• Start-up
  • Planning
  • Action
  • Evaluation
This project will create young, brushy forests that are largely composed of oaks and hickories; respond to insect and disease threats; and contribute to local economies. Taking action will provide habitat for wildlife that is lacking in the area.

Project Area

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This project is located east of State Route (SR) 93, west of SR 141, north of the community of Aid, and south of the community of Oak Hill. Symmes Creek flows to the east of the project area. About 25,000 acres of Wayne National Forest are in the project area, which is composed of parts of Jackson, Gallia, and Lawrence Counties. The trees are mostly oak and hickory species.

Management Goals

Typical stand of saw log size white oak in southeastern Ohio; photo by Richard Widmann, U.S. Forest Service

The purposes of this project are to:

  1. Create young, bushy forest that is lacking in the area;
  2. Regenerate oak and hickory forest in areas where it is favored so that forest type is maintained; 
  3. Respond to insect and disease threats; and
  4. Contribute to the local economy through commercial timber harvests. Local communities receive a portion of the revenue generated from timber sales to help support rural school districts and road maintenance.

The Sunny Oaks project will maintain forest where it is currently. The harvest proposal will remove the current tree canopy to allow new trees to grow back (oak will not regenerate under a closed canopy). Prescribed fire and targeted species removal will help ensure that oak and hickory regeneration is successful. Harvests, timber stand improvements, and construction activities will be staggered across a period of 20 years: 

  • Harvest forests with 1,675 clearcut acres and 1,160 shelterwood acres; 
  • Conduct timber stand improvements including prescribed burning of 2,000-4,000 acres per year and the manual girdling/felling or herbicide treatment of competing vegetation;
  • Plant trees
  • Create ~8.5 miles of permanent new roads for administrative purposes only (closed to the public); create log landings and skid roads; and reconstruct ~17 miles of existing roads; 
  • Create fire lines (areas cleared of vegetation) to help control fire in prescribed burn areas.
  • Manage adaptively in order to respond to unforeseen events such as new insect pests/diseases, weather events, or inadequate growth.

Climate Change Impacts

For this project, the most important anticipated climate change impacts include:
Altered precipitation regimes
Warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons
Drier soils during the summer
Increased threats from insects, diseases, and invasive plants
Altered disturbance regimes
Reduced habitat suitability for American beech, eastern hemlock, eastern white pine (not native), northern red oak, scarlet oak, sugar maple, and white ash

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:

Challenges

Annual weather or short-term (10 years) conditions can alter management decisions/proposed actions
Extreme weather increases vegetation changes/succession of undesired species
Chestnut oak has long-term uncertainty
Increased invasives could be spread more easily with salvage operations/thinning

Opportunities

Climate change trends are favoring oak and hickory species, which are currently strong regenerators now
Natural disturbances in areas where there is advance regen can result in oak-hickory regeneration
Natural regeneration facilitates adaptation of oak and hickory through phenotypic plasticity
Removing competing hardwoods include those species that are not likely to do well, and that are competing with desired regeneration that is expected to well.
Northern long-eared bats and Indiana bats are Federally threatened species and the Forest must keep operations within guidelines for managing bat habitat.Impact models suggest shagbark hickory is likely to increase (benefits bats)

Adaptation Actions

Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook to develop several adaptation actions for this project, including:

Area/Topic
Approach
Tatics
Match prescribed fire burn windows to conditions on the ground and stages of stand dynamics (e.g; site prep; advance regen, etc.); explore late summer/fall burn window
Allow expansion of southern red oak, which is currently rare in project area, and exists on the northern edge of its range here
Actively manage for southern red oak
Plant/underplant red, black, and chestnut oaks, other oaks that may be difficult to regenerate naturally
Use shelterwood cut to open understory and allow oak and hickory seedlings to advance; followed by mechanical or fire treatment to control maple and other undesirables
Test site conditions and to match genetic material of American Chestnut (work with American Chestnut Foundation to explore Restore American chestnut in oak-hickory forest)
Translate strategies and approaches for key partners in order to promote landscape scale oak-hickory restoration (also a Joint Chiefs goal)

Monitoring

Project participants identified several monitoring items that could help inform future management, including:
General inventory of southern red oak (location/abundance)
Increased National BMP monitoring at summer and fall burns
Post burn vegetation monitoring for oak-hickory restoration
Amount of land managed under oak-hickory strategies
Oak barren overstory and herbaceous species composition/extent
Stocking basal area for Virginia, pitch, and shortleaf pines

Next Steps

This project is currently under review as part of the NEPA process. After the 30 day comment period, a draft decision notice and finding of no significant impact will be available for review during a 45 day objection period. The objection process follows regulations found at 36 CFR 218 Subparts A and B.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact
Patricia
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