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People who live near Daniel Boone National Forest are concerned about losing 10,000 acres of trees

The proposed plans would affect Whitley and McCreary counties, and some people in those communities said they are concerned.

LONDON, Ky. — Daniel Boone National Forest is preparing to undergo a massive transformation. The National Forest Service is proposing a plan that would cut down trees on around 10,000 acres of land over a 40-year period. The forest is around 708,000 acres large.

It's part of the Jellico Vegetation Management Project, which would include commercial harvest, road work, salvage and "intermediate vegetation treatments." The goal is to adjust conditions in areas of the forest so that certain age classes, structures and species compositions are represented in the area.

It would primarily affect NFS lands south of Kentucky Highway 92 and between I-75 and U.S. Highway 27.

Credit: Forrest Service
Jellico Vegetation Management Project

According to project documents, the NSF said the Jellico area is transitioning into a mature forest. Around 72% of the project area is a mature forest with a closed canopy. As a result, they said younger and middle-aged plants are being lost.

"A healthy, resilient forest is always beneficial to the local communities, and any of the commercial work that occurs can have economic impacts on the communities by providing jobs and opportunities," said Tim Reed, the district ranger. "What we're trying to do is balance the age class ...  What we want is a little diversity in the area. Young forest, middle age forest and old forest, and have the flow of habitat moving forward."

By cutting down the trees, they said they would be able to prevent the loss of younger species and provide a mix of habitats for flowers and animals. One wilderness protection organization said if the project moves forward, it needs to be done in an environmentally friendly way.

"We are concerned about the amount of logging and the number of years the proposal is going to take. Forty years, that's a long time," said Lauren Kallmeyer, the executive director of Kentucky Heartwood. "We're hoping for a lot less trees to be cut overall. Then, the amount of trees that are left per acre, we are hoping they will leave more so they're not clear cut."

Credit: USDA

Kentucky Hardwood is a nonprofit organization that seeks to protect Kentucky's forest and biotic communities. They participated in a recent meeting about the project and said they were worried about flooding, landslides and how the project would impact the state's economy.

Kallmeyer said that she would want to make sure the companies that perform the logging be locally owned, so the money stays in the community.

"It's a pretty big change that's going to happen around our homes," said Theresa Martin, a member of the Jellico community. "There are some trees right up on the ridgeline behind my neighbor's house. They're real old. Some of them are over 250 years."

She is pushing to add a 270-acre plot of land to an old-growth preservation lot, so older trees in the area won't get cut down.

"It's one of the biggest projects in Kentucky, as I understand it, and I would like to see it reduced and preserved," she said.

NSF and the USDA are collecting public comments about the project. Anyone interested can submit their comments online. The opportunity to submit comments ends on December 5.

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