Community members collaborate with Forest Service to identify important watershed and habitat restoration projects

Contact(s): Michelle Davalos (276) 679-8370

August 3, 2018 Norton, VA – The USDA Forest Service hosted three public meetings to identify project restoration activities that improve water quality, soil productivity, watershed health, and wildlife and fish habitat and meet local and rural community needs on National Forest lands in Scott, Wise, Dickenson, and Lee counties, Virginia and Letcher and Pike counties, Kentucky. 


The Clinch Ranger District is developing a “stewardship project” proposal.  Stewardship projects are a two-step process. First, the Forest Service works with a partner or contractor to remove timber. Second, we use the proceeds from the timber sale to fund stewardship restoration projects on the District. Stewardship projects can provide local jobs and economic benefits from the timber sale and from implementing restoration projects.


Community members attended Forest Service meetings in Big Stone Gap on July 16th, in Pound on Wednesday July 18th, and in Coeburn on July 19th.


The meetings were an opportunity for members of the public to discuss many different areas of concern. Several suggested projects that are a good fit for Stewardship Contracting were brought up at all three meetings, including:


  • the need to create an Non-native Invasive Species (NNIS) eradication plan for the Clinch Ranger District and implement the resulting strategies from the NNIS Plan;

  • graveling and brushing Forest Service roads for sediment control and to improve public access for hunting, fishing, and recreation;

  • American chestnut restoration;

  • timber management to meet wildlife habitat goals for early-successional-forest-dependent species such as the golden-winged warbler, and to promote hunting and wildlife watching opportunities;

  • creating and maintaining pollinator habitat for monarch butterflies; and

  • improving or relocating trail segments that are producing excessive sediment.


In addition to the common topics listed above, each meeting turned up area-specific topics that were important to each community.


At the Big Stone Gap meeting, the recurrent theme was the poor state of the surface maintenance of Sentry Road (also known as FDR 237 or the Big Cherry Road) and how the many residents that live at the private end of the road could get some relief. Forest Service Officials were not aware of the state of the road, but some serendipitous timing allowed the Forest Service to shift an active motorgrader contractor over to the Century Road for some much-needed surface and ditch improvements.


At the Pound meeting, representatives from the Pine Mountain Trail Conference stressed the need for reroutes of the Pine Mountain Trail onto public land. Citizens also brought up completing the C&O Railroad Trail that would connect Pound Gap all the way down the North Fork of Pound Lake and providing some improved trail and water access for horses to keep the springs clean for hikers that depend on the water.


At the Coeburn meeting, residents spoke at length about the need for stream restoration to provide floodwater storage and clean water for Coeburn and the Clinch River. Litter control, working with adjacent private landowners on invasive species control, and working towards connecting the Guest River Gorge Trail to a developing network of trails to enhance economic prospects for the area were also discussed.


Additionally, project ideas came up at all three meetings such as repairing the water systems at Bark Camp Lake and fixing the bathrooms and providing additional parking at the High Knob Day Use Area. Although these ideas are not good fits for stewardship contracting, they will be addressed through future recreation-focused conversation.


The project ideas developed by community members at these public meetings and submitted as comments may be included in future stewardship project proposals. Forest Service specialists will review all potential stewardship and timber sale project proposals following National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) procedures. The NEPA process provides opportunities for public comment.  Depending on the time required to complete the planning process, it could take between six months to two years before we have a timber sale available to fund a stewardship project.


For those not able to attend the meetings, please submit your project ideas electronically to (please put “Stewardship Ideas” in the subject line) or through the postal system using the following address:


District Ranger

Clinch Ranger District

Stewardship Ideas

1700 Park Ave SW

Norton, VA 24273


Comments will be most useful if received by August 15, 2018. Contact the Clinch Ranger District office in Norton, Virginia at (276) 679-8370 for more information.