BLACKSBURG, VA., JAN. 8 -- A one-day conference will be held this month to review the U.S. Forest Service's management plan for the Jefferson National Forest.
The conference, scheduled for Jan. 23 at Virginia Tech, is part of the existing forest plan developed to guide future uses of the Jefferson wilderness.
The Forest Service and conservationists bickered over the plan for months before signing an agreement last March that calls for the public to take a larger and earlier role in plans for developing and protecting the woodland area.
The plan, implemented in October 1985 after several years of development, created a program for use of all the forest's resources, including recreation, wilderness, timber, wildlife, minerals, soils and watersheds.
The Forest Service and conservationists have long been at odds over the pace of road-building and timber-cutting in the wilderness.
"In many ways, the Jefferson National Forest has come of age, with ever-increasing demands from a wide variety of forest users," said Thomas A. Hoots, supervisor of the forest.
"Our job as managers is to establish, whenever possible, the common ground. We need to make professionally sound resource decisions, while remaining sensitive to the particular needs and values of all of our forest users."
The Jefferson National Forest encompasses about 700,000 acres, stretching from Buffalo Creek near Lexington southwest to the North Carolina state line near Damascus and to the Kentucky state line and beyond. More than 28,000 acres are along the Appalachian Trail.
The conference, organized by a coalition of private citizens, forest service personnel, representatives of interest groups and Virginia Tech faculty members, will review progress made in the last year and look at future uses.
Topics to be discussed include economic benefits of the forest, wildlife and fisheries, timber management, budget processes and public involvement in forest planning and programs.