Nantahala-Pisgah Forest public meetings and comment period delayed
The much-anticipated Draft Forest Plan for the 1.1 million-acre Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest was released in February, but the public meetings and comment period are being delayed because of COVID-19. We are grateful for the pause in the process to allow the public time to give the new Forest Plan the attention it deserves. We'll be taking the extra time to review the plan with our collaboration partners in great detail. We'll let paddlers know when it's time to attend a public meeting and submit comments, and we will as usual offer advice on how those comments can be the most helpful.
American Whitewater has worked in diverse collaborative groups for the past six years to help shape the plan and its role in protecting Western North Carolina's exceptional whitewater rivers. We've been also closely coordinating this work with our Outdoor Alliance partners representing mountain biking, climbing, hiking, and other recreation representatives to provide a collective voice for outdoor recreation.
For now, the Draft Plan is out, and can be read online. While we are still digging into it, a few things jumped out at us that you might consider when reviewing the plan:
- The plan proposes to add new Wild and Scenic eligibility protections to 10 streams. These streams include some whitewater gems like the West Fork Pigeon, Thompson Creek, and Santeetlah Creek. This is awesome. We'd love to see the North Fork of the French Broad and Panthertown Creek added to the list moving forward.
- Recreation does not get a lot of love in the Draft Plan, which is something we hope to see change in the Final Plan. The upper Chattooga River boating prohibitions remain in place without reconsideration, there is no fixed anchor policy for climbing, bike and horse use is newly prohibited off of system trails without a transition process, and the trail policies lack a vision for sustainability and growth that is on par with the value of outdoor recreation in the region.
- All alternatives envision more prescribed fire and timber harvest than in recent years in specific areas with ecological restoration and habitat diversity as goals, as well as significant protections for other areas that are roadless, old growth, or ecologically sensitive. We believe there is room on the Forest for all of these activities, if done appropriately and in the right places. We'll be checking the proposed "management area" around each whitewater river in each alternative, to ensure they are appropriate.
American Whitewater will be striving to reach consensus with our many partners in the Nantahala Pisgah Forest Partnership on these topics and others. We remain open minded and curious, and we hope you will too. The Forest Service will benefit from your input on the places and activities you care about when the time is right. For now, you can read the Plan, explore the maps, and stay tuned on suggested comments.
To read the plan or submit a comment, visit the Forest's website at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/nfsnc/nprevision.
Image of Santeetlah Creek courtesy of Kirk Eddlemon.