The Transylvania Times -

Version Of Forest Management Plan Could Be Released Soon – Transylvania County, NC

 

October 3, 2019



U.S. Forest Service official Alice Cohen recently met with the N.C. Fish and Wildlife Conservation Council (FWCC) to discuss the proposed forest plan update – a process that has been repeatedly delayed and several years in the making.

The new management plan will guide the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for the next 15-20 years for both the Pisgah Ranger district and the Nantahala National Forest.

“We still don’t have an actual date…because there’s so many different pieces to the puzzle,” said Cohen at the meeting.

Cohen expects they will release a version of the plan in mid-October.

“We still have some pieces we’re working on because, as you know, the area is so biologically diverse that analyzing that many species and so many different variables is taking forever, partially because we incorporate so many variables into this,” said Cohen.

According to Cohen, the agency is trying to create win/win alternatives to solutions and approaches, and, unlike other decisions, the USFS will not present one alternative as the preferred approach. The USFS will present four versions of the plan, without giving preference to one over the other.

Cohen fielded questions from the audience about how the proposed National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) changes will affect the forest plan process, and Cohen said she is not sure. However, she said, “We will continue to collaborate with the public,” when it comes to USFS decisions.

In other action at the meeting, FWCC members discussed a segment of the Courthouse Creek logging project that will soon be underway as the deadline for the contract ends soon. Another 97 acres of timber are set to be harvested by 2020 in the Courthouse Creek area on the backside of Pilot Mountain in Pisgah National Forest.

Cohen also gave an update that the Pisgah and Appalachian Districts are looking into the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP), which provides funding for a collaborative, science-based ecosystem restoration approach to forest management.

The Grandfather District saw success using funding from the CFLRP to help with increasing prescribed burns and protecting native species and wildlife against disease and pests. During the rest of the meeting, FWCC members discussed the state of wildlife in the area, as well as issues faced by hunters and fishers, many of which are indicative of larger tensions between forest user groups.

The proposed NEPA changes were one of many topics of concern. Members voiced their concerns over the proposed NEPA changes being misconstrued in the media by “alarmists.”

Much of the meeting was also spent discussing what FWCC members consider a dwindling habitat for them to hunt on. One member mentioned he was making a trip to Minnesota to hunt, and that many other hunters in the area were going out of state as deer populations are not as high as they’d like them to be. Another member commented that hunters are often left out of the equation when counties market outdoor recreation tourism to visitors. Many felt that while they carry the burden of paying for permits to use public lands for hunting, other user groups see more benefits from those fees than they do.

The next FWCC meeting will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at the Waynesville Depot. The FWCC is also looking for more people to assume leadership positions in the council.

 
 

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