Forest service proposes removal of trees on Holston Mtn.

By Megan R. Harrell
Star Staff

The U.S.D.A. Forest Service has proposed timber cutting on Holston Mountain that could potentially impact nearly 1,000 acres of forest along Flat Woods Rd. in the Cherokee National Forest.
   According to the forest service, the proposal is part of a management plan currently in effect that is designed to maintain stable habitats at the forest. Vernon Maddox, with the Unicoi chapter of the forest service, said removing the trees allows needed regeneration to take place.
   "It provides habitats for wildlife and the younger regeneration of stands of trees," Maddox said. "We try to balance the ages so all of the trees are not the same ages in the forest."
   Maddox said maintaining a forest where trees stand that vary in age helps to protect against insects and diseases. He said that approximately 74 percent of the trees standing in the 12,000-acre forest are over 70 years old, and there is hardly any diversification.
   The forest service's proposed project on Holston Mountain would call for natural regeneration. No trees would be planted after the removal took place.
   The State of Franklin chapter of the Sierra Club has recently visited the area where the forest service has proposed regeneration. Members tracked some of the stands in the 926 acres that would be effected by the removal of trees and feel that the area highlighted in the forest service's scooping letter is not ready for regeneration.
   Linda Modica, chairman of the State of Franklin group, was among members of the local chapter who visited the stands last week. She is concerned about possible ecological damages that could result from removing trees from the area.
   "The mountain has undergone a tremendous amount of logging over the past 100 years, and some of the areas are only just now recovering from having been logged at or before the turn of the century," Modica said.
   According to the Sierra Club, the oak trees located within the radius of the proposal have only recently begun to produce the amount of acorns necessary to sustain wildlife. Modica said the rocky topography of Holston Mountain is not conducive to the fast re-growth of the trees.
   Modica added that the forest service would benefit more from clearing other, more mature portions of the forest. She said that there are not as many large oak trees in the proposed area, and that older stands could benefit from some remediation.
   "There are no old growth stands being prepared to be cut in this proposal. None of what we call Tennessee's mountain treasures are being effected." Modica said. "They need to work on recovering areas of the forest where we went through thickets and places that are over grown. Those areas are in need of remediation, and pulpwood could be pulled out. They would be adding to the value of the tree farms."
   Members of the local Sierra group are also concerned about the aesthetic repercussions of the proposed changes to the forest. They said if timber cutting takes place, it will be visible from the eastern side of Holston Lake, and the group is concerned it will effect the overall scenic landscape of the mountain.
   The public is invited to make comments concerning the proposal by contacting Tom Rowe at 423-638-4109, 4900 Asheville Hwy. Greeneville, TN 37743. The deadline for comments is Jan. 24, 2003. Maddox said the forest service will consider comments from the public and may discuss alternatives to the proposed project. He added that it might be months before any final decisions are made.