Residents express concerns over Butler Hollow at open house

Friday, January 30, 2015
Dr. Luis Contreras, left, from Eureka Springs talks with District Manager Joe Koloski about the proposed burning of about 18,000 acres of the Mark Twin National Forest in the Butler Hollow area of Missouri. (David F. Dempsey/Carroll County News)

CASSVILLE, MO. -- People from Missouri and Carroll County attended an open house Tuesday in Cassville, Mo., led by decision-makers and planners for the proposed cutting, burning and restoration project known as the Butler Hollow Project. The proposal calls for the cutting and burning of approximately 18,000 acres in the 300,000-acre Ava Cassville Willow Springs District of the Mark Twain National Forest in southwest Missouri.

According to Joe Koloski, a U.S. Forest Service district manager, the project will not occur all at once. Koloski is tasked with approving the project after reviewing public comments and conducting an environmental assessment. The 18,000 acres are divided into eight sections, each about 2,200 acres. The plan is to cut and burn one to two sections a year, returning to cut each section again in three to five years.

"The goal is to restore oak woodlands and glades to their original conditions," Koloski said.

He anticipates -- but does not guarantee -- he will make a final decision on whether to move forward with the project in late spring or early summer.

When told that people in Carroll County were concerned about ash and any byproducts from the project that would be carried downstream by Butler Creek to its confluence with the White River and Table Rock Lake near the town of Beaver, Koloski responded saying that is the purpose of the environmental assessment.

He added, "We are very conscientious about watershed health."

Other open house attendees expressed concern that smoke from the burning would create health risks.

Reggie Bray, a fire zone management forest service officer, said the project would be a low-impact action but not a no-impact action, acknowledging that there would be some smoke during burns. Bray that his personnel studied the winds and weather to find the best times for burning. Light south or southwest winds are best.

Michael Shah from Carroll County attended the open house. Shah has been a very active participant in Save the Ozarks' successful campaign to stop Southwestern Electric Power Company's earlier plans to build a 345-kilovolt power line across 50 miles of Carroll County.

After talking with one forest service officer, Shah explained his reasons for making the 40-mile drive to Cassville.

"I just want to see what they are talking about, and to see what other information is available," he said.

Shah added that he thought it was important to get information from both sides of the issue and not let emotions guide decisions.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's public comments package was sent to area residents, though some said it was sent out too late, causing the public comments period to be extended until Feb. 6.

The package states that all tree harvesting would be done for restorative thinning. It also says that removed hardwood 11 inches or more in diameter and cedars 6 inches or more in diameter would be commercially harvested. Hardwood stumps would be treated with herbicides to prevent sprouting and pine plantations would be reduced by about 50 percent.

Before extensive logging in the 1800s, the dominant trees in the area were white oak and post oak. After that the land was used largely for pasturing. Today the dominant trees are eastern red cedar, black oak and red oak. Most of these trees grew since the forest service acquired the lands in the 1930s and 1940s. The overall goal of the project, according to the forest service, is to bring back the trees that were once dominant and to restore glade areas to their pre-settlement conditions.

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