In February, the U.S. Forest Service released the draft of their land management plan, which will 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 twenty years. As the June 29 deadline for public input on the plan approaches, the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership (NPFP) 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.
Representing a diverse cross-section of public lands interests—including recreation, forest products, conservation, wildlife, hunting, angling, and other public lands stakeholders—NPFP seeks to find win-win forest management solutions. For over half a decade, the Partnership has been active in the drafting of the U.S. Forest Services’ land management plan. However, NPFP’s work won’t stop there. Their 30+ members and affiliate organizations are dedicated to following through on their efforts long after the planning process is over, assisting the Forest Service with implementation and conflict resolution.
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. For example, the Partnership recognizes that a rise in recreation resources leads to a rise in conservation constituents, while sustainable timber management can improve forest health.
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 https://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 and nimbleness. 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.
The Partnership’s full proposal will be available to view at https://npforestpartnership.org/ at the end of the public comment period.
About Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership
In 2013, the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership was formed by a variety of forest stakeholders to foster civic engagement and positive guidance in creating the best possible management plan revision for the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. The Partnership strives to create a lasting voice for innovative management and public investment in the public forests of North Carolina’s mountains for the future. For more information, visit https://npforestpartnership.org.