Delay Robinson Forest logging and conserve remaining wilderness

I hope everyone has been able to follow the Robinson Forest controversy. This issue is one of extreme importance to us as UK students, because this forest has been entrusted to us as part of this university, and the responsibility to ensure that it is properly taken care of belongs at least partially to us.

If you haven’t been paying close attention, allow me to write briefly about what is going on. UK’s forestry department has decided to push ahead with a plan to cut down 800 acres of Robinson Forest in order to determine the best way to cut down trees that are close to streams. In the department’s words, it wants to “clarify the timber harvesting practices needed to avoid negative environmental impacts and assist Kentucky forest owners and manager in protecting water quality in rugged terrain.”

Proponents of this plan claim that the “best management practices” for streamside logging have not been properly established and say that the research done at the forest is necessary. Also, the proponents of this plan say the byproduct of increasing the funds for the Robinson Scholars program is another plus of the logging plan.

At a public forum Sept. 25, the dean of the College of Agriculture, which houses the forestry department, explained this plan in detail and said he was surprised there was opposition to this plan at all.

However, there was quite a bit of opposition. Those of us on the other side of the issue — including writer Wendell Berry, former UK trustee Tracy Farmer, U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, UK Greenthumb and UK College Democrats — say this research is good, but should be done in forests where sustainable logging is already being practiced. It is unnecessary to damage what is left of the forest in Eastern Kentucky.

Robinson Forest is the last piece of wilderness (albeit reclaimed wilderness) left in Eastern Kentucky, and it should forever exist in its full 14,786-acre glory as a monument to what was once a grand, beautiful forest.

The excuse that the logging will help fund the Robinson Scholars’ Program is unfortunate — it is extremely important for Kentucky to invest in first-generation college students from the economically disadvantaged area of Eastern Kentucky. However, to do so by destroying the beauty of their region is a little counterintuitive.

There is also no consensus in the forestry department. Dave Maehr, a professor of conservation biology in the department, wrote recently that Robinson Forest was “globally significant” and that use of the forest should be to “embrace the lost world of the Laurel Fork.” Obviously, if the entire faculty can’t agree on what should be done, this plan should be at least delayed.

Important citizens, respected civic groups and major newspapers from across the state have called on UK to delay logging the forest, which is scheduled to begin this month, but there has been no change in plans. This is very disappointing.

Hopefully, the forestry department will see the light and at least delay the logging of Robinson Forest until this issue can be fully discussed and debated. The forest deserves such respect, and we, as citizens of this state and students of this university, deserve the right to enjoy the forest in full.

Robert Kahne is a political science and economics junior and president of UK College Democrats. E-mail

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