A vision for a viewshed
In response to public concerns about proposed logging in Pisgah National Forest’s Grandfather Ranger District, just south of Blowing Rock, the U.S. Forest Service is developing an additional alternative to decrease the visual impact. “What we’re trying to do is listen carefully to people’s concerns, continue to do additional analysis and conduct the project in a way that is not affecting the values of the Blowing Rock community,” says Terry Seyden, USFS public-affairs officer.
But Lamar Marshall, executive director of regional forest-defense group Wild South, says the area is too special to allow logging of any kind.
Wild South has combined its efforts with environmental groups Friends of Grandfather/Blowing Rock Scenic Views, the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project to draft a bill that would designate approximately 20,000 acres of the national forest — including the proposed project area — as a federally protected scenic viewshed. If passed, it would grant the area everlasting exemption from commercial logging.
“The bill would require the forest service to manage the area for viewsheds,” explains D.J. Gerken, a Southern Environmental Law Center attorney. “Existing roads would stay open; hunting, fishing and other recreational activities would continue to be allowed and the area will remain under federal forest ownership.” Gerken stresses that environmental-related tourism is a “major economic driver” in the area surrounding this stretch of forest, and maintains that timber extraction would yield the “lowest [economic] value that can be drawn” from the land.
While the bill has yet to be introduced, it has been endorsed by congressional candidate Roger Sharpe, the Democratic nominee for the 5th District. “Tourism is a vital part of the economy in northwest North Carolina and is the lifeblood of the Blowing Rock community,” he says. “In northwest North Carolina, where our economy is closely connected to our pristine environmental heritage, a good environment does in fact make good business.”
Don’t eat the paint chips
Sometimes it takes more than common sense to protect yourself from environmental-health hazards. Linda Block, coordinator of the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at UNCA’s Environmental Quality Institute, notes that lead poisoning is the number-one environmental disease for children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Despite a lead-paint ban dating back to 1978 and other measures since then to phase out lead, the toxic substance remains pervasive: The stuff can be concealed in pipes, paint chips, soil and dust, posing major health risks that are particularly high for children ages 6 and under.
“Fortunately, it’s one of the foremost preventable childhood diseases,” Block says. The challenge is to provide people with the resources to safeguard themselves against lead, and to that end LPPP is gearing up for a week-long series of events for “National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week,” Oct. 23 to 28. Throughout the week, they’ll be giving free lead inspections in homes built before 1978, and referring eligible patients to their health departments for free blood tests to determine whether they have unsafe lead levels.
“Kids absorb and retain a larger percentage of ingested lead per unit of body weight than adults, which combined with the fact that young children’s systems are in a formative stage increases the toxic effects of the lead on them,” says Adrianne Weir, lead inspector at LPPP.
LPPP will also host two workshops entitled “Keeping Your Family Safe,” at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 24, and at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 25, at the Buncombe County Cooperative Extension. For more information, contact LPPP at 251-6104.