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Crowds rally for forest protections

Rallygoers chant “Our forests, our future,” during an Aug. 1 event supporting stronger logging restrictions in the new Pisgah-Nantahala Forest Management Plan. Holly Kays photo Rallygoers chant “Our forests, our future,” during an Aug. 1 event supporting stronger logging restrictions in the new Pisgah-Nantahala Forest Management Plan. Holly Kays photo

More than 300 people gathered outside the U.S. Forest Service headquarters in Asheville Monday, Aug. 1, to urge stronger protections for the Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest as the Forest Service finalizes the plan to guide forest management for the next two decades.

Through music, sidewalk chalk, and a “love banner” containing 34,000 hearts — one for each comment submitted through the forest planning process — those attending the Protect Pisgah Party + Rally for the Forest made their concern and affection for the forest known. The speaking program included I Heart Pisgah organizer Will Harlan, Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer and Forest Supervisor James Melonas, among others. 

“We’re here today with a very simple message,” Harlan said as he greeted the crowd. “We love Pisgah, and we want to see more of it protected.”

Harlan and his organization, I Heart Pisgah, have been at the forefront of opposition to the plan the Forest Service released in January , following a decade of meetings and public comment. Eight environmental organizations, including the Southern Environmental Law Center, MountainTrue, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and The Wilderness Society, supported the rally. 

While the groups’ formal objections  to the plan were quite lengthy, with SELC’s coming in at 179 pages, the rally focused on two main issues — the large number of acres eligible for logging under the plan and its exclusion of 4,000 acres of the 16,000-acre Craggy/Big Ivy area from protection as a Forest Scenic Area. The plan places 542,000 acres — more than half the forest — into management areas that allow logging. The plan would let only 1,200 to 3,200 acres be cut in any given year, but its opponents argue that ecologically valuable old growth stands are included among the acreage that could be cut. 

“It is so critical, as we think of the next generation and how we create our story in the legacy of the Nantahala and Pisgah, and the only way to do that is working together,” Melonas told the crowd. “And that means that sometimes as we work with all the different interests, we’re not always going to agree on everything. But we all love the forest. We all want to see it for our children and their children and into perpetuity. That is our job and it’s not always an easy one, but our job is to hear from you and everyone that loves this forest.”

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The rally came the evening before a three-day series of meetings aimed at resolving the 891 eligible objections  the Forest Service received in response to its plan. After a combined 24 hours of meetings this week between objectors and Forest Service staff, the Forest Service will review the results and make any changes to the plan they deem necessary to resolve the objections. Once Melonas signs off on the final document, the Forest Service will start operating under the new plan — marking the end of a process that’s been ongoing since 2012. 

An objection meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 3. The Aug. 4 meeting is scheduled to close at 3 p.m. For more information, including an agenda and meeting link, visit bit.ly/22forestplan

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2 comments

  • These same groups that are protesting signed a collaboration agreement early on in the stakeholders series of meetings that were held for several years. They all agreed to the planning process and agreed to the final product. Now they act like the Forest Service just secretly came up with this plan. These protestors are being 'used' by a small group of activists that depend on outside funders to keep their jobs. If they don't complain and dream up ridiculous demands, they don't have a job.

    posted by Bill Yarborough

    Friday, 08/05/2022

  • National Forests are not national Parks and are, by law, to be managed for multiple uses. That includes the production of timber. The ecofreaks are not the voice of the people no matter how much they wish to hold themselves up as that. They are a small obstreperous minority that wants their way, and only their way.

    posted by Quartermaster

    Thursday, 08/04/2022

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