Conservation groups are hailing an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service that they say will protect an area of rare old-growth forest from logging near Franklin in the Nantahala National Forest.
The Southern Environmental Law Center had appealed a logging proposal, called the Haystack project, on behalf of the Western North Carolina Alliance, Wild South and the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition. The groups said original plans for the timber sale would have cut nearly 50 acres of old growth forest — one of the rarest habitats in North Carolina forests. The groups also raised concerns that construction of logging roads on steep and unstable mountain slopes could pose landslide risks and threaten mountain waterways.
Under a settlement finalized last week, the Nantahala Ranger District agreed to abandon two sections of the Haystack project containing trees that are 100 to 200 years old. The Forest Service also addressed the groups’ concerns about building roads on steep terrain by scaling back the length of a planned new road, which will reduce the project’s long-term footprint in the forest, according to a recent news release.
“Old-growth forests in the mountains of North Carolina provide important habitat for a variety of wildlife and plant life, but they are rare,” said Amelia Burnette, staff attorney with the forest coalition. “We commend the Forest Service for working with us to protect this significant resource.”