It seems likely that not many people are aware that the Pisgah National Forest dips down into the Riceville community in east Asheville. The Shope Creek section of the forest interfaces with suburban civilization at the end of Shope Creek Road. It is the only piece of national forest on the southern slope of the Black Mountains in Buncombe County other than a thin strip that crosses I-40 on the verge of its big drop to Old Fort and flatland.
By some accounts, Shope Creek is a rich wildlife habitat for birds, salamanders, trout, bear, turkey, bobcat, fox and probably cougar. There are diverse mature tree stands, verdant ridgeline vistas and cascading mountain creeks. Shope Creek trails meander up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and link to the Mountains to Sea Trail below Lane Pinnacle. Altogether the area is one of the Asheville area’s great “secret” recreational sites.
Managers of the National Forest are familiar with the Shope Creek forest and intend to log it. A timber proposal prepared by the forest’s Appalachian Ranger District includes two-age harvesting, which, the plan says, “removes most trees.” The plan calls for the removal of all white pines (which are said to be prey to insect infestations), the introduction of herbicide spraying and the reopening and repair of decrepit roads. It goes on to suggests that there is “a need to develop up to 10 percent early-successional wildlife habitat in the project area.” As defined by National Forest rules, “wildlife habitat” means “game habitat.” Old growth forests do not support designated target animals such as deer, bear and turkey.
National Forest managers have scheduled an open house meeting at the Riceville Community Center, April 26, from 4 to 7 p.m. to share information on the proposal, take comments, and respond to questions and concerns.
— Cecil Bothwell, staff writer