Editor’s Note: The following notes come from a listening session/meeting we held with members of the public. The notes were supplied by a third party professional; we submit these notes without changes except to fix name spellings. If you have any questions, please email us at [email protected].
Land Between The Lakes
Kenlake State Resort Park
April 28, 2015
US Forest Service: 4 staff officers
County Judge Executives: Lyon and Trigg County, KY
County Mayor: Stewart County, TN
Former Residents: Trigg-2; Lyon-1 (Between the Rivers Inc. President)
Pennyrile Area Development District Executive Director
Congressman Ed Whitfield District Director
National Wild Turkey Federation Regional Biologist
Friends of Land Between The Lakes Executive Director
League of KY Sportsman Representative
Welcome and Introductions
Jerry Mayes (facilitator) welcomed the participants and asked them to introduce themselves. He asked them be honest and candid during the discussions, while also respecting one another’s comments and opinions. Emphasis was placed on not taking comments out of context, especially when discussing the group’s progress with citizens.
Jerry led the group in two short icebreakers demonstrating how results are increased when people combine their thinking to solve problems. He explained the term “synergy” and showed participants that working together can yield results that they never could have created as individuals.
Tina Tilley gave a brief review of the management of LBL. TVA managed the property until 1999, when the Forest Service took over. During that time, TVA managed the property as they saw fit. After the Forest Service took over management, they engaged the public in establishing the Area Management Plan, which is the document used to guide individual departments. Tina verbalized that the Forest Service has followed national policy and direction in how to seek input from the public, but has not been proactive in communicating plans and seeking feedback on the Area Plan. When the scenery document was made available to the public last year, the public’s reaction showed Forest Service leadership that they needed to take steps to connect with area stakeholders. It became apparent that communication was lacking, and the public didn’t understand the reasons behind the actions that have been taken over the past few years. The Forest Service saw that there is a need to share information and re-engage dialogue. They agreed to slow down, listen to the public, and understand the “why” behind the issues the public brings to them, while also sharing the “why” for their decisions. This meeting is the beginning of the process of greater communication.
Jerry identified a few points from Tina’s review:
- The guidelines for LBL are sometimes set outside of current LBL management’s control
- Forest Service has listened over the years, but did not always understand the “why”
Desired State of LBL – DRAFT ITEMS
The next part of the meeting focused on identifying the strategic areas of focus for LBL. Participants broke into small groups of 4-5 people and answered the following questions:
What does successful management of LBL look like?
What do we want the Forest Service to accomplish?
- Stay within demonstration areas (8,600 acres) with the management plan – Discussion: LBL is currently managing the entire area (170,000 acres), and the demonstration area is one part of that. The Area Plan (located under the Stewardship tab on www.landbetweenthelakes.us) describes a framework for management goals for the entire LBL acreage. Different areas of the 8,600 acres are designated for certain management types (forest, recreation, heritage, timber, wildlife, etc.) Each area has its own management strategy in the Area Plan. It establishes desired future conditions, but it doesn’t outline specific acreage areas. The Area Plan was created by the Forest Service with input from the public in 2003. It is on a national schedule for review (every 10-15 years), so it is scheduled to be reviewed soon. LBL officials can amend certain parts of the plan for short-term changes, but the entire plan cannot be changed independent of the national review.
ADDITIONAL DISCUSSION: This desired state implies that the Forest Service will only manage 5% of LBL. Multiple Forest Service personnel present were not comfortable with this item as it is stated. There was additional discussion about reviewing the Area Plan and what can be amended until a new national review is completed. Additional dialogue is needed to determine the level of forest management, including the scale and location.
- Be an economic driver through public use – Discussion: The goal is to bring people to LBL area.
- Protect historical and cultural features of LBL – Discussion: One reason this item is included is because some historical features are being left to disintegrate. Additionally, some cemeteries and existing structures have been impacted by planned burning.
- Provide quality roads for access to hunting, cemeteries, fishing, wildlife viewing, etc. – no comments
- No facility closures or reductions – Discussion: This might be difficult in a restricted budget environment. All LBL costs are not covered by revenue, so decisions have to be made to cut programs that are not self-sufficient. A possible root cause is that there are not enough customers (environmental education) to cover the costs of the facilities. A qualifying statement, such as “when it is cost effective,” could be said of all of these desired states. This item needs to be a high priority to LBL, and if costs are an issue in accomplishing this, officials/citizens should go to Congress to request funds. Congress set guidelines about the management of LBL and may need to be shown where additional funds are needed to accomplish what the law states. Additionally, oversight is needed to make sure money from the federal government is used for facility use, not funneled into other projects (examples of this happening in the past include TVA building new educational centers instead of maintaining Bell City).
Participants agreed that they need to work together to secure adequate funds in the federal budget to accomplish these goals. However, operating facilities depends on the funds that are currently available.
Last year, several entities worked together to get funds to improve the roads. With Mr. Pape and Congressman Whitfield’s help, they were successful. This might be a model for future efforts to secure more funding for LBL.
- Managing the forest for future generations to enjoy – no comments
- Provide quality recreational opportunities – Discussion: It is important to appeal to boaters, hunters, hikers, campers, etc.
- Make LBL a center to instill in young people an appreciation and wonderment for the outdoors – Discussion: We want children to not only enjoy hunting or fishing, but explore creeks, view animals in their natural habitat, and hike so that they wonder what’s over the next hill. If we don’t get kids involved at a young age, they will not care about maintaining LBL when they are adults.
- (Possible duplicate to #4) Make all cemeteries accessible to all vehicles (no 4-wheel drive needed) – Discussion: LBL currently has approximately 260 cemeteries. Older citizens are not able to get to all cemeteries. Some cemeteries have never had road access and are only accessible by foot. Other roads have not been maintained by the Forest Service and are not passable with any vehicle. Others are only accessible with a 4-wheel drive.
- Improve quality of facilities – Discussion: Some historic sites are not used at this time and are deteriorating. The presumption is that once they are restored, they will be used and visited. Recently, several groups restored St. Stevens Church. There are other structures in the same area (Bell City site), that could be improved, but no outside group is allowed to go in and repair/maintain the buildings. One opportunity would be to build partnerships for volunteers to help improve areas of interest in LBL. For Bell City, the partnership would most likely involve the partner agency taking the lead in the site. LBL does not have funding to assume responsibility for further properties to maintain.
Stakeholders need to stop seeing each other as adversaries. For some time, LBL support groups were not allowed to work on St. Stevens Church. They currently want to begin work on other structures within Bell City, but they are not allowed to. These groups want to help preserve the properties without any federal dollars. From their perspective, there is little to be gained from postponing/rejecting their volunteer work to restore LBL facilities.
- Provide diverse, healthy habitats for people and wildlife – no comments
- Build better trust levels among all stakeholders – Discussion: Actions will determine if this desired state occurs in the future.
- Provide environmental educational opportunities – Discussion: There was some disagreement about the current use of environmental education at LBL. Some participants stated there is not enough to bring people to LBL, while others stated that there are a large number of people who travel to LBL every year for the educational facilities.
- (Possible duplicate to #13) – Revive previously closed environmental educational facilities (Bell City/Empire Farms) – In the past, this area was a well-known attraction that appealed to many visitors and school groups (including overnight stays). It included a silo overlook, oxen, trade demonstrations, wildlife viewing, etc. TVA closed Bell City and the Forest Service inherited it as a closed facility. Several participants indicated this should be a priority of the Forest Service.
Additional Discussion about Desired State of LBL:
Tina reiterated that the goals determined for LBL need to be realistic. It is not possible for the Forest Service to accomplish each of these desired states with the current budget. Additionally, participants may have different priorities for LBL. When the Forest Service determines which items to focus on, some people may be disappointed with the decisions.
Currently, the Forest Service is not entering into any additional logging contracts until they seek input from the public. LBL is on the National Forest Service timeline for a new management plan. Public forums are planned so the Forest Service can listen to citizens. Because of this extended timeline, stakeholders should work to create a short-term plan that is reasonable for everyone. When the new Area Plan is created, we can work with Congressman Whitfield to secure funding for successful execution of the plan. There is no need for this to be an ongoing crisis situation.
From a sportsman perspective, land management is good for wildlife. In areas around the country where the land is not maintained, wildlife has greatly declined. LBL needs proper management to maintain game species. There is plenty of land available throughout LBL that can be improved for wildlife management.
With the recent publicity, this may be a prime opportunity for Forest Service and LBL support groups to raise awareness and money for projects within LBL. Citizens are interested and want to be aware of what is happening. Increased education about the Area Plan, land management, and environmental education programs can help the public’s understanding of the overall mission of the Forest Service.
At the end of the meeting, Jerry outlined several action items for the group:
- Go to landbetweenthelakes.us and read the Area Plan (under Stewardship tab)
- This group will meet again to review and revise these desired states
- Public meetings will occur after this group has met again
6:30pm – Adjourn