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Forest Service project cause of alarm for LOViT friends

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Friends of Lake Ouachita Vista Trail are expressing concern over the possible affects a U.S. Forest Service project might have on the trail.
Members of the volunteer group the LOViT Traildogs, Friends of Lake Ouachita and the Lake Ouachita Citizens Focus Committee have reached out to the communities surrounding the LOViT regarding the Gap Creek Project. According to a letter distributed by the United States Forest Service, the project will include a host of management activities that could possibly affect over 20,000 acres in the Ouachita National Forest.
The letter is an announcement letter which opens the scoping process of the project. Input is encouraged on the proposed project.
According to the letter managment activities include:
Regeneration harvest (40 acres)
Site prep prescribed burns (152 acres)
Site preparation, chemical/mechanical (40 acres)
Release, chemical/manual (40 acres)
Pre-commercial thinning (40 acres)
Chop/rip/hand plant shortleaf pine seedlings (40 acres)
Intermediate harvest(2,984 acres)
Woodland development (1,442 acres)
Pond maintenance (20 each)
Wildlife opening maintenance (11 acres)
Nest boxes (32 each)
Landscape burn (13,272 acres)
Fire line construction (18 miles)
Fire line maintenance (14 miles)
Road construction (3.5 miles)
Road reconstruction (31 miles)
Temporary road construction (22 miles)
Pre-haul maintenance (2 miles)
Watershed improvement throughout project area
Abandoned mine closures throughout project area
Non-native invasive plant species treatment throughout project area
Nuisance plant treatment along the LOViT
The project would include approximately a 20,300 acre area in parts of Montgomery and Garland counties. It is comprised of compartments 1612, 1618, 1620-25, 1629, 1630 and 1632. The proposed management activities would occur in Management areas 3,6,9,14 and 16.
The letter lists several needs for action which the U.S. Forest Service contends is necessary for the health of the Ouachita National Forest. They also point out that a portion of the project area is located near a known hibernacula of the Northern long-eared bat resulting in the need for special management practices to protect species habitat.
A large portion of the proposed intermediate harvest would be scheduled to take place along the trail. The concerned parties have expressed their concern that the proposed resource management project would likely damage the canopy, the tread and the aesthetic beauty of the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail.
Robert Cavenaugh, a member of the Traildogs, stated that although he could see that the project had some possible benefits, he was concerned with the affect it could have on the trail.
In a letter he submitted to the U.S.F.S. he warned that cutting, thinning, or otherwise damaging the timber corridor along the LOViT will have a negative impact on the trail. He argued that cutting the canopy could not only negatively alter the asthetic beauty of the trail, it could promote the growth of weeds and undergrowth along the trail.
Several acres of proposed intermediate harvest would take place along the LOViT south of Shangri-La Resort and Mountain Harbor Resort.
The LOViT, along with the Ouachita Trail and Womble Trail,have been designated as Epic Ride Trails by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA). The trio of trails have made Montgomery County a mecca for cyclists and hikers from around the world.
The Friends of Lake Ouachita and other organizations are encouraging supporters of the LOViT to share your concern regarding the possible harmful affects the project could have on the trail.
The Forest Service will accept public comment until August 29 regarding the project. Providing specific written comments during the public comment period affords one standing to later file an objection to the project should you desire to do so.
Specific written comments should be within the scope of the proposed action, have a direct relationship to the proposed action and must include supporting reasons for the responsible official to consider.
Such written comments may be submitted to:
Shalonda Guy
District Ranger
1523 Hwy 270E, Mount Ida, 71957.
You may also fax them to (870) 867-3338.
Office business hours for those desiring to hand submit letters are 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Electronic comments must be submitted in a common digital format to comments-southern-ouachita-womble@fs.fed.us.
The letter states that the project is in the early phases and everyone is encouraged to submit your comments regarding the project.
For more information regarding concerns presented by the Traildogs and others please visit lakeouachitavistatrail.com. They also have copies of letters submitted by a variety of local volunteers and friends of the trail which reflect their concerns regarding the impact the project could have on LOViT.