forest type. Even the Forest Service has
acknowledged that this process of clearcutting and herbiciding is
causing other species to become less prominent in the forest.
If the Forest Service has their way, 25% of the Lewis Run project
area will be younger than 20 years old or in grassy openings. Many
more acres will be in right-of-way openings, oil and gas well clearings,
gravel surface mines, and log landing areas. The Forest Service
is following a goal of reducing this area to a forest with a majority
of its area in plantations of black cherry trees under 50 years
old! This is all based upon a sixteen year old management plan that
expired under its own terms six years ago.
In all, the Lewis Run Timber Sale will approve even-aged logging
methods such as clearcutting and "investments" for future
clearcutting on 1,250 acres, herbicide use on over 1,100 acres,
nitrogen fertilizers on 635 acres, 1.2 miles of new road construction
(and tax-payers will now maintain an additional 2.4 miles of oil
and gas roads for them), and expand 10 gravel surface mines and
create one new mine.
The Indiana bat at Lewis Run
Last year, researchers were trying to locate specimens of the federally
endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) throughout the Allegheny
National Forest. In a fluke occurrence, they managed to catch one
in an abandoned building just off of the national forest. Although
Indiana bats are known to prefer to roost in dying trees during
the summer months, the lack of contiguous, unfragmented mature forest
with sufficient dead and dying trees has become a serious problem.
It appears that Indiana bats may be relying in part on abandoned
buildings to make up for a lack of ideal habitat. That said, the
Indiana bat was also found roosting in forested sites, some within
the Lewis Run Project Area.
The Lewis Run area is in many ways ideal for these elusive mammals.
Indiana bats prefer to hibernate in caves and abandoned mines -
both features that can be found in the area. In addition, the bat
caught in the area happens to be a male and males often donŐt travel
far from their wintering site. This at least suggests the possibility
that this endangered species is spending its winters in the surrounding
forest caves. There are at least a half dozen documented cave sites
within the two-mile radius that this bat was documented using.
One might think that with an endangered bat flying around, the
Forest Service might take extra efforts to protect this species.
The Forest Service at least attempted to give the appearance of
doing so by developing a new alternative that was designed to "protect"
the bat. This new alternative would convert 150 acres of clearcutting
into 150 acres of two-age cutting. An improvement, but far from
protection for the bat. Whereas clearcuts remove 90 to 100% of the
overstory trees, two-age cuts remove 70 to 80%. This is still a
significant loss. But that is only part of the story. This new alternative
would log 358 additional acres (with the intention of clearcutting
them in 5 to 10 years) that are not proposed for logging under any
other alternative. In other words, they are going to save the Indiana
bat by destroying its habitat. A second site where Indiana bats
were detected would become surrounded by clearcuts under this proposal.
The Lewis Run Timber Sale would also impact the "forest-sensitive"
northern long-eared bat, timber rattlesnake, and butternut - all
rare species. The Northern long-eared bat is a widespread but rare
bat species that depends upon older forests for foraging and roosting.
This bat species was detected at numerous sites within the Lewis
Run Project Area and these individuals are likely using the local
caves for roosting and foraging. The Forest Service has stubbornly
refused to radio-track this species and identify its roosting and
The Deer Theory
It is well documented, that as you increase forage for deer, their
local populations increase accordingly. It is also well documented
that high deer populations are one of the many significant factors
contributing towards biodiversity depletion. The Forest Service
has a solution - clearcut so much that the deer canŐt possibly eat
all of the browse created. The only problem is that the Forest Service
tried this with the Porter's Prize Timber Sale. Deer populations
increased by 1/3 over one growing season and the deer ate away at
the herbaceous plants.
The Forest Service is apparently entirely blind to the over-population
of black cherry and how it is crowding out other important native
species. The agency is intentionally converting mixed hardwoods
and sugar maple forest types into black cherry plantations. They
have not measured how this will impact other species which prefer
the more valuable wildlife habitat provided by American beech, eastern
hemlock, and sugar maple. And while the Forest Service blames the
deer for all of these problems, their solution only serves to increase
the deer herd! They seemingly are simultaneously complaining about
the high deer population and promoting an even higher population
level of deer.
The Allegheny Defense Project's appeal of the Lewis Run Timber
Sale was recently denied. We are now working on taking the next
step to stop this egregious timber sale and could use your help.
Please contact our office to find
out how you can help.
Protect the Sugar Run Watershed
The Forest Service has announced plans to log over 2,000 acres
of your Allegheny National Forest in the Sugar Run and Tunungwant
Creek Watersheds just east of the Allegheny Reservoir.
The Sugar Run Project calls for:
- 2,154 acres of logging including 584 acres of clearcutting.
- 4.7 miles of road construction and reconstruction.
- The expansion of 4 stone pits.
- 569 acres of herbicide spraying.
The Forest Service claims this project will improve wildlife habitat
and water quality, but their plans simply do not meet those goals.
Specifically, the Forest Service states that the goals of the timber
sale are :
- "improving plant diversity and wildlife habitat";
- "reducing impacts from deer browsing";
- "improving the oak component";
- "maintaining the Allegheny hardwood forest type";
- "maintaining the diversity of forest types";
- "increasing the resilience of the forest to impacts of
insects, disease, and decline";
- "providing wood";
- "relocating and improving portions of the North Country
- "reducing potential impacts to water quality", and
- "protecting historic and prehistoric sites".
It is interesting to note that while the Forest Service is claiming
the desire to improve conditions on the North Country Trail for
hikers in one area, they are logging on and around it in several
other areas. A considerable amount of the trail passes through logging
sites, including sites planned to be clearcut. These are not the
areas the Forest Service plans to relocate.
As far as deer are concerned, the Forest Service is entirely contradictory
on the subject. They state in the 1986 Forest Plan, "The regeneration
harvest method known as clearcutting allows the regeneration of
vegetation crucial for animals requiring young vegetation. As a
result, hunters have enjoyed high populations of the white-tailed
However, they also state that deer browsing has "altered the
natural vegetation on the floor of the forest."
Essentially, in order to decrease the effects of deer, the Forest
Service is proposing to clearcut despite knowing that clearcutting
directly contributes to increased deer populations.
What You Can Do:
Contact the Forest Service and tell them to withdraw the Sugar
Run Project. Rather than clearcutting our forest, remind the Forest
Service of the need to restore the Allegheny. By not logging, the
Forest Service will make that important first step to reducing the
population of deer. By continuing to clearcut the Forest Service
merely creates a problem they then have to solve, at our and the
Ask the Forest Service to develop a zero-extraction/restoration
alternative that focuses on protecting the Sugar Run area through
no logging, road building, stone pit expansions or herbicide spraying,
and focuses instead on forest restoration by taking out roads that
pollute our watersheds, recovering populations of threatened species,
and protecting recreation opportunities.
Send comments to:
Allegheny National Forest Supervisor
P.O. Box 847
Warren, PA 16365
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