White Pine Project- Proposed Exemption to 40-Acre Standard

The Andrew Pickens Ranger District in South Carolina has issued a public notice for a Proposed Exemption to the 40-Acre Standard for timber harvests related to the proposed White Pine Project. This notice kicked off a 60-day public comment period that will end November 13th, 2020.

The Sumter National Forest Plan limits woodland openings (clear-cuts) to 40 acres. However, a Forest Service Land Management Planning Rule allows larger openings to be harvested to “help achieve desired ecological conditions” following a 60-day public notice and approval from the Regional Forester. The Forest Service’s expressed objective for the White Pine Project is to “restore more natural forest conditions on sites that are currently even-aged Eastern white pine plantations.”

This proposed 40-acre exemption is for the harvest of 12 stands in the White Pine Project area that would result in 11 clear-cuts of 40+ acres (two are combined). Only one of the 12 white pine stands is itself greater than 40 acres, but the openings created by the others would exceed 40 acres when combined with adjacent harvests of Loblolly Pine (see: Loblolly Pine Removal & Restoration Project). Seven of these 12 stands are located within the Chattooga River watershed. Click through the maps to the right to view all the stands included in this proposal. You can also find these stands on our Interactive Map to view them in a broader context (note that some stand boundaries have been adjusted since our map was created with data from the original White Pine Project proposal).

We are especially concerned about stands located on steep slopes and near sensitive habitat, like those around a small stand of old growth on John Mountain (C31/S9 and C31/S11). We raised these issues with the original scoping notice issued last year for the White Pine Management Project—please refer to our linked comments for more details. The timing of this proposed exemption is additionally concerning, as the Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the White Pine Project itself is anticipated to be released within the next couple of weeks weeks as well, which will begin an overlapping comment period (UPDATE 10/14: The White Pine Project Draft EA has been released and is available to view here).

We’ll be submitting comments on this proposed exemption and the pending Draft EA—stay tuned for detailed talking points.

Comments can be submitted electronically to SM.FS.r8fmsapcom@usda.gov or by mail to:
Robert Sitzlar, District Ranger
112 Andrew Pickens Circle
Mountain Rest, SC 29664