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WNF crews continue ice storm cleanup

PEDRO - Crews in the Wayne National Forest are spending their summer picking up the mess that fell during February's ice storm.

Ironton District Ranger Gloria Chrismer said work to clean pine trees and debris that fell in 400 acres of the forest is progressing. Chrismer, who was officially named to that position last month, visited the Lawrence County Commission late last week to introduce herself to local leaders and to invite their input on the development of a forest plan being developed now.

"It looks good in the places where they're doing the work," Chrismer said. "Most of this work is taking place in areas that are close to people's houses," Chrismer said. "They're taking stuff and chopping it up and scattering it throughout the forest, instead of leaving big piles of debris. There's a lot of stuff hanging from trees, and that makes a ladder for fire to move up."

Chrismer said right now, crews are working on pine debris. Crews will focus on cleaning up hardwood debris later.

"We thought it was important to do something with the pine, since it is a flashy fuel. Once it gets dry it could be dangerous. And it was next to where people live, and that was our main concern."

Chrismer said the pine debris will not be sold as timber, since it was scattered throughout the forest, and since much of it was brush. Any outfit that would have wanted the timber would have also had to clear the brush, and that would have made the venture less economically feasible for them. The hardwoods that will be dealt with later may be sold since it would likely bring more money. The commission had asked the Wayne National Forest and the Dean State Forest officials to consider selling downed timber as a way to make money for the county and clean up ice storm debris at the same time.

The 400 acres being treated now are among 40,000 that were damaged by the ice storm.

Chrismer said a forest plan, a plan to chart the future use of and activity in the forest, should be finished within the next two years. She invited commissioners and area citizens to give their input about the future of one of their most expansive neighbors.

"When the opportunity arises, we hope you attend our meetings," Chrismer said. "We need to hear from constituents. They need to make sure their voices are heard."