Allegheny Defense Project ...working for the protection of the natural heritage of the Alleghenies...

Hellbender Journal Autumn 2002

By Jim Kleissler

In 1986, as the Forest Service was adopting a management plan that would substantially increase "high-quality sawtimber production", the Forest Service adopted a series of standards and guidelines to mitigate against the impacts of this logging program. One particular standard required that the Forest Service develop and implement management plans for all state and federal threatened and endangered species.

Thirteen years later, in 1999, after 92,000 acres had been logged, 16,000 acres had been sprayed with herbicides, 165 miles of new roads had been constructed, and 12,000 acres of fencing erected, no management plans had been developed for state and federal threatened and endangered species. Conservationists had filed a lawsuit against the timber sale program on behalf of the federally endangered Indiana bat. Under pressure in federal court the Forest Service pledged to cease logging in the Allegheny National Forest ( a moratorium that would last six months.)

With the logging program shut down, the Forest Service could no longer completely ignore the plight of federally listed species as they had before. With their dominant program halted, the Forest Service finally bowed to pressure and began consideration of a management plan for the Bald eagle, Indiana bat, and two federally endangered freshwater mussels. In 2000, the Forest Service finally adopted this management plan. The Management Plan, which refused to consider adopting numerous species protections because they might impact the timber program has been challenged in federal court by a coalition of organizations led by the Allegheny Defense Project and Heartwood.

The Forest Service has moved forward with a number of timber sales. Since 1999, 1,500 acres have been logged and another 500 sprayed with herbicides. No management plans for any of the state threatened and endangered species have been developed. The Forest Service continues to propose timber sales that will degrade their habitat.

The Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher

The Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher is a state threatened bird with one known population in the Allegheny National Forest. Having a particular affinity for forested old-growth, far from human disturbance and featuring sphagnum moss and extensive ground cover, it is no surprise that this bird's only nesting populaton in the national forest is in a blowdown area within the 4,000-acre Tionesta old growth area. The blown-over logs help to catch water, creating the birds preferred ground nesting cover of sphagnum moss. The blowdown also provides the important structural complexity to protect the bird's nest from predators. The protected old growth area helps buffer the flycatcher from surrounding human disturbances - thus far.

Under the National Forest Management Act, the Forest Service has a responsibility to maintain viable populations of all species. With only one nesting population in the national forest, a single human or natural disturbance could result in the extirpation of this songbird. It easily follows that every effort should be made to increase suitable nesting sites in the forest and preserve these sites until a sufficient, viable population of Yellow-Bellied Flycatchers is established. The first step in any such process is to develop a management plan for this important neo-tropical migrant.

But the Forest Service has done next to nothing. No management plan has been developed and its habitat continues to be degraded. The Windthrow Salvage project admittedly degrades suitable habitat sites in order to "recover the full economic value of [windblown] downed trees." Once again, species conservation takes a backseat to short-term economic profit.

The Blue-Breast Darter

The bluebreast darter is a state threatened fish species requiring clean water in order to survive. Significantly, this species may be pivotal to the survival of the federally endangered Northern riffleshell mussel. The Northern riffleshell actually uses the bluebreast darter as a host species in its breeding process. Without the bluebreast darter, the riffleshell might not survive. It is no surprise that these two species' populations in Pennsylvania have nearly identical ranges.

But the Forest Service has not identified the bluebreast darter as a species of concern and they most certainly have not developed a management plan for this species. The Forest Service isn't even monitoring the populations of this fish species, making assessment of its viability impossible to determine. Nevertheless, logging, road building, and oil and gas drilling continue despite their potential to release sediment and other pollutants which are harmful to the darter.

The Green-Faced Clubtail and Longsolid Mussel

Numerous other species known to occur in the national forest also are listed as threatened or endangered. Other species probably deserve these listings. The Clarion River along the southern edge of the national forest is home to the state's only population of the green-faced clubtail. Also, there is only one documented population of the globally imperiled longsolid mussel in the national forest. The longsolid mussel has been proposed for listing as a state endangered species. With the low priority currently being given to management plans for the species that are listed as state threatened or endangered, one can only imagine how long it will take before these animals get the protection that they deserve.

Act Now for Sensitive Species!

As part of our Allegheny Wild! Campaign, ADP is developing strategies to enforce requirements to protect these species. That involves numerous steps including identification of important habitats, preservation of these habitats, and monitoring of species survival. Unfortunately, the Forest Service continues to destroy habitats without any consideration to how these habitats may be essential to the maintenance of viable populations for these species.

If you want to help, here's how:

All habitat destruction in the national forest needs to stop until management plans are developed for these species. Write letters asking that the Forest Service issue a moratorium on all logging, herbicide use, road building, and oil drilling. Send letters demanding a moratorium on industrial extraction in the Allegheny today to:

Supervisor Kevin Elliott

Allegheny National Forest

Po Box 847

Warren, PA 16365

kbelliott@fs.fed.us

Join our Allegheny Wild! campaign. Find out how to get involved in drafting a conservation-based management plan for the Allegheny National Forest. Contact ADP

 

Support the National Forest Protection and Restoration Act. This legislation currently in the U.S. House of Representatives would end the commercial logging program and allow for the creation of jobs doing restoration work to help restore the habitats that these species depend upon. Write your Congressman or Woman:

The Honorable ______________

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, D.C. 20515

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