The first edition of North Carolina’s Mountain Treasures emerged in 1992 at a critical time in the preparation of forest plans by which the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests would be managed. Its purpose was very specific: to arm citizens with accurate, detailed, current information they could bring to bear to help protect deserving wildlands and other ecologically significant areas on these forests.
The U.S. Forest Service is once again developing a new plan for the management of the Nantahala-Pisgah, a plan that will determine the fate of these two forests for a decade and more ahead. Times have changed, the forests have changed and so has North Carolina’s Mountain Treasures. Its purpose, though, remains unchanged: to give the public sufficient information about the forests’ special places to speak effectively on their behalf.
In 1987, the Forest Service issued a final forest plan. Conservationists found the plan seriously flawed and appealed it, forcing major amendments. The amendments and the accompanying analyses were underway when the first edition of North Carolina’s Mountain Treasures appeared.
When the agency issued the final plan amendment in 1994, conservationists widely considered the amended plan to be the best in the region. And the process that produced it put the Nantahala-Pisgah in the forefront of the national forest management debate. The original North Carolina’s Mountain Treasures was instrumental in both.
Ultimately, though, it was the commitment of citizens who love their national forests that did so much to shape the final version. Yet, despite the improvements–and they were significant–the plan left many of the forests’ important wild lands unprotected. They are unprotected today, over a decade later, and continue to diminish. If anything, the peril is greater than ever. Threats mount in the form of sprawl, damaging off- road vehicle use, and the residue of old forestry practices long since discredited.
Once again, citizen activists–in many cases, a whole new generation of them–must come together to demand the best possible management of their national forests. We intend the
new North Carolina’s Mountain Treasures to engage them and support them in that effort. And we hope it is equally successful. As habitat, open space and natural qualities decline across the landscape and in other ownerships, our public forests become ever more precious. This report identifies and details the best of what remains on the Nantahala-Pisgah: the special places we can least afford to lose.