North Carolina Congressman Cass Ballenger’s office has expressed an interest in reintroducing a bill to designate two wilderness study areas just south of Grandfather Mountain as official wilderness.
But in Avery County, where 10,000 of the 13,000 total acres are located, a resolution is before the county commissioners that could deal a severe blow to the chances for these areas, Lost Cove and Harper Creek, to receive permanent protection.
Conservationists, sportsmen, and local businesses have been seeking wilderness designation for these popular recreation areas for more than 20 years and have received past support from Congressman Ballenger.
But a vocal opposition to protecting these areas arose before a new bill has even been introduced. In April, Citizens For A Sound Economy held a meeting in Avery County with the admitted intention of stirring up opposition to new wilderness. At the meeting, CSE described wilderness designation as a “pressing property rights issue.”
Just who is CSE? According to Public Citizen, a non-profit research organization, CSE is a front group for Washington-based corporate lobbyists with an agenda that is set and funded by large, multinational corporations. CSE has launched a campaign of disinformation about wilderness, spreading such lies as: motorized equipment can’t be used to fight wildfires in wilderness areas and that wilderness locks out sportsmen.
Within weeks of CSE’s meeting, a resolution was introduced to the Avery County commissioners by the High Country Sportsmen Coalition to oppose wilderness designation. The fact that a sportsman’s group was induced to introduce this resolution is particularly disturbing, as such groups have traditionally been among the strongest advocates for wilderness and roadless area protection. The bulk of their concerns hinge around promoting wildlife that are dependent on open fields.
But they did not discuss the widely accepted scientific evidence that large blocks of mature and old-growth forest provide critical habitat for both game and non-game wildlife, including man of our most endangered plants and animals. Nor did they acknowledge that some of the best hunting and fishing in the Southern Appalachians is found within wilderness areas.
Sportsmen who care about having wild places in which to hunt, fish, and camp should contact the Avery County commissioners and let them know they value wilderness.