By Meredith Abercrombie
The U.S. Forest Service is in the process of revising the Forest Plan for the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests, which would guide the goals and objectives for these two North Carolina national forests for the next 15 years.
In the initial set of objectives released by the Forest Service, the three main themes were maintaining clean water, enhancing resiliency and connecting the people to the land.
A period of open houses, taking place across the different districts of the forests, was set to conclude Aug. 8. During that time, the public — including community members, environmental groups and business representatives — had a chance to talk to the revision team and district rangers about what they wanted to see in the new plan.
Topics ranged from conservation concerns from environmental groups, logging areas for timber companies and recreational uses for the public.
The Forest Service will take the statements from the meetings and revise the released draft. They will then provide it to the public, where the process will begin again with more public hearings and another draft.
During the original part of the process, which started in 2014, citizens expressed concerns about preserving specially protected designations such as Wilderness Study Areas. These open houses mark a new approach the agency is taking to promote transparency and increase opportunity for public input.
The final draft of the forest plan is expected in the spring of 2018.