Ohioans work to get a better Wayne Forest Plan

The Wayne National Forest, Ohio’s only National Forest, has begun the process of revising its principal document, the Forest Management Plan. Under the 2012 USFS Planning Rule, this process must address climate impacts and include a rigorous effort to engage the public during all phases of Plan development. The Wayne Planning Team has been meeting with interested parties for several months and is reviewing submissions by hundreds of citizens and stakeholders about what must be changed from the current 2006 Plan, which must be considered in its forthcoming Draft Assessment.

The Wayne Planning Team created several working groups to give input. Ohio University and Marietta College are each receiving $100,000 for specific work, the latter for an assessment of oil and gas “assets”. Landowners and representatives of recreation, renewable energy, biodiversity, wild and scenic rivers and wilderness interests are participating as volunteers. When members of BEN and ACFAN realized there were no concerned-citizen groups, we initiated one: the Working Group on Ecological Forest Management, Climate Protection, and Sustainable Economies. Folks from all over Ohio who seek deep changes to current destructive Wayne management, which is supposedly governed by the highly flawed 2006 Plan, met by phone over a 3-month period and produced a 120-page document, recently submitted to the planning team. The report outlines the group’s concerns and recommendations, many drawn directly from the Economic Analysis of the 2006 Wayne National Forest Plan, commissioned by Heartwood and produced in 2008 by Christine Glaser and Karyn Moskowitz, then of GreenFire Consulting. The working group’s report, developed by Heather Cantino with input from many group participants, documents, in an extensive annotated bibliography of peer-reviewed research, the profoundly negative impacts of current Wayne management practices, especially logging, prescribed burns, leasing of oil and gas minerals, and OHV/ORV trails, as well as other forest-disturbing activities.

The italicized word supposedly, above, refers to the enormous exception to Forest governance by the 2006 Plan, which did not address high-pressure, horizontal drilling and fracturing, since fracking was not considered a potential activity when that Plan was developed. Nevertheless and in spite of over 100,000 local, regional and national voices raised in vigorous opposition over a five-year period, the USFS gave permission to the BLM to lease Wayne mineral rights for fracking, without ever conducting a NEPA-based analysis of impacts. The BLM has conducted lease auctions, and permits have been issued. BEN, ACFAN, and Heartwood have been part of a coalition led by Center for Biological Diversity to file legal challenges, many of which are pending. The working group’s report provides to the Wayne yet again the extensive documentation from peer-reviewed research of the profound harms caused by fracking to climate, air, water, and human, animal, and forest health.

A unique contribution of this working group’s report is the strong stand against prescribed burning in eastern deciduous forests and specifically at the scale of hundreds of acres per burn conducted by federal and state forest agencies with no pre- and/or post-assessment of impacts on non-target species, forest health, biodiversity, soil, air, or water. Included in the working group’s document in addition to relevant peer-reviewed literature are Buckeye Environmental Network’s updated board policy statement on prescribed burning, (praised by noted Ohio conservation biologist Guy Denny) and an observational report by three working group members (Paul Knoop, Loraine McCosker, and Heather Cantino) to two Wayne “pre-burn” sites as well as to a site burned three times, most recently nine years ago. Aided by longtime naturalist Paul Knoop’s seasoned eyes, the team noted the post-burn site’s “compacted thin soil, limited native understory plants, damaged trees, and significantly less leaf litter,.. in essence a highly impacted fragmented forest with significant invasives present.” (Ecological-Forest-Management working group report, p. 95)

The Wayne has never taken the hard look required by federal law to help save our planet rather than contribute to its destruction! Ohioans will continue to demand that the Wayne serve the economic best interests of our region required by USFS’s founding mandate and practice ecological forest management to protect biodiversity, climate, regional air and water, and human and animal health.

The plan revision process is outlined at fs.usda.gov/main/wayne/landmanagement/planning. Public comments can be submitted at any time to wayneplanrevision@fs.fed.us .

Urls of documents linked above: acfan.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Comments-to-Wayne-NF-from-Working-Group-on-Ecological-Forest-Management-Climate-Protection-and-Sustainable-Economies-submitted-1-28-19.pdf

heartwood.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Wayne_Economic_Analysis-.pdf

acfan.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Updated-BEN-fire-policy-statement-as-adopted-1-9-19.pdf

 

“Ho, ho, ho, We say NO!” Waynettes bringing coal and anti-fracking songs to Wayne Headquarters 2015