Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, February 17, 2023

Contact:

Will Harlan, (828) 230-6818, WHarlan@biologicaldiversity.org

Forest Plan Fails Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest

Federal Plan Will Quadruple Logging in Most Popular U.S. National Forest

ASHEVILLE, N.C.— The U.S. Forest Service released the Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest Plan today, quadrupling logging and reducing protections for the most visited national forest in the country.

The Forest Service disregarded a record-setting 36,000 public comments supporting more and stronger protections for the 1.1-million-acre national forest and ignored the will of a crowd of more than 400 people who rallied outside the Forest Service headquarters last fall urging the agency to safeguard more of the forest.

“The Forest Service flat-out refused to listen to the public and consider easy, win-win solutions that were widely supported,” said Will Harlan, a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Instead it’s pursuing its own hyper-aggressive logging agenda that sentences the forest to decades of conflict, litigation, and community resistance.”

The newly released Pisgah-Nantahala Forest Plan is a blueprint for the next three decades of forest management — a map that determines which parts of the forest will be logged and which will be protected. It opens more than 63% of the forest to logging, including recreational and ecological hotspots, and reduces protections for the forest and its wildlife.

The Center — along with a coalition of more than 100 businesses and organizations — published a report card summarizing and evaluating the plan’s most important topics, including old growth, recreation, water quality, biological diversity and climate. The report card issues the plan failing grades in most categories. It acknowledges that the final plan made marginal improvements, including the addition of one Wild and Scenic River and the protection of 700 additional acres, but they are overshadowed by colossal failures with long-term impacts, including:

  • Failing to protect more than 101,000 acres of biological and recreational hotspots.
  • Placing 44,000 acres of old-growth forests in its highest priority logging designations.
  • Allowing logging along the Appalachian Trail, Mountains to Sea Trail, and Trail of Tears National Historic Trail corridors.
  • Allowing logging on steep slopes with weakened protections for streams and rivers.
  • Authorizing more than 300 miles of new logging roads and unlimited use of herbicides.
  • Failing to evaluate the role of mature and old-growth forests in storing carbon and addressing the climate crisis.
  • Failing to protect Natural Heritage Areas — the most biologically diverse forests that shelter 70% of the Pisgah-Nantahala’s rare and endangered species.
  • Failing to recommend the Craggy National Scenic Area, which has unanimous bipartisan political, public, stakeholder, and community support. Instead, the plan places 3,000 acres in its highest priority logging designations.

The report card echoes the concerns expressed by an unprecedented 14,000 objections filed against the plan last year. Objectors included the city of Asheville and Buncombe County — the largest and most populous city and county in the Pisgah-Nantahala footprint, with the most forest users.

“The Forest Service could have chosen widely supported compromises and solutions that even the timber industry and hunting organizations supported,” said Harlan. “Instead, the agency decided to reject cooperation, collaboration, and public input. For more than a decade, the public has been sending a clear and consistent message: Protect more of the Pisgah-Nantahala. The Forest Service didn’t listen.”

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.

center locations

Programs: