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


This report rests on the work of countless people for over more than a decade. Those most immediately responsible for bringing it to publication are:

  • Brent Martin, Southern Appalachian Director with The Wilderness Society
  • Hugh Irwin, Conservation Planner with the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition
  • Danielle Bouchonnet, intern, The Wilderness Society
  • Lamar Marshall, Cultural Heritage Director, Wild South
  • Josh Kelly, Botanist, Educator & Staff Biologist, WildLaw

They built on the work of many others, more than we can adequately thank. But several deserve special mention. Bill Thomas and Ted Snyder of the Sierra Club and John Ray of the North Carolina Bartram Trail Society redrafted many of the area descriptions based on extensive, first-hand knowledge of these special places gained in the field. They also assessed changes that have occurred since the last edition, and contributed advice and invaluable knowledge at every stage.

Rob Messick contributed an immense amount to the report, also based on his personal knowledge of many of the places we detail. He proposed new area boundaries in many cases and recommended several new areas for this revision, drawing on his extensive old-growth field work.

Josh Kelly of WildLaw also reviewed and provided critical information on old-growth, botanical and other special features of areas.

Amy Tidwell, a former Wilderness Society staffer, kept the revision process moving forward and made sure that key players remained in touch at critical stages.

The Wilderness Society and its partners in North Carolina’s Mountain Treasures offer our deepest thanks to the Lyndhurst Foundation, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, EMSA Fund, and Fred Stanback. Without their generosity, their confidence, and continued support, neither this report nor the work of many of the individuals who contributed to it would have been possible.

In partnership with many other conservation groups, The Wilderness Society has published Mountain Treasures reports for most of the national forests in the Southern Appalachians. North Carolina’s was the first and a model for those that followed. In turn, this report reflects the best of others in the series. The goal of the 1994 report was to depict individual wild areas. It did that well. Bill Thomas suggested grouping areas into clusters, a device that both improves the utility of the report and reflects the important idea of landscape-level conservation that flows from the principles of conservation biology.

The 2002 publication, Return the Great Forest: A Conservation Vision for the Southern Appalachian Region, admirably set forth the challenge. Recognizing, planning for and protecting these places at the landscape level, rather than in isolation from one another, is our best hope — perhaps our only hope — of securing for our region a conservation network that sustains the life forms that are natural to it. Return the Great Forest also involved The Wilderness Society and other conservation organizations. It envisions “a biologically diverse region sustained by a connected network of large natural areas.”

The future of North Carolina’s wildlands is central to this vision because many of the most significant large natural areas in the region are partly or wholly within our state.

North Carolina’s Mountain Treasures also builds upon an earlier publication by The Wilderness Society, Mountain Treasures at Risk: The Future of the Southern Appalachian National Forests ( Jackson, 1989). That publication took an early and important cumulative look at the forest plans adopted for the six national forests surrounding the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It criticized those plans for promoting excessive logging and road building, and catalogued the impacts of those activities on scenic beauty, recreation, biological diversity, clean waters and other natural values.

The Society’s work continues in the region, applying the organization’s expertise in forest policy, research, ecology, economics and law to the development of new models for sustainable forest management.

The Wilderness Society, founded in 1935, is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to safeguarding the nation’s public lands. The Society’s headquarters are in Washington, D.C., and it has 13 regional offices around the country. The Western North Carolina office is in Sylva, NC. For more information on The Wilderness Society and its programs, go to

Our Partners

The Wilderness Society and its Southern Appalachian partners will be actively involved at every stage of the forest plan revision process. You can stay abreast of what’s happening- comment opportunities and deadlines, public hearings and the availability of new and important information–by going to our websites at any of these addresses:

Wild South:

Western North Carolina Alliance:

Southern Environmental Law Center:

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