As an American, you collectively own millions of acres of incredible National Forests across the country. These forests are home to outstanding outdoor recreation, and every 20-30 years, they undergo a huge overhaul to ensure they are being managed well for all stakeholders. It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect forests and improve trails and access points on them, and right now, forest planning in happening in a bunch of forests across the country, including the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests in western North Carolina.
For the past three years, Outdoor Alliance and American Whitewater have been working with the Forest Service and a diverse range of regional groups to develop a new management plan for the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests.
During this process, the Forest Service has been transparent and open to ideas. Many of the public’s ideas are reflected in a new suite of documents called “building blocks” that capture the agency’s current thinking on what the new plan might look like. The Forest Service will collect feedback all summer and then write a draft plan for the forests. When this plan is finalized, it will govern forest management for the next couple of decades.
Here are a few highlights in the current proposals:
- The Forest Service is proposing to double the number of streams protected as “eligible” for Wild and Scenic designation from 10 to 20, including some great additions like the West Fork Pigeon, Thompson, Santeetlah, and the upper Tuck.
- Although Wilderness recommendations will be proposed in the Draft Plan, we have not seen those proposals yet. There are no documents on upper Chattooga River management yet. Old growth forest will be protected through maps soon to be released.
- The Forest Service has divided the forests into geographic areas (scroll down) and proposes to manage each a little differently. These different management areas would include front-country and back-country areas with a variety of different kinds of recreation, and different kinds of management.
You can check out the Forest Service’s thinking on recreational management, which echoes some of our requests to actively support and welcome diverse recreation across the forest.
The Forest Service will hold open houses at district offices this summer to provide the public with opportunities to talk with Forest Service staff about local issues, district project, and forest plan revision. District rangers and members of the Forest Plan revision team will be available to discuss the materials each of the following days and locations:
- 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, Brevar
- 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
American Whitewater staff, IMBA/SORBA staff, the Access Fund, and Backcountry Horsemen will be at each meeting to help answer questions about recreation in the planning process. We encourage you to get involved and go chat up your local ranger at one of these meetings. You can also send comments to NCplanrevision@fs.fed.us with the subject line: “Geographic and Management Area building blocks.” Let them know where you love to paddle, bike, hike, or rock climb, and how the building blocks are good or need improvement.