Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership Objects to Forest Service Plan

March 28, 2022

Partnership seeks changes to increase overall forest restoration, reduce conflict

Asheville, NC – March 28, 2022 /OUTDOOR SPORTSWIRE/ – The Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership, which represents stakeholders from across the full spectrum of public land interests—including recreation, forest products, conservation, wildlife, hunting, and fishing—has filed an Objection to the draft management plan for the Nantahala and Pisgah National forests, which was issued earlier this year. The Forest Service will consider this formal objection as it crafts its final management plan, which will provide a framework for how the 1.1 million acres of Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests and their resources will be managed for the next twenty years.

The Partnership has collaborated with the Forest Service for nearly a decade on this management plan. As part of its comments on the draft forest plan in 2020, the Partnership stressed the importance of addressing possible conflicts in the Plan itself and submitted language that would help accomplish that goal. However, the latest draft plan did not include that approach, suggesting conflicts would be addressed on a case-by-case basis as the Plan was implemented. The Partnership Objection contends that this approach will substantially stall projects and delay much-needed restoration.

The Partnership’s Objection identifies these critical areas where conflict resolution is needed in the Plan:

  • Resolve conflict and increase efficiency during project implementation by changing land allocations to protect a wide range of interests, including young forests, wilderness areas, and eligible Wild and Scenic Rivers. The Partnership encourages an ambitious timber strategy that can support local communities without negatively impacting important ecologically sensitive areas, especially when coupled with controlling non-native invasive species and addressing the road maintenance backlog.
  • Along with land allocations that are sensitive to recreationally important places, the plan should better provide for sustainable recreation through improving the management of climbing, paddling, mineral hunting, mountain biking, equestrian use, and all Forest visitation. This will reduce conflict between recreationists, the Forest Service, and natural resources, while encouraging collaboration and exceptional and sustainable visitor experiences.
  • Establish a 256,000-acre old-growth patch network using a cap-and-trade approach that includes a process for identifying old growth during projects. This approach would allow the Forest Service to replace lower quality patches of old growth with higher quality patches of old growth, should higher quality patches be encountered during projects. Such flexibility would reduce project-level conflict, ensure project-level success, and, most importantly, result in a higher quality old-growth network.
  • Address the concern that Natural Heritage Natural Areas (NHNAs) could be negatively impacted by management actions without consideration for their rare or unique values. The Plan released leaves 54,000 acres of NHNAs potentially open to commercial timber harvest and road building. These acres are home to ten federally listed species, 173 state listed species, and 129 species of conservation concern. The Partnership requests that standards be added to the Plan that further describe coordination with the Natural Heritage Program, including guidance on how and when some Natural Area boundaries could be re-mapped at the project level (if appropriate).
  • Include collaboratively supported, ecological treatments into their timber management program. The Partnership urges the Forest Service to be more ambitious in creating and maintaining open forest woodland habitat, or forest conditions where sunlight reaches the forest floor. Such conditions support a wide variety of vegetation and tree species critical to ecological health. However, such ecological restoration treatments must be paired with commercial timber harvests that support local economies.

For more information on the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership or for press inquiries, please contact Ashleigh Sherman at ashleigh@darbycommunications.com. The Partnership’s full objection is available to view at https://npforestpartnership.org/plan-revision-comments/.

About Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership

In 2013, the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership was formed by a variety of forest stakeholders to foster civic engagement and positive guidance in creating the best possible management plan revision for the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. The Partnership strives to create a lasting voice for innovative management and public investment in the public forests of North Carolina’s mountains for the future. For more information, visit https://npforestpartnership.org.