Last May, Xpress reported that the U.S. Forest Service had issued a proposal to log 68 acres of forest in Shope Creek, a sliver of Pisgah National Forest located in Riceville, five miles east of downtown Asheville.
The move drew a great deal of community interest, including 270 comments from members of the public. Locally based nonprofit Wild South, operating then as the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project, assisted residents and forest users in developing a Community Alternative proposal, which they submitted to the agency in July.
That creative solution to a controversial plan appears to have made an impression. The Forest Service announced yesterday its decision to reduce the number of acres to be logged: Scaling back the original proposal, the agency agreed to drop 22 acres of hardwood logging, while designating 123 acres as old-growth forest, which removes them from logging activities in the future. The Forest Service will also explore collaborating with nearby Warren Wilson College on a number of research and restoration projects for Shope Creek.
“We were pleased to see the Forest Service incorporate some of the objectives of the Community Alternative our groups submitted last year,” said Chris Joyell, a spokesperson for Wild South. “Neither side dug their heels in — instead we worked with the agency to find some common ground while trying to meet the needs of the community.”
— Rebecca Bowe, contributing editor