Walland neighborhood members raise concerns over nearby clear-cutting operation

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WALLAND, Tenn. (WATE) – Neighbors in an East Tennessee community are concerned about a clear-cutting and tree harvest operation happening near their homes.

The project is taking place near Ellejoy Road in Walland. It’s spearheaded by the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture on the school’s property. They say they are working to harvest 92 acres of timber land.

However, people living nearby aren’t thrilled with the work being done. They reached out to WATE 6 On Your Side reporter Elizabeth Kuebel to share their concerns.

The neighbors say they’re both disappointed and surprised. The president of the neighborhood association, Sandy Abel, voiced their worries on behalf of all those living nearby.

“This 92 acre tract next to us is, we know, home to much of that wildlife, because we see it coming and going from that property. And now, that wildlife will not have that property to go to.” she said.

That’s one of the worries voiced by neighbors. They also cite environmental concerns and a lack of notice by project leaders.

“We were a little surprised when we saw it being clear cut and saw the destruction, but we were not notified. There were no signs posted, no advertisement to the neighborhood to at least let us know what activity was happening,” Abel said.

Project leaders admitted they could’ve done a better job at communication.

“That would’ve been a good thing for us to do, and we apologize to those closest neighbors for not giving them more advanced notice,” said Bobby Simpson, Center Director of the East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center.

The activity on the site began just before Thanksgiving. Simpson said they are working to clear and harvest 92 acres of Ag Center land, but leaving some strategic spots as no-cut exclusion zones.

The operation’s mission is multi-faceted, creating pasture land for their existing dairy herd and also for teaching and research.

“One research project already planned is with Nothern Red Oak and enriching the forest,” said Simpson.

“We’re doing everything according to best management practices, which are guidlines initiated by the state of Tennessee to make sure that water quality is maintained and that we have soils in the forest to grow new trees,” said Wayne Clatterbuck, Professor of Forest Management and Silviculture.

Parties on both sides of the issue outlined their goals.

“We would love to hear that they ceased the clearcutting but at a minimum would love to see the buffer zones widened at our neighbors and do some selective cutting of trees in the forest as opposed to clear cutting,” said Abel.

“Our overall goal is to be good stewards of the resources of the land, the forest, the water, and to be good neighbors and to fulfill our mission as a land grant institution in research, teaching and outreach,” said Simpson.

Moving forward, project leaders say the want to have open channels of communication with neighbors; it’s something the neighbors welcome. They say they plan to stay in touch with UT personnel to find out what the next plans are.

Project leaders expect the harvest activity to last another three to four months.

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