The newest draft of the Nantahala and Pisgah Forest Plan as well as the plan’s environmental impact statement are now available.
The beginnings of the plan were started in 2013, says Michelle Aldridge, team lead for the U.S. Forest Service’s forest plan revision. She say the plan has involved hundreds of people from the Forest Service, local nonprofits, county governments and national organizations.
“Twenty years ago the public’s involvement in the plan would have started today,” says Aldridge, who adds they have had 47 public meetings so far about the plan.
The plan is a strategic framework for how the over 1 million acres of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests will be managed for the next 10 to 15 years.
"We heard from a wide range of people and groups who use, depend on, and appreciate the forests as we developed the plan," said Allen Nicholas, forest supervisor of the national forests in North Carolina in a press release. "We're sharing this proposed plan so the public can review it and provide additional information before the plan is finalized."
The plan describes the desired conditions the Forest Service want’s for the forests in the future and actions the Forest Service will take to reach those objectives. These are outlined along with an environmental analysis of four approaches or “alternatives” that can be taken to implement the forest plan.
Aldridge says that each proposal has compromises in it for the many different stakeholders who care about the forest.
“This document can feel daunting,” says Aldridge. She recommends starting with the readers guide and looking at the book icon at the bottom of the page. It will direct readers to parts of the plan that they would be the most interested in. The document is also broken up by geographic location so you can find the areas of the Nantahala Pisgah National Forest that you frequent. Think of management regions as zoning for each of the different sections of the forests.
The forest service is calling for public comments. Aldridge says that solutions are the most helpful comments.
“Specifics are really valuable. When commenters can describe what they would like to see or where they would like to see it that makes a comment really meaningful,” says Aldridge.
The public comment period opens on February 14 and runs through May 14, 2020. Public meetings will also be announced for each of the six ranger districts. Aldridge says the meetings will start in March or April.