Nantahala, Pisgah forest planning focuses on recreation

The Access Fund is one of many members of the two collaborative groups – the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership and the Stakeholders Forum – working on recommendations for the Nantahala and Pisgah Plan Revision.

The years-long project holds the potential to change the way millions of people use the two giant forests that spread across the mountains of Western North Carolina.

Overcrowded trailheads could get more parking. More hikers could set foot in the most remote areas of the two forests, which combined take up 1.1 million acres.

And mountain bikers – the newest generation of outdoor enthusiasts – stand to get greater say on managing trails.

In the last Nantahala Pisgah National Forest Management Plan, released in 1987 and amended in 1994, rock climbing was a footnote, and mountain biking was not even mentioned.

The national forests in the Southern Appalachians have been through many incarnations through the centuries. Heavy logging and clearcutting in the early 19th century led to more conservation efforts and creation of wilderness areas, wildfire suppression and a move from timber and vegetation management to places of intense recreation and outdoor adventure.

Recreation opportunities now range as widely as the vast swaths of forests, with their rich biodiversity of plants, animals and habitats, elevations from less than 2,000 to nearly 7,000 feet, plunging river gorges and waterfalls, trails and views, coves and rock cliffs and of course, trees, and more trees.

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