The George Washington/Jefferson National Forest of the central Appalachians is threatened by logging, gas development, off-road vehicle use and approximately 8,000 acres of grazing allotments.
The George Washington /Jefferson National Forest (GW/JNF) of the central Appalachians totals 1.79 million acres. It follows the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia for 300 miles, and reaches into parts of West Virginia and Kentucky. The GW/JNF is home to over 100 different tree and plant species including some of the oldest, most biologically diverse deciduous forest ecosystems in the world. The forest's remote, undeveloped areas are an ideal habitat for its population of black bears. Examples of endangered species within the forest include at least 14 species of freshwater mussels and the Indiana bat. Virginia Northern Flying Squirrels, Peregrine Falcons and bald eagles also inhabit the forest.
Logging is the dominant resource extraction activity in the forest. Other threats include gas development, off-road vehicle use and approximately 8,000 acres of grazing allotments. An onslaught of controversial timber sales will undoubtedly aggravate the situation, allowing nearly 1,200 acres of logging in roadless areas, sensitive watersheds and endangered species habitat.
The United States Forest Service (USFS) considers 39 percent of the forest's acreage to be "suitable" for timber production. It is tremendously disheartening that a government agency finds it "suitable" to devastate 39 percent of an area that houses more endangered species than any other forest in the national forest system.
For more information, visit www.virginiaforestwatch.org
Photo: Dave Muhly