The Transylvania Times -

An Overview of Pisgah, Nantahala Forest Plan Draft

 

Last updated 3/30/2020 at 4:50pm



By David Whitmire

In the Nantahala/Pisgah Forest Proposed Plan Revision, Transylvania County lies within two geographic areas (GAs) – the Pisgah Ledge and the Highland Domes. The proposed plan and draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) were released on Feb. 14, containing more than 2,000 pages of documents. Just knowing the names of these two GAs is a good place to start.

Unfortunately the Monday, March 16, public meeting with the U.S. Forest Service at the Transylvania County Library was cancelled. For those wanting an introductory view of the plan, a great place to start is by looking at the county’s GAs in the plan. Go to http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/nprevision.

It is complex, and many of the answers to a question seem to be located in several spots within the plan. As a wildlife and recreation advocate who has been engaged in this process since 2013, I wanted to share some of my perspectives in hopes of simplifying what and how to make your comments.

The not-so-positive takeaway from this plan is it doesn’t come with any funds. The simple fact is, the U.S. Forest Service can’t fully manage the forest to meet all of the forest’s and users’ needs. Part of the 2012 planning rule (a rule enacted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on how to develop new forest plans) was using a realistic approach to planning and meeting goals within the plan.

You will see a lot about partners and stretching goals in this draft plan. That has been, and will continue to be, an important network of volunteers and other organizations to fill voids that need to be met but the Forest Service doesn’t have the resources to manage.

The positive take away is that the public had a lot of input, and the plan and the range of alternatives show that involvement. The overall plan is based on the four themes of connecting people to the land, sustaining healthy ecosystems, providing clean and abundant water, and partnering with others.

To just focus on our GAs in Transylvania County, go to those pages in the plan and review how the themes play out and meet the goals listed. Your action from there would be to comment on goals within the two GAs to see if you see anything that needs to be added or subtracted or if you have any questions. Once again you may find answers to your questions or concerns in the overall plan directives. This too is the time comment on those as well. The main point is, comments need to me more than just that you like or dislike aspects on the plan. Try to capture the details and explain why you do or don’t like a particular aspect, so that the Forest Service can address it.

There are four alternatives – A, B, C and D. Alternatives are at a basic level, like zoning. All alternatives, in theory, should be able to achieve the goals laid out in the GAs. This is also where trade offs can occur and lines on maps can move.

A quick way to view details in the alternatives is to go to the DEIS and look at the comparisons of alternatives by issue. The best way to see the changes on the ground in our county is to view the map page listed on the website in the first paragraph. Something to remember when looking at the alternatives, no one alternative offers more or less protections than another. All alternatives and projects that may follow require the same protocols. All active management in all alternatives will be based on supporting healthy ecosystems and wildlife habit. So, the how, when and where are very important.

This is where the management areas, known as Interface, Matrix, Backcountry and Ecological Interest Area, can be somewhat flexible inside the GAs and vary across alternatives. Many of the other management areas that fall into our county’s GAs are the same across all alternatives. Your action here is to comment on how you see or feel about how the alternatives and how it affects you or your interest. Again, just saying yes or no is not what the Forest Service is looking for. Comments detailing your thoughts on all alternatives are probably best, whether you commit to one over another. I hope this helps some folks understand and learn more on what this plan is and how to comment on it.

My thoughts are if folks are secluded during this challenging time, then maybe this would be a way to use up some of that time.

Over half of our county is in public lands; we share these lands with many. It is my firm belief that local conservation is the most effective and that our county residents are connected to this land here more than anyone.

Take time to review and ask questions because this plan will be in play for many years to come. I will ask that as you look through these alternatives, think about the wildlife and its needs. We tend to forget about things that don’t make a lot of noise. There has been no bigger loser in the past 30 years in our national forests than those species that require us to do something for their habitat needs.

(Whitmire is co-owner of Headwaters Outfitters and is actively involved in local conservation efforts, such as the French Broad River cleanup and wildlife rehabilitation programs. He is also chair of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Council.)

 
 

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