WNC’s National Forests at crossroads

On Oct. 21, 2014 the U.S. Forest Service unveiled draft management area boundaries that put 692,700 acres — about 69 percent — of Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest in management areas that make “timber production, for the purposeful growing and harvesting of crops of trees to be cut into logs” the “primary or secondary use of the land.”

Today, the Nantahala-Pisgah is one of the jewels of the National Forest system, receiving more than seven million visitors annually and playing a key role in Western North Carolina’s $2 billion tourist economy.

People still love the forest for the water, wildlife, scenery, wood, plants and recreation it provides. Timber harvests for the last 12 years have been sustainable, averaging less than 800 acres annually, and there is an opportunity to increase that number while doing ecologically beneficial work.

Yet, the divisions of the “timber wars” of the ’80s and ’90s still persist.

When WNCA saw the proposal to add 163,000 acres to the “suitable timber base” and the 200,000 acres of trail corridors, backcountry areas and rare species habitat that remain unprotected, WNCA and its partners sounded the alarm.

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