By Molly Moore
Drafting a plan to guide management of the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests for the next 15 years is a complex process, one that began in spring 2014 and will continue through fall 2017.
Currently, the U.S. Forest Service is working to determine which areas of these two western North Carolina national forests could be recommended for official wilderness designation or inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Wilderness areas and Wild and Scenic rivers receive the highest level of federal protections. Although the USFS can recommend areas for protection, an act of Congress is required for official designation.
At two public meetings in November and via online forms, the U.S. Forest Service provided information and solicited feedback. The agency stated that public input would be most useful by Dec. 15.
These and other opportunities for public involvement were added after an early draft of the plan, released in late 2014, led to concern in the conservation community that the plan might increase logging and strip some places of their Wilderness Study Area status.
According to the agency website, the USFS will seek public input as it develops its Draft Environmental Impact Statement in early 2016, with a formal public comment period to follow in spring.
To learn more about the process and provide input, visit https://1.usa.gov/11qVQ9I