WENOCA chapter of Sierra Club urges input on Forest Service plans for Nantahala and Pisgah forests

Announcement from Sierra Club of Western North Carolina:

Please attend and speak at the 6 US Forest Service public comment sessions (listed below.)

This summer is a critical time to provide input on the development of the revised Nantahala Pisgah National Forest plan.

Although there are some improvements from earlier versions, the preliminary draft misses many opportunities to emphasize and protect what makes the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests so special. In general, the preliminary draft treats the vast majority of the forest as being the same, (which would technically allow for timber cutting), and it doesn’t recognize many special places that are important for backcountry recreation, exceptional biodiversity, old growth, and connectivity. (See below for specific comments to make regarding each area of the forests.)

Each District Open House will highlight the areas within that district. District rangers and members of the Forest Plan revision team will be available to discuss the materials each of the following days and locations:
June 29, 6-8 p.m.: Grandfather Ranger District at Foothills Conference Center, 2128 S. Sterling St., Morganton.
July 11, 6-8 p.m.: Nantahala Ranger District at Tartan Hall, 26 Church St., Franklin.
July 13, 6-8 p.m.: Pisgah Ranger District Office, 1600 Pisgah Hwy, Brevard.
July 25, 3-6 p.m.: Appalachian Ranger District at Appalachian District Office, 632 Manor Road, Mars Hill.
July 25, 3-6 p.m.: Cheoah Ranger District at Cheoah District Office, 1070 Massey Branch Road, Robbinsville.
August 8, 3-6 p.m.: Tusquitee Ranger District, Brasstown Community Center, 255 Settawig Rd, Brasstown

Over the past year, the Forest Service has been releasing pre-draft plan materials on the National Forests in North Carolina website. Scroll to the end of the webpage to the Geographic Areas section to access the latest maps. The 12 Geographic Areas were defined by landscape character and public use, and for each area there is a narrative description with goals, a contextual map, and a pre-draft management area map.
Here are MountainTrue’s assessments based on the current pre-draft plan materials:

By Ranger Districts:
Grandfather Ranger District: Linville Mountain should be placed in backcountry management. The Upper Creek Gorge/Sugar Knob Backcountry area should be expanded. The Upper Wilson Creek Backcountry area should be expanded.

Appalachian Ranger District: Snowball Mountain, Coxcombe Mountain, and Shope Creek should be included in the Craggy Mountains/Big Ivy Special Interest Area. ( We are pleased by the creation of a new Special Interest Area in Big Ivy, though it should cover all of Big Ivy, and not just a portion of it.)

Pisgah Ranger District: Upper Courthouse Creek, Daniel Ridge, Cedar Rock Mountain, and upper Lickstone Ridge should be placed in backcountry Management to protect their remote character and the species that depend on them.

Nantahala Ranger District: All of Panthertown Valley and Flat Creek should be in backcountry management. Tellico Bald, Siler Bald, and Fish Hawk Mountain should be placed in backcountry management. The backcountry area around Terrapin Mountain should be expanded to 4,000 acres. Corbin Knob, Hench Knob, and Chunky Gal Mountain should be Special Interest Areas.

Cheoah Ranger District: Upper Santeetlah Creek should be a Special Interest Area or backcountry area.

Tusquitee District: Gipp Creek should be placed in backcountry management. The Unicoi Mountain backcountry area should be expanded.
Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests in general:
There are many special places that are in the wrong management area and lack the amount of protection they require. In particular, Daniel Ridge, Cedar Rock Mountain, Upper Santeetlah Creek, Ash Cove, Tellico Bald, Snowball Mountain, Lickstone Ridge, and dozens of smaller natural areas are not protected by the forest plan. The Bartram Trail, Benton McKay Trail, Art Loeb Trail, and Mountains-To-Sea Trail lack a management area that would preserve the special character of these long-distance hiking trails. They should be designated as special corridors, similar to the Appalachian Trail and the Trail of Tears which have such protection.
The national forest planners say they’re open to adjusting the plan based on public feedback, and that’s why we need you to speak up for the values that are important to you. This summer is also one of the best opportunities to submit written comments to have a positive effect on the Plan before the planners consolidate public comments and put out a draft Plan early next year.

Email: NCplanrevision@fs.fed.us with subject line “Spring 2017 material Plan Building Blocks”
Mail: Attn: Plan Revision, National Forests in North Carolina, 160A Zillicoa St. Asheville, NC 28801

About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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