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
Public Listening Session
May 21, 2015
Kenlake State Resort Park
US Forest Service: 4 staff officers
Individuals identified by city or state:
- Alvaton, KY: 1
- Berea, KY: 2
- Bumpus Mills, TN: 1
- Cadiz, KY: 11
- Chattanooga, TN: 2
- Dover, KY: 1
- Hopkinsville, KY: 1
- Kentucky (no city identified): 1
- Kuttawa, KY: 1
- Ledbetter, KY: 1
- Lyon County, KY: 1
- Mayfield, KY: 2
- Murray, KY: 2
- Paducah, KY: 4
- Princeton, KY: 1
Jerry welcomed the group to the second LBL Management Plan community meeting. He explained that the key to tonight’s meeting was LISTENING. The overall goal of the meeting was to better understand the many perspectives of LBL stakeholders. Jerry reviewed the ten areas of focus that the group developed during the April 28, 2015 meeting. He outlined the procedure for tonight’s meeting: individuals speak for 3 uninterrupted minutes, then one or two individuals respond/clarify for 1 uninterrupted minute. Participants were asked to identify themselves and the focus area before they made their comments.
NOTE: Participants were asked to identify their primary concerns by focus area number; however, most speakers made comments about multiple focus areas. In fact, the phrase “I’m a one through ten-er” became a common statement, indicating that the speakers may have come to the meeting representing a certain constituency, but they had concerns about each of the focus areas listed.
Discussion Areas and Comments:
(Comments listed are in no particular order and are not identified by speaker. Effort has been made to identify where multiple participants showed support for a specific comment. Responses to a specific comment are included in the same bullet.)
- Environmental Education – How to effectively reach our audience
- This is not a typical land holding. The public and the administrators have to understand this. This is supposed to be a demonstration area. Environmental Education, recreation, etc. have to be priorities.
- We need to remain diverse in what we offer. LBL started out as demonstration, environmental, and recreation areas. We don’t need to neglect a variety of areas to just focus on one.
- Economic Impact – Increased visitation
- The land management plan as it stands is detrimental to the quality of life to the people of Trigg Co.
- When considering prescribed burns, the prevailing winds harm Lyon Co. residents with the smoke that drifts in that direction.
- Land Management – Timber, fire, and open lands option
- Halt logging, road construction, pesticides, road closings, etc. outside of the 8600 until it can be proven that that is effective. (This theme was repeated many times; many people supported these types of statements.)
- Many speakers had different views of appropriate forest structure. The Pisgah project is questionable to some.
- People are opposed to some parts of land management by the Forest Service. Citizens want proof that the ways they are managing the land will be successful. It is scientific, it has been proven, but people don’t understand it. (There was some disagreement among participants about the scientific basis for burning.)
- One speaker voiced concerns about burning the forest, logging it, and leaving a mess in the aftermath. It simply looks bad. Managing the timber was never part of LBL’s plan. This place was supposed to be different than other forests and nature areas. “God can manage the forests, and it doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything.”
- Several speakers asked about the Maple tree invasion. One speaker asked to see the 100s acres where maples are invading. He has asked before, but has not seen it yet. He is greatly concerned about how the forest is managed, i.e. Pisgah Bay. He expressed worry that the Forest Service is not able to manage the land on a large scale. He expressed support for holding the land management projects within the 8600, then work together to create a new plan.
- A speaker encouraged participants to visit kydivisionofforestry.com . This resource states that the Red Maple is the #1 tree species growing in KY. Response: You mostly see Maple saplings in areas that have been logged. Instead of recreating forests, other species like briar patches, honeysuckle, etc. exist where the trees have been cut down.
- TVA has logged LBL for 50 years. The 8600 acres in the demonstration area are full of thickets and briars. We want the Forest Service to stop cutting timber and get the 8600 acres into the lush garden that you promised. Don’t attempt anything else. The public can’t trust the Forest Service to handle timber. Work with legislators to do whatever necessary to stop the Forest Service from logging.
- There are 10,000 acres of cleared farmland available in LBL. The Forest Service should use the areas that are already cut for the grasslands project. They can also take smaller tracts so that wildlife will be protected by hardwoods that surround the grasslands. Why do you have to take vast measures of cutting everything, instead of thinning out some? Response: The Forest Service has been doing studies on landscape scale. The management plan calls for a “watershed perspective”. Tina is open and listening to this group’s concerns; if there are opportunities to adjust scale, she is willing to consider it.
- There is a limited amount of dirt bed on many of the hills in LBL. Some areas only have a foot of dirt before you hit rock. Things will not regrow after you cut the large trees on this foundation. The speaker doesn’t see any common sense in how things have been managed.
- There are 10,000 acres of open land in LBL, and there is a lot of work that needs to be done. The management plan focuses on restoring warm season grasses, but it’s been a failure. Some of open lands that are missing are bottomlands. There needs to be discussion about some croplands being transitioned into wetlands (these were absorbed during the flooding).
- The Forest Service has gone way too far in what is scientifically proven to be beneficial burning. A botanist survey for LBL recommended protecting some native species from fires, but the Forest Service burned areas with these animals anyway. LBL needs targeted fire areas instead of widespread fires. Botanists say there are native plants in certain areas that require an open habitat. There are other plant species that are fire sensitive. The Forest Service has to be smart about fires. Some are needed, but not all. The land management plan needs to focus on the nuances of the landscape and the species involved. We can do better than full landscape-scale logging or fires.
- The Forest Service is not making money from the timber they are logging. When you study the line item, stumpage price, etc., LBL is selling timber for 30-35% of what private land owners are getting for their timber.
- In the west, forest officials burn to reduce fuel level for wildfires. Is there a financial incentive to burn? How much does it cost to burn vs. what LBL is reimbursed for burning? What kind of cost is there for firefighters brought in to manage fires? Response: In studies of prescribed burns, used to reduce fuel or provide accurate habitat, burning is 1/3 cost per acre verses a mechanical means (chipper). Many agencies recommend prescribed burns because of cost efficiency.
- Congress authorizes and pays for fires for fuel reduction. The only area in LBL that qualifies for this is the southern area (other areas are surrounded by water). In other national forests, it’s not economical to burn small areas, because of the way you are reimbursed from the government – even though it might be ecologically better to burn small areas.
- The “fuel reduction” reasoning is faulty. There are still lots of trees down on the ground, therefore we still have fuel for wildfires. There have hardly ever been forest fires in LBL because of high humidity.
- Burns have been happening for thousands of years. However, we’ve been taught to NOT have wildfires. The culture of wildfires has stopped. Science has showed how fire intervals have helped forests (burn interval). Today, managers are trying to mimic that for lots of species. Fires reduce thatch for critters to move, establish different weed communities, etc.
- Some participants disagreed about the benefits of prescribed burns or “fire hypothesis.” Studies that support fires haven’t proven that it’s good for the LBL area. A speaker noted that some rangers in the western US are surprised at 4-6 year fire intervals. He reported that the rangers he spoke with say 15-30 year fire intervals are more appropriate. Response: Fire intervals in LBL have been longer in the past.
- There are some peer-reviewed studies that state prescribed burning increases the tick population.
- Land management means a lot more than logging and burning. There are a lot of good things about land management that should not be grouped in with logging and burning.
- Historical and cultural resources: cemetery access, historic sites
- Need to maintain historical areas. Some areas that have been here for generations are now gone. This is heartbreaking to families who have history there and even infrequent visitors who return after a long period of absence.
- Roads and Trails: Options for improvements, closure or new creation
- Stop road closings and provide better roads to cemeteries. Roads are necessary for backcountry camping and a huge draw for tourism. Maintain the roads now so that they can be there for future generations. Jeep clubs are willing to partner with Forest Service to help maintain them.
- As a trail user, people want to use LBL as a recreation area. We don’t want to make it profitable from logging. Timber sales were not the original purpose of LBL. Stick to the main purposes.
- The speaker shared an example of trying to work with the Forest Service to clear a road to a cemetery in time for a funeral. After multiple attempts with no results, Trigg Co fixed the road so people could be buried there. (Other participants shared similar stories of wanting to clear roads of trees but being warned with a citation if they did so.)
- Some areas along the trails are not undergoing selective cutting, even though some trees are marked. Instead, they are being clear-cut. Hikers don’t want to hike in prairies. Pisgah Bay area is one of the most beautiful and most used areas in LBL. People won’t come to Pisgah Bay anymore if what they plan is actually carried out.
- Need for increased trust
- This is necessary for us to make any progress. (Many others agreed with this statement.)
- This group is moving way to fast on fixing problems without learning about each other first. We can talk about all these things, but we won’t find solutions to the problems without really understanding each other. The speaker wants to get to know the members of the group before deciding how to proceed. There is lots of information being communicated that is misleading, inaccurate, etc. Everyone involved should stop spreading wrong information.
- The Forest Service sometimes forgets that this land was people’s homes and farms. If we know each other better, we will understand people’s perspectives a little better.
- The speaker works with other National Forests in KY and stated that those locations are fairly open to giving information to interested parties. The opposite is true for LBL. This greatly affects trust and leads to the question, “What might be different here that makes it harder to get the same kind of information?”
- There is a large need for increased trust between stakeholder groups and Forest Service. The speaker listed several experiences that have negatively impacted trust. 1) The advisory board has a “gag order.” It should be public. 2) He was shown what the plan was for certain areas of LBL, but that plan is not what is being implemented now. 3) Multiple times someone says they are going to do something, but they don’t follow through. 4) Is there an Ethics Committee? He was told there was one, but then found out there isn’t one. 5) When he asked a Forest Service employee when certain roads and trails would be reopened, he was told, “Whenever I want to.” 6) Several people formed a volunteer group to help the Forest Service, but officials said there was nothing they could do. Managing LBL is a government job, which means they work for the public. We should be able to trust them.
- Some people have no trust for the Forest Service, and it’s from years of things that were promised and not delivered. It’s also from the trauma of seeing houses/towns demolished; “our land was stolen.”
- Campground: Improvement opportunities
- Speaker has seen dramatic decrease in campground maintenance at LBL locations. There has been a lot of deterioration across LBL, and he doesn’t want to see the campgrounds follow suit. He’s been at Hillman Ferry Campground for 50 years and has seen many things fall into disrepair (pictures showed deep potholes, pavilions without roofs, bathhouses with holes in walls/doors, worn playground equipment, etc.). LBL has it’s own niche – hardwoods, rolling hills, hollows, etc. People are surprised at beautiful woods in one area, then charred trees in other areas. He hasn’t seen proof of land management in Silos or Empire Farm. If LBL is going to do a massive project, use their resources to maintain what we currently have, instead of making a savannah. (Multiple people agreed with this statement.)
- Day use: improvement opportunities
- (No comments directed to this focus area)
- Hunting: Habitat improvement
- Maintaining the habitat for hunting will involve managing the forest as a whole. The Forest Service needs to create diversity in programs to attract more visitors – hunting, wildlife viewing, etc.
- The deer population in LBL is twice what the National Forest Service says will negatively impact the native vegetation and wildlife (national statistic of deer per acre). How are you managing that? Are you cutting trees to have more deer? If so, it’s not necessary. Response: The deer population doesn’t seem to be overpopulated.
- Doesn’t cutting trees hurt hunting? Response: No – when an area is cut/burned/etc. the vegetation comes back and the animals come back. It just takes time.
- The Forest Service needs to adjust hunting seasons. LBL turkey season ends one week before the KY season ends. TN allows 2 turkeys per hunter, but KY allows only one.
- Some citizens want more hunting. If the Forest Service doesn’t have enough resources, turn certain areas over to the Turkey Federation or other support groups and stop logging.
- Question about burning seasons. Response: There is a dormant season burn, and then some burns are done at the beginning of the growing season (March/April). Response: April is when a turkey is nesting. Why burn when turkeys are sitting on their nest?
- If the Forest Service logs one area, hunters can move two miles down the road and there are more animals to hunt. Logging doesn’t impact hunting in a significant way.
- Wildlife Management: pollinators, birds, non-game species, aquatic, etc.
- The speaker brought a flyer that was sent out to approximately 50,000 people. It provided scientific data about how fires are beneficial. Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land. The speaker encouraged the Forest Service to find a balance. LBL should be for everybody (jeeps, hunters, former residents. etc.)
- The speaker was in support of land management. LBL has always had logging. The forest needs to be managed so that we can keep the small game that we have. There are formerly-prevalent species that cannot live in KY because we are not maintaining the habitat.
- The Forest Service is the steward of this land, but it belongs to the public.
- The Forest Service has control, but the people still own it. People from between the rivers are still around, they love that place, and they will not stand for mediocrity.
- One speaker was issued a citation for taking pictures of public land. Response: There is no rule against photography.
- One speaker requested a field trip with Tina Tilley to show areas that are being discussed. She agreed to take a field trip soon. They will schedule a date and let others know.
- The Forest Service is interested in their jobs instead of serving and protecting the landscape.
Jerry thanked the participants for speaking openly and listening to the different perspectives that were presented. There has been a lot of agreement tonight about what is important. It was very apparent that people are passionate about the success of LBL and want to be involved in moving forward.
Tina Tilley spoke regarding the opportunities to work together that were presented tonight. She noted that everyone will probably not completely agree on everything, but there are certainly opportunities to work together. She understands that trust is lacking, but people will have to be willing to trust to let that build. The Forest Service is committed to future discussions and greater engagement with the groups that have participated tonight. She wants to listen and collaborate; however, she reminded participants that she could not get everything done at once.
The session concluded with additional discussion, mainly centering on trust between the Forest Service and the 8600 Coalition, which most of the participants are a part of, and creating a new Land Management Plan. At the end of the meeting, Jerry encouraged participants to send their specific requests to Tina. She will contact everyone with plans for next steps.
- It is hard to trust people whose paychecks depend on this management plan. Most people in this room whose paychecks don’t depend on the current system agree on changing the management of the forest. Those who are part of the Forest Service may have different motives.
- We want a record of this meeting, including the nuances and complexities of the conversation. We don’t want it boiled down to simple points. This will help trust.
- The Forest Service has made claims that they can rebuild the forests in 10 years. Some of these trees are 150 years old – that’s just not possible.
- The end goal is change, and a large group of people want to see change. How willing is the Forest Service to change? A management program could be built here with no more subsidized timber sales, small prescribed burns, etc. The Forest Service can look at the budget and use the same amount of money in a better way. Is the FS willing to make those changes?
- People really need to look at the Land Management Plan. The current plan as 113 pages, but most Forest Service plans have 500+ pages. Participants asked Tina to be an advocate for a NEW detailed, nuanced management plan. Response: There are different rules on how land management plans are created. Very few forests were able to create the plan to the fullest detail within the time constraints they were working with. The LBL plan was done to the fullest standards of the time. When the new plan is created, it will be under the new planning rules.
- Compromise will be necessary for progress. We are passionate, but we have to compromise. Everyone is not going to get everything they want. Trust can be destroyed in a second and it will be very hard to rebuild. Everyone involved must be willing to compromise, be part of discussions, be above-board with everything, then we can move forward.
- We are regaining trust, but it will continue to be difficult. This coalition has representatives from different places/interests. They have been working together for a long time. Hikers – horse people – heritage people – BTR residents all have the same agreement. The cooperation has to come from the Forest Service, who has been lying for a long time.
- The area management plan was created without input or thoughts from the users of LBL. For now, the Forest Service should contain the “damage” to the 8600 acres. The public needs to see if the Forest Service can make the 8600 successful. Then after 2-3 years, we can sit down and talk about what to do next.
- Giving a speech doesn’t prove anything. The members of this coalition have heard it a lot. They are tired of listening and are ready to see action. What action does Tina have the ability and willingness to do? The coalition has created a list of requests, and they want to hear answers.
- The coalition members have agreed they wanted a stop to ALL logging. Their compromise was to say that the Forest Service can continue timber reduction within the 8600 acres and demonstrate success in these areas. Instead of initiating new projects everywhere else in the forest, carry out your plan in the 8600 acres and show us that it works.
- There was recognition that Tina can’t make all the changes and decisions necessary for sustained change. Participants asked that she take proposals to her superiors and find out what she can do.
- Jerry asked participants about the correlation between actions and trust. Many people want to see results before they choose to trust. BUT what if Tina doesn’t do what you want? Response: Trust will be hard to return. Response: Everyone understands that progress may be slow, and she may not be able to do everything we’ve discussed. That will impact trust. Trust needs to grow even if you don’t get what you want.
- LBL is a national recreation area. Not a park or a forest.
- The coalition’s final request is that the Forest Service stays within the 8600 acres. “We will do whatever we have to to stop them.”
Meeting adjourned at 6:15pm.