Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky South Red Bird Wildlife Enhancement Project


Little Flat Creek area proposed for clearcutting. Photo credit: Jim Scheff, Kentucky Heartwood

Why this forest is special

The Redbird District of the Daniel Boone National Forest includes one of the wildest and most intact ecosystems in eastern Kentucky and some of the only publicly accessible lands in the area. This forest contains some of the oldest and largest living members of eastern tree species, and among the best remaining old-growth trees in the region. The Daniel Boone National Forest provides core habitat and wildlife connectivity for many southern Appalachian animals, including black bears, white-tailed deer, elk, red foxes and mink.

South Red Bird Wildlife Enhancement Project

This is the largest timber sale proposed in the national forest in nearly 20 years. It would clearcut more than 3,800 acres of public lands, removing 80% to 90% of the trees across 2,800 acres and nearly one-quarter of all forests more than 100 years old. These old trees are a relative rarity in the Daniel Boone. Nearly 100 miles of logging roads would be bulldozed through this watershed, including approximately 10 miles of the Redbird Crest Trail, where people now hike and find forest solitude. See this story map for more of what’s at stake.

Carbon storage and biodiversity

The South Red Bird Project will log mature and old-growth trees that hold decades of stored carbon, including oaks, black walnut, hickory, maple and birch. Some of the extraordinary trees at risk are more than 150 years old. The project area includes threatened or endangered Indiana bats, northern long-eared bats, and gray bats, essential for pollinating plants and dispersing seeds. Also at risk are endangered snuffbox mussels and Kentucky arrow darters that depend on high-quality, clear streams. Goldenseal, black cohosh and ginseng herbs flourished here, but are declining because of overharvesting and habitat loss, including by logging and heavy equipment.

Why these trees should remain standing

The proposed clearcuts will benefit common wildlife that have ample habitat across this region, while harming imperiled species that depend on mature forests. The Forest Service aims to provide commodity timber by logging some of the largest and most ecologically valuable trees, including 180 acres of rare old growth. An adjacent Forest Service logging project similar to this one resulted in four massive landslides that dumped sediment into creeks, harmed water quality, obliterated understory habitat, and facilitated the spread of invasive species.

The future of mature and old-growth trees in Daniel Boone National Forest

The 2004 forest plan concedes that old-growth trees were underrepresented in the Daniel Boone,i but the plan’s goal allows for only 8% of the forest to survive into old growth and there are no protections for mature hardwood trees.ii The percentage of old-growth forest falls far short of that goal. These mature and old growth trees are increasingly targeted for logging under erroneous Forest Service claims that old-growth forests are undesirable.iii

Project status

The Forest Service approved the project in 2021. Kentucky Heartwood filed a lawsuit in September 2022 challenging the project’s failure to disclose the environmental harm from the proposed logging.

Local contact: Lauren Kallmeyer, Kentucky Heartwood kentuckyheartwood@gmail.com

The Worth More Standing report spotlights federal forest-management practices that are liquidating mature and old-growth forests and trees every day. It includes 10 examples that are part of a pervasive pattern of federal forest mismanagement that routinely sidesteps science to turn carbon-storing giants into lumber. Learn what actions you can take to protect Climate Forests across the country.