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

Craggy Mountains (Big Ivy)

10,621 acre NCMT; 4,005 acre PWA; 2,659 acre IRA; 2,659 acre WSA

Recommendation: Recommend Wilderness Designation for existing Wilderness Study Area plus contiguous PWA and Mountain Treasure Area outside of multi-use trails. The remainder of the area should be placed in Special Biological area or Special Interest Area and Backcountry Management. Some portions of Mountain Treasure area may be appropriate for ecological restoration (without new roadbuilding).

Naturalness: This area is extremely important for its biological diversity and scenic and recreational values. It includes the Craggy Mountain Wilderness Study Area, Big Butt Ridge and much of the land in between, including the Walker Cove Research Natural Area. It is well connected to the rest of the Black Mountains through protected conservation lands, the Asheville Watershed and the Big Tom Wilson Preserve. This area contains several Natural Heritage Areas and significant biological habitat, including robust black bear, brook trout, and songbird populations. The combination of extensive old-growth forests, high elevation peaks and the rich soils derived from magnesium-rich mafic rock make the Craggy Mountains an incomparable natural area.

Opportunities for Solitude: This area provides exceptional opportunities for solitude. Though it is not the largest wilderness candidate area in the Nantahala-Pisgah, this area’s ruggedness and remoteness are exceptional. Users accessing the area from the Parkway or Dillingham road are likely not to encounter any other visitors. The openness of the forest lends itself to off-trail exploration, where a visitor can truly feel like the first explorers to this area must have felt. The wilderness core is isolated from the frontcountry by the remainder of the Big Ivy area, which is accessed by a single dead-end forest road and strenuous multi-use trails. The farther into the area a user travels from Corner Rock, the greater the solitude that can be found. The character of the broader area should be managed as backcountry to provide this solitude gradient that so many users value. Indeed, Big Ivy has been managed as de facto backcountry under the current plan, and the public strongly supports continuing that management.

Opportunities for Recreation: For many of the same reasons, this area also offers outstanding primitive and unconfined recreational opportunities. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail flanks the southeastern side of the area and connects to the Douglass Falls Trail. The Big Butt Trail, Corner Rock and Walker Creek areas offer additional recreation and nature study areas. Little Snowball Mountain, Douglas Falls and Carter Falls are outstanding landscape features. Off-trail recreation is unmatched; this forest is open and welcoming for a genuinely unconfined recreation experience. Adventurous hikers will find hidden wildflower coves and gnarled old-growth trees.

Ecological and other values: The Big Ivy area contains some of the world’s best examples of Rich Cove Forest, Hemlock Forest, Northern Hardwoods Forest, High Elevation Red Oak Forest, Montane Mafic Cliff, Montane Cedar-Hardwood Woodland, and High Elevation Rocky Summit Natural Communities. The area contains approximately 3,055 acres of old growth and virgin forest.There are 4,752 acres of State Natural Heritage Areas within the Mountain Treasure area:

Walker Cove (portion is currently recognized as SIA)

Brush Fence Ridge/Point Misery (NCNHP proposed for new priority SIA) High Knob/Sugar House Cove

Cedar Cliff Knob

The Craggies (portion is currently recognized as SIA)

Opportunities to increase the ecological representation of ecological types that are currently under-represented in the Wilderness Preservation system include a variety of ecological types especially Appalachian Cove Hardwood, Appalachian Hemlock- Hardwood; Appalachian Oak, Appalachian Oak –xeric; Appalachian Montane Oak, and Small Stream and Riparian.

The scenic value of this area is important both socially and economically, as members of the public recently showed at the Big Ivy public meeting.

Manageability: Previous considerations (e.g. current Forest Plan) has found the WSA of “sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use as wilderness in an unimpaired condition”. The area was recommended for wilderness designation in the current Forest Plan. The expanded PWA boundaries of the area (with FSR 74 cherry stemmed into the area for access) lend themselves to management. It is important to consider the area in the context of surrounding conservation lands (Park Service, private conservation easements, and additional Forest Service lands. Management of the core of the Big Ivy area is much more appropriate as wilderness than other management. Strong local support for hands-off management indicates that this area should be considered for wilderness recommendation.

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