North Carolina’s Mountain Treasures
Help Protect the Vulnerable Wildlands of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests

The Unprotected Wildlands of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests

The North Carolina’s Mountain Treasures are 41 areas within our Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests that stand out with special conservation and recreation values. The United States Forest Service has begun to revise the management plan for our public forests in Western North Carolina, so we now have an important opportunity to gain better protection for these valuable places. This campaign promotes the Mountain Treasure areas within the new forest plan as The Wilderness Society, our partners, and a growing collaboration of groups are working towards a management plan for Nantahala and Pisgah that reflects today’s diverse needs, uses, and values of our National Forests.

We hope that you will join us to speak up for our public lands and our North Carolina’s Mountain Treasures!


In all six of the national forests in the Southern Appalachians there remain, sometimes against all the odds, pockets of forested land that are largely wild and without roads. Some of these places are permanently protected within the National Wilderness Preservation System. Others are along protected Wild and Scenic Rivers corridors and still others enjoy some safety because they fall within management categories now considered unsuitable for road building and logging.

But many important tracts are not adequately protected and thus remain at risk to future timber harvests. These are the subject of this new edition of North Carolina’s Mountain Treasures. The report focuses on the unprotected wildlands of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. The Wilderness Society and its partners have identified eight landscape conservation areas in these two forests that deserve protection and urgently need it. These areas contribute much to the health and viability of the globally significant Southern Appalachian ecosystem and we discuss those contributions, too.


American hemlock. photo by Lamar Marshall

This site briefly looks at each area, and describes its important wilderness, wildlife, scenic and recreational values and resources. Maps accompany each description. These areas comprise some of the wildest and least roaded lands in western North Carolina. Certainly, there are other areas in this part of the state that are, by any reckoning, important natural areas- places that are, and deserve to be, Mountain Treasures. But we have chosen to highlight in this report areas that lack long-term protection and thus remain at risk.

That risk will become apparent elsewhere in this report. The current status for the areas we focus on ranges from Wilderness Study Areas, which are generally well-protected but only in the short term, to some areas in which nearly every acre is within a management status that allows for logging and the road-building that so commonly attends it.

Clearly, then, some areas are better protected than others. But there is some level of uncertainty about permanent protection even for Wilderness Study Areas–areas found to be suitable for wilderness, recommended to Congress for designation, and meant to be managed as wilderness until Congress decides. Thus we include the five Wilderness Study Areas in this report.

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