Fires Creek Tract Acquired For Permanent Conservation In Nantahala National Forest!

Nov. 30, 2017

MountainTrue is thrilled to celebrate victory in a successful campaign to protect a 50-acre inholding within the Fires Creek watershed in Cherokee and Clay counties for permanent conservation as part of the Nantahala National Forest. We thank the Mainspring Conservation Trust and Fred and Alice Stanback for purchasing this stretch of forest, which will have a tremendous impact in protecting wildlife, water quality, recreation and wilderness in our public lands.

MountainTrue first joined the fight to preserve Fires Creek in 2008, after a proposal to build an access road within just a few feet of Fires Creek. The land, which had been privately owned, was the Fires Creek watershed’s only inholding – a term describing privately owned land inside the boundary of a national forest. The road construction would have required cutting into acid-bearing rock, a process that threatens water quality and has been shown to kill wildlife downstream. Our Public Lands Director & Ecologist, Bob Gale, expressed our opposition to the Forest Service. 

We spoke up again when the Forest Service was prepared to use a provision that did not apply to North Carolina – the Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) – in order to build the road, and again when emergency funds that had been allocated following severe storm damage were illegally used to expand a road near Fires Creek. We lead educational trips to Fires Creek, meeting with the Forest Service’s Tusquitee District Ranger and the Roads Engineer of the project to express our concerns, and we made public comments at every stage of the Forest Service’s environmental review process.

This designation will preserve Fires Creek for pristine trout fishing by protecting waters in Laurel Creek and Fires Creek drainages from sediment and acid-producing rock pollution. It will restore the ridge line section of the popular Fires Creek Rim Trail, increase recreational opportunities so more people can enjoy the incredible forests we share, and protect Fires Creek for generations to come. As Bob Gale said recently in the Asheville Citizen-Times, “It’s a win-win for the environment, for ecology, recreation values, the economy, the contiguous ownership of the Forest Service and the protection of water quality.”

For full coverage of the Fires Creek victory in the Citizen-Times, click here.

Want to get involved in our upcoming Forest Management Plan to help us win more conservation victories? Sign up for action opportunities here.  

Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.