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

Linville Gorge

Linville Gorge Chimneys Extension –2,549 acres NCMT; 2,549 acres PWA; 2,717 acres IRA

Recommendation: The Chimneys Extension to Linville Gorge Wilderness Area should be recommended for wilderness.

Naturalness: The Chimneys Extension, which is inventoried roadless and on the southeast side of the existing wilderness, contains recovering forest and also has 129 acres of existing old growth forest. The headwater branches of Irish and Russell Creeks are included in the extension.

Opportunities for Solitude: The extension east of Shortoff Mountain creates greater opportunities for solitude in this area and in portions of the wilderness adjacent to this area.

Opportunities for Recreation: The Mountains to Sea trail is located in this area, on both sides of the existing wilderness boundary. This trail from Shortoff to Table Rock is one of the most special recreation trails in the National Forest system, not just the Nantahala-Pisgah. The extension would help to protect the integrity of the recreational user’s experience. In general, Linville is one of the most beloved wilderness areas (and consequently one of the highest used). The recreational pressure on this area puts pressure on its ability to provide solitude. Expanding its borders is a smart way to protect the experience of users who are seeking solitude and quiet contemplation of this natural wonder.

Ecological and other values: A large designated Forest Service old growth patch centered on Linville Gorge extends into most of the southeast addition. 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 Southern Appalachian Low Mountain Pine, Appalachian Cove Hardwood, Appalachian Hemlock-Hardwood; Appalachian Oak, Appalachian Oak –xeric; Appalachian Montane Oak, and Small Stream and Riparian Forest.

Manageability: By adding land east of Shortoff Mountain, the extensions create more logical and manageable boundaries.

Linville Gorge Pinnacle Extension – 620 acres NCMT

Recommendation: The Pinnacle Extension to Linville Gorge Wilderness Area should be placed in Backcountry management

Naturalness: Although some of the extensive old growth found in the currently designated wilderness extends into the Pinnacle Extension, this area has been heavily impacted by wildfires and may need restoration efforts including control of invasive species..

Opportunities for Solitude: The Pinnacle Extension is a natural extension of the wilderness area and should be managed as Backcountry consistent with its adjacency to wilderness.

Opportunities for Recreation: In general, Linville is one of the most beloved wilderness areas (and consequently one of the highest used). The recreational pressure on this area puts pressure on its ability to provide solitude. Managing this adjacent area consistent with wilderness (Backcountry management) is a smart way to protect the experience of users who are seeking solitude and quiet contemplation of this natural wonder.

Ecological and other values: The Pinnacle extension is an integral part of the larger Linville Gorge area. In 2007 the Shortoff and Pinnacle Fires burned thousands of acres on the southern end of Linville Gorge and its extensions. These fires leveled hundreds of acres of forest which are re-vegetating as woodlands with a diverse herb layer of grasses and wildflowers. Fires and their effects should be viewed as a part of the natural disturbance patterns in this area which has some ecozones that are fire dependent. Any management in this area should be focused on ecological restoration and limiting alterations to natural conditions such as invasion of exotic species.

Manageability: Managing the Pinnacle extension consistent with the wilderness values of the adjacent Linville Gorge wilderness is essential to maintain the integrity of the larger area.

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