SELC and Partner Groups Applaud Forest Service for Protecting Iconic Max Patch from Escalating Impacts

ASHEVILLE, NC — On Thursday, the U.S. Forest Service announced it is closing Max Patch to camping for two years due to chronic overuse and littering problems at the well-known bald. The Southern Environmental Law Center and other environmental groups commend local USFS decisionmakers for applying these temporary, commonsense restrictions. The camping ban will help reduce impacts to the high-elevation bald at Max Patch, which is located in Madison County, NC, and has become famous for its stunning, 360-degree vistas and beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

“Closing Max Patch to camping is a difficult but necessary step to give the iconic bald a chance to recover from years of overuse.” Sam Evans, who leads SELC’s National Forests and Parks Program, said. “Photos of crowded campsites, trash and damage at Max Patch have become extremely common in recent years, and we hope these new restrictions will help protect the area’s plants and animals while also preserving this popular destination for future generations.” 

“Every year, volunteers scrape gallons of garbage off of Max Patch, one of the most popular and scenic mountain vistas in the Southeast. As our public lands continue to see swelling numbers of visitors each year, reforms need to be made to protect natural resources and ensure visitors get the best possible experience,” Jeff Hunter, Southeast Senior Program Manager for The National Parks Conservation Association, said. “As part of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and larger National Parks System, Max Patch deserves nothing less than the highest caliber of protections. We are hopeful these new rules will help make that a reality.”

"Protecting the places we share sometimes means making decisions that will be unpopular with some, for the big-picture benefit of our regional ecosystems and those that love them,” Bob Gale, Ecologist & Public Lands Director at MountainTrue, said. “With more respect for this local treasure, this camping closure would not be necessary. MountainTrue applauds the US Forest Service's decision to stand up for Max Patch by limiting some uses so that this shared land can be enjoyed in a more respectful and sustainable manner." 

“Forest Keeper and The I HEART PISGAH coalition applaud District Ranger Jen Barnhart and the U.S. Forest Service for making the difficult but necessary decision to close Max Patch to camping. The Forest Service has tried everything possible to avoid closure. We are deeply grateful to all of the rangers, partner organizations, and volunteers who have been hauling trash, educating visitors, and helping to protect the bald for several years,” Forest Keeper Executive Director and I HEART PISGAH Coalition Organizer Will Harlan said.

“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) initiated visitor use management planning for Max Patch three years ago in cooperation with the Carolina Mountain Club (CMC) and Pisgah and Cherokee National Forests. The ATC is very appreciative of the USDA Forest Service’s work with the ATC and CMC to address, and hopefully solve, the misuse of Max Patch,” ATC Director of Visitor Use Management Morgan Sommerville said. “The ATC is in full agreement with the recent camping closure, an unhappy but necessary consequence to protect this iconic A.T. landmark.”

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For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With more than 80 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org

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