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

Shining Rock Extension

4,865 acres NCMT; 4,769 PWA acres; 4503 acres IRA

Recommendation: 1,658 acres of the Shining Rock PWA extensions should be recommended for wilderness, excluding areas along Flat Laurel Creek Trail and Graveyard Ridge to the Blue Ridge Parkway. These excluded areas should be in Backcountry management with suitable areas available for spruce restoration. The area should be included in a larger Pisgah National Recreation Area.

Naturalness: Like other areas of the Shining Rock Wilderness the extensions are recovering from industrial logging early in the 20th century and catastrophic fires following logging. Although the areas are altered, they nonetheless “generally appear to be affected primarily by the forces of nature”. Portions of the extensions are excluded so that some ecological restoration activities such as spruce restoration and prescribed burns

can occur. Elk reintroduction should also be explored for the area so that natural disturbance dynamics could possibly replace management for maintaining the open balds.

Opportunities for Solitude: Solitude can be easily found in portions of the Shining Rock Wilderness area, and the extensions also offer excellent opportunities for solitude. Because of its popularity, portions of the Shining Rock wilderness and adjacent areas are heavily overused. This should be a solid reminder that there is considerable public demand for wilderness recreation and not enough wilderness to satisfy it without compromising wilderness values, the wilderness experience, or both. Expanding the wilderness area while enforcing wilderness use constraints, creating additional wilderness areas, and creating additional opportunities for wilderness type activities in backcountry areas could help create additional opportunities and insure maintenance of wilderness values.

Opportunities for Recreation: Sam Knob is an excellent recreational destination in this area, with an iconic overlook. Sam Branch is an incredible off-trail excursion for the adventurous hiker, with scalloped bedrock creekbed and waterfalls. Flat Laurel Creek is a much better known creek destination with summertime swimming holes and trout fishing.

Ecological and other values: The Shining Rock area and its extensions offer the opportunity to study and document the long term recovery of high elevation ecosystems in the southern Appalachians. The unique heath and grassy balds created by past fires in the area offer unique habitats and opportunities for recreation not found elsewhere. The mixture of wilderness and backcountry/ecological restoration proposed for the extensions offers the opportunity to restore natural plant communities altered in the past (spruce forest) while also creating stable ecological systems that would depend on natural disturbance patterns. This environment could be an ideal site for reintroduction of elk that could maintain the open balds that are valued for both wildlife habitat and for recreation. Two State Natural Heritage Areas are located within the extensions (mostly within portions not recommended for wilderness):

Chestnut Bald-Flat Laurel Creek-Sam Knob (NCNHP proposed for new priority SIA) Graveyard Fields IRA/PWA

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 Montane Oak, Appalachian Cove Hardwood, Appalachian Hemlock-Hardwood; Appalachian Oak, Appalachian Oak –xeric; Appalachian Bog and Fen, and Small Stream and Riparian.

The scenic values of this area should not need any defense. Sam Knob, in particular, provides sweeping and dramatic views of this cherished landscape.

Manageability: The addition of the proposed portions of the extensions would increase the manageability of the wilderness while retaining flexibility for needed ecological restoration.

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