The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) finalized a new forest management plan covering the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests, in North Carolina, in early 2023. The plan includes important conservation recommendations, which the Outdoor Alliance characterized as “hard-fought” wins.
Together, the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests make up over 1 million acres of mountains, valleys, and forested slopes in North Carolina. They are among the most visited national forests in the country.
The conservation focuses of the new forest plan include recommending 49,000 acres of land for Wilderness designation, and newly identifying nine rivers as eligible for Wild and Scenic River designation. Inclusion in the USFS plan means those lands and rivers will be managed as Wilderness and as Wild and Scenic Rivers for a minimum of 15 years, unless Congress takes action to formally approve them for permanent protection.
As with most conservation efforts, securing favorable management practices for the Nantahala and Pisgah Forests was a coordinated and widespread effort. Outdoor Alliance was a leader in the overall, multi-year effort, and helped drive forward the effort to include the North Fork of the French Broad in the list of eligible Wild and Scenic Rivers. The organization harnessed the power of forest webmaps, recreational resources, economic studies, advocacy tools, and information content to engage and mobilize supporters.