Conservation Groups and Forest Service Reach Agreement to Protect Old Growth Forest in Macon County

Conservation groups and the U.S. Forest Service have reached an agreement that protects an area of rare old-growth forest from logging near Franklin in the Nantahala National Forest.

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) had appealed the agency's logging proposal, called the Haystack project, on behalf of the Western North Carolina Alliance, Wild South and the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition.  The groups said original plans for the timber sale would have cut nearly 50 acres of old growth forest-one of the rarest habitats in North Carolina forests. The groups also raised concerns that construction of logging roads on steep and unstable mountain slopes could pose landslide risks and threaten mountain waterways.

Under the settlement finalized last week, the Nantahala Ranger District agreed to abandon two sections of the Haystack project containing trees that are 100 to 200 years old.  The Forest Service also addressed the groups' concerns about building roads on steep terrain by scaling back the length of a planned new road, which will reduce the project's long-term footprint in the forest.

"Old-growth forests in the mountains of North Carolina provide important habitat for a variety of wildlife and plant life, but they are rare," said Amelia Burnette, staff attorney with SELC.  "We commend the Forest Service for working with us to protect this significant resource."

"We are really pleased that the Forest Service is continuing to recognize old-growth forests in the Nantahala National Forest as important ecosystems in need of protection," said Bob Gale, an ecologist and the public lands director of WNCA.  "The remnant primary forest stands left virtually untouched for centuries and the recovering areas that are in a mature- to old-growth condition make up a tiny percentage of public lands and merit such protection. We praise the Nantahala District for this agreement."

"Our commitment to protect our last remaining old-growth forests is unwavering, and while we applaud this agreement, Wild South believes all old-growth should remain wild and never be threatened by logging," said Ben Prater of Wild South.

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The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of more than 40 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.
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