A Moment of Crisis for the Region’s Forests


I have lived near Blowing Rock (always between Burke and Watauga Counties) since 1979. I, like many of you reading this now, remember Blowing Rock in the eighties with P.B. Scotts, The Farm House, Holley’s, Clyde’s, Antler’s, The Mayview Manor, and Blowing Rock as a different resort town than it is today.

I watched, from the sidelines (as a businessman wrapped up in his work) as Blowing Rock took a look inward and searched back to its roots as the turn – of – the – century resort town that it once was. A mountain town for the many affluent and growing upper middle class and middle class families that sought relief from the summer temperatures off the mountain. That century was 1899-1999. Now we have entered a new century with a great past and a great future ahead of us…

Blowing Rock is now facing a new aspect of change. And the change is not all about Blowing Rock. It is about Pisgah National Forest. It is about watershed, not just view shed. It is about the Greening of America. It is about our need to protect forested public land for future generations, to maintain our watersheds (and trout habitat) for communities downstream, to expand our hiking trails, to expand our access to wilderness. It is about environmental protection. It is about expanding wild animal habitat (bear, dear, owls, hawks, and rumored eastern mountain lions, fox, beaver and the numerous other wild animals) and the many plants that are unique to our mountain and foothills habitats.

I understand that The John’s River Gorge is a part of an original land grant from King George. I understand that there are trees in the proposed logging area that are three hundred and fifty years old. I understand that there are portions of the John’s River Gorge that are viewed for future exploration as potential Indian archeological sites by some state and regional universities.

Ashe, Watauga, and Avery Counties (along with Caldwell, Burke, Yancey, Mitchell, and other mountain and foothill counties up and down the Blue Ridge Mountain Chain) have a great responsibility to those down stream from our pristine mountain and foot hills watersheds. Our water comes from the sky and pours over rocks as clear, pristine and refreshing streams full of trout, beaver, otter, mussel s, salamander and other wild things. We (and the governments that we elect) have an obligation and a responsibility to send the clean water we receive, clean to the foothills communities down stream.

If we lose the opportunity to save the watershed that is below us, we do a disservice to Lenoir, Morganton and Hickory, Valdese, Gamewell, and the many other foothills and piedmont communities below us. Do they want us to send them silted rivers, poisoned by toxins sprayed upon the ground by the US Forest Service or its subcontractors? Do they want us to destroy the potential history of prehistoric Indian cultures that lived on this land long before we came to this country? Do they want their children to hunt, fish and recreate in land sprayed with toxins and eventually turned into tree farms that are monocultures and habitats with limited diversity and limited wildlife?

We, as a region and as a state, have an opportunity to expand the green space protected for us by our government. Look at where we are! We are near Linville Gorge Wilderness Area (protected forever); We are near Grandfather Mountain (protected as well as an international biosphere reserve, thanks to Hugh Morton and the Morton family); We are near Wilson’s Creek area (now considered for Wilderness designation by the US Congress – it is on the list). And next to Wilson’s Creek and Lost Cove area is John’s River Gorge.

Ask your local, state and US Government officials: what can we do, as a people, to have you act on our behalf so that all of this area becomes Wilderness area? If we can unite we would have a wilderness area spreading from Linville Mountain to the east of Hwy 221 all the way (with exceptions for private lands) to Hwy 321 from Blowing Rock to Lenoir. No more subsidized forestry roads to dump silt into the creeks and rivers. Cleaner trout waters and better recreation for all of the state and our expanding tourist industry. We can return a pocket of brown trout habit for the trout and the people.

Think a minute what this would mean to the area, just think.

Increased wildlife habitat would ensure future generations that wildlife could live and grow. Future generations could have land to research, wild plants to catalogue, bogs to explore, creeks to float, Indian historic sites to explore and document for history and for Indian cultures themselves , and clean water downstream. Water filtered by mountain streams shaded by old growth forests.

Our children and our grand children and their children would have the pleasure that we have.

This is not about just the view shed of an exclusive mountain resort town. This is a crisis moment for all of the towns downstream as well. This is an opportunity for all of the conservationists in the area, the region and the state to unite.

We should not trust the current administration and the US Forest Service to represent the will of the people and the needs of future generations. I call for action on the part of the Town of Blowing Rock, the State and Federal employees hired as stewards of the land, the towns of Lenoir and Morganton before it is too late. I believe that these local governments and government employees should meet together and consider legal action (such as filing an injunction, or whatever legal action it takes) to pull John’s River Gorge off the list for US Forest Service timber harvest.

As a very important side note we must consider ourselves as a member of the global community. In this global community, the likelihood that the hardwood forest will provide local jobs is limited. The hardwood will just as likely be cut and shipped to ports and overseas markets as it will end up in our furniture factories. In the event that the raw forest products end up in China we, in effect, will subsidize the cutting of American forest products to expand jobs in China. What is wrong with this picture? It happens time and again; think about it a few minutes, get on the phone, call your congressional representative, and stop this wrongful and unwarranted action by the US Forest Service in the Pisgah National Forest / John’s River Gorge. Action must be taken quickly as there is a likely hood that the comment period allowed by the USFS is a scam and that the contract has already been let on the cutting of this local, state and national resource. A resource for future generations.

We are now at the turn of another century. Like Moses Cone, Julian Price, George Vanderbilt and others we must reach out and save this public land while we can. Pisgah Forest runs from Blowing Rock to Mount Pisgah (south of Asheville), a part of George Vanderbilt’s original forestry estate. It is a different century now. We must save the trees and the habitat and the watershed for future generations to walk upon. Please contact all of your local representatives and see if you can make a direct contact to encourage a proactive stance to make sure that we protect this public land!

Please call directly for the expansion of the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area to include Wilson’s Creek, Lost Cove and The John’s River Gorge. This should not be an option, please speak out and act on behalf of your children and your children’s children.

Mark Kirkpatrick is the president of Mountain Construction Enterprises,


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