Comment on the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest Plan

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Thank you for your interest in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest Plan. The comment period is now closed. However, you can sign up below to stay up to date on these national forests and other public land issues.

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Why does a forest plan matter?

What are the Specific Issues?

National Forests are managed using a two-step decisionmaking process. First, each Forest develops a management plan to guide its entire program of work for 15 years or more. Thereafter, the plan is implemented through individual projects. Among other things, a project will decide where exactly to harvest timber, build roads, or open or close trails. A good forest plan will set priorities and sideboards to ensure that timber harvest is proposed in places where it can be done with the least harm (and, in some cases, net benefits).

The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests have been operating under the agency’s original Management Plan, which was developed in 1987 with a significant update in 1994. The current Plan is badly out of date, and timber projects under the Plan have caused significant harm to old growth, rare species communities and habitats, and undeveloped backcountry areas.

It’s important for the Forest Service to hear from everyone who uses the forest when developing a plan. Now is your time to be a part of that process by telling the Forest Service how you would like these two special forests to be managed and protected over the decades to come.

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What Specific Issues Should I Be Concerned About in the Forest Plan?

Recreation Settings

Please let the Forest Service know how you enjoy the National Forests because of their natural settings, and that those settings should be protected to the greatest degree possible. When possible, please also identify specific trails or areas that you would like to see protected. 

Old Growth Protections & Restoration

Please tell the agency to protect existing old growth forest areas and restore other areas to expand old growth forests for future generations.  

The most important step in restoring old growth is to protect existing old growth. Although it is rare, 90,000 acres of inventoried old growth forest has been located in the Nantahala and Pisgah. More small patches of old growth forest exist, but we just don’t know where they are yet. 

If old growth is found in the future, the Forest Service, at a minimum, must protect it by adding the discovered old growth forest to the existing patch network for protection. 

Since old growth is much rarer on our landscape than it ought to be, the Forest Service is obligated to set aside areas that can be restored to old growth conditions in the future as part of its Forest Plan. Specifically, the future network of old growth forest should include backcountry, wilderness, and other similar areas to allow these areas of the forest to mature into old growth forest over the long term.

The North Carolina Natural Heritage Program

Please tell the Forest Service to protect the diverse network of life in Natural Heritage areas as separate from areas that will be logged to meet timber objectives.

The Natural Heritage Program works to identify natural areas with special biodiversity significance due to the presence of rare animals and plants, unique natural communities and ecosystems, or other ecological features. Natural Heritage areas should be managed to protect those values. They should not be lumped in with other areas of the forest where logging will be used to meet timber objectives.

Forest Service Roads & Water Quality Impacts

Please tell the Forest Service not to expand roads until it can adequately maintain roads to protect water quality and control invasive, exotic plants.

Forest roads pose the greatest threat to water quality on the Nantahala and Pisgah. Poorly maintained roads cause sediment pollution, and the vast majority block passage of fish and other aquatic wildlife. The Forest Service has the funds to maintain only about 13-14 percent of its current road system. Roads are also the primary vectors for non-native invasive plants that outcompete our rare native plants. 

Congressional Designations: Wilderness and National Scenic Areas
Please comment in support of permanent Wilderness and National Scenic designations for at least the following areas. If you have personal knowledge of area(s) and can offer support for their exceptional naturalness, opportunities for solitude, or opportunities for primitive recreation. 

Wilderness and National Scenic Areas are congressional legislative designations that protect exceptional areas of our public lands for future generation to use and enjoy. Only 6 percent of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests are designated as Wilderness, despite the fact that North Carolina’s backcountry areas are among the most important conservation priorities in the country, and despite overwhelming support for Wilderness protections across the Southeast. Out of the 51 separate areas with no motorized access, we believe 14 should be permanently protected by congressional legislative designation:

Wilderness Area Acres
Craggy / Big Ivy NSA and Wilderness 15,594*
Overflow 3,813
Blacks 10,984
Mackey 13,613
Joyce Kilmer Ext. (excluding Yellowhammer) 2,639
Southern Nantahala Ext. 11,207
Ellicott Rock Ext. 824
Shining Rock Ext. 1,658
Harper Creek 7,315
Lost Cove 5,934
Snowbird 8,921
Tusquitee 19,431
Unicoi & Cantrell Top 6,000
Middle Prong Ext. 1,909
Total 109,842

 

*Includes only USFS acres, but a portion of the area is managed by the Park Service.

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