Biden administration funds forest projects across the South
This month, the Biden administration announced more than $36 million in funding for projects in national forests and grasslands across the country. The eight-figure investment in our public lands comes from the U.S. Forest Service’s Legacy Roads and Trails Program, and was made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which was passed by Congress in 2021.
The list of nearly 100 projects slated for 2023 includes several in Southern national forests, including projects that will improve visitor access, protect clean water, restore wildlife habitats, and repair trails and roads. Some of the highlights include:
Improving access to one of North Carolina’s most iconic waterfalls
The headwaters of the Catawba River create a spectacular and scenic destination in the Pisgah National Forest. Located outside of Asheville, Catawba Falls includes two incredible waterfalls – the upper and lower falls – and the area has long been popular among visitors. However, the trails that lead up to the waterfalls are dangerous, necessitating difficult rescue operations.
Investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will fund the construction of elevated walkways and stairs along the trail. The improvements will make the falls safely accessible to visitors and will reduce sediment impacts to the Catawba River.
Restoring fish habitat in the East Tennessee mountains
For years, SELC has been working with the Forest Service to help protect the incredible Citico Creek watershed from the impacts of logging and recreation. Citico Creek begins in one of the largest wilderness areas in the East, and its pristine waters provide a critical ecosystem for rare and endangered aquatic species. The creek is also home to the annual ‘buffalo run,’ where each April thousands of smallmouth buffalo fish spawn in the crystal-clear waters. The proposed Forest Service project would restore and extend important aquatic habitats in the watershed.
[Citico Creek] is exactly the right place and this is the right kind of project to prioritize with new infrastructure funds.Sam Evans, SELC’s National Forests and Parks Program Leader
“We congratulate the Cherokee National Forest on moving forward with this project,” said Sam Evans, SELC’s National Forests and Parks Program Leader. “Citico Creek is one of the healthiest remaining aquatic ecosystems in the South, and this will make the creek even healthier and more resilient to storm damage. It’s exactly the right place and the right kind of project to prioritize with new infrastructure funds.”
Decommissioning dangerous forest roads in Georgia
Unmaintained roads are a major problem throughout the South’s national forests, and a 1.4-mile section of the Flatland Road in Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest is among the worst. The road plows through Flowers Cove Branch Creek and is frequently driven by off-road enthusiasts. The reckless use of the road destroys wildlife habitat and impairs water quality in Flowers Cove Branch Creek and downstream to Suches Creek and the Toccoa River.
After more than a decade of advocacy from local communities and organizations like Georgia ForestWatch, the Forest Service is now planning to permanently close this section of road and build erosion control features to help the land heal.