Nantahala and Pisgah Forest Revised Plan and FEIS release

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The U.S. Forest Service has revised the land management plan for the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests.

Forest Plan Objection Resolution Meeting to be held August 2nd to August 4th 2022

Objection Resolution Meeting Agenda

Issues at-a-Glance

The Forest Plan Objection Reviewing Officer will be holding virtual online objection resolution meetings on August 2nd and 3rd, from 8:30 EDT to 5:00 EDT and August 4th 8:30 to 3:00.

Members of the public are welcome to join in a listen-only mode. Only the identified objectors, interested persons and forest officials will be engaged in the dialog at the meeting.

All eligible objectors and interested persons have been notified of their opportunity to engage in the objection meeting.

If you are interested in observing the meetings, please email Debbie Anderson (debra.anderson@usda.gov) or Dequincy Gordon (dequincy.gordon@usda.gov) for a link to join the virtual meetings. The agenda below identifies which objection issues will be covered on which day. While not all objection issues will be discussed during the meetings, all issues that were raised in eligible objections will receive a written response from the Reviewing Officer.

 

What will the revised plan do?

The revised plan is a strategic guidance document that will position us to address the challenges of managing complex ecosystems on over a million acres to meet the needs of all forest users for the next 20 years. We developed the plan in coordination with tribal, state, and county governments and the public.

The revised forest plan will:

Improve forest health by creating more diversity. Just like in human communities, diversity is what makes a forest strong. A diversity in tree types, age and structure makes forests more resilient to insects, disease, and climate change. Our current forests are what grew up after extreme logging practices 100 years ago. The trees are now mostly the same age and size. We need more young and open forest which requires cutting some trees. We also need more very old forest and so we’ve identified some areas where we won’t be cutting trees. 

Double annual young forest creation using timber practices from current 650 acres to 1,200 acres in the revised plan. With the help of partners, we can accomplish even more - up to 3,200 acres annually. This is 0.6%-3.1% of the million-acre forest.

Use prescribed fire and mechanical harvest to restore open forest.

Increase the amount of land managed for old growth by more than 54,000 acres for a total of 265,000 acres across all ecological communities and elevations. This is 25% of the million-acre forest.

Use prescribed fire on 20,000 acres or up to 45,000 acres annually for fire-adapted ecosystems and to reduce wildfire risk in the wildland urban interface.

Increase nonnative invasive species and forest pest treatments.

Provide habitat for all wildlife that depend on the forest including 338 Species of Conservation Concern, 22 federally listed threatened and endangered species, resident and migrant game species, pollinators, birds, bats, fish, and more.

Restore and maintain rare habitats, including wetlands and Southern Appalachian bogs, Carolina hemlock bluffs, balds, spruce fir, and more.

Recognize 70,000 additional acres of places on the forest to be managed for their unique ecological, biological, scenic and cultural values for a total of 120,000 acres in Special Interest Areas. This is 11.4% of the forest.

Recommends 49,000 acres of land for Wilderness, in addition to the 66,000 acres of currently Designated Wilderness on the landscape. This is 11% of the forest.

Recognize 10 newly eligible Wild and Scenic Rivers, bringing the forest total to 18 eligible Wild and Scenic Rivers and 3 designated Wild and Scenic Rivers.

Incorporate heavy use recreation areas and National Trails into a new 66,000-acre Interface Management Area, emphasizing recreation and access to the Forests’ world class opportunities for year‐round outdoor play and exercise.

Establish a framework for sustainable recreation, including standards for new trail construction built on modern design and collaboration. Develop trail loop opportunities, a strategy for climbing opportunities, an operations and maintenance guide for dispersed campsites, and more.

Increase emphasis on managing national recreational resources like the Appalachian Trail and National Scenic Byways.

Create a new management area that recognizes heritage and cultural corridors like the National Historic Trail of Tears and the Overmountain Victory Trail.

Identify 30 priority watersheds across the forest for focused work to improve watershed conditions and emphasize water quality for downstream communities that depend on the Forests for drinking water.

Support economic development and tourism in local communities, the forest product industry and nontimber forest product collection, maintains the forests’ scenic integrity and access, and sustains our cultural and historic resources.

Support long-term research at the Cradle of Forestry in America, three Experimental Forests (Bent Creek, Blue Valley, and Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory), as well as two Research Natural Areas where human intervention is prohibited for purposes of monitoring changes over time.

Provide the flexibility to adapt to changing conditions in the face of climate change.

Recognize the value of partners in shaping our shared future; identify how other agencies, government and non‐government partners, volunteers and visitors contribute to sustaining these National Forests; and identify and help facilitate additional opportunities to work together for shared goals.

Require that continued public involvement will be an integral part of plan implementation, monitoring, and adaptive management

Ensure all are welcome to the national forest, positioning the forest to expand the diversity of visitors, volunteers, and partners, and increase public land employment pathways across all demographics.

4 Unifying Themes

Revised Forest Plan

Reader's Guide

This guide provides an overview of key documents now available for your review.

Revised Forest Plan

The forest plan establishes a vision for how the  Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests will be managed for the next 20 years, and establishes the strategic framework for achieving that vision. Changes between the draft and revised forest plans are highlighted in grey.

All future projects, everything from trail building to tree harvesting and stream restoration, will be consistent with the forest plan.

Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS)

The FEIS is the environmental analysis of how the forest plan would affect natural and cultural resources on the Nantahala and Pisgah NFs. This document also provides information on the issues that have been raised through public involvement and how different alternatives were developed in response to issues. Changes between the draft and final EIS are highlighted in grey.

Appendix A. Response to Comments

Appendix B. Description of the Analysis Process

Appendix C. Ecological Sustainability Analysis

Appendix D. Vegetation Modeling Methods

Appendix E. Wilderness Evaluation Process

Appendix F. Wild and Scenic River Evaluation Process

Appendix G. Coordination with other Public Planning Efforts

Appendix H. Public and Government Involvement

Maps

PDF format maps (FEIS Appendix I)

Geospatial datasets used in FEIS analysis

Geographic Area maps in PDF format

Species of Conservation Concern

Species of Conservation Concern list from the Regional Forester: July 2015 letter

Species of Conservation Concern list from the Regional Forester: December 2021 letter

SCC list

Record of Decision

Draft Record of Decision (January 2022)

Federal Register Notice of Objection

Legal Notice

Objections (last updated March 31, 2022)

Following the issuance of the draft Record of Decision in January 2022, there was a 60-day objection period which closed on March 22, 2022.

To learn more about the eligible objections and next steps in the objection review process, click on ‘Objection Process’ in the table below.

Additional Information and Background

Forest Setting and Culture Why Revise the Forest Plan Public Involvement in the Process

Tribal Engagement and Collaboration

Diversity and Inclusion in the Planning Process Sharing the Stewardship of the Land Objection Process Past Planning Documents