A Win-Win Proposal for Conservation and Recreation

MountainTrue is part of a broad coalition of wilderness advocates, conservationist and recreation groups that supports more trails and more public access, and also protects more backcountry and more wild places.

On December 7, a coalition representing a broad range of interest groups, from conservationists and wilderness advocates to rock climbers, horseback riders, hikers, mountain bikers, kayakers, hunters, anglers and business owners, released an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), or a broad set of principles, recognizing that Western North Carolina’s national forests are our region’s greatest asset and should be protected for their inherent beauty, biodiversity and public value.

What the MOU advocates:

  • Two new National Recreation Areas for Western North Carolina: a 115,573-acre Pisgah National Recreation Area and a 57,400-acre Grandfather National Recreation Area that will protect these areas from resource extraction and ensure that their unique natural beauty and ecological diversity is maintained for future generations while recreation use is planned and managed for wisely as a long-term priority.
  • Wilderness protection for 109,961 acres in the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests. Hunting, fishing, and hiking are among the many activities that would be welcomed in these areas. While the Forest Service can recommend federal wilderness designation, it would have to be approved by congressional legislation and signed into law by the president. This is our country’s most comprehensive and permanent form of protection.
  • Mountain biking trails and rock climbing access in Harper Creek and Lost Cove Areas. These areas are proposed for permanent protection by Congress  within the Grandfather National Scenic Area. These areas are already heavily used by mountain bikers and rock climbers. Formalizing access would allow for the establishment of sustainable infrastructure that would prevent damage to the area while preserving recreation opportunities. Portions of Harper Creek and Lost Cove with no mountain bike access would still be eligible for Wilderness designation.
  • The Pisgah National Recreation Area would protect the finest single-track, backcountry mountain biking in the Eastern United States in four areas: South Mills River, Laurel Mountain, Daniel Ridge and Cedar Rock Mountain. As well as offering amazing mountain biking, these are some of the finest natural areas in the Pisgah National Forest because of their outstanding biodiversity.
  • The Pisgah Ranger District is crisscrossed with streams that offer some of the best trout fishing in the Appalachians. A Pisgah National Recreation area would further protect the streams and fishing opportunities.

Full Text of the MOU

Read the full text of the MOU as it was sent to the Forest Service on Dec. 7, 2015.

View the Maps

View the maps for the proposed National Recreation Areas and additional Wilderness recommendations.

The establishment of additional Wilderness and new National Recreation Areas require acts of Congress. This is no easy feat, especially in this political climate. To make this bold vision a reality, residents can help by providing public comment to the Forest Service. Tell the Forest Service that you support a plan that both provides more public access and recreation, and protects more of our backcountry and wild places.

The outdoor community has galvanized around the Pisgah-Nantahala Forest Plan. It’s exciting to see a wide variety of recreation and conservation groups with many different interests and agendas coming together to support the strongest possible protections for our national forests.

Everyone had to make difficult compromises. Nobody got everything they wanted. But this is a rare opportunity for a broad-based coalition of over 30 outdoor groups to rally together with one common voice for protecting the long-term ecological health, biodiversity, and recreational opportunities in our national forests. Will Harlan

Co-organizer, Friends of Big Ivy

This MOU is groundbreaking, as for the first time the mountain bicycling community will actively participate alongside conservation groups to protect our public lands while still allowing for a wider range of recreational activities to take place in appropriate areas. Tom Sauret

Executive Director, SORBA