US Forest Service invites public comment on proposed 7,000-acre project to address forest health deterioration in Arizona's Ozark-St. Francis National Forests; actions include thinning mixed pine and hardwood stands, hardwood pre-commercial thinning

CLARKSVILLE, Arkansas , May 25, 2014 (press release) – A project to address deterioration of forest health on approximately 7,000 acres of the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests is being proposed by the Pleasant Hill Ranger District. The Locust Gap Project is located in an area just south of the Red Star Community in Madison County, Ark., near the Mulberry River. Public comments are currently being sought.

Project objectives include maintaining, restoring and enhancing the area, which is generally divided into one of four designated management areas: scenic byway corridors, riparian corridors, which are biologically diverse areas between land and water, mixed forest, and oak woodlands. To meet the objectives, the project proposal includes vegetation management, prescribed burning and limited herbicide use in overcrowded, unhealthy, and poor mast producing areas.

“The forest in the Locust Gap Project area is a mix of management areas,” said Pleasant Hill District Ranger Pat Kowalewycz (Kove-uh-lev-itch). “We recognize that and will work to tailor our actions to meet a variety of objectives throughout.”

She said protecting water quality and riparian zones is a priority. Eradication of the non-native species Tree of Heaven on approximately 400 acres is also important and is included in the proposal to increase forest health and improve wildlife habitat by decreasing competition for resources.

Vegetation management would include thinning mixed pine and hardwood stands, and oak woodlands; creating hardwood shelterwoods; and conducting hardwood pre-commercial thinning. Additionally, hardwood timber stand improvement is proposed to include mid-story removal and prescribed burning, to encourage oak and other desirable species currently in and underneath the mid-story to be released and become competitive.

“It’s evident that forest health is rapidly deteriorating in the Locust Gap area,” said Kowalewycz. “It’s important, as always, that we focus on the needs present throughout the entire area, not implementing actions with a broad brush, but focusing individually prescribed treatments to meet objectives. Not treating the problem we’re seeing isn’t smart, it’s not responsible, and it’s not an option.”

Also included in the project is work to construct, reconstruct, maintain or decommission some roads throughout the area, including some illegal, user created off-highway vehicle trails.

Specific written comments must be submitted to: Pat Kowalewycz, District Ranger, 2591 Hwy 21 N, Clarksville, AR. 72830, fax (479-754-3017) office (479-754-2864). The office business hours for those submitting hand-delivered comments are: 8:00 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. Electronic comments must be submitted in a format such as an email message, plain text (.txt), rich text format (.rtf), or Word (.doc, .docx) to In order to file a future objection to the project, comments must be received by June 6, 2014. A 30-day Notice and Comment period will be provided at a future date.

Additional information on the Locust Gap Project is also available on the webpage: For more information, or if you have questions relating to this proposal, contact Matt Pfeifler, NEPA Coordinator by email ( or by phone, (479-754-2864.)

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