ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — Failing grades were given to a U.S. Forest Service plan for quadrupling logging in North Carolina’s Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests.
A report card issued by the Center for Biological Diversity and endorsed by 100 organizations and businesses distills the 2,000-page plan into a report card that grades and summarizes the 10 main issues.
Here’s the gist of it.
Experts give overall flunk, passing grades on a few issues
The Forest Service plan would dramatically increase logging in one of the country’s most-visited national forest areas while reducing protections for its most important recreation and conservation areas.
“The Forest Service gets an ‘F’ for a plan that opens up the Pisgah’s best places to logging,” Will Harlan said, a senior campaigner and scientist at the Center. “The only way to address the climate emergency and the extinction crisis is to protect more of the natural world. This plan issued under the Biden administration does exactly the opposite. It’s a travesty.”
The forest plan decides which areas will be logged and which areas will be protected. This blueprint will guide forest management for the next 30 years.
The 10 key issues focused on in the report card include trails, old-growth, recreation, water, climate and protected areas.
Expert analysts gave the plan passing grades on a few issues, but overall, it flunked.
How to be part of the solution
The report card also offers a cheat sheet with 10 ways to fix the plan.
These steps include:
- protecting all remaining old-growth forests;
- prohibiting logging on steep slopes and in trail corridors;
- strengthening protections for rare species’ habitat;
- keeping carbon sequestered in mature forests to protect our climate;
- safeguarding more than 101,000 acres of the wildest and most biologically diverse portions of the Pisgah-Nantahala.
The forest plan received a record-setting number of public comments. More than 92-percent of all comments supported stronger protections for the 1.1 million-acre forest.
“The plan utterly ignores eight years of public input,” Steven McBride said, the lead organizer of the I Heart Pisgah coalition. “It is a failed plan and a missed opportunity.”
Craggy National Scenic Area is top-priority logging destination
One of those missed opportunities was a failure to safeguard the proposed Craggy National Scenic Area, that would protect old-growth forests, pristine headwaters and panoramic views from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Craggy has widespread support from local communities, city and county governments and more than 150 businesses and organizations, including the timber industry. However, the Forest Service plan places more than 4,000 acres of Craggy in its highest-priority logging designation.
The forest plan’s highest grade in the report card is a D. However, the plan overall gets an ‘F’ for targeting more than 60-percent of the forest for logging, including a quarter-million acres of old-growth forests and rare species habitat.
The plan also authorizes 300 miles of new roads and massively increases herbicide use without evaluating the risks to rare and endangered species.
A 60-day objection period for the forest plan ends March 22. Organizations and individuals can object to the plan. They can also make their voice heard through the report card’s website.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.