Twelve Mile Project

Twelve Mile Project Fact Sheet

Located on the Appalachian Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest, in Haywood County

The Twelve Mile Project will help maintain a healthy and diverse forest that supports wildlife, provides a sustainable output of timber, improves water quality and aquatic habitat, and improves access to the forest.

Why do we need to do this?

We approached this project collaboratively, inviting other federal and state agencies, local industries, environmental and conservation organizations, and interested individuals to engage in the early stages of planning and throughout the development of the project. Together we identified many things that needed to change on this landscape in order to meet our mission of sustaining the health, diversity, and productivity of the forest to meet the needs of current and future generations.

  • We need young forest to provide habitat for a diversity of wildlife species including elk and golden-winged warbler.
  • We need to maintain optimum growth and a mix of tree species in stands that are currently overstocked and structurally simple.
  • We need to ensure there is small patch old growth dispersed across the forest.
  • We need wildlife openings which are important feeding areas for a variety of wildlife that depend upon nutritious grasses and forbs.
  • We need more shortleaf pine and other yellow pine that has declined due to past beetle epidemics and lack of wildfire.
  • We need to replace white pine that was planted decades ago with species that are more appropriate for the ecological zone.
  • We need more oaks which requires increasing the amount of sunlight reaching the forest floor.
  • We need to move the condition class within some ecological zones towards the natural range of variation for a variety of ages and structures such as young and old growth and open and closed canopy.
  • We need to protect water quality and restore aquatic organism passage at road crossings.
  • We need to restore streams that have been disturbed by past human activity.
  • We need to create a safe and efficient road system to provide and improve forest access.

What exactly is being proposed?

The environmental assessment goes into great detail regarding each of these needs, activities necessary to achieve these goals, and the impacts of the activities. In summary, the Twelve Mile Project will:

  • designate small patch old growth to ensure habitat connectivity between the designated medium and large patch old growth
  • use commercial and non-commercial timber harvest techniques to promote the growth of young trees, increase the diversity of forest structure and age classes, improve wildlife habitat, and regenerate oaks
  • conduct prescribed burns to promote fire-adapted plant communities and create and maintain open forest conditions
  • improve the composition, structure, condition, health, and growth of young forest stands by removing competing vegetation
  • increase open forest conditions across woodlands which typically have an open canopy with a grassy understory
  • thin forest to improve growth and enhance forest health
  • create or maintain wildlife openings to provide important feeding areas for a variety of wildlife
  • improve stream crossings to restore aquatic organism passages where roads cross streams
  • enhance streams by improving aquatic habitat diversity and stabilizing streambanks to prevent erosion

The complete Twelve Mile Project environmental analysis and associated documents are available online at, under the analysis tab.


Keep reading to learn more

Young forest

Young forest habitat is an important component of a healthy and diverse forest that provides food and cover for many wildlife species including bats, ruffed grouse, pollinators, and rare species such as the golden-winged warbler. A diversity of forest age classes and structure also helps maintain healthy forests that are more resilient in the face of forest pests and changing climate. Young forest is often created naturally by disturbances such as wildfire but in the absence of disturbance can be created through active management. Read more about the science of young forest at Compass Live, the online publication of the Southern Research Station. 

Young forest allows more sunlight to reach the forest floor and provides food and cover for wildlife



Old growth

In addition to providing young forest habitat, the Twelve Mile Project also ensures that older forest conditions will persist across the project area. As figure 6 from page 157 of the environmental analysis shows, even with the timber harvested as part of the project the number of acres of old trees will remain high.

The Twelve Mile Project area is dominated by stands over 80 years old, accounting for more than 67% of the project area. This isn’t necessarily old growth forest. When determining whether a stand is old growth, age is often considered less important than structure including characteristics such as the number and size of live trees and the presence of a multilayered canopy, snags, downed logs, and coarse woody debris. As part of the Twelve Mile Project, 1570 acres will be designated as small patch old growth to ensure habitat connectivity between the designated medium and large patch old growth.

graph showing a comparison of age class distribution in 2022, two years post-harvest



Aquatic organism passage

Restoring stream habitat quality and connectivity can be achieved by replacing old round culverts with an arch or bridge. The difference between these two can be seen in the example photos below. The arched structure returns the stream channel under the road to a natural rocky bottom that facilitates aquatic organism passage and population connectivity. It also eliminates the drop that occurs on the downstream side of culverts. Rocks create small eddies and resting spots that are non-existent in round culverts.

Old round culvert to be replaced at Fall Branch on Twelve Mile Project

Example of an arched structure that returns stream to a natural rocky bottom



Prescribed burns

Fire has been a part of these forests for thousands of years and plays an important role in keeping forests healthy. Read more at Restoring Fire to the Mountains  or Bringing Back Fire to the Mountains.



Spot the elk!

An elk stands at the center of a dark forest locking eyes with the photographer