This Land Is Your Land

The Forest Service is in transition. It struggles internally between old-school foresters intent on maximizing timber harvests and a new generation of recreation-friendly rangers. The Forest Service’s top three forest plan leaders have all left the Pisgah-Nantahala in the past three years, presenting both a challenge and opportunity for the Forest Service to move in new directions.

The overwhelming majority of forest users are hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, but so far, the forest plan leaves many of the best and most beautiful places in the forest unprotected.

The good news is this: The 1.1-million-acre Pisgah-Nantahala can accommodate all of the competing uses: commercial timber sales for industry, early successional forests for deer and grouse hunters, protected headwaters for municipal drinking water, habitat protection for endangered species, wilderness areas for solitude-seekers, old-growth forests for science and heritage, and trail networks for everyone to enjoy.

Even better news: nearly everyone agrees on the solution. Most of the stakeholders support the basic compromise formula: more timber harvests in exchange for more protected acreage.

Dismal Falls and the surrounding forests and trails are not protected in the current draft plan.

However, the Forest Service’s preliminary forest plan draft tilts lopsidedly toward logging. It aims to increase logging five-fold while leaving over 125,000 acres of ancient forests, recreational hotspots, and unique biological areas unprotected.

Even the timber industry worries about the preliminary plan draft. “Right now, it’s a lose-lose situation,” said one forest products representative. “If we can’t reach a compromise that supports the full spectrum of interests, then we will likely end up with even fewer timber harvests. Every single timber sale will be appealed and challenged, and this plan will be in litigation gridlock for the next two decades.”

The win-win plan—more timber harvests and more protected areas—is what most everyone wants—except an uncompromising few and perhaps the Forest Service itself.

“The solution is within reach,” says SELC’s Sam Evans.

Do we have the will to work together? Or will we miss the forest for the trees?

With stakeholders at an impasse, the Forest Service will rely on public input to make its final decisions. How do you want your 1 million acres to be managed? Now more than ever, your input will shape the future of the forest.