The Southern Environmental Law Center and partners filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service on March 15. SELC alleges that the Forest Service is “illegally endangering the soil, forests, and waters of the Cherokee National Forest and hiding those risks from the public.”

SELC, on behalf of the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club, and Knoxville attorney Shelby Ward, on behalf of Heartwood and Tennessee Heartwood, filed the lawsuit jointly in federal court.

This comes just after the Forest Service proposed that it would sell 534 acres of timber for commercial logging, putting trout-laden Tumbling Creek at high risk. Tumbling Creek runs through the southeast mountains of Tennessee and is popular among local families who fish, wade and picnic along the stream.

Conservation groups worry that logging the steep slopes along Tumbling Creek could cause major soil loss. As a result, trees may not be able to grow.

Many conservation groups have spent years trying to dissuade the Forest Service from taking risks on the public land. According to the SELC, the Forest Service ignored the conservation groups’ concerns, “violating agency requirements to respond transparently and truthfully to citizen objections.”

The SELC also reported that “mismanagement¬†of comparable projects in the Cherokee National Forest containing similar slopes with erosive soils have left mountainsides barren.” This then impacts hunting, fishing and ultimately the local economy.