Input needed on national forest plan
Hundreds gather in the Transylvania County Public Library to give their input at the U.S. Forest Service’s Pisgah Ranger District meeting on Monday, March 18.
Around 170 concerned citizens showed up for the meeting in Brevard from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. to discuss revising the plan for the national forests, which was created in 1987. The last revision took place in 1994.
The revision will undergo three phases. Phase 1 includes gathering and assessing input and data from the community. Phase 2 will entail identifying changes needed in the plan and is set to begin this summer. Phase 3 will result in the developed plan, set for implementation.
The plan is set to be complete by 2015. The forestry service hopes to have a report of the assessments availably by the end of September 2013.
The first phase of the revision began on Feb. 21 with the Cheoah Ranger District at the Graham County Community Center in Robbinsville. Since then, each of the ranger districts within the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests have met with their communities to discuss the current state of the forests.
A PowerPoint presentation outlining the revision process was shown to the audience. After the presentation, community members had the chance to openly express their opinions and concerns over the forests.
“We need to come up with a plan to make our forest productive,” said one attendee.
Many of the responses were framed around the concern of keeping the forests safe and productive. Others expressed concern over native wildlife in the forests and their dwindling numbers.
After the audience had the chance to speak, they were free to roam the room observing poster boards with information about the forests. Rangers were available to take questions and concerns.
The audience was also asked to write two notes, which were collected from all groups and placed on a large board, with two sections. The first, labeled “Me,” outlined the ways in which the community believed forests served them individually. The second, labeled “WNC,” discussed how all of Western North Carolina could be benefited.
Some of the responses listed benefits such as hiking and fishing, while others claimed having a place to get away from technology was reason enough to protect the forests.
Groups from both Haywood Community College and Western Carolina University attended the Brevard meeting to learn the impact they have on the forests and vice versa. They were also able to leave their input with the rangers.
Community members are welcome to submit questions and feedback to the rangers via email at NCplanrevision@fs.fed.us. Rangers ask that feedback be submitted by April 30.