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Forest improvement project proposed for Nantahala Forest

A proposal to embark on a forest improvement project in the Nantahala National Forest that will span the next 10 years is open for public comment through Feb. 26. 

The project would take place across a wide range of areas and forest conditions in Cherokee, Clay, Jackson, Graham, Macon and Swain counties, with no treatments implemented within the one-mile Trail of Tears National Historic Trail management corridor unless authorized through consultation with tribal governments. 

Treatments would include:

  • Crown-touch release of approximately 70 desirable trees per acre through manual or chemical treatment of non-desirable trees that are in direct competition for growing space. 
  • Release treatments using chemical or mechanical means to provide growing space for desired individual trees and tree species. 
  • Chemical and/or mechanical control of vine species where vines inhibit the growth and vigor of the surrounding vegetation. 
  • Plant native trees to improve species composition. 
  • Increase diffused light conditions in the understory to release young oaks, by mechanically removing the mid-story. 
  • Spray saplings in harvest unit skid trails post-harvest with herbicide to extend the time that grasses and forbs occupy these sites for turkey, ruffed grouse, golden-winged warbler and other species. 
  • Plant herbaceous species in log landings, openings and along roadways, especially those that benefit pollinators to provide foraging habitat for insects, birds and other wildlife. 
  • Use mechanical thinning of white pine and release of hardwoods and southern yellow pines to restore native forest communities in areas that were converted to white pine plantations. 
  • Treat areas infested with root rot using biological fungicides or similar products. 
  • Promote natural regeneration of native trees by heavily thinning damaged, degraded or poorly stocked stands. 
  • In riparian areas, release individual trees from competition where hemlock was abundant and/or regeneration potential is low due to an overabundance of shrubs. This could be accomplished through mechanical or chemical means, with supplemental tree plantings. 

The proposed project would seek to accomplish a variety of environmental goals, including encouraging mast-producing species like oaks, restoring native species diversity, promoting the vigor of trees in the 21-50-year class, mitigating the negative impacts of vines, restoring commercial white pine plantations to more natural species compositions, promoting tree growth in riparian areas where hemlock has been lost, promoting habitat for wildlife species and increasing the diversity of tree age, structure and habitat. 

Comments identifying issues, concerns or opportunities associated with the project are due by the close of business on Feb. 26, and an additional 30-day comment period will open when the draft programmatic environmental assessment is complete. Only those who respond to this round of request for comments will remain on the mailing list for this project. 

Submit comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or mail them to c/o Steverson Moffat, Planning Team Leader, Nantahala National Forest, 123 Woodland Drive, Murphy, NC 28906. State “Nantahala National Forest Stand Improvement EA” in the subject line when providing electronic comments, or on the envelope when replying by mail.

For questions related to the proposal, contact Steverson Moffat, Nantahala National Forest NEPA Planning Team Leader at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 828.837.5152, x108. 

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