Drafts of the Nantahala and Pisgah forest plan and environmental impact statement (EIS) are now available. A formal 90-day public review and comment period is scheduled to begin Friday.
The proposed plan is built on public engagement and the best available science to guide forest management for the next 15 years. It recognizes the multiple uses of national forests including recreation, timber, water, wilderness and wildlife habitat. The draft EIS considers the economic, environmental and social impacts of forest management activities.
“We heard from a wide range of people and groups who use, depend on, and appreciate the forests as we developed the plan,” said Allen Nicholas, forest supervisor of the National Forests in North Carolina. “We’re sharing this proposed plan so the public can review it and provide additional information before the plan is finalized.”
The proposed plan describes how the Forest Service will increase forest restoration, generate more jobs and economic development in local communities and promote sustainable use of the national forests. The draft EIS presents four alternative approaches to managing the forests that offer different ways to make progress towards multiple goals and be sensitive to special places.
“These drafts are significantly different from the early plan materials we shared in 2017 because we’ve incorporated public feedback received since then,” said Michelle Aldridge, team lead for the forest plan revision. “Using public input, we’ve re-written parts of the plan, changed management area boundaries, and added a new chapter about places and uses on each part of the forest. We built alternatives based upon what we heard were shared values to offer win-win solutions and minimize polarization.”
The drafts are available online at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/nfsnc/nprevision. The formal comment period ends May 14. Public comments are most helpful when they include detailed information about specific places and uses of the forest.
There is no public meeting in Jackson County, but there is one in Franklin on Tuesday, March 24, from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church’s Tartan Hall, 26 Church St.
Additional public meetings are being scheduled across the forests. Check the website for updated information.