James River/Warm Springs National Forest report
Hot Springs, Va. –
This is District Ranger Patrick Sheridan from the James River and Warm Springs Ranger Districts.
Road work is nearly completed on the entry to the Laurel Fork area in Highland County. The Warm Springs Ranger District is rerouting a quarter mile portion of Forest Service Road 457 that is steep, potentially unsafe and contributes to soil erosion. The rerouted road will reduce the steep portions and make the road easier to maintain. Additional road work is planned in 2013 pending available funding. An environmental analysis and decision notice were completed in June of 2012. This project should be completed by the end of August 2012.
Timber sale contracts are active on Back Creek Mountain in Bath County and on the So Big project in Alleghany County. Timber projects sold or pending sale in 2012 include the Mares Run project in Bath County and Tri County in Alleghany County. Timber management areas are being planned in 2013 and are located in the Little Mountain, Mad Anne, Duncan Knob, Lime Kiln and Brattons Run area of Bath and Alleghany Counties.
The James River and Warm Springs Ranger Districts will begin a project this fall that decommissions 39 Forest Service roads that total approximately 27 miles. All of the roads scheduled for decommissioning have been closed to the public and are no longer needed for administrative purposes. When a road is decommissioned, it is permanently closed on the ground and removed from the transportation system database. Road maintenance funding has decreased while public use is increasing. Increased use and a deteriorating infrastructure escalate safety risks, impact wildlife and degrade water quality. Our goal is to provide safe roads that are affordable to maintain and are environmentally sustainable. Future proposals to reduce our miles of road on the George Washington-Jefferson National Forest are likely.
The western fire season has currently slowed, however August is often the most active month with respect to the number of fires and acres burned. Locally, we had a number of fires in late June and into early July across the George Washington-Jefferson National Forest. In our area, all fires were caught at less than 5 acres. Two fires at the north end of the Shenandoah Valley grew to over 1,000 acres each and took two weeks of effort to contain. Long range forecasts show a mixed prediction for the fall fire season in Virginia.