Forest Service releases revised management plan
A decade after it first reached out to stakeholders for the project, the U.S. Forest Service has released its revised management plan for the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests, signaling the start of the revision process’s final phase.
“The forest plan creates the framework for us to work with partners into the future to successfully address major challenges like climate resilience and sustainable recreation,” said James Melonas, Forest Supervisor of the National Forests in North Carolina. “Ultimately we are focused on the opportunities we have to keep these national forests healthy so they can continue to supply clean water to communities, contribute to the region’s economy, and be a place of respite and recreation.”
For the next 60 days, anybody who submitted substantive comments during the plan’s development will have the chance to file a formal objection to the revised plan. Within 10 days of the objection period’s closure, the regional forester will verify objectors’ standing to file objections, and for 10 days after that, members of the public can request to participate in the objection process as an “interested person.” From there, the regional forester has 90 days to review and resolve objections.
The regional forester will use collaborative methods to discuss the objections, with the intention of reaching a mutually agreeable conclusion. After objection resolution meetings are held, the regional forester will issue a written response that may include direction for changes to the final plan. This written response is the final decision, and the forest supervisor will then approve the new plan and begin implementing it.
The revised plan reflects changes in economic, social and ecological conditions, as well as changes in resource demands that have occurred since the previous forest plan was signed in 1987, and significantly amended in 1994.
In developing the plan, forest resource specialists worked with representatives of state and local government, tribes, interest groups and the public to consider alternative approaches to forest management offering different ways to make progress toward multiple goals and be sensitive to special places. According to a Forest Service press release announcing the plan’s completion, the final plan balances the tradeoffs among the multiple uses of national forests including recreation, timber, water, wilderness and wildlife habitat, and emphasizes the ways people use the forest and the places that are important to people.
The plan takes a whole-ecosystem approach and aims to address shortages in young forest, old growth forest and open forest conditions, and to control nonnative invasive species. It also emphasizes prescribed burns as a tool for restoring fire-adapted ecosystems. The plan identifies a set of desired conditions for every ecological community in the forest, a vision for what it will be once the goals are fully achieved.
“By using ecological communities, we will consider the work that needs to be done across a broader landscape, improving restoration efforts for ecosystems and the wildlife that depend on them,” said Michelle Aldridge, planning team lead.
Public meetings and public comments were used throughout the process to create the newly released plan, which will guide forest management for the next 15 to 20 years. Public comments are no longer being accepted, with formal objection the only remaining tool for public input prior to adoption of the final plan.
Read the plan, accompanying environmental impact statement and legal notice for the specific requirements for filing an objection at fs.usda.gov/goto/nfsnc/nprevision.