American Whitewater has been working with the US Forest Service (FS) and a diverse range of
regional groups for the past 3 years to develop a new management plan for the Nantahala and
Pisgah national forests in Western North Carolina. The Agency has been very transparent and open
to ideas. Many of the public’s ideas are reflected in a new suite of documents called
building blocks that capture the agency’s current thinking on what the new plan might look
like. They will collect feedback all summer and then write a draft plan, which when finalized
will govern forest management for the next couple decades. Here are a few highlights for paddlers
in the Agency's current thinking:
- The FS proposes to double the number of streams protected as
“eligible” for Wild and Scenic designation from 10 to 20, including some great
additions like the West Fork Pigeon, Thompson, Santeetlah, and the upper Tuck. AW proposed these
and other streams. Thank the FS and ask them to take another look at the North Fork French Broad,
Panthertown and Greenland creek, Tanasee Creek, and the Gragg Prong. More info here.
- The FS has divided the Forests into geographic areas (scroll down)
and proposes to manage each a little differently, which makes a ton of sense to us.
- Check out the Management Area Maps at the above link to see proposed management of specific
areas (Interface = near major roads and trails, Backcountry = remote mostly roadless areas, and
Matrix = everything else). You can expect to see the most active forest management (restoration,
timber, etc) in Matrix, very little in Backcountry, and an in between amount in Interface. The
plan calls for more (but still not a large amount) of active management which in many cases could
provide positive forest restoration, wildlife, hunting, and timber benefits. See what you think
of their maps. 100ft buffers on stream corridors will be protected across the Forest.
- Some things are yet to be determined. Wilderness recommendations will be proposed in the
Draft Plan but we have not seen those proposals yet. There are no documents on upper Chattooga
River management yet. Old growth forest will be protected through maps soon to be released.
- You can check out the FS thinking on recreational management.
Again, this is pretty good and echoes some of our requests to actively support and welcome
diverse recreation across the forest. We think a stronger commitment to adding Cheoah releases
would be good.
The Forest Service will hold open houses at district offices in June and July 2017 to
provide the public with opportunities to talk with Forest staff about local issues, district
project, and forest plan revision. District rangers and members of the Forest Plan revision
team will be available to discuss the materials each of the following days and locations:
- June 29, 6-8 p.m.: Grandfather Ranger District at Foothills Conference Center, 2128 S.
Sterling St., Morganton.
- July 11, 6-8 p.m.: Nantahala Ranger District at Tartan Hall, 26 Church St., Franklin
- July 13, 6-8 p.m.: Pisgah Ranger District Office, 1600 Pisgah Hwy, Brevard
- July 25, 3-6 p.m.: Appalachian Ranger District at Appalachian District Office, 632 Manor
Road, Mars Hill
- July 25, 3-6 p.m.: Cheoah Ranger District at Cheoah District Office, 1070 Massey Branch Road,
- August 8, 3-6 p.m., Tusquitee Ranger District, Brasstown Community Center, 255 Settawig Rd,
American Whitewater staff or our colleagues at IMBA/SORBA, the Access Fund, and Backcountry
Horsemen will be at each meeting to help answer questions about recreation in the planning
process. We encourage you to get involved and go chat up your local ranger at one of these
meetings. You can also send comments to NCplanrevision@fs.fed.us with the subject line:
“Geographic and Management Area building blocks.” Let them know where you love to
paddle, bike, hike, or rock climb, and how the building blocks are good or need improvement.