uha8OvgHJcE

Over 100 kids sang, spoke, danced, drew chalk art, made signs, ate ice cream, and helped protect Pisgah at the Kids’ Rally for the Forest yesterday. Everyone from toddlers to teenagers spoke on stage before a big crowd, describing why they loved the forest and wanted to see it protected. Many others asked questions and shared their heartfelt thoughts with Forest Supervisor Allen Nicholas.

“The kids made a beautiful and powerful statement to the Forest Service on behalf of young people everywhere: our forests are far more valuable standing than cut down,” said rally co-organizer Hannah Furgieule.

The Rally for the Forest was organized by I Heart Pisgah, a coalition of over 80 organizations and businesses—and thousands of everyday citizens—who want to see more protected areas for Pisgah. This fall, the U.S. Forest Service is finalizing a 30-year plan for the Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest. Over 98% of the public comments on the plan so far have supported stronger protections for Pisgah.

Protected areas may include more national recreation areas, national scenic areas, wild and scenic rivers, wilderness areas, national heritage areas, and national trails, as well as backcountry areas and special interest areas.

So far, the Forest Service’s preliminary plans have proposed 85% increases in timber harvests but very few new protected areas. Iconic trail corridors will be open to logging, including the Appalachian Trail, Bartram Trail, Art Loeb Trail, Benton Mackaye Trail, and Mountains to Sea Trail.

Young people will be most affected by the decisions of the 30-year forest plan. Rally organizers hope that the Forest Service heard loud and clear that their voices matter.

“This plan is a blueprint for the future of our entire region,” says Furgiuele. “Our young people deserve to have a voice in how our 1.1-million-acre forest is managed. They want to see more of it protected.”

To see more photos from the rally and an eight-minute video written and produced by kids, visit iheartpisgah.org.