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UPPER WILLIAMS RIVER WATERSHED TIMBER PROJECT APPEALED
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by Beth Little | 2006

Chapter appeals the Upper Williams River timber project to protect riparian habitat and wildlife populations

A stated “purpose and need” of commercial timber sales on national forests is to support the local economy.  Imagine my surprise to hear that the economic benefits of the Upper Williams timber project are beside the point; the Forest Service would choose to do the project even if there were no economic benefits.

I have a date with Forest Service silviculturalist, Glen Juergens, to survey the riparian protection provided for the Upper Williams timber project on the mountain sides of the Upper Williams River watershed.  This is a result of a meeting to resolve the appeal that the WV Sierra Club, along with The Wilderness Society, has filed regarding the Upper Williams project to log 1,443 acres via commercial timber sales. 

The 5 issues in our appeal and the relief we requested are:

1.         The FS did not provide the Environmental Assessment during the 30 day comment period, preventing us from making an informed decision.  We asked that the Project Decision be remanded for a new comment period.

2.         The riparian guidelines are not consistent with those we won in the East Gauley Mountain Settlement Agreement of a previous lawsuit.  We asked that the EGM riparian guidelines be adopted.

3.         The viability of wildlife species was not adequately analyzed.  We asked that the decision be remanded for further analysis.

4.         The effectiveness of mitigation measures was not sufficiently described and analyzed.  We asked that the decision be remanded for further analysis.

5.         The analysis failed to adequately assess the economic effects of the proposed activities.  We asked that the decision be remanded for further analysis.

Regarding issue #5, the FS used 1997 figures for personal income in Pocahontas County and to state that 3 of the top ten employers in the county were related to forestry.  Anyone who lives here or has visited Pocahontas County recently can easily see that there have been significant changes in the last nine years as a result of major development in the Snowshoe Resort area and an aggressive county campaign to develop tourism.  I remain mystified that the FS used figures that are nine years old when the WV Wilderness Coalition easily found figures from 2004 to justify the benefits of wilderness.

The upshot of our meeting to resolve the appeal is that we have agreed to disagree on issues 1, 3 and 5, although the FS did agree to correct their numbers regarding economic benefits.  It was during the discussion about correcting their numbers that the ranger said she would not change her decision even if it turned out that there were no economic benefits. 

Regarding issue #2, the FS maintains that the riparian guidelines adopted are as good or better than the EGM settlement.  My date with the silviculturalist is to verify this.  If so, we can remove that from our appeal.

Regarding issue #4, the FS said that there are studies demonstrating the effectiveness of the mitigation measures.  If they provide them to us, and we are satisfied with them, we can remove that from the appeal. 

Any unresolved issues in the appeal will be considered at the regional level of Forest Service.

If anyone is interested in further details about the Upper Williams project and the appeal, I will be happy to answer questions, tell how to get copies of the EA, the project decision, and/or the appeal.

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