Get Your Gardening Gloves on Our New Native Planting Guide

Get Your Gardening Gloves on Our New Native Planting Guide

Get Your Gardening Gloves on Our New Native Planting Guide

MountainTrue has published a brand new guide to help you replace harmful non-native invasive plant species with native alternatives that benefit wild birds, hummingbirds, butterflies, and other wildlife. This beautifully designed and durable guide conveniently folds up to fit in your wallet — perfect for your next visit to the garden center or nursery. 

How can you get one? Guides are available for free at invasive plant workdays and events.

  1. Sign up to volunteer for one of our workdays or join us for a hike
  2. Meet us at a tabling event.
  3. Buy one for $5 and get it mailed to your door by filling out the form below.

Want free copies for your neighbors, gardening club, or organization? Contact bob@mountaintrue.org to arrange for one of our Resilient Forests staff to present to your group and bring free copies for all.

Want to purchase multiple copies for personal use? Contact members@mountaintrue.org.

MountainTrue is Objecting to the Revised Forest Plan for the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests. These are our Reasons.

MountainTrue is Objecting to the Revised Forest Plan for the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests. These are our Reasons.

MountainTrue is Objecting to the Revised Forest Plan for the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests. These are our Reasons.

After over eight years of work and more than 25,000 public comments, the United States Forest Service (USFS) has released its Revised Forest Plan for the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. Comprised of a 360-page plan, a 738-page Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), and more than 1,000 pages of appendices to the FEIS, the Forest Plan provides a strategic framework for the next 20 years of management in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. We offer this critique of the Revised Forest Plan so that our members and the general public can better understand the plan and its implications and why and on what grounds MountainTrue is filing formal objections to the plan.

MountainTrue is a longtime advocate for the sustainable management and conservation of Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. Our members led the successful campaign to stop the practice of clear-cutting in the forests, and our staff conducted the first inventory of old-growth stands in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. MountainTrue’s Public Lands Team members are intimately involved in protecting these public lands: monitoring timber sales to ensure old-growth forests, water quality, and sensitive habitats are protected, restoring and protecting native habitats by treating invasive non-native plants and pests, and helping the Forest Service design and implement restoration projects.

Our views are influenced by our intimate history with these national forests, but also by our membership in the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership (Partnership) and our endorsement of the Forest Plan Alternative provided to the USFS by the Partnership in June 2020.

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The Partnership consists of 27 active member and affiliate organizations representing conservation, economic development, forest products, recreation, water, and wildlife interest groups. The Partnership worked collaboratively to negotiate the outcomes presented in the Forest Plan Alternative. The Partnership hoped the heavily negotiated compromise would resolve the Draft Forest Plan’s key issues, streamline its implementation, and reduce future conflicts with the Forest Service and between user groups.

There were two key innovations in the Partnership’s Forest Plan Alternative. First, the group identified the largest broadly supported area for timber production — approximately 500,000 acres or nearly half of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests, where timbering could be done without impacting important recreation and conservation areas. The second innovation was the linking of objectives that are in tension with one another. For example, the Partnership Alternative required that roads and trails in a geographic area be well-maintained before the Forest Service constructed new ones, and base levels of timber harvest would have to be accomplished before any new Wilderness designation was sought. These innovative ideas would have incentivized collaboration.

The Partnership’s Forest Plan Alternative was a painstakingly negotiated road map that included maps and specific consensus recommendations that would have achieved:

  • the protection of old-growth stands, natural heritage natural areas, backcountry wilderness, and other sensitive recreation areas;
  • the protection, maintenance, and expansion of recreation areas and trail systems;
  • the creation of new young forest habitats at biologically significant levels for the benefit of wildlife and hunters alike;
  • and, at the same time, meet the Forest Service’s goals to increase timbering.

The Forest Services’ previous management plan suffers from some of the same issues as the proposed plan, namely inefficient management area allocation, and its implementation resulted in public controversy and conflict. Forest interests groups — such as timber companies, hunters, recreators, and conservationists — often perceived themselves to be in competition with one another when timber harvest was proposed in areas with multiple high values. The result was gridlock and damaged ecosystems: the Forest Service trampled on biologically sensitive areas without meeting their timbering goals, and forest interests groups blamed each other.

This was supposed to change with the 2012 Planning Rule adopted by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, which sought to modernize forest management by addressing the “evolving scientific understanding of approaches to land management, changing social demands, and new challenges such as changing climate.”

At the core of the new planning rule was a commitment to a collaborative process that would ensure transparency and effective public participation. In its preamble, the Department of Agriculture states that the new rule “emphasizes providing meaningful opportunities for public participation early and throughout the planning process, increases the transparency of decision-making, and provides a platform for the Agency to work with the public and across boundaries with other land managers to identify and share information and inform planning.” In this spirit, the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership was established and painstakingly negotiated its consensus Plan Alternative.

Unfortunately, the Forest Service declined to adopt or even fully analyze the Partnership proposal as an alternative. Instead, the Forest Service has proposed a plan that offers vague assurances while placing important conservation areas in areas designed for timbering, expanding the road network without providing plans to maintain it, and establishing loopholes that undermine the protection of the conservation areas that are established by the plan. Many of our concerns relate to the potential for poorly conceived timber harvest to impact water quality, steep slopes, and areas critical for the preservation of biodiversity. We want to emphasize, though, that we fully support meeting the timber harvest goals agreed to by the Partnership, even going so far as to compromise in supporting rotational timber harvest in the consensus suitable timber base.

While there are some bright spots in the Forest Service’s Revised Plan — such as an increase in active fire management, recommendations for Wild and Scenic Rivers, and a recommitment to adequate streamside zones — they are far outweighed by its shortcomings:

Land Allocations Unnecessarily Prioritize Timber at the Expense of Conservation Areas

The Forest Services divides the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests’ 1.045 million acres into 17 unique management areas with specific management needs in the Revised Forest Plan. Because many ecological communities exist at various elevations, the Forest Service’s management approach must be specialized and place-based to support each management area’s abundant biodiversity.

Ensuring the efficacy of the Forest Service’s proposed place-based management area allocations was a primary objective of the Nantahala Pisgah Forest Partnership as it negotiated its Forest Plan Alternative. Instead of adopting these recommendations, the Forest Service puts the ecological well-being of more than 100,000 acres of important conservation areas at risk. These conservation areas include North Carolina Natural Heritage Areas, existing old-growth forests, and potential Wilderness Areas.

In the chart below, you will see that the Partnership identified 501,646 acres (or roughly half of the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests) to be included in Matrix and Interface — the two management area designations where the emphasis is placed on timber harvesting/production. This is more than sufficient for the Forest Service to meet its goal of harvesting up to 3,200 acres per year.

*The difference in acreage is not significant
**While the Forest Service did not include a specific Management Area for the proposed Craggy Mountain National Scenic Area, it does recognize the scenic value of an approximately 10,000-acre core.
***The Middle Creek Research Natural Area was included in the Black Mountains Recommended Wilderness by the Partnership
****Special Interest Areas are largely composed of North Carolina Natural Heritage Natural Areas. The Partnership recommended that most of these areas either be allocated to management areas not suited for timber production or protected through Forest Plan Standards.

The Forest Service’s Revised Plan includes an additional 108,723 acres in their Matrix and Interface allocations. All but roughly 8,000 (7,823) acres come from conservation areas that include North Carolina Natural Heritage Areas, existing old-growth forests, and potential Wilderness Areas.

As it currently stands,  at least 12,000 acres of inventoried, existing old-growth forest, more than 45,000 acres of Natural Heritage Natural Areas ranked “High” to “Exceptional” by the NC Natural Heritage Program, and over 100,000 acres of important conservation areas have been designated for “regularly scheduled timber harvest” within the Matrix and Interface allocations. Not all of the important conservation values designated to suitable management areas will be proposed for logging, but some certainly will.

This regrettable management area allocation prioritizes commercial timber harvest projects that will negatively impact these important conservation areas, making timber harvest unnecessarily complicated, controversial, and damaging.

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The Old-Growth Network Shell Game

Old-growth forests are vital for native species, scientific study, aesthetic and spiritual reasons, and are crucial for sequestering and storing carbon that would otherwise contribute to climate change. Before the industrial age, most of the forest in the Southern Blue Ridge were old-growth forests with complex structures and a vast diversity of tree sizes and ages. A wave of logging for national and international markets from 1880-1940 removed most of the original forest, and today only 10% of Nantahala and Pisgah and just 3% of the region as a whole are believed to be in old-growth condition. The analysis in the Revised Forest Plan acknowledged that approximately half of the tree canopy of Nantahala and Pisgah would have been in old-growth condition prior to European colonization.

The Forest Service has touted the Revised Plan as an improvement for old-growth forests because it designates approximately 265,000 acres for old-growth management (ROD p.22). While this is a big number, it’s important to note that all but 44,000 acres of old-growth designations are already protected at a higher level, such as by the Wilderness Act, the Inventoried Roadless Rule, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, Research Natural Areas, and others. So, these are primarily designations of convenience — in the sense that they are already off-limits to logging rather than because of their outstanding values.

MountainTrue and our predecessor organization, the Western North Carolina Alliance, began mapping the old-growth forests of Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests in 1994. Through that work, we have documented over 90,000 acres of old-growth on Forest Service lands. We shared that inventory with the Forest Service, and unfortunately, over 12,000 acres of field-verified old-growth remains in timber production management areas, where the plan direction is to create young forest through timber harvest.

What’s more, 110,000 acres of the designated old-growth network in the plan is relatively young — less than 100 years old, according to Forest Service Records. The Forest Service claims that by designating middle-aged forests, they are ensuring the development of old-growth in the future, even though they are leaving much more worthy forests unprotected.

The network of old-growth designations begins to look like a shell game when you realize that thousands of acres of small patch old-growth designations made in the last 28 years were not included in the Revised Plan. The Forest Service seems to be setting up a precedent where they can open up more mature, lucrative forests that had previously been “designated old growth” to logging now, and only protect middle-aged forests until the next plan — when they could theoretically open up some of those more mature stands to timbering. Examples of this dynamic include very high-quality designations that were made and subsequently discarded in the Upper Santeelah and Shope Creek Projects but have now been allocated to a timber production management area.

Another major concern is that the Forest Service is providing project staff and district rangers with too much flexibility and decision-making power to cut the last remnants of existing old-growth forests under their stewardship. The Record of Decision states:

“The District Ranger, or the Forest Supervisor for multi-district projects, will retain the option of how to manage old trees, old stands, or old growth forest patches in the project itself, depending on the management area direction, site-specific conditions, and ecological needs in the area” (ROD pp. 44-45, emphasis added)

In recent years, we have provided input on numerous projects where the Forest Service proposed to cut existing old-growth forests and only relented under vigorous public pressure (see the Globe Project, Big Choga Project, Haystack Project, Harmon Den Project, Mossy Oak Project, Buck Project, and more).

Old growth takes centuries to develop, and the fact that the Forest Service discarded thousands of acres of designations from the last plan, so casually and without analysis or effort to include them in the new plan, needs to be corrected. And protecting existing old-growth forests should not be up to the discretion of Forest Service staff at the project level. It is crucial that the Forest Service not just manage for future old growth but also protect the old-growth forests we have now. To be meaningful, old-growth designations need to be nearly permanent.

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The “such as, but not limited to” Timber Loophole

The USFS has historically focused on cutting and growing trees, emphasizing active forest management that prioritizes timber harvest revenues over economic activity and public benefits derived from outdoor recreation, wildlife, and clean water. This emphasis is reflected in the binary designation of Management Areas as either “suitable” or “unsuitable” for timber production:

TIM-DC-06 Lands identified as suitable for timber production have a regularly scheduled timber harvest program that contributes to forestwide desired conditions. Rotation ages needed to meet restoration and habitat objectives for young forest and future middle-aged mast producing forests are also compatible with the production of sawtimber and pulpwood products.

TIM-DC-07 Land identified as not suitable for timber production, but where timber harvesting could occur for other multiple-use purposes, has an irregular, unscheduled timber harvest program. Harvest meets management direction and desired conditions for the area while providing services and benefits to the public.  

(Forest Plan Page 91)

Now, let’s consider the Forest Plan’s definition of what is allowed in management areas classified as “not suitable for timber production.” The sections we have bolded create a loophole big enough to drive a logging truck through.

TIM-S-02 While timber harvest can occur on lands both suitable and not suitable for timber production, unless otherwise specified in management area direction, it can only occur on lands not suitable for timber production when it is determined that timber harvesting activities are needed for salvage or to protect multiple use values other than timber production, such as, but not limited to:

(1) addressing issues of public health or safety; 
(2) reducing hazardous fuels and managing wildfire; 
(3) restoring or maintaining a terrestrial or aquatic ecological system or wildlife habitat over time; 
(4) restoring or maintaining habitat for federally threatened and endangered animals or plants and SCC; 
(5) harvesting dead or dying trees due to fire, natural disturbances, insects, and disease; (6) restoring or maintaining recreation, scenery, or transportation management; 
(7) accommodating special use permits and outstanding rights; or
(8) for research, demonstration, or education purposes.

(Forest Plan page 91, Emphasis added)

The use of “such as, but not limited to” negates the purpose of the list that follows by allowing timbering for any reason that a ranger or project manager may contemplate in the future. As close observers of Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest know, every single timber sale in the past 40 years has purported to “restore or maintain terrestrial wildlife habitat.”

There is a common thread throughout the Forest Plan of delegating most decision-making to individual rangers at the project level with overly broad language. As it stands now, the binary distinction between what management areas are suitable and unsuitable for timber harvest is rendered moot by a set of criteria that neglects to exclude much of anything. Essentially, this makes no part of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests off-limits to logging. For there to be a distinction between the suitable and unsuitable management areas, the Forest Service must strengthen this language.

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Nantahala National Forest is Treated as a Second-class Forest by the Forest Service

Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest have equivalent acreages, physical features, biological values, and both are beloved by the public. Why then is the Forest Service proposing to manage the two forests so differently based on their management area allocations?

The USFS plan places approximately half (50.3%) of Pisgah National Forest in the Interface and Matrix designations, where active timber production is a primary or secondary goal. Nearly two-thirds of Nantahala National Forest, on the other hand, is open to rotational logging.

Of the two forests, Nantahala National Forest is certainly the more remote, and more of its acreage qualifies for the backcountry management allocation. Why then, is so much more land dedicated to timber production in Nantahala National Forest versus Pisgah National Forest? The USFS is proposing to only place 8.9% of the Nantahala National Forest in Backcountry designation (where logging is not supposed to happen) compared to an already modest 16.5% in Pisgah National Forest.

There is no analysis in the Forest Plan to support this discrepancy. We are concerned that this is the result of arbitrary decision making on the part of the Forest Service and, once again, a desire to delegate the decisions that should have been made by the Forest Plan, such as whether or not to cut old-growth forest, to District Rangers at the project level. If the Forest Service had adopted a more balanced plan, similar to the Partnership alternative, the land allocation would be more equitable for Nantahala National Forest.

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Highly Rated Natural Heritage Natural Areas Remain Vulnerable to Timbering

Every state in the United States has a Department of Natural Heritage whose mission is to catalog and preserve the natural diversity within the state’s boundaries. North Carolina has had a better-than-average Natural Heritage Program, though at times, protecting natural resources has been politically controversial, despite being overwhelmingly popular.

North Carolina’s Natural Heritage Program has inventoried Natural Areas in 97 of the state’s 100 counties. Many of North Carolina’s very best Natural Areas are situated within the boundaries of Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. Unfortunately, the Forest Service has historically been ambivalent, at best, about these important areas. More recently, the Forest Service has acknowledged that some of these areas deserve special attention.

Natural Heritage Areas have a five-tiered ranking that categorizes natural values as General, Moderate, High, Very High, and Exceptional. In one of the bright spots of the Revised Plan, the Forest Service chose to place most of the acreage of Natural Heritage Areas rated as Exceptional in Special Interest Area Management. Unfortunately, over 45,000 acres of Natural Heritage Areas rated as High, Very High, and Exceptional were placed in timber production management areas, ensuring that some of these areas will continue to be proposed for timber sales. To reduce the potential for project-level conflict, the Forest Service should place these remaining highly rated natural areas in protected management areas.

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Water Quality at Risk from Logging without Steep Slope Protections or Adequate Road Maintenance

The Forest Plan is a mixed bag when it comes to protecting water quality. On the positive side, the new plan maintains the 50’ buffers on intermittent streams and 100’ buffers on perennial streams introduced in 1994. In these areas, trees must be retained and heavy equipment is excluded to prevent erosion and sediment pollution from stormwater runoff.

On the other hand, the Forest Service is proposing to remove the prohibition on ground-based logging for steep slopes, providing only vague assurances that new technology would prevent harm. In the previous plan, logging on slopes over 40% required aerial logging systems that lifted trees off the ground and negated the need to build logging roads on steep slopes. The revised plan proposes to remove this requirement. There may be new technologies that would be as protective as aerial logging methods, but the plan should continue to prohibit the creation of harvest roads on steep slopes and have stronger standards as to how logging methods on steep slopes are chosen.

Finally, sedimentation from forest roads is the primary threat to water quality and aquatic wildlife, and the Revised Plan should have made meaningful progress towards decreasing sedimentation from roads. Instead, the Forest Service is projecting 6 miles of road construction annually to meet Tier 1 timber harvest goals and an additional 4 miles to meet Tier 2 goals, while declining to produce a plan for meaningfully maintaining the 2,200 miles of roads already under Forest Service management. It would be more logical and more protective of water quality to require road maintenance goals from Tier 1 to be met before moving to Tier 2 levels of road building.

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Forest Service Drew Management Areas Around Controversial Projects

If the forest plans are the map given to Forest Service personnel to manage the land and water, then the projects proposed by Forest Service staff are the vehicles to get to the destination or the “desired conditions” identified in the Forest Plan. For the past 40 years, the Forest Service has struggled to propose vegetation management projects within the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests that have been broadly acceptable to timber, recreation, and conservation interest groups alike.

Such controversial projects can damage important conservation areas, as occurred in the Pisgah Ridge Natural Heritage Area in the Courthouse Creek Project. In Courthouse Creek, logging on steep slopes caused severe erosion that led to a landslide during Tropical Storm Fred and turned Courthouse Creek the color of chocolate milk during the average rainy season of 2017. Such projects also tend to be less efficient and require a large amount of planning and analysis time. Only one-third of the approved timber harvesting at Courthouse Creek was ever accomplished.

Erosion and logging at Courthouse Creek. Photos by Nicholas Holshouser.

There is a spate of recent projects that were approved under the old forest plan but will be implemented under the new plan. Some like the Twelve Mile Project had consensus support and approved over 1,800 acres of timber harvest and wildlife habitat while protecting old growth and Natural Heritage Natural Areas. Others, like Buck and Southside, were very controversial because they proposed logging old growth, areas inventoried as potentially suitable for Wilderness Designation, and Natural Heritage Natural Areas, while also building miles of roads across steep slopes. Some projects, like Crossover and Lickstone, are still in development but have a high potential for controversy because of these same issues.

Reviewing the Forest Plan, it appears that the Forest Service has drawn management area boundaries in all of those projects that would support the controversial steep slope logging and excessive road building (8 miles) of Buck, the old-growth logging of Southside, and potential logging of old-growth and backcountry areas in Crossover. We believe that the Forest Service should not be building the new plan around poorly designed old projects, but instead, create a new plan that is consistent in its application and leads to more broadly supported and efficient projects.

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Curious Omissions Among the Designations

Wilderness Designations

There are several categories of designation requiring an act of Congress that the Forest Plan addresses. The first is Wilderness recommendation. The designation of new Wilderness areas under the Wilderness Act of 1964 requires an act of Congress and the Signature of the President. The first step in that journey is the recommendation of suitable areas by the Forest Service during the forest planning process.

The Revised Plan allocates just over 49,000 acres in 14 areas to Recommended Wilderness. Compared to the current Forest Plan, that is an increase of 33,000 acres. While over 100,000 acres were both suitable and had collaborative support, the Revised Plan offers more for those that appreciate Wilderness than any time since the RARE II process of the late 1970s.

Despite being an improvement over the old plan, there are some curious omissions in the Revised Plan’s designations and some strange logic in those omissions. For example, the Black Mountains were disqualified because you can see sights and sounds of human development from the area, but Mackey Mountain was included despite I-40 being in the foreground view and very audible. A portion of the Chunky Gal is recommended for addition to Southern Nantahala Wilderness, but about 1,000 acres of the Inventoried Roadless Area was not recommended — again due to claims that sound from US Hwy 64 disqualified the area. The truth is that all of these areas are suitable for Wilderness recommendation, and the Forest Service should acknowledge that, regardless of whether they decide to recommend them for designation.

Wild & Scenic Rivers

The second major type of designation is the identification of streams eligible for protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The primary benefit of Wild and Scenic designation is to keep streams free-flowing and free of impoundments. There are three categories of Wild & Scenic Eligibility: recreational, scenic, and wild. Recreational is the least protective category, and Wild is the most protective. All three categories prevent eligible river segments from being impacted by dams once they are Congressionally designated.

The old plan recognizes 10 streams as eligible for Wild and Scenic designation, and the Revised Plan adds another 8 streams to that total. We were disappointed that the Forest Service did not find the North Fork of the French Broad, Panthertown Creek, and Greenland Creek eligible, and we believe the Forest Service should correct that error when the plan is finalized.

National Scenic Areas

The final designation opportunity in the Revised Plan is National Scenic Area (NSA) designation for the Craggy Mountains. This is perhaps the designation most likely to succeed in the next year because the people and government of Buncombe County support the protection of the area. Senators Burr and Tillis have indicated that they will not support federal designation without the endorsement of local governments. That box has been checked for the Craggy National Scenic Area.

The Forest Service has also designated over 10,000 acres of Big Ivy as a Forest Scenic Area. There is some ambiguity about the final boundaries of the Craggy NSA, as Buncombe County has endorsed a 15,000-acre area composed of all Forest Service Lands in the Craggy Mountains, while Forest Service has excluded Coxcombe Mountain, Snowball Mountain, Ox Creek, and Shope Creek from their recognition and placed them into areas where timber production is an emphasis. MountainTrue believes this should be corrected when the plan is finalized, and all these areas should be allocated to more protective management such as Ecological Interest Areas.

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Sensitive Wildlife Could Be Impacted by Faulty Assumptions

The Revised Forest Plan has laudable goals for wildlife and wildlife habitat. The Plan emphasizes the creation of young forest and open woods for the wildlife that benefit from those conditions, and also includes strategies and standards for protecting more disturbance-sensitive species like green salamanders, bats, northern flying squirrels, and dozens of rare habitats that support an abundance of rare species.

The new plan aims to create more of this young forest through timber harvesting, but the top levels of allowable harvest, while being three to four times higher than current levels, are no higher than what is allowed in the old plan. As discussed above, we believe that the timber harvest goals will be counterproductive until the Forest Service has consistent direction regarding Natural Heritage Natural Areas, old-growth forests, and potential Wilderness Areas that are currently allocated to timber production. As far as strategies for increasing timber harvest, we fail to see how the Revised Plan is an improvement over the status quo.

Perhaps the biggest flaw in the plan content on wildlife is that the Final Environmental Impact Statement fails to show any benefits or costs to the management strategies and objectives in the Forest Plan. As a rhetorical question, why manage the forest for wildlife at all if there will be no benefits? We suspect that there will be costs and benefits for the management the Forest Service is proposing and that the Environmental Analysis is either too flawed or lacks the sensitivity needed to detect the changes that will occur. We also suspect that increased levels of young forest habitat would benefit associated species and cause declines in disturbance-sensitive species, but the Final Environmental Impact Statement shows neither trend. In general, we have serious concerns that the Forest Service is relying on flawed assumptions and inaccurate analysis for many of the decisions (and in some cases, the absence of a decision) in the Revised Forest Plan.

On the other side of the coin are dozens of rare species, many of them unique to this region, that the Forest Service analyzes with a coarse filter and without plan content to protect them. In particular, disturbance-sensitive species reliant on closed-canopy forest, old trees, and down wood are presumed by the Forest Service to be well protected by the 40% of the Forest that will remain lightly managed in this Forest Plan, again, partly due to faulty modeling, and partly due to not making assumptions from the models (for example, that old-growth forests will not be cut), management standards, or guidelines in the plan. So the Forest Service is assuming that old-growth forest-associated wildlife will not be impacted because the models assume no old growth will be cut. All the while, the Forest Service is asserting the right to cut old-growth forest in the plan.

The Forest Service should address these issues by improving their environmental analysis, and making the assumptions in their analysis translate into management strategies.

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Recreation: Improvements to Trail Access but Too Restrictive to Other Activities

The Forest Service’s Revised Plan is an improvement over its own Draft Plan in terms of trail access. Two of the potential draft alternatives severely limited the potential to expand the existing trail network. Limiting opportunities for new trails would have been draconian considering the increasing demand for outdoor recreation, the already high use of Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests, and the social and economic benefits of outdoor recreation to our region.

The Revised Plan allows existing user-created trails and new construction to be added to the official trail system. However, the addition of any trails requires collaborative planning processes that consider supply and demand issues and have committed resources for long-term maintenance.

Overly restrictive limitations on other recreation resources — like rock climbing — lack the specificity needed to protect those resources and provide equitable public access. The Forest Service did not adopt Partnership’s suggestions regarding limitations on rock climbing as a recreation resource, nor is there a process for rock climbers or other recreationists to engage in collaborative management like there is for trail users.

The Forest Service should treat all user groups as potential partners and extend opportunities for collaborative management in the text of the plan to all interest groups.

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Support Healthy, Resilient Forests

MountainTrue’s Public Lands Team tracks and analyzes every timber project in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests to protect old-growth forests, sensitive habitats, and rare species. We help protect the places we share to ensure they stay healthy and beautiful for future generations. Support this work by making a donation to MountainTrue.

July 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

July 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

July 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

Jackson County Wins the 2021 Bioblitz

After two weeks of hard-nosed competition, Jackson County won the 2021 Bioblitz, beating Watauga and Transylvania Counties. Overall, 46 people contributed 2,947 observations, and 317 people helped with the identification of 1,228 species. While Jackson County had 1,403 observations to Watauga County’s 1,068, the competition for the most species was much tighter – Jackson county prevailed 738 to 681. Transylvania County came in a distant third with 472 observations and 279 species. Check out our blog post to read more about our Bioblitz results and see photos of the winning observations.

Sarah Ogletree Joins MountainTrue as the Director of the Creation Care Alliance

The Creation Care Alliance is pleased to announce that Sarah Ogletree will be our next director. Sarah comes to us from our close partner, NC Interfaith Power and Light, where she has been for the last three years. Her dedication to seeking justice for both people and planet shines through in all aspects of her life, and she has consistently been recognized with awards for her leadership, dedication and excellence. Join us in welcoming Sarah! Read more.

We’re Hiring! MountainTrue Seeks a Great Environmental Communicator

MountainTrue seeks a bright, organized, and outgoing individual with strong communications skills, experience in online advocacy, and development writing. The Communications Associate will report to the Director of Communications and work closely with our Community Engagement Director, program directors and regional directors to (1) promote our programs through member outreach and correspondence, public relations, social media, and marketing; (2) support our advocacy goals through online organizing/advocacy; (3) provide writing and communications support for our fundraising activities. The deadline to apply is Sunday, August 15, 2021. Read more and apply.

August 29: Michael Franti and Spearhead Concert to Cleanup and Protect the French Broad River

MountainTrue, French Broad Riverkeeper and 98.1 River are proud to present Michael Franti and Spearhead for a benefit concert to support MountainTrue’s work to clean up and protect the French Broad River.

Sunday, August 29, 2021
Doors: 5:00 p.m., Starts: 7:00 p.m.
All Ages are Welcome
Tickets: $35 in advance; $39 general admission

French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson says, “Michael Franti is the perfect artist to bring us back down to the banks of the French Broad to celebrate our beautiful river. Come to enjoy a night of inspiring music and support our ongoing work to make our river cleaner and healthier.” Read more and buy tickets.

High Country Regional News

For Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Watauga and Wilkes counties

Sparking a Love for Clean Water and Healthy Ecosystems at High Country Forest Wild

Our Water Quality Administrator, Hannah Woodburn, visited High Country Forest Wild, an outdoor experiential learning school. She gave an instream lesson on aquatic insects and water quality to about 45 students. It was an excellent way to get young minds thinking about freshwater ecosystems and water quality.

MountainTrue Reports Water Quality Violation for Development Along Watauga Lake

While conducting routine sampling of Watauga Lake for our Harmful Algal Bloom Study, we spotted a new development lacking erosion control. We promptly contacted the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation, which issued a notice of violation. We hope to see improvements on the construction site and continue monitoring this development to help keep our waterways free of sediment pollution.

Bottomley Farms Clearcut Causes Severe Erosion, Ecosystem Collapse

Our Watauga Riverkeeper teamed up with Southwings to get a bird’s eye view of a massive clear-cut timber operation in Alleghany County being conducted by Bottomley Farms — a Sparta-based agribusiness company. The developers are removing all the trees, shrubs and vegetation, and grubbed it down to hundreds of acres of bare earth. The result has been severe erosion, sediment pollution of area waterways, and a total collapse of the ecosystem in Ramey Creek — once a thriving spawning ground for native brook trout. North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission staff could only save 13 individual trout out of the hundreds previously documented in that stream. Commission staff relocated the survivors to an adjacent watershed. Tragically, a species that thrived in that watershed since the glaciers retreated tens of thousands of years ago was erased by one egregiously bad timber project. Our report resulted in the NC Department of Environmental Quality issuing a notice of violation. We will continue to monitor this project and push for a lasting riparian buffer and a complete restoration of the stream.

Trash Trout Update: There’s Too Much Plastic in Our Waterways

Our Trash Trout on Winklers Creek continues to collect so much litter. We have removed and cataloged thousands of pieces of trash in the few weeks that the trash-collection device has been in place. The majority of the garbage found has been single-use plastics and styrofoam, underscoring the need to address the prevalence of plastics and microplastics in our environment.

Southern Regional News

For Cleveland, Henderson, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania counties

Volunteer for Rhythm & Brews! Hear Good Music and Get Cool Stuff!

Join MountainTrue’s Recycling Team on Main St. during the Rhythm & Brews Concert Series in downtown Hendersonville this summer and fall to reduce waste and encourage recycling. Volunteers will be rewarded with an R&B volunteer t-shirt, a voucher for a free beverage, a koozie and a water bottle! Help educate attendees and monitor the waste stations.

Upcoming Concerts:
July 15: Abby Bryant & The Echoes with opener Andrew Thelston Band
August 19: Jamie McLean Band with opener Hustle Souls.
September 16: Mike and the Moonpies with opener Kenny George Band.
October 21: The Broadcast with opener TBD.

2 Shifts: 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. & 7:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Volunteers needed: 4 per shift, 8 total
To sign up: https://signup.com/go/eRCebTq

Working to be Plastic Free Program Endorsed by Hendersonville City Council

L to R: Beth Stang, chair of Hendersonville’s ESB. Lyndsey Simpson, H’ville City Councilwoman, and Christine Wittmeier, chair of MountainTrue’s Recycling Team, hold a July 1st proclamation endorsing the Working to Be Plastic Free program.

On July 1, Hendersonville City Council approved a proclamation supporting Working to be Plastic Free — a plastic reduction program created by MountainTrue and the Hendersonville Environmental Sustainability Board. Hendersonville Mayor Barbara Volk signed the pledge and has encouraged staff to reduce the city’s use of plastic.

Many of the local merchants and restaurants participated in a plastics-use survey earlier in the year. Now, we’re encouraging them to sign the pledge and begin working to eliminate single-use plastics, such as plastic bags, straws, cutlery, and take-out containers. Most of these plastics are not recyclable and end up in landfills or littering our rivers and streams.

MountainTrue is ready to help businesses find sustainable packaging alternatives, and participants will be recognized in press releases, newsletters, social media, and a webpage promoting the program. To get more information and sign the pledge, visit our webpage or contact MountainTrue’s Interim Southern Regional Director, Katie Breckheimer, at srogray@mountaintrue.org.

Congratulations to Our Broad River Race Winners: Jordan Jackson and Marc Stowe

Broad River Race winners Jordan Jackson and Marc Stowe accept the trophy from David Caldwell, the Broad Riverkeeper.

Our Third Annual Broad River Race was postponed when a thunderstorm moved across the area last Saturday, July 12. A day later, the race flag dropped, and the paddlers sped down the river. Four and a half miles and an hour later, Jordan Jackson and Marc Stowe were the first to cross the finish line in a tandem canoe to take home our race trophy, Betsy the Turtle. Annie Keith and her son David Caldwell, our Broad Riverkeeper, were hot on their trail. It was great to see so many people enjoying the cool waters of the Broad River, and we look forward to seeing who wins next year.

App State Eco-Tox Team Collects Fish Tissue Samples From the Broad River

The Appalachian State Eco-toxicology Team returned to the Broad River to collect more water, sediment and fish tissue samples for an ongoing study of the bio-accumulation of heavy metals in fish. The team sampled upstream and downstream of two industrial sites with permits to discharge pollutants into the river. MountainTrue will use the results to determine if we need fish consumption advisories for the affected sections of the waterway. Special thanks to our High Country Water Quality Administrator, Hannah Woodburn, and Appalachian State’s Dr. Shea Tuberty for leading this fantastic project.

ICYMI: Broad River Spring Sweep Collects Over 100 lbs of Litter

We had a small crew for this year’s Annual Broad River Spring Sweep on May 29, but we made a big impact by collecting over 100 lbs of litter (including a football) from the Broad River. It was also inspiring to see so many folks cooling off in the water and enjoying the river at the Greenway canoe access.

Western Regional News

For Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties in NC, and Towns and Union counties in GA

Crossover Timber Project Update: Your Advocacy Is Making a Difference

MountainTrue’s Public Lands Field Biologist Josh Kelly documents the age of a 200-year-old tree in the Nantahala National Forest.

We asked, and you responded! MountainTrue’s members submitted 334 public comments (36% of which were customized) and 24 letters to the editors of relevant local newspapers during the comment period for the US Forest Service’s Crossover Project. As currently proposed, the project would log more than 300 acres of old-growth forest, rare species habitat, and remote backcountry in the Snowbird Mountains of Nantahala National Forest.

The Nantahala Pisgah Forest Partnership — a broad coalition of forest users representing recreation, conservation and timber interests of which MountainTrue is a member— has joined the fight and requested that the Forest Service remove these acres from the project. For its part, the Forest Service has indicated a willingness to collaborate with the partnership to develop a better alternative during the Environmental Assessment phase of the project. Thank you for speaking up for our forests!

We’re Hiring a Nonnative Invasive Plant Control Intern

MountainTrue seeks a dedicated individual to fill a part-time, 12-week paid internship for its western region in Fall 2021. The position includes a combination of on-the-ground stewardship of public and conserved lands, volunteer recruitment and coordination, and public outreach. It will require travel to various locations within a 60-mile radius of Murphy (including north Georgia) and substantial work outdoors. The application deadline is August 4, and the start date is August 30. Visit our website to learn more.

Managing Nonnative Invasive Plants Webinar Coming in August

Due to popular demand, MountainTrue Western Region Program Coordinator Tony Ward and Public Lands Director Bob Gale will host a webinar on how to eradicate non-native invasive plants (NNIP) on Tuesday, August 24 at noon. Tony and Bob will discuss the best tools to control common NNIP species and the best seasons for treatment. The webinar will include an in-depth discussion about herbicides, the active ingredients of commonly used products, and how to apply them correctly and with minimal impact on the environment. Register for the free webinar today!

Become A Georgia Green Landscape Steward

The Georgia Green Landscape Stewards certification program provides educational resources that teach landowners about increasing plant and animal biodiversity, conserving soil and water, providing wildlife and pollinator habitat, and improving public and environmental health. Participants can measure their activities with the program’s metric scorecard and earn certification status for their landscape. Along with the satisfaction of contributing to natural resource protection, Georgia Green Landscape certification includes an option for Georgians to purchase an attractive yard sign to designate their property as a sustainably managed landscape.

Events & Volunteer Opportunities

July 18, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.: Headwaters Fun Float on the First Broad River
Join MountainTrue as we head up to the South Mountains for a fun paddle on the cool shady waters of the First Broad River! Read more.

August 24, 12-1 p.m.: MountainTrue University: Managing Nonnative Invasive Plants
Join us for an educational program about managing common nonnative invasive plants, including techniques for control, best seasons for treatment, and more. Read more.

August 29, 7 p.m.: Michael Franti and Spearhead Concert to Cleanup and Protect the French Broad River
MountainTrue, French Broad Riverkeeper and 98.1 River are proud to present Michael Franti and Spearhead for a benefit concert to support MountainTrue’s work to clean up and protect the French Broad River. Read more.

Jackson County Wins the 2021 Bioblitz

Jackson County Wins the 2021 Bioblitz

Jackson County Wins the 2021 Bioblitz

After two weeks of hard-nosed competition, Jackson County has won the 2021 Bioblitz over Watauga and Transylvania Counties. Overall, 46 people contributed 2,947 observations and 317 people helped with the identification of 1,228 species. While Jackson County had 1,403 observations to Watauga County’s 1,068, the competition for the most species was much tighter – Jackson county prevailed 738 to 681. Transylvania County came in a distant third with 472 observations and 279 species.

There were several notable performers in the Bioblitz, with 14 people making over 50 observations! The top three participants were Max Ramey (643 observations, 455 species; Watauga and Transylvania), Tim Lewis (408 observations, 323 species; Jackson), and Janaye Houghton (289 observations, 276 species; Jackson).

MountainTrue staff selected several people for recognition for their outstanding participation in the Bioblitz. Winners will receive gift certificates for local conservation-friendly businesses.

Max Ramey, as previously noted, was stellar and took home awards for Most Observations, Most Observations in Watauga County, and Best Observation for a stunning image of a Hellbender (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/82943347).

Tim Lewis was recognized for Most Observations in Jackson County and Sherry Downing won Most Observations for Transylvania County. Scott Persons got the award for Best Bird Observation for a crisp image of an Indigo Bunting. (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/82101741)

Erin Martin won Best Fungal Observation for a marvelously textured photo of the Common Toadskin Lichen (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/82589987)

Janaye Houghton won Best Arthropod Observation for an otherworldly image of a Spittlebug (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/82367166). 

The participation in the 2021 MountainTrue Bioblitz was phenomenal! It’s inspiring to see so many people learning about and appreciating the incredible diversity of the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains. If you enjoyed this year’s MountainTrue Bioblitz, stay tuned for next year. We plan to have many more group and in-person opportunities at the next Bioblitz. 

Protect Old-Growth, Wildlife & Our Natural Heritage in Nantahala National Forest

Protect Old-Growth, Wildlife & Our Natural Heritage in Nantahala National Forest

Protect Old-Growth, Wildlife & Our Natural Heritage in Nantahala National Forest

The US Forest Service is proposing a 1,500-acre timber sale in the Snowbird Mountains in Nantahala National Forest that would log documented old-growth stands, steep headwaters of pristine streams, and areas recognized by the state of North Carolina for their outstanding biodiversity and healthy forests.

Act now and tell the forest service to fix their proposal and protect our natural heritage.

This is the latest in a series of bad faith projects on the Nantahala National Forest that propose road building and timber harvest in some of the wildest and healthiest forests in our region. The Crossover Project would prejudice the new Forest Plan against the protection of old-growth forests, rare species, and backcountry areas and put water supply watersheds at risk. This is not what we consider a “collaborative” project that furthers ecological restoration for Nantahala National Forest.

Josh Kelly, MountainTrue’s field biologist explains: “The Forest Service worked with a broad group of stakeholders, throughout the forest management plan process. With one hand, they assure us that they take collaboration and our input seriously, then with the other hand they draw up these plans that plainly contradict the recommendations of hunters, hikers, anglers, equestrians, timber companies and other forest users. This is an old-school timber sale that targets the most sensitive and controversial areas for logging. If this project represents Nantahala National Forest’s priorities for the next 20 years, everyone should be very concerned, not just because of the damage it would do to the land, but because of the lack of relevancy, it would ensure for the agency. ”

The Crossover Timber Project would log 158 acres of the Ash Cove Backcountry Area which was proposed for Backcountry Management in Alternative C in the new forest plan and endorsed by the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership. Commercial logging and building logging roads are incompatible with the Backcountry Management Area. The proposal for Crossover, following on the heels of a similar decision in the Buck Project, shows that Nantahala National Forest is biased against Backcountry Management.

The Crossover Timber Project would log 51 acres of Natural Heritage Areas. Within the project area, the slopes of Teyahalee Bald have been identified by the State of North Carolina as Natural Heritage Natural Areas for their outstanding biodiversity. These areas are home to some of the healthiest forests in North Carolina that include rare species like Mountain Catch Fly that would be harmed by commercial logging.

The Crossover Timber Project would log at least 98 acres of existing old-growth forests. The Forest Service’s own records show that all of these forests are over 130 years old, and fieldwork conducted by MountainTrue has documented trees over 200 years of age in these areas. MountainTrue alerted the Forest Service to the location and presence of these rare old-growth sites and they are still being targeted by this timber sale.

The Crossover Timber Project proposal would log more than 400 acres at the source of Robbinsville’s drinking water supply. Seventeen stands slated for analysis of commercial and non-commercial timber harvest treatments lie in the Long and Rock Creek watersheds. These streams flowing off the ridge of the Snowbird Mountains are all classified as High-Quality Waters and feed public drinking water supplies for the Town of Robbinsville.

The Crossover Timber Project would permanently decommission the western half of the Snowbird Mountain Trail. Recreation groups within the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership had asked that the trail be improved, not decommissioned within their recommendations for the forthcoming forest management plan.

If the Forest Service truly believes in collaboration, the solution is easy: Follow the recommendation of the partners you’ve been working with for the past 8+ years. The Forest Service can have a successful timber project while protecting Natural Heritage Natural Areas and existing old growth, and keeping Snowbird trail open.

Action Expired

1. Email the Forest Service

The Forest Service is now soliciting input on the design of its Crossover Timber Project!

2. Send a Letter to the Editor

Send a letter to the editor of the Smoky Mountain News to raise public awareness.

3. Support Our Timber Monitoring Program

MountainTrue monitors and analyzes every project in the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests to support vulnerable species, safeguard old-growth forests, and make sure you have wonderful outdoor spaces for biking, hiking, hunting, fishing and foraging.

MountainTrue Launches BioBlitz to Crown Champion of Biodiversity in WNC

MountainTrue Launches BioBlitz to Crown Champion of Biodiversity in WNC

MountainTrue Launches BioBlitz to Crown Champion of Biodiversity in WNC

Jackson, Transylvania and Watauga counties, NC – MountainTrue is hosting its annual 2021 BioBlitz as a regional competition to crown the 2021 champion of biodiversity. The competition will take place virtually across three counties from June 5 through June 19, and is a great opportunity for experts and aspiring naturalists to get outside and add to the scientific record by documenting the vast biodiversity of our region.

What: MountainTrue 2021 BioBlitz
Where: Jackson, Transylvania and Watauga counties, NC through the iNaturalist App.
When: June 5-20

Sign up & Learn More

The competition kicks off on June 5 on the iNaturalist web and smartphone platform. Scores will be tallied for each county and for individual participants, with prizes and bragging rights for our winners. Prizes will be awarded to individual winners in the following categories: overall best observation, most total observations, most species, most birds, most arthropods (including insects!) and most fungi. We will recognize the County Champion of Biodiversity as the county that receives the most observations of unique species. Additional recognition will go to the county with the most participants and the most observations submitted.

“The MountainTrue 2021 Bioblitz is a great opportunity for people to connect with and learn about the natural world around them,” explains MountainTrue Public Lands Biologist Josh Kelly. “This year, by expanding the blitz to three counties and making a game of it, we hope to be able to engage more people and find more species. . We might even find some that have never been recorded in our region.”

MountainTrue first took its Bioblitz to iNaturalist in 2020 as a safer alternative during COVID-19. Last year, 97 observers documented over 1,100 unique species. This year, by expanding the blitz from one county to three, MountainTrue hopes to record even more species and make a greater contribution to the scientific record for our region. Tell your friends, neighbors, family, and fellow naturalists and citizen scientists, and get prepared for a BioBlitz like no other!

IMAGE DOWNLOAD: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1pT3KrHIgpQK0qlcoSI3DxlxpjsyTMHRd?usp=sharing 

Media Contact: 
Karim Olaechea, MountainTrue Communications Director 
C: 415-535-9004, E: karim@mountaintrue.org