Southside Project Fact Sheet

Southside Project - Nantahala Ranger District, Nantahala National Forest

The Nantahala District of the Nantahala National Forest has signed a decision for the Southside Project. The project is located in southeastern Macon County and southern Jackson County, just east of Highlands, and encompasses an analysis area of approximately 29,090 acres (19,000 acres of which are National Forest System lands).

Nantahala Southside map

This Southside environmental analysis and decision follows a deliberative, science-based approach with input from a wide spectrum of stakeholders. The Forest Service has worked with state agencies and environmental organizations to protect rare species and communities throughout project development. Changes to the proposed project based on early public engagement and agency coordination include dropping two stands from the initial proposal, including additional buffers around documented locations of green salamanders, and conducting thinning and burning treatments to improve conditions in the Whitewater River Falls and Gorge Natural Heritage Natural Area.

About the Southside Project

The purpose of the Southside Project is to improve and maintain wildlife habitat, species diversity of forest stands, soil and water resources, and forest health through vegetation management. The primary focus is to make the forest more resilient and sustainable by producing favorable forest age class and vegetation structure and improving breeding and foraging habitat for wildlife by establishing young forest habitat in the 0 – 10 year age class that currently makes up approximately 1% of the project area.

Young forest habitat is an important component of a healthy and diverse forest that adds important structural and age class diversity to the forest and provides food and cover for a diversity of wildlife species including bats, ruffed grouse, and pollinators. Many species of wildlife need young forest to complete their life cycles, including some that also depend on older forest habitat. A diversity of forest age class and structure also helps maintain healthy forests that are more resilient in the face of forest pests and changing climate. With the majority of the nearly 19,000 acres of National Forest System lands in the project’s analysis area at 80 years and older, there is a need to establish additional young forest as part of the Southside Project.

The preferred alternative of the Southside Project proposes generating 317 acres of young forest habitat through commercial timber harvest across 16 separate areas which would result in 2.7% of the analysis area young forest habitat. Proposed treatments include 196 acres of two-age silvicultural treatments in 9 stands, average opening size 22 acres (9 acres smallest, 32 acres largest); and 121 acres of group selection treatments in 7 stands. Some targeted herbicide treatments would be used to 1) control woody vines and to release oaks and hickories to ensure acorn and nut production in the regenerating stands; 2) control non-native invasive species; 3) prolong grass and brushy habitat on temporary roads and skid trails for wildlife benefits; and 4) rehabilitate wildlife openings.

In addition to the silvicultural treatments to establish young forest habitat, the EA also proposes treatments to 1) rehabilitate existing wildlife openings; 2) plant native nectar and pollen producing herbaceous species in wildlife openings, log landings, and roadsides to benefit native pollinators; and 3) conduct fisheries habitat improvement treatments in Scotsman Creek.

In addition to providing young forest habitat, the Southside Project also ensures that older forest conditions will persist across the analysis area and into the future. Approximately 37% of the analysis area is currently designated old growth patches to allow natural processes to shape the composition of the forest. Two additional stands have been added to the designated old growth network as part of the Southside project. Over the next ten years, approximately 11,000 acres in the analysis area will be 100 years or older, moving toward true old growth conditions, which is estimated to range from 240 years to 348 years in oak dominated forest types, and from 225 years to over 400 years in cove forest types.

More Information

A news release about the complete Southside Project environmental analysis can be found here.

The complete Southside Project environmental analysis and associated document are available online here