The U.S. Forest Service is planning to install a gate on Wine Spring Road near Franklin after communications equipment housed less than a mile up the road at Wine Spring Gap was repeatedly stolen and vandalized. Damage has totaled $20,000 in losses, and one of the victims, Macon County Emergency Services, requested that the Forest Service do something about it.
It’s about that time. Time to worry about PILT money.
After seeing the federal payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) program receive a one-year extension early this year, local leaders are now looking out for more than the program’s continuance going forward.
More than 100 people filled the room at Asheville’s Crowne Plaza Hotel earlier this month, but they weren’t there for the pretzels. This 16th meeting in the forest management plan revision process for the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests drew people from across Western North Carolina representing a spectrum of interests. Those interests all converged on one topic — wildlife.
“The overall theme that I feel like from the wildlife habitat perspective is to manage this forest for diversity,” Sheryl Bryan, a U.S. Forest Service wildlife biologist, told the crowd.
More than 300 of the 1,000-plus comments the Forest Service has received so far about its management plan pertained to wildlife, and of those, Bryan said, “we did by far receive the most comments concerning the amount of early successional habitat and the mix of age classes associated with that. So the elephant’s out there and we’re going to talk about that.”
Western North Carolina is covered with more than 1,500 square miles of national forest, and residents often measure their assets in terms of towering hardwoods, flocks of turkeys and mountain streams.
National forest land belongs to everybody, but “everybody” includes a pretty diverse group of hikers, bird watchers, hunters, mountain bikers, horseback riders, fishermen, paddlers, environmentalists, loggers and so on — all with different ideas and priorities. As the U.S. Forest Service works toward a new guiding management plan for the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests, it’s a challenge to find a strategy that “everybody” can agree on.
From Clingmans Dome to Juneywank Falls to the winding Blue Ridge Parkway, Swain County is rich in natural beauty. But all that public land can make the budget tight for county government, which depends on property tax for much of its revenue.
As Brent Martin stared down the barrel of an impending tug-of-war over WNC’s national forests, he dreaded yet another round in the same old fight that’s played out time and time again in his decades as an environmental advocate.
Loggers versus wilderness lovers. Horseback riders versus hikers. Hunters versus environmentalists.
A sweeping review of the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests will get under way in a matter of months, a behemoth, multi-year process that will layout a new blueprint for how the forests are managed for the first time in 20 years.
Environmentalists have been prepping for the forest plan for more than five years already. After all, the fate of 1.1 million acres of public land in the mountains hinges on the vision mapped out in the forest plan.
The proposed sale of U.S. Forest Service land to find money for counties who have lost revenue from declining timber sales is just a bad idea, a product of the Bush Administration’s fiscal indulgences rather than well thought-out land management policies.