Recreation groups, hunters and anglers, local forest products businesses, and advocates for wildlife and wilderness have reached a major milestone in their efforts to help the U.S. Forest Service develop a new management plan for the over 1 million acres of mountain forest in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests.
They are members of the Stakeholder’s Forum (Forum) offering input to the Forest Service as they revise the management plan for the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests in a process that requires public input. The Forum has been working diligently together over the past two and a half years to represent the public, understand each other’s perspectives, and build agreement around recommendations to the U.S. Forest Service for how the National Forests will be managed for the next 10 – 15 years. The Forum consists of members from organizations representing wildlife advocates, local forest products companies, wilderness advocates, NC state agencies, environmental advocates and recreationists (hiking, biking, horseback riding, paddling, hunting, climbing, fishing). The Forum is facilitated by the National Forest Foundation via funding through the U.S. Forest Service.
This month, the Forum submitted a collection of proposals to the Forest Service identifying areas of agreement. While different topics received varying levels of consensus, Forum members all signaled a willingness to build from the areas of strongest agreement and work as ambassadors for each other’s interests. The Forum believes that if the new management plan is going to meet its goals–to provide clean & abundant water, restore resiliency to the forest, and connect people to the land–it will need the support of everyone involved.
There are many passionate interests in our Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. The Forum is made up of representatives from many interest groups – AND, they cover MANY sides of the issues. There have been some spirited debates, and we have not had unanimous agreement on all proposals to the Forest Service, but we can still work together on the items where we do agree. The Stakeholders Forum’s proposals reflect diverse interests, but the final National Forests plan decision will be made by the Forest Service after they consider all the input from the public, including the Forum and other groups.
The Forum asks you to consider that we are dealing with over 1 million acres of mountain forests, to keep an open mind, to consider other needs and interests, and to consider that the long term health of our forests and the communities around them depends on protection, restoration, and sustainable use of forest resources. Restoration will be a focus of the new plan, which will involve cutting trees in some areas and allowing natural processes to dominate in other areas.
The Forum asks you to stay informed, understand the needs and understand all sides of the issues. This fall, the U.S. Forest Service will take all the input from the Forum, the public, the counties and from the best science available to create a range of alternatives that will represent the possible approaches to managing the land. This winter, the Forest Service Plan Revision Team will complete an environmental analysis that compares and contrasts the effects of the proposed alternatives on resources such as wildlife habitat, recreation, soils, timber, rare habitats, wilderness, and water quality. The analysis will be released in the spring or summer of 2018 as the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The public will have the opportunity to review and comment on these alternatives when the DEIS is released.
About the Stakeholders Forum for the Nantahala & Pisgah Plan Revision: The Stakeholders Forum’s purpose is to support a collaborative dialogue amongst stakeholders representing diverse interests and identify zones of agreement to form recommendations around critical resource issues related to the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests’ plan revision. The group is facilitated by the National Forest Foundation. For more information about who serves on the Stakeholders Forum and background documents, please visit: www.nationalforests.org/stakeholdersforum.