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Your feedback needed: Planning for the future of Pisgah, Nantahala forests

Forest Service plan
The USFS has created a management plan for Nantahala and Pisgah national forests. Public comment period on the plan opened Friday. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Management plans for Nantahala and Pisgah national forests have been in the works for the last seven years. Now, United States Forest Service officials want to know how the public wants to see the national forest land used.

Once the plan is finalized, it will be used for the next 10 to 15 years.

There’s 1.1 million acres of national forest in the Nantahala and Pisgah. It's a lot of land with a lot of potential.

"We started with an assessment of the landscape, and we looked at what was it that we needed to change about the current forest plan and do differently," USFS public affairs officer Cathy Dowd said.

From there, the USFS met with the public to help determine exactly what needed to be included in the new plan.

"So, the plan covers the multiple uses of national forests, whether that is recreation, timber, wildlife habitat, water. And it looks at how can we manage these lands to have sustainable recreation," Dowd said.

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In order to create a more simplified plan, it has been broken into four alternatives.

"So, it’s just a different combination of ways that we might go about managing these resources. Some of them may have, for example, more land that might be recommended for wilderness designation," Dowd said.

The first alternative is actually not an alternative. It looks to keep the current plan with no changes, while the next three plans offer different uses for the forest land.

"So, for example, with Alternative B, this responds to people who want more flexibility for managing our natural resources. If you look at Alternative C, this responds to people who are looking for more certainty at the plan level," Dowd said.

The final alternative is a mix of alternatives B and C.

Local groups like MountainTrue said the public's feedback is important.

"We want people to comment on the values they have in the forest, whether those values be recreation, wildlife, water, ecology, whatever people value in the forest," MountainTrue public land biologist Josh Kelly said.

There are a lot of layers to the plan, as well, so the USFS is holding meetings over the next couple months. Officials hope to use feedback to make changes before a final plan is adopted. They hope that happens some time next year

The plan is available on the USFS website. Comments may be made online, too.

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