For the past three years, we have been planning the Cherokee Pass Integrated Resource Project, located in Madison County on the Fredericktown Unit – from walking through and inventorying over 20,000 acres of forest stands, to developing specific management activities to address resource issues, and finally evaluating and disclosing the environmental effects of these activities to the public.

Along the way we sought input from adjacent landowners and interested people and organizations, and where possible we incorporated their suggestions into the project. All of this work is required by the National Environmental Policy Act and the Forest Service implementing regulations for each project we propose to do.

On May 20, 2019, we completed the last piece of the planning process - I signed the Cherokee Pass Project’s decision notice and finding of no significant impact. That means we can now begin to implement the management activities, some of which are highlighted below.

We will now be able to improve forest health in the Cherokee Pass project area by using a number of timber harvest methods, such as thinning, shelterwood establishment harvest, even-aged harvest with reserves, uneven-aged group selection, and salvage harvest. Timber harvesting is the tool we will use to ensure the forest stands maintain a diverse tree species composition and proper stocking levels, and to help create a diverse forest age-class distribution across the project area.

Active management to foster a healthy forest is key, but doing so also benefits many species of plants and wildlife, including game species, and provides an economic boost to the local economy. We estimate that our forest health management work in the Cherokee Pass project area will generate about 26 million board feet of raw wood product. Using very conservative prices, that amount of timber could equate to at least $2.8 million in gross revenue. An additional $1.1 million could likely be awarded to contractors working in the project area performing road work, timber stand improvement, and reforestation work.

We will now be able to move forwards with active management projects to benefit the conservation of rare species and communities. Some of the timber harvest prescriptions were written specifically to improve Indiana bat foraging habitat and to ensure a long-term supply of suitable tree roosting habitat. Woody growth on wildlife pond dams will be removed to ensure a water source for the Indiana bat and many other wildlife species. Specific forest stands on Matthews Mountain, around Rock Pile Wilderness, and along Twelvemile Creek will be managed to promote future old growth conditions.

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We can now move forward with prescribed burning national forest lands at Cedar Mountain, Little Cedar Mountain, Copper Mountain, Burns Mountain, Little Grassy Mountain, and Bremser Glade. These prescribed burns will help achieve conditions reminiscent of the historic glade/woodland natural communities found in the Cherokee Pass project area.

There are many more activities we will now be able to launch as funding becomes available, such as constructing a new parking area for Rock Pile Mountain Wilderness and an accompanying vista overlooking the St. Francois Mountains, maintaining and/or reconstructing nearly 20 miles of Forest Service roads, and protecting our beautiful rivers by cleaning up dumps and closing unauthorized routes developed by off-road vehicles and or repeated horse use.

Thank you to the many citizens who commented on the project ideas, attended the open house, made suggestions, asked the hard questions, and by doing all that, helped us make this an even better project than we could have ever done by ourselves. A complete list of management activities that can now be implemented in the Cherokee Pass project area is available at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=52094.

The Potosi Ranger Station is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 pm. You can reach us by calling 573-438-5427. To receive updates on Mark Twain National Forest events and happenings, follow us on Twitter @marktwain_nf, and like us on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/marktwainnationalforest.

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