BEDFORD – The Forest Service has released a draft environmental assessment for the Buffalo Springs Restoration Project, located in the Hoosier National Forest (Forest) in Orange and Crawford counties.
This document was created in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), an environmental review process required by all Federal agencies in the executive branch before they make final decisions about major Federal actions that could have environmental effects.
The report highlights the analysis of potential environmental impacts of the proposed project by a variety of natural, cultural, and recreational resource subject matter experts and is the culmination of over a year of on-the-ground investigation, data collection, and review of public comments and scientific literature. In the process, several alternatives were evaluated, however, the proposed project and the “no action” alternatives were fully analyzed.
The goal of the Buffalo Springs Restoration Project is to implement actions to meet the objectives of the Forest’s Land and Resource Management Plan across the landscape of the project area. This includes actions to improve forest health and resiliency, restore native hardwood species in some areas of non-native pines, keep the historic upland oak-hickory community on the landscape, and provide a shifting mosaic of diverse forest ages, structure, and composition for diverse wildlife habitats.
If the proposed actions are implemented, additional benefits expected from the project include enhanced recreation infrastructure, improved stream flow and connectivity for aquatic organisms, and documentation and protection of significant cultural resources.
The report specifically addresses how the project will affect the habitat needs of the federally endangered Indiana bat, federally threatened northern long-eared bat, and declining neotropical migratory songbirds among others. If approved, as a multi-faceted, landscape-level project, it would be implemented over the course of approximately 15 years for silvicultural treatments and 25 years for prescribed fire treatments.
Other approved forest management projects would occur concurrently, however, the Forest Service’s intent for treatments involving timber harvest would be to continue at the same pace as the current 10-year average, which is an average of 266 acres annually, or just 0.13% of the total 204,000 acres comprising Hoosier National Forest.
“I encourage anyone interested in the management of their public lands, the future health, and resiliency of forest ecosystems in south-central Indiana, fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, cultural resources or recreation to review the assessment and provide their comment for consideration,” said Chris Thornton, district ranger and deciding official for the project. “Public comments and information provided during the initial scoping for the project were instrumental in the identification of issues and to our analysis.”
In compliance with NEPA regulations, the draft environmental assessment will have a 30-day comment period to provide an opportunity for public involvement in the decision-making process. Comments will be accepted for 30 days following the date of publication of the legal notice in Perry County News, our newspaper of record. Regulations prohibit extending the length of the comment period. The draft environmental assessment and associated documents can be viewed at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=60940. Additional information regarding the Buffalo Springs Restoration Project can be found at https://go.usa.gov/xAn24
Comments received in response to this invitation, including the name and address of those who comment, will be considered part of the public record for this project and will be available for public review. In order for comments to be considered, they must be submitted in one of the following ways:
- Mail: Christopher Thornton, District Ranger, Attn: Buffalo Springs Restoration Project, 811 Constitution Avenue, Bedford, IN 47421
- FAX: 812-279-3423, Attn: Buffalo Springs Restoration Project
- Email: email@example.com
Electronic comments must be submitted in a format such as an email message, plain text (.txt), rich text (.rtf), Word (.doc or .docx), or Portable Document Format (.pdf). Please include the subject header “Buffalo Springs Restoration Project” in your email.
- Written comments can be hand-delivered to the Forest Supervisor’s Office at 811 Constitution Avenue, Bedford, IN 47421 during normal business hours, Monday to Friday, excluding holidays (8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.). Due to current staffing shortages, it is advised to call ahead (812-275-5987) to ensure staff will be available to accept your delivery.
Please be sure to include the following information with your comments to be eligible to submit an objection (36 CFR 218.25):
- Name and postal address (phone number and email address are recommended but not required)
- Title of the proposed action (Buffalo Springs Restoration Project)
- Specific written comments regarding the proposed action (comments should be within the scope of the proposed action, have a direct relationship to the proposed action, and must include supporting reasons for the responsible official to consider)
- A signature or other verification of identity upon request.
For more information concerning the Buffalo Springs Restoration Project draft EA, or questions regarding the commenting process, please contact Kevin Amick at 812-276-4746 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.