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

Make Your Comments Heard for the Future of WNC Forests!

North Carolina’s Pisgah and Nantahala National Forest’s management plans are currently in the process of being revised by the US Forest Service. These plans only get revised once every 15-20 years and this is a critical time to let your voice be heard! The Forest Service is proposing a shocking proportion of the landscape for “timber production!”

Last week the USFS unveiled their proposed Management Area Framework (zones of different forest uses) and Desired Conditions for the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, and are presenting it at three more public meetings in our region.  Each meeting will open with a presentation on significant issues, management areas, and the development of the plan components. Each of the scheduled meetings will be from 4:30-7:30 p.m., will follow the same agenda.

Meeting dates and locations:

  •     Appalachian Ranger District: Nov. 3 at Mars Hill College, Broyhill Chapel in Mars Hill
  •     Cheoah Ranger District: Nov. 6 at the Graham County Community Center in Robbinsville
  •     Grandfather Ranger District: Nov. 13 at McDowell Tech. Comm. College, Room 113 in Marion

You can email your Comments on the Plan Revision to  comments-southern-north-carolina@fs.fed.us

The Proposed Framework for the Forest Plan:

While the framework and desired conditions are not yet final, the proposed plans dedicate ~700,000 acres — 70% of the entire forest, and almost 90% of the forest where logging could occur under federal law — to “the purposeful growing [and] harvesting [of] crops of trees to be cut into logs.” This ignores their responsibility to ensure ecological integrity, protect biological diversity, and provide high quality recreation opportunities.

This proposal is a dramatic increase in old-school rotation logging, even compared to the controversial 1987 forest plan, which included only 568,000 “suitable” acres. Even the 1987 Plan recognized that areas without road access or with steep slopes should not be scheduled for logging. The 1994 amendment to the Plan further reduced the number of “suitable” acres.

Designating these lands as “suitable” for timber production means that (a) the Forest Service intends to log them as crops and (b) the Forest Service will be required to include rules in the Plan mandating they be logged at certain levels, whether they need it or not. These are areas that will be “scheduled” for logging during the life of the Plan.

This proposal is a missed opportunity!  The Forest Service can meet all of its goals by focusing timber harvest in degraded areas in need of ecological restoration with existing road access and increasing, rather than diminishing, protections for remote areas, rare habitats, and backcountry recreation. Instead, this proposal will generate controversial projects and make it unlikely that the agency will actually be able to implement the plan successfully.

The proposal would also require an increase in road construction in remote, unroaded, and backcountry areas.  The number of acres protected from road construction would decrease, with inadequate protection for special areas/rare communities.

In order to improve these plans, we’re asking you to send your comments to the USFS to let them know that you care about the protection of our most vulnerable wildlands, our North Carolina’s Mountain Treasures!

Talking Points for your comments:

•    It is much too soon in the planning process to dedicate any lands to timber production because the Forest Service has not yet determined whether rotation logging is compatible with maintaining these areas’ ecological integrity, biological diversity, or recreational use.

•    Timber harvest on most of these lands should be used only when necessary for ecological restoration and specific wildlife needs, not growing trees as a crop. Harvest can be used for these other needed purposes without dedicating the entire forest to old-school rotation logging.

•    Recreation & Trails: The agency’s current proposal places at risk for closure many of the forest’s best-loved trails and dispersed recreation areas.

•    The Forest Service should be using timber harvest as a tool to promote ecological integrity and increasing the amount of the forest reserved for backcountry recreation.

•    The Forest Service should be protecting eligible, unroaded areas as wilderness and backcountry.

•    The Wilderness Society’s Mountain Treasures should be placed in Management Areas unsuitable for timber production and road building.

•    All natural heritage areas identified by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program should be placed in Management Areas unsuitable for timber production.

•    Existing old-growth forest and old-growth forest designations from the last Forest Plan should be unsuitable for timber production.

•    Wilderness is in high demand on the forest, as shown by the high levels of use in all the Pisgah-Nantahala’s wilderness areas. Our wilderness and other backcountry areas are cherished by local residents and others throughout the southeast. All Potential Wilderness Areas should be placed in either Wilderness Study or Remote/Backcountry Management Areas.

•    Wilderness also provides high economic value to our communities: Wilderness areas and protected landscapes are amenities that attract professionals (and the businesses that employ them) and retirees.

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