In an effort to find out about activities and initiataives in the Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy Board member Adam Casseday interviewed District Ranger Jack Tribble of the Greenbrier District of the Monongahela National Forest. Here are the results of the interview:
- What is new on the Greenbrier District?
We have been continuing work on several restoration projects with our partners, including red spruce restoration, early successional habitat, oak hickory woodland through prescribed fire, stream restoration and habitat work for Running Buffalo clover. These four restoration areas span the district with different partners that have cooperative missions that complement United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service restoration projects.
We are planting red spruce and other natives on Cheat Mountain, benefitting about 100 acres of mineland annually with Green Forest’s Work (https://issuu.com/greenforestswork/docs/monongahela_report_2010-2017) and a number of other partners such as American Forests, Mennen Foundation and Highland Conservancy’s Dave Saville. We have just finished planting riparian areas with spruce on the east and west forks of the Greenbrier River with our partner Trout Unlimited. We have also partnered with The Nature Conservancy to ‘release’ spruce by cutting hardwoods next to spruce that is in the understory which then provides need sunlight for faster growing spruce trees. All of these facets of spruce restoration, from minelands to riparian areas, are the result of our dynamic Central Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative partnership. For additional information please visit: http://www.restoreredspruce.org/
The early successional habitat projects are designed to help breeding birds like Ruffed Grouse, Golden-winged Warblers, and Turkeys. We have been actively working in our range allotments to balance between wildlife and range needs. Mowing some areas and keeping rough brush in other areas. We have teamed up with the Ruffed Grouse Society and WV DNR to mulch areas to create brushy edges, and in the last year we have created over 500 acres of habitat affecting over 1,500 acres.
Trout Unlimited and USDA Forest Service have teamed up to restore the headwaters Greenbrier River (East Fork and West Fork). We have completed over 20 miles of stream enhancement with wood placement, completed three new bridge crossings for aquatic habitat (trout and other critters) to use headwater stream sections and working with AmeriCorps on a unique snorkeling program to get school kids out to see the stream biota. Our Trout Unlimited partnership grows annually and is expanding into the Potomac watershed next year in Big Run watershed. https://www.tu.org/special-places/monongahela-national-forest
This past year we conducted prescribed burns on just over 3,000 acres in the Ramshorn area (Chestnut and Guinn ridges). This was our first helicopter burning operation and, with the help of several other National Forests and the National Park Service, we pulled off a controlled burn that met our objectives of lowering wildfire risk and stimulating healthy forests in the areas. The areas were burned by hand several years ago but require much more manpower than was available this year. The area is now on a regular fire interval and we are seeing a very positive ecological response in our monitoring.
Another restoration area is our Upper Tygart-Chestnut Ridge project where we are purposely doing light disturbance in Running Buffalo clover areas to stimulate growth. The disturbance-dependent clover species is a threatened plant and it needs some sunlight and disturbance. We are working with Fernow Research Station and WV DNR specialists to maximize our efforts to do just the right amount of disturbance necessary to benefit the species.
As we do restoration we are also looking for opportunities to share these special area with the public. Trails through restoration areas give us that opportunity. With that in mind, we have been pursuing grants for new trail development on Cheat Mountain within the Mower Tract (South of highway 250/92). We are working to get a grant from the WV DOH Trail Grant Program for Phase I and partnering with American Conservation Experience to build sustainable trails and teach young people to build trails during the process. http://www.usaconservation.org/hire-a-crew/our-work/ Additionally, we have a couple of grants with the Canaan Valley Institute and National Forest Foundation. With our partners’ help we plan to have 17 miles of loop trails completed by the end of 2018.
- What are some of the challenges you face in your district over the next year? Next decade?
We have been super lucky here on the Greenbrier Ranger District to keep excellent staff. I feel that if can keep positions funded and filled with excellent people we can continue to practice conservation at this high level. As a forest, we are really focus on watershed and terrestrial restoration while we produce timber. These go hand-in-hand and our success depends on doing great watershed and wildlife projects with timber harvest being a tool to get it completed. Staffing levels have continually fallen over the last decade and I feel our challenge is to keep this minimal level so that we can maximize partnership opportunities. We have very supportive restoration partners on the Monongahela NF but without minimal staff we could struggle to meet the conservation needs.
3) How can people get involved in your district?
Samuel ‘Gray’ Buckles is our North Zone Trails and Wilderness Coordinator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Gray is setting up volunteer days for wilderness clean ups and trail maintenance. Send him an email if you are interested in being included. You can also see volunteer opportunities on our website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/mnf/workingtogether/volunteering.
4) What is your favorite part of your job?
I really enjoy working with people to get better results on the ground. I get energized working on partnerships that get other agencies and non-governmental groups involved with USDA Forest Service projects. I enjoy building projects with internal and external partners because we get a much better product and our conservation efforts take on community feel. We are better together!
Note: This is the first in a series of efforts to get to know what is going on in the Monongahela National Forests. In future issues there will be other interviews in future issues.