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It’s Baaaack

Grandfather Mountain Scenic Area proposal returns.

From Here to Eternity:  The proposed Grandfather National Scenic Area provides breathtaking views. Photo: Wild South

Maybe the third time will be the charm.

The effort to create a 25,500-acre Grandfather National Scenic Area (GNSA) in the Globe area of the Pisgah National Forest below Grandfather Mountain has renewed interest among politicians and activists.

The initiative to create the GNSA started in 2006 when a proposed timber sale below Blowing Rock stirred up a flurry of public outrage. The environmental group Wild South stepped in to spearhead the proposed designation, and town councils in Boone and Blowing Rock, and the Watauga County Commissioners, all passed resolutions in support of the scenic area.

The move stalled when area representatives refused to introduce the necessary legislation. During the 2008 elections, the movement again attracted attention when Democratic candidates stood up in support—but didn’t win election.

This summer, with the U.S. Forest Service’s proposed logging of the area finally off the table, Wild South and other local conservation groups are again turning to the scenic area project. Several events this summer in the High Country preceded the launch of a new intiative and a dedicated Grandfather Mountain Scenic Area web site:

Back in the late 1980s, a major clearcutting controversy erupted over logging in the same spot. At the time, the Grandfather Mountain portion of the Parkway and the Linn Cove Viaduct had just opened and clearcuts were visible from both. Conservationists, tourism organizations, and town and county governments had all gone on record opposing the clearcutting—and thought they’d been promised an end to potentially visible timber harvesting.

Then the 2006 timber sale initiative—which included “old growth” tracts containing 300-year-old trees—made news and sparked the move to create a national scenic area.  “The local community is concerned that if this area is not permanently protected, they will have to fight timber sales like the Globe every few years,” says Tracy Davids, Wild South executive director.

Local representatives seem to be the biggest roadblock to consideration of the measure. “Although a GNSA would create jobs, boost the local economy, protect the environment, and cost taxpayers nothing, our current High Country representatives aren’t the least bit interested,” Davids says. “So we are working at the grassroots level to support the community and businesses in demanding that their representatives act in their best interest. The GNSA is a win-win, and the politicians need to understand that.”

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