After 47 years of production, the N.C. Forest Service’s Linville River Nursery in Crossnore will cease operations June 30.
James West, head of the Nursery and Tree Improvement Program, said it was a difficult but necessary decision. The program’s input costs remain too high, making the mountain nursery unsustainable.
“Since all our nurseries must generate their own income, this decision had to be made to keep the overall nursery program more financially sound,” West said.
When the nursery first began production of Fraser fir seedlings in 1970, almost all the seedlings planted in North Carolina were coming from the Linville River Nursery. In 2016, less than 9 percent of the Fraser fir seedlings planted in the state were produced by the N.C. Forest Service.
The Linville Nursery is a small operation funded by the sale of Fraser fir and eastern white pine seedlings. The NCFS decided to stop growing seedlings at the location because sales income was not covering production costs, West said. The nursery had an average shortfall of $104,000 in each of the last four years.
The production of eastern white pine seedlings will be relocated to Claridge Nursery in Goldsboro, where all other species grown by N.C. Forest Service are produced. This move will use available staff and facilities, while combining resources for more efficient operations, West said.
Three staff members will be affected by the Linville nursery’s closure. Two will be transferred to other positions within the NCFS, and a position for the third person is being sought. Until then, affected employees will be involved in relocating equipment and resources to Claridge Nursery.
The Linville Nursery is located at the NCFS Mountain Training Facility, and the nursery’s lands and buildings will be transferred to that program.The remaining Fraser fir seed in storage will be offered for sale to the public over the next several years to maintain market stability.