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Foothills Landscape Project- Talking Points

The 30-day comment period for the Foothills Project ends today FRIDAY, JAN. 10th at 11:59PM.

Scroll to bottom for talking point bullets and link to submit your comments

In mid-December the Forest Service released their draft Environmental Assessment for the massive Foothills Landscape Project on the Chattahoochee National Forest. The Forest Service’s proposed project covers over 157,000 acres in north Georgia, including a large portion of the Chattooga River watershed in Rabun County. We have been involved in tracking this project since its introduction in 2016– see our Foothills Landscape Initiative project page for background and previous comments.

This sweeping proposal packs 15-20+ years of work into a single, broad Environmental Assessment. If approved as proposed, the Forest Service would be given the freedom to conduct extensive timber harvests, repeatedly burn and apply herbicides, and more for years to come—with no further guarantee of public participation. Of major concern is the fact that the Forest Service has not made site-specific decisions about where activities will occur. These decisions will be made only after the public participation opportunities guaranteed by law have passed.

Public lands belong to all of us. As public land owners, citizens have the right to be informed about specific actions planned on the national forests and involved in the decision-making process. Public input has proven to be extremely valuable in many forest management decisions in the past. As users of the forest throughout the year, members of the public can often be the most knowledgeable about certain areas—from identifying rare flora that can be found along our favorite trails in each season, to recognizing wildlife habits and migratory patterns, and to noticing changes in forest conditions over the years. It is critical that citizens be given a meaningful opportunity to participate in decision-making and share concerns on the national forests—that cannot be done without knowing where actions will occur on the ground until after decisions have been made.

Proposed actions in the Foothills Landscape Project include:

  • 60,000+ acres of commercial timber harvest, and employing regeneration strategies that favor pine and oak “tree crops,” which would reduce biological diversity across the landscape
  • 50,000 acres of burning, and construction of 360 miles of new bulldozer paths to facilitate burning
  • Application of herbicides on up to 74,500 acres, at levels that exceed hazard quotients in some scenarios
  • Use of industrial machinery on up to 83,000 acres for processing vegetation into wood chips
  • Building an undisclosed amount of “temporary” roads
  • Rerouting up to 111 miles of trails, and decommissioning trails and dispersed camping areas
  • Logging, burning and constructing roads in potential wilderness areas, and in inventoried roadless areas

The project also includes plans to harvest existing old growth, which is rare and critical habitat that should be protected, not destroyed. At least 630 acres of old growth in the Chattooga River watershed portion of the project area would be excluded from protection.

By the Forest Service’s own estimates, project activities would cause long-term detrimental impacts to at least 7,432 acres of soil;  would cause direct and indirect adverse effects to cultural and historical resources; and would have an adverse effect on the endangered Indiana bat, as well as impacting habitat for several other threatened or endangered species.

According to the Southern Environmental Law Center, the proposed Foothills Project is approximately 95 times larger than the average Forest Service timber project in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Our forests simply should not be managed with projects of this magnitude.

The 30-day comment period for the Foothills Project ends this FRIDAY, JAN. 10th at 11:59PM. Please submit comments and make your voice heard!

To submit comments online, visit

Tell the Forest Service:

  • The massive Foothills Project requires preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement.
  • The Foothills Project draft Environmental Assessment violates provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by not providing the public with site-specific information about where proposed timber harvesting, burning and herbicide treatments would occur, as well as many other proposed actions including temporary road construction, trail construction and trail rerouting.
  • The Foothills Project violates NEPA by denying public participation opportunities guaranteed by law for the duration of the project, which could be 10-15 years or more
  •  Disagree with the Foothills Project’s forestry practices, which are based on treatments to produce crop trees at the expense of native biological diversity.  Much of the project proposes to convert diverse, native broad leaf forest–that has multiple layers of dominant and co-dominant trees, shrubs, herbacious Appalachian understory and ground cover–to a forest of even-age crop trees dominated by just a few commercial tree species.
  •  The Foothills Project must preserve 630 acres of existing old growth trees as documented in the USDA Forest Service Study specific to the Chattooga River watershed (authored by Carlson et. al., 1995).  In addition, the Foothills Project should incorporate the restoration of old growth stands connected across the landscape.
  • The Foothills Project should not use prescribed burning that far exceeds natural fire cycles (15 -20 years or more).
  • The Foothills Project should not employ the heavy use of herbicides that many scientists believe have carcinogenic properties. 
  •   Disagree with the Forest Service’s in-house ecological modeling that specifically promotes crop tree management disguised as ecological restoration.
  • The Foothills Project must adequately address the importance of restoring a true native forest connected across the landscape, to mitigate the effects of climate change, and to help provide migratory corridors for plants and animals to adapt to changing habitats.
  • The Chattooga River watershed in the Rabun County portion of the project area is not even located in the Foothills Landscape ecoregion, as defined in Dr. Charles H. Wharton’s seminal work, The Natural Environments of Georgia.  

To submit comments online, visit