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

Southern Nantahala Extensions

14,815 acres NCMT; 9955 acres PWA; 7495 acres IRA

Recommendation: Mountain Treasure delineations for Sharptop, Chunky Gal, Yellow Mountain, Cherry Cove, Scream Ridge and Barkers Creek Additions should be recommended for wilderness.

Naturalness: Congress designated the Southern Nantahala Wilderness in 1984. Its 24,500 acres straddle the border of North Carolina and Georgia. Standing Indian Mountain, part of a south-facing horseshoe-shaped massif that forms the Tallulah River basin, dominates the area. To the north, ridges radiate from the closed end toward the upper Nantahala River. All of the logical wilderness extensions involve these ridges and all would add to the value and integrity of the existing wilderness. Most of the included forest is well-developed recovering mature forest fed by rich amphibolite soils or actual remnant old growth forest.

Opportunities for Solitude: This extension of the existing Southern Nantahala Wilderness is a key in creating a primitive backpacking corridor between the Southern Nantahala and areas to the north and west. Numerous trails provide access to the Southern Nantahala Wilderness area, many originating or traveling through the proposed extensions. The Appalachian Trail runs along the east boundary of the area coming north from Georgia. Chunky Gal Mountain is a major spur of Boteler Peak to the northwest, and provides a trail corridor to the Boteler Peak Roadless Area and beyond to the Tusquittee Roadless Area. The heart of the largest western segment is Chunky Gal Mountain which stretches from the Tennessee Valley Divide to Boteler Peak. Chunky Gal Mountain contains 1,523 acres of old-growth. The area connects to the Boteler Peak unit at Glade Gap and allows hikers and game to move freely into Tusquitee Bald and Cheoah Bald further north. It contains the Appalachian Trail, the Chunky Gal Trail and other day hiking trails that get extensive use. The hike along Chunky Gal Mountain on the namesake trail passes by wonderful old-growth oaks. Forest visitors also use the trails near the Standing Indian campground extensively.

Opportunities for Recreation: It is hard to separate the solitude and recreational experiences in this area. Southern Nantahala, with these extensions, forms a hub for long-distance, primitive use, connecting other intact natural areas.

Ecological and other values: The extensions include 1,715 acres of existing old growth forest. Whiteoak Stamp within the proposed Chunky Gal extension contains a rare high elevation mountain bog. Muskrat Cove contains additional likely existing old growth forest as well as nutrient rich amphibolite rock that produces a lush diversity of plant life. The extensions also include rare Montane Cedar-Hardwood Woodland communities.

Another important biological site is Riley Knob, which is influenced by nutrient-rich amphibolite rock and is home to one of the largest populations of the globally rare glade spurge. Falls Branch, Barkers Creek, and Commissioner Creek are beautiful mountain streams that flow south into Betty Creek. Like much of the Nantahala Mountains, nutrient rich amphibolite rock produces a lush diversity of plant life and this section of the Mountain Treasures supports five occurrences of Montane Cedar-Hardwood Woodland, a natural community that is habitat for many rare plants and animals. This extension of the existing Southern Nantahala Wilderness is a keystone in creating a wildlife corridor between the Southern Nantahala and areas to the north.

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.

Five State Natural Heritage Areas are located wholly or partly within the extensions: Doubletop Mountain/Cedar Cliff Mountain (NCNHP proposed for new priority SIA) Pickens Nose/Little Ridgepole Mountain (NCNHP proposed for new priority SIA) Standing Indian Mountain (portion is currently recognized as SIA) part Wilderness; White Oak Stamp (portion is currently recognized as SIA)

Chunky Gal/Riley Knob (portion is currently recognized as SIA)

Manageability: The proposed extensions would make more logical and manageable boundaries than the existing boundaries. An example of this is Little Indian, essentially the basin of Little Indian Creek that feeds into the Nantahala River to the north-northeast. Congress arbitrarily set the north and east boundaries of the Southern Nantahala Wilderness to follow the 4,400-foot contour line rather than to the logical physical boundary of the Nantahala River. Protection of the Little Indian unit would correct the problem. The inholding in the Chunky Gal area does not preclude wilderness recommendation because it will soon be in National Forest ownership.

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