Tell the US Forest Service to Protect Wilderness, Clean Water and the Climate
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) recently released the draft of its Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests Plan, which will guide forest management of 1.1 million acres of North Carolina’s forest land for the next 15 or more years.
The plan covers almost every major aspect of how our national forests in North Carolina will be managed, including the amount of logging and resource extraction allowed and the priority given to creating and maintaining trails for hiking, mountain biking, hunting and fishing. In the past, extractive industries have had an outsized impact on the planning process and so it’s crucial that the Forest Service hear from people who use the national forests for recreation and who value our forests for the many natural services they provide like clean water, wildlife habitat and natural carbon storage, which helps mitigate climate change.
Of particular concern is that some of the alternatives the Forest Service is considering would dramatically scale back the acreage they recommend for wilderness designation. One of those alternatives would even strip the agency’s long-standing recommendation for the Harper Creek and Lost Cove Wilderness Study Areas to be designated wilderness. These two areas, consisting of nearly 13,000 acres of roadless national forest land just south of Grandfather Mountain, were designated by Congress as Wilderness Study Areas in 1984 — a strong level of protection that could be threatened if the Forest Service changes its recommendation. These areas have many waterfalls and swimming holes and are popular with local residents and tourists for hiking, camping, fishing and swimming.
Submitting your comments
To comment, send your message to Allen Nicholas, the Forest Supervisor for North Carolina using the USFS submission form. Your comment can be as short or as long as you like, but we recommend you include, at a minimum:
— What the national forests mean to you and what are the most important services they provide (e.g., hiking and recreation, clean water, reducing greenhouse gases)
— Appreciation for the U.S. Forest Service for giving you a voice in the process
— Details about how you use any particular areas such as Lost Cove and Harper Creek that you believe are worthy of protection
Additional requests you may want to include in your comment
The Forest Service should protect wilderness and areas with wilderness characteristics by:
- Recommending all congressionally designated Wilderness Study Areas for wilderness protection
- Recommending all extensions to existing Wilderness that were identified as Wilderness Inventory Areas for wilderness designation
- Designating all other areas with high wilderness potential for Backcountry Management
- Placing State Natural Heritage areas with rankings from “High” to “Exceptional” into management areas that are protected from timber harvest and require managing these areas to protect natural communities as well as rare and endangered species.
- Placing all known old growth and all old growth found during plan implementation into the Old Growth Patch network
The Forest Service should help mitigate the impacts of climate change by:
- Putting a strong emphasis on maximizing carbon uptake in this forest plan by prioritizing forest health over timbering, road building and other resource extraction
- Reducing logging in unbroken forestland to help mitigate climate-changing carbon emissions
The Forest Service should protect clean water by:
- Protecting perennial streams with a 100-foot minimum buffer; intermittent streams with a 50-foot minimum buffer; and ephemeral streams with a 25-foot minimum buffer
- Decommissioning roads that are not important for public access to reduce erosion of sediments into streams and concentrate limited funds on the proper maintenance of roads that are important for public access
- Limiting timber extraction in river corridors that provide recreation and drinking water