In February, the U.S. Forest Service released the draft of the land management plan to provide a framework for how the 1.1 million acres of Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests and their resources will be managed for the next 20 years. 

All the national forest land in Jackson County is in the Nantahala National Forest.

As the June 29 deadline for public input on the plan approaches, the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership is asking the public to voice their support for an increase in overall forest restoration through an increase in recreation resources, conservation and sustainable timber management.

NPFP is encouraging the Forest Service to recognize in their final plan the interconnectivity between seemingly competing interests: recreation resources, conservation and sustainable timber management, expanding all for an overall increase in forest restoration.

NPFP seeks to achieve this balance through several specific recommendations, including asking the Forest Service to consider not only the economic benefit of timber and other forest commodities, but also the economic benefit of recreation, including tourism, outfitters and the regional industry cluster of gear builders – and conservation – including clean drinking water, carbon storage and the regional climate science industry cluster. Members will be providing specific recommendations for how to measure such benefits.

The Partnership is also asking the Forest Service to balance an increase in young forest restoration with strong protection of old growth forests. Structurally diverse forests help conserve biodiversity and improve ecosystem health. Members believe there is a way to balance both forest types without putting them into conflict.

Finally, NPFP is asking the Forest Service to improve public access to recreation by more ambitiously addressing 50 percent of the road maintenance backlog. Doing so would also reduce sedimentation into streams. To achieve this, members are encouraging the Forest Service to create a sustainable plan for the road network just as they have done for the trail network.

The Partnership is asking the public to back their nuanced and balanced approach, voicing support for an increase in overall forest restoration through an increase in recreation resources, conservation and sustainable timber management for a resilient forest able to support healthy ecosystems, wildlife populations, local economies and traditional use. Comments can be submitted online at www.fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc/home/?cid=stelprdb5397660.

Though the draft plan provides four alternatives, these alternatives are not meant to restrict the final choices, but rather to show flexibility. The public is not being asked to vote for one of the four alternatives, but rather to consider and take the best parts of all four choices. Similarly, the public is not being asked to vote on whether or not a proposed action or activity should take place, but rather to suggest an alternative or solution.