The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests: An Economic Powerhouse for Western North Carolina

  If you’re one of the 4.6 million people who visit the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests each year, you already know how incredible this corner of the Southern Appalachians is. Perhaps you’ve paddled down the Tuckasegee River, climbed at Looking Glass, or hiked in Linville Gorge. No matter your preferred form of adventure, you know the Nantahala-Pisgah offers access to unparalleled outdoor recreation opportunities — access and opportunity that’s hard to put a price on.

But now a series of new economic studies, commissioned by the Outdoor Alliance, does just that: researchers from Eastern Kentucky University found that outdoor recreation in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests generates $115 million in annual spending on paddling, climbing, and mountain biking — while also supporting local jobs and attracting both businesses and residents to Western North Carolina.

“More people visit the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests each year than Yellowstone — people who bike, paddle, raft, hike, climb, and otherwise enjoy these treasured public lands,” said Adam Cramer, Executive Director of Outdoor Alliance. “These national forests provide adventures that feed the souls of millions of visitors. Collectively these visitors spend a ton of money and make these cherished national forests economic powerhouses that generate jobs and income throughout the region.”

The research comes as U.S. Forest Service officials update a plan that will guide management of the Nantahala and Pisgah forests for the next 15 to 20 years. The studies illustrate why human-powered recreation deserves to be a top priority for the U.S. Forest Service as it completes this new plan in the coming months.

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