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Comment Now on Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan (NC)

Posted: 06/22/2020
by Kevin Colburn

The Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest spans 1.1 million acres of Western North Carolina's lush forested mountains. The Forest is home to popular whitewater runs like the Nantahala, Wild and Scenic Rivers like the Chattooga, and steep adventure runs like the Thompson River. The Forest's streams are home to astounding biodiversity and produce drinking water, jobs, and recreational benefits across the region. Over the next two weeks you can have a say in the next Forest Plan that will govern how these streams - as well as trails and other recreational sites - are managed for the next 15-20 years. AW has been part of the collaborative Nantahala Pisgah Forest Partnership for the past 7 years, and we are pleased to share some suggested Draft Plan ideas with you that are broadly supported. Comments are due June 29th. 

Wild and Scenic Eligibility

Share information about why the North Fork of the French Broad should be found eligible for Wild and Scenic designation, as well as the Panthertown Valley streams (Panthertown Creek, Greenland Creek, Upper Tuck), Fires Creek, and the forks of Overflow Creek. Share how these streams are rare, unique, or exemplary from a recreational (or other) perspective. Thank the Forest Service for finding 9 new eligible streams in the Draft Plan, many of which are whitewater gems: Cullasaja, Fires, Flat Laurel, Overflow, Santeetlah, South Toe, Thompson, West Fork Pigeon, and the Whitewater. 

Chattooga Wild and Scenic River Management

Ask for season, flow, upstream reach, and tributary prohibitions to be removed from the Plan. Limited paddling use was allowed in 2012, and the past 8 years of monitoring have shown paddling use to be very small and without issue. 

Water Quality

Ask that the Forest Service more ambitiously address 50% of the road maintenance backlog to reduce sedimentation into streams and improve public access. 

Recreation in Projects

Ask that recreational access be protected and enhanced when work is done on the Forest like bridge replacements, stream restoration projects, and timber sales. 

Cheoah Flow Release Reconsideration

Ask that the Plan contain direction to consider additional flow releases on the Cheoah River. There is a process for doing this, but it requires Forest Service leadership. 

Climbing, Biking, Hiking, and Horseback Riding

Ask that the Draft Plan contain supportive rock climbing guidance including a fixed anchor policy, a process for sustainably growing the multi-use trail system, support for erosion control measures on informal routes to important recreational resources, and general support for outdoor recreation.  

Protected Areas

Voice support for the proposed Craggy-Big Ivy National Scenic Area, and for Wilderness recommendations for important headwater areas like the following areas: Overflow, Black Mountains, Joyce Kilmer extension, Southern Nantahala extension, Ellicott Rock extension, and Shining Rock extension. 

In addition to these important benefits, the new Forest Plan is likely to include significantly more active management on the Forest for timber harvest, ecological restoration, and wildlife habitat. We support these interests, and believe the new Forest Plan should ensure that this work is done in the right places and the right ways, and be broadly supported. 

After reviewing comments on the Draft Forest Plan, the Forest Service will take roughly a year to produce the new Final Forest Plan.  

Submit a comment today, or no later than June 29, 2020.

Kevin Colburn
Asheville, NC

Associated Projects

Chattooga Headwaters (NC)
The US Forest Service has banned boating on the upper 21 miles of the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River.

Associated Rivers

Fires Creek NC
French Broad, North Fork NC