Western North Carolina is home to the highest mountains in the eastern US, abundant rainfall, globally significant biodiversity, and large tracts of federal lands. In combination these things add up to an incredible array of whitewater rivers and streams that have long been paddling classics. While many communities rely on these headwater streams for drinking water and recreational benefits, most streams are inadequately protected from threats that will only grow with time.
Western North Carolina has almost 400 dams, with over 250 miles of large rivers under large reservoirs plus at least that many miles still flowing but severely impacted by dams. And yet, the region has only three Wild and Scenic Rivers: Wilson Creek, the Horsepasture River, and the Chattooga River, totaling 35 miles. In addition to these three designated streams the Forest Service extends interim protection to an additional 10 streams that they feel are “eligible” for Wild and Scenic designation. While the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was envisioned as a way of balancing the nation's dam building policy with conservation, in Western North Carolina that vision has yet to be realized. American Whitewater has proposed to change that by building grassroots community support for protecting a suite of the region's most spectacular and valuable streams.
First, American Whitewater is engaging in the Forest Planning Process for the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests. In this process the Forest Service must take a fresh look at which streams on their lands are “eligible” for Wild and Scenic designation. To be eligible a stream reach must be free flowing and have at least one rare, unique, or exemplary value that is regionally of nationally significant. Based on conversations with our members and partner organizations, we have recommended that the Forest Service consider adding over 20 new streams to their roster of eligible streams, and are working closely with a collaborative group called the Natahala Pisgah Partnership to build support and understanding of river conservation needs. Initial Forest Service steps indicate they are supportive of 10 additional eligible streams. Also through the National Forest planning process, we are working to improve management that will benefit outdoor recreation and special places across the Forest.
Second, American Whitewater is in the early stages of testing support for designating some of these streams as Wild and Scenic Rivers through an act of Congress, a step that would offer permanent protection from dams and other impacts while allowing recreational uses to continue. We will be working with many local communities, organizations, businesses, and paddlers to move this concept forward!
Watch a PBS show on the Forest Planning process here: http://www.thisamericanland.org/news/revising-forest-plans#.Wl4SQa3Mz-a
How You can help:
- Take and share compelling and approachable videos and photographs of rivers and streams on Forest Service lands in WNC, especially streams that are either eligible or recommended for eligibility by AW. Add photos to the AW photo database so the Forest Service and AW staff can see them. Share online videos with AW staff.
- Participate in the Forest Planning Process by submitting comments and attending meetings when opportunities arise (2014-2017). Check the Forest Service page for details and keep an eye out on the AW Southeast page. Let the Agency know which streams you think are eligible for Wild and Scenic designation.
AW Secures Grant for NC Forest Planning Collaborative
03/13/2018 - by Kevin Colburn
American Whitewater is pleased to share that we were recently awarded a $5,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina to support professional facilitation for the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership. The Partnership is made up of a diverse range of regional interest groups working together to create a shared vision for the future management of the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests.
NC National Forests to Host Summer Meetings on Plan Ideas
06/22/2017 - by Kevin Colburn
The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests 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. We encourage paddlers to go chat up your local ranger at one of these meetings and offer your perspective. 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. It is coming along well, and your involvement could help make it even better.
Paddlers Rally for River Protection in Western NC
12/17/2015 - by Kevin Colburn
This week marked a major milestone in our efforts to protect Western North Carolina streams using the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. American Whitewater and numerous paddlers wrote to the Forest Service to share the exemplary values of the region's whitewater gems and to argue for their full protection. We would like to thank all the paddlers that attended a public meeting or wrote an email to the Forest Service.
Share Your Wild and Scenic North Carolina Opinions
07/07/2014 - by Kevin Colburn
Help protect rivers in Western North Carolina! On Thursday, July 10, 2014, the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests will be hosting a meeting in Asheville to solicit public input on their current Forest Planning effort. A lunch-time Wild and Scenic River session will be offered for people to recommend new protections and improved management. You can expect a poster or two to check out, a friendly Forest Service staffer to chat with, and some comment cards to fill out. There may be no easier way to save rivers on your lunch break!
AW Contributes to NC National Forest Planning
05/23/2013 - by Kevin Colburn
Earlier this month American Whitewater filed comments on the "assessment phase" of the forest planning process for the two National Forests in Western North Carolina. We offered information on rivers that are regulated by hydropower dams, as well as advocating for protection of the region's remaining wild and free-flowing rivers.
The contacts below include staff and volunteers working on this project. Make sure you are logged in if you wish to join the group.