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

Joyce Kilmer – Slickrock Extensions

7,414 acres NCMT; 2,714 acres PWA; 3,163 acres IRA

Recommendation: The approximately 3,846 acres in the 3 Mountain Treasure extensions on the NE boundary to Joyce Kilmer – Slickrock Wilderness Area should be recommended for wilderness. Neither the IRA inventory nor the PWA inventory include all of these areas but together these inventories include most of the NCMT on the NE side. NCMT extensions on the southern side of the existing wilderness should be put into a combination of Special Biological areas, backcountry, and ecological restoration, especially focused on ecological management for Species of Conservation Concern (SCC), including Golden-winged Warbler, Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel, Rock Gnome Lichen, and other SCCs found in these areas.

Naturalness: The JK-Slickrock Wilderness additions are contiguous to the existing 33,727-acre Wilderness complex consisting of the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness in North Carolina and Citico Creek Wilderness in Tennessee. This is one of the largest Forest Service wilderness areas in the southeast and one of the most significant for its natural values. The existing wilderness contains one of the most intact and significant reserves of remnant old growth in the east. The additions contain approximately 974 acres of additional old growth. The wilderness and roadless lands in high quality natural condition are also unparalleled except for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which lies close by to the northeast. The northeast extensions along with a Wilderness Study Area extension in Tennessee also form a close link to 10,000 acres of Tapoco conservation lands, which have been acquired by the Forest Service, the National Park Service, and the state of Tennessee with deed restrictions that require protection of primitive character. The proposed wilderness additions include important corridors crucial for wildlife that connect National Forest and National Park lands.

Opportunities for Solitude: The Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock-Citico Wilderness areas form one of the most important and most remote wilderness areas in the southeast. The proposed wilderness extensions would both extend and bolster this opportunity for solitude.

Opportunities for Recreation: The extensive trail network throughout this wilderness complex provides exceptional opportunities for primitive recreation. Extending the Wilderness Area will complement the outstanding recreational opportunities available through the trail system in the current wilderness area, including the Benton Mackaye Trail that runs through the potential Yellowhammer Branch addition.

Ecological and other values: The existing wilderness contains one of the most intact and significant reserves of remnant old growth in the east. The additions contain approximately 974 acres of additional old growth. The Joyce-Kilmer-Slickrock-Citico Wilderness has served as home for a wide variety of scientific research, being especially valuable as reference sites for natural conditions and for sites relatively unaffected by human influences. The larger area is also extremely important because it forms a corridor that connects National Forest and National Park lands and is a part of a large conservation network extending along the main Appalachian Mountain chain. This conservation network and corridor is crucial for wildlife and for adaptation. The elevation gradient captured within wilderness and other protected lands in this area is also critical for adaptation to climate change as species can adapt through movement along this gradient. Tributary streams in the southern extensions flow into Santeetlah Creek, home to rare salamanders, Southern Appalachian Brook Trout and other sensitive species.

Several NC Significant Natural Heritage Areas are found within the extensions:Rock Creek Knob (portion)Joyce Kilmer Wilderness AreaTapoco/Calderwood Lake SlopesHorse Cove RidgeBob Bald

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.

In addition, the scenic value of this area cannot be overstated, both from within the area looking outward and from the Skyway looking into the wilderness.

Manageability: Adding the proposed wilderness extensions would provide greater manageability to the area as a whole and provide better guidance for management of the area for its natural and untrammeled values. Management of the southern extensions focused on preservation and ecological restoration for species of conservation concern would preserve natural values while enhancing habitat for important species found in the area.

 

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