• 54°

Wayne National Forest extends comment period

Public comments being accepted until Feb. 14

PEDRO — The public comment period for a proposed project to encourage oak and hickory growth in Wayne National Forest has been extended to Feb. 14.

The deadline on the Sunny Oaks Project in the WNF Ironton Ranger District has already passed but the lapse in federal funding during the partial government shutdown meant there were no forest employees to take comments or questions.

The project is located east of State Route 93, west of State Route 141, north of the community of Aid, and south of the community of Oak Hill. The project area is located in parts of Jackson, Gallia, and Lawrence Counties.

Because the government was partially shut down when the comment period was set to end, District Ranger Tim Slone decided to extend the comment period to Feb. 14.

“Leading up to the original end of the comment period there was no staff here able to take calls or answer any questions the public may have had about the project,” said Slone. “In order to remedy the difficulty the public may have faced in submitting meaningful comments, I’ve decided we will continue to take comments on the environmental assessment for Sunny Oaks through Feb. 14. Those that submit comments by Feb. 14 following the procedures already established in the original legal notice announcing the comment period will be considered as having submitted timely comments.”

The proposal is to harvest approximately 2,900 acres of forest east of State Route 93, west of State Rout 141, north of the community of Aid and south of the community of Oak Hill, through a mix of clearcut and shelterwood harvests.

“Our goal is to create a young brushy forest that provides valuable cover and food for a great variety of wildlife species, such as the blue-winged warbler, eastern box turtle, woodcock, bobwhite quail, ruffed grouse, black bear, eastern cottontail, red fox, timber rattlesnakes, and various pollinator species,” said Rachel Orwan, WNF’s environmental coordinator.

Clearcut and shelterwood harvests are designed to favor oak and hickory forest regeneration, especially when combined with other “timber stand improvement” treatments. It included in this proposal are prescribed fire, manual girdling/felling of competing trees, and herbicide treatment of competing trees. Prescribed fire would occur on 2,000-4,000 acres per year across the 25,000-acre project area. Natural re-growth could be supplemented with planted trees.

Under the proposal, plant species, such as Carolina thistle, wild pea, pale beardtongue, fern-leaf false foxglove, plain gentian, small white snakeroot, Sampson’s snakeroot, and  white fringetree would also benefit.

The original legal notice was published in The Tribune on Dec. 13 and can be found by clicking on the Sunny Oaks Project title at the web link below.

Information about this and other projects being developed and analyzed can be found online at the Wayne National Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/projects/wayne/landmanagement/projects.