The following letter was sent to the editor of The McCreary Voice and is shared below with the express permission of the author.
I am writing to you and the community in reference to two articles: Locals Express Views During Town Hall Meeting and Vigorous Response to Jellico Vegetation Management Proposal. The U.S. Forest Service is planning to log 9,800 acres of mature forest to make way for younger growth in the Jellico Mountains of southeast McCreary County and southwest Whitley County.
This project will harvest the national forest around Osborne Creek, Ryans Creek, Stephens Knob, Hollyhill, Pleasant Run, Litton Branch, and many other spots in McCreary County, as well as around Jellico Creek and other areas in Whitley County. The planned treatment methods include over 5,000 acres of effective clearcutting on mostly steep slopes, midstory removal with the use of herbicides, commercial thinning, and salvage.
There are concerns that I and others have about this project. Clearcutting is the biggest issue here because it has the potential to cause serious problems for many residents whose livelihoods depend on the quality of land and water around them. Clearcutting could cause all types of problems including flooding, landslides, invasive species, herbicide in our drinking water, and sediment in our creeks.
Another important issue is the lack of additional use for this forest. In such a large project, projected to be 40 years in total, there is no mention of the creation of campgrounds, hiking or biking trails, or any recreational development that could benefit residents. This area is essentially a wing of the Daniel Boone National Forest all to itself, and it has well-traversed forest roads and many quiet areas enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.
Considering this, I would like to propose to McCreary County and its leaders that we do something better with the Jellico Mountains region. Over 80% of the land in our county belongs to the federal government, which makes it difficult for McCreary to prosper. It’s time for this federal land to benefit the local community.
There is a citizens’ alternative proposal to the Forest Service’s logging project, to instead create a National Recreation Area in the Jellico Mountains and build a thriving outdoor recreation economy in Whitley and McCreary counties. This would bring much needed tourism and jobs to the area, but this can’t be done without input and support from the community. If you would like additional information about this proposal, please visit https://JMNRA.com. Thank you.
M Jonah Neal