The Transylvania Times -

Participate In Forest Plans

 

April 5, 2018



The U.S. Forest Service will soon release the first draft of its plans for the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests. These plans will guide forest activites, from wildlife management and timber sales to all forms of recreational activities, such as Hiking, Biking, fishing, etc., for the next 15 years.

National forests play a huge role in this county. The two forests, as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway, comprise 89,359 acres, or 37 percent of the county’s land area. Clearly, what happens with more than one-third of this county’s acreage has direct and indirect impacts on all of us.

The forests are huge economic drivers. Pisgah National Forest is the most visited national forest in the United States, attracting millions of visitors every year. They spend millions of dollars in our stores, restaurants and hotels, as well as sending thousands of children to summer camps that are frequent users of the forests. This is money that comes without the attendant costs of providing more schools, highways, medical facilities, law enforcement, etc. It costs far less to maintain forest than it does to maintain residential or commercial areas.

But there has been a downside with so many visitors. The forests are being overused, “loved to death.” The trails, which are being used by hikers, mountain bikers and horse riders, are in constant need of repair. Since the federal government allocates little to no money for such repairs, the trails are being maintained by volunteer organizations.

These forests are federal lands and the federal government is not meeting its financial responsibility to properly maintain or manage these lands.

While most people use the forest for recreational purposes, they were chartered for “multiple uses,” including timber harvesting, habitat for wild game and fish, watersheds and grazing by domestic livestock. In nature, one item often is inextricably linked to another.

The harvesting of timber not only provides wood products, but it also leads to early successional forests, which many animals need to survive. But if too much timber is cut or harvested improperly, then erosion greatly increases. This erosion, in turn, increases sedimentation in the streams, which has a negative impact on aquatic life. If aquatic life is negatively impacted, then there will be fewer people coming here to fish, which in turn negatively impacts the local economy.

Our attachment to these forests, however, is much more than just scientific, pragmatic and economical; it is also historical, traditional and spiritual. Many people can recall their own adventures or stories from their ancestors that occurred in the forest – taking their first buck or turkey, harvesting plants for medicinal purposes or jumping off the rocks at Coontree. The forest is central to so many good memories.

There are still times and places in which local residents can find solitude in these forests. The opportunity to go into the forests and listen to the birds or watch golden shadows flicker on the bottom of a stream provide a welcome balm to the pressures of everyday life.

These forests hold a special place in our hearts and minds. This is not unusual. People who have spent much of their lives living on the beach and out on the ocean have a similar affinity for that natural setting, just as many of us do for the forests.

We have a tendency to assume that certain things will always remain as they are. But that is not necessarily true. The section of forest along the Davidson River was once inhabited farmland. Pisgah National Forest was once extensively logged.

The new plans can change the way in which these forests are managed.

No one is more affected by what happens in our national forests than the people who live in this county. We need to provide our input on the lands that have such an impact on our lives.

This summer the Forest Service will present its first draft, at which time the public will have 90 days to make comments. The Forest Service is also holding an Open House at the Pisgah Ranger Station on Tuesday, April 10, from 5-7 p.m. to show maps and documents regarding the rerouting of trails, trail construction and reconstructions, changes in authorized uses of trails, etc. (Maps of the proposed changes were printed in Monday’s edition of The Transylvania Times.)

 
 

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