Forest Management Plans Fall Short

The U.S. Forest Service is changing North Carolina’s Pisgah and Nantahala National Forest management plans. Conservationists say these proposed plans still fall well short of the sustainable and ecologically-friendly management these critical natural resources need.

The plans are intended to provide a strategic framework for managing national forests for the next 20 years. They are supposed to take into account factors including “the impacts of development pressure on adjacent private lands; unprecedented increase in recreation; the growth of wildland urban interface; the spread of insects, disease, and invasive species; and the escalating impacts from climate change.”

North Carolina environmental advocates say the modified plans don’t achieve those goals. Several opposed groups, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, filed their objections as part of the formal plan review process. This administrative step positions the groups to file a legal challenge if the agency’s formal decision does not satisfy their concerns.

The groups’ joint news release says, “At the most basic level, the Forest Plan outlines where things like hiking, logging, mountain biking, and roadbuilding are allowed, and where they aren’t. Where and why logging happens is one of the most important issues addressed by the Forest Plan. The plan does not prioritize using timber harvests to restore forests degraded by past mismanagement, nor does it prioritize storing carbon to help fight climate change. In fact, the plan doesn’t commit the Forest Service to any priorities except for cutting more trees and for the large majority of the landscape – 610,434 acres – it defines success as simply logging more. It proposes a major increase, not only in the amount of logging, but also in the places on the landscape where it will occur. Timber production is a legitimate use of our shared public lands, but it is not appropriate in the more-than 100,000 acres of existing old growth forests, state-recognized habitat for rare species, and backcountry areas that would be open to that use under the new plan.”

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