WILLIAMSBURG, Kentucky—Brandon Bowlin learned of the U.S. government’s plan for clear-cutting in the southernmost mountains of Daniel Boone National Forest only a few weeks after the hard summer rains of 2022, when the earth slid off a mountain beneath a slope he had once logged.

Since age 14—when Bowlin first held a chainsaw—he has harvested timber in these woods. But they’ve also been his hunting grounds and refuge. It’s a place where he has come across oaks so wide that three men couldn’t join hands around the trunk, trees that witnessed history before the United States existed and could live well into the future.

Bowlin, 37, and his wife, Charity, bought a home nestled beside this forest last year, hoping the land and lush mountains would be a legacy for their teenage children. Now, they could inherit a front row seat to one of the largest and longest-term logging projects ever proposed in the Daniel Boone.