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Boone to Host Panel That Will Discuss Future of Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests

By Nathan Ham

An upcoming series of expert panel discussions concerning the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests will be coming to Boone on March 22.

The panel discussion will take place at the Watauga County Public Library from 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.

The panelists will include business owners, recreation experts and conservationists.

Along with Boone, other locations for the panel discussions will be Sylva (March 15), Brevard (March 27) and Andrews (March 29).

Panelists differ at each location to offer listeners several different viewpoints on forest management.

Boone panelists will be Josh Kelly (Public Lands Field Biologist for MountainTrue), Julie White (Director of the Southern Off-Road Mountain Bicycle Association) Jim Sitts (Appalachian Timber Manager for Columbia Forest Products), Curtis Smalling (Director of Conservation for Audubon North Carolina of Boone) and Deirdre Perot (Representative, BackCountry Horsemen of Pisgah.

Jack Igelman, a journalist and professor of economics at Blue Ridge Community College, will moderate the panel.

The Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership was formed to help bring all of these different interest groups together to put a forest management plan together that will benefit as many people as possible.

The United States Forest Service will be releasing a management plan that will set the ground rules for forest activities for the next 15 years at least. Everything from wildlife management and timber sales on public lanes to outdoor recreation and conservation will be discussed.

This panel event is sponsored by MountainTrue and the following members of the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership: Access Fund, American Whitewater, Backcountry Horsemen of NC, Carolina Land & Lakes RC&D, Columbia Forest Products, Defenders of Wildlife, Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition, International Mountain Bicycling Association, North Carolina Horse Council, North Carolina Youth Camp Association, Root Cause, Southern Appalachian Mineral Society, Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards, Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, the Wilderness Society, and Wild South.