Archived Opinion

Public wants more protected forests

Public wants more protected forests

To the Editor:

I appreciate George Hahn’s perspective on old-growth forests and agree with many of his sentiments. A mix of age and structural diversity is important for forests.

I am not anti-logging, nor is the Center for Biological Diversity or the coalition of over 150 businesses and organizations that support more protected areas for the Pisgah-Nantahala national forests. We want to make sure the most important recreation and conservation areas are protected, especially the old-growth forests that are almost exclusively found on public lands.

According to U.S. Forest Service data, Western North Carolina contains nearly 4 million acres of privately owned forests, and nearly all of these forests are intensively managed and skew toward younger ages. There is an abundance of young, early seral forest across the 18-county footprint of the Pisgah-Nantahala national forests. 

According to U.S. Forest Service data, there is also a lack of old-growth forest on private lands. Nearly all of the remaining old-growth forests in Western North Carolina are found on national forestlands.

We have lost most of the old-growth forests in the East, and we need to protect what remains, especially in publicly owned national forests. Public lands are our best opportunities to protect old-growth forests.

Now more than ever, we need more mature and old growth forests, which store more carbon and provide the cheapest and easiest climate solutions for Western North Carolina. They also clean our air, protect our drinking water, shelter rare species, and safeguard our rivers and trout streams. 

The public overwhelmingly supports more protected areas, especially for mature and old-growth forests. Over 92% of the 22,000 public comments received by the Forest Service support more protected areas, especially to protect old growth. The Pisgah-Nantahala national forests are the most visited national forests in the country, and the vast and overwhelming majority of forest users want to see more of it protected.

Unfortunately, the forest plan moves us in the opposite direction: it will quadruple logging while weakening and reducing protections for the one-million-acre Pisgah-Nantahala national forests. It places thousands of acres of existing old-growth forest in its highest priority logging designation. Some timber harvests are necessary in certain locations, but not in our last remaining old-growth forests. 

Conservation and recreation should be the primary focus of the country’s most popular national forests. Our region’s property values, rural economies, scenic views, and clean water depend on protecting these publicly owned forests, especially the remaining old growth. Our ancient forests are an important part of our region’s heritage, and they are far more valuable standing than cut down.

Will Harlan

Biologist, Center for Biological Diversity

Barnardsville, NC

Leave a comment


  • Selective cutting among old growth forests is needed from time to time. Clear cutting in hardwood forests, however, is foolish and poor management.

    posted by Quartermaster

    Sunday, 03/20/2022

  • Old growth forests need to be reclassified as Wilderness Areas, off limits to all motorized activities.

    posted by Brian A

    Friday, 03/18/2022

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