People who live in the Southern Appalachians want their national forests protected, show recent surveys by the Southern Research Station (SRS) of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).
The surveys by the SRS Recreation, Wilderness and Demographic Trends Unit in Athens, Georgia, found that area residents want the forests managed to protect clean sources of water, preserve natural landscapes for future generations to enjoy, and provide wildlife habitat.
The management plans for the national forests of the Southern Appalachian region are being revised to comply with the National Forest Management Act. The SRS surveys were designed to address the requirement for public involvement in these revisions, and were sponsored and conducted by the USFS, the Southern Research Station and the University of Tennessee.
“Public involvement is not only required, it is the most essential component of successful national forest planning,” said Ken Cordell, project leader of the SRS social science unit. “These plans, so important for managing natural resources, are centered around the concerns and needs of the American public.”
More than 5,200 people in the region were interviewed for surveys covering 13 national forests. Questions were designed to elicit which values were most important to residents in planning the future management of national forests.
“We found that people in the region value the national forests in many different ways,” said Cordell. “People give top value to protecting sources of clean water, followed by retaining natural forests for future generations, providing protection for wildlife and habitat, providing places that are natural in appearance, and protecting rare and endangered species.”
Residents gave lower values to managing national forests as sources of raw materials, as grazing ranges for livestock, and for tourism.
“In the Southern Appalachians, people clearly put ecosystems and naturalness above utilitarian objectives in the management of their national forests,” said Cordell. “This is consistent with the natural resources agenda developed for the Forest Service over the past few years.”
Survey information was gathered in a special application of the SRS National Survey on Recreation and the Environment (NSRE). All data and electronic copies of the five reports from the survey are available at: https://www.srs.fs.fed.us/trends/sanfrpt.html.