Nantahala-Pisgah
National Forest
Plan Revision
North Carolina
The headwaters of the Chattooga River are located in the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest Plan, which will create a framework for management over the next 10-15 years, is currently being revised.

UPDATE: On March 18th, the Forest Service announced that the comment period for the Nantahala and Pisgah Forest Plan revision will be extended beyond the original deadline of May 14th. In addition, all open houses regarding the plan revision have been cancelled at this time. The new comment deadline has not yet been announced. Check the NPNF Plan page for updates, or sign up to receive email updates from the Forest Service here.

 

The draft forest plan and draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) were released in February of 2020, kicking off a 90-day comment period.

The DEIS includes four plan alternatives, which differ in terms of management methods, special designations, access and sustainable recreation, and economic contributions of the forests. We are working on reading through and analyzing these documents, and will be sharing comments, concerns, and talking points as soon as possible– stay tuned.

Visit the Forest Service’s official Nantahala and Pisgah Forest Plan Revision page to read the complete project documents and learn about each of the proposed plan alternatives. Your voice is needed to help guide the Forest Service in completing the plan revision! Please submit your comments by May 14, 2020. !

Comment online (preferred): Forest Service’s online comment analysis and response application
or
Mail To: Attn: Plan Revision Team | National Forests in North Carolina | 160 Zillicoa Street | Asheville, NC 28801

Background

The Chattooga Conservancy has long been involved in the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest Plan Revision process, participating in partnership meetings and submitting comments. A primary goal of the organization throughout the process has been working to see that the Forest Service recognizes and protects the wilderness values of the Overflow Wilderness Study Area and the Terrapin Mountain Roadless Area, and that they consider the headwaters of Overflow Creek as qualified to be designated as an extension of the Chattooga National Wild and Scenic River.

Note: These maps illustrate our proposed Overflow Creek and Terrapin Mountain potential wilderness areas. The maps also include important national forest lands adjacent to the potential wilderness areas, such as the Wild & Scenic Chattooga River corridor, the Ellicott Rock Wilderness, the Overflow Creek area in the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia, and critical wildlife corridors.

  • Terrapin Mountain Map: Click here for the 11 x 14 PDF version and here for the 8 x 10 PDF version
  • Overflow Creek Map: Click here for the 11 x 14 PDF version and here for the 8 x 10 PDF version
Talking points:

OVERFLOW CREEK AREA

The Overflow Creek area is located in Macon County, southwest of Highlands. The area includes the congressionally designated Overflow Creek Wilderness Study Area. The late Dr. Robert Zahner, Highlands resident and one the most respected conservationists in the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains, championed the Overflow Creek area as a qualified wilderness area.

  • Ask the Forest Service to revise their evaluation of Overflow’s wilderness characteristics by emphasizing the following points:

Naturalness. Overflow Creek, within the congressionally designated wilderness study area, is one of the three main tributaries that join to form the West Fork of the Chattooga River, which is protected in the National Wild and Scenic River System. Overflow has some of the most remote and secluded areas in the Nantahala National Forest, including high elevation rock outcrops, cliffs, waterfalls and old growth forests, and contains, as a whole, a high degree of naturalness.

Opportunities for Solitude. Wilderness designation would protect the outstanding and abundant opportunities for solitude in the Overflow Creek area. Any impacts to these opportunities are not, as a whole, pervasive, and are effectively screened and buffered by the area’s topography and lush vegetation. Under the Eastern Wilderness Act, moreover, surrounding developments must not be considered to the extent that they were in the Forest Service’s initial evaluation of the area. In addition, the Forest Service should also consider active and/or passive restoration of wilderness characteristics.

Opportunities for Primitive/Unconfined Recreation. The Overflow Creek area provides outstanding opportunities to engage in primitive and unconfined recreation that lead to a visitor’s ability to feel a part of nature. These include observing wildlife, hiking, backpacking, hunting, horseback riding, fishing and camping. Again, impacts to these opportunities are not, as a whole, “pervasive,” and they are effectively screened and buffered by the area’s topography and vegetation.

Size & Manageability. The Forest Service stated that the Overflow Creek area is “smaller than stand-alone area size usually considered practicable for preservation and use in an unimpaired condition.” However, the Overflow Creek area is not too small. The Forest Service only evaluated the Overflow area as far as the North Carolina state line, and failed to consider the area’s contiguousness with 2,700 acres of primitive backcountry just across the state line, in the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia. Overflow’s 3,900 acre potential wilderness area in NC, together with a contiguous 2,700 acres of primitive backcountry in GA, encompass a 6,600 acre potential wilderness area. State boundaries should not determine the boundaries of wilderness.

Note:

  • Wilderness helps our local economy. Property values and tourist dollars go up where natural resources have been protected.
  • If Overflow becomes wilderness, management of the area will essentially stay as it is now. If it is declassified as a wilderness study area, it will be developed for other uses.

TERRAPIN MOUNTAIN AREA

The Terrapin Mountain area is located in Jackson and Macon Counties, just south of Cashiers, and is a 5,450 acre core area of rich biological diversity. It includes the Chattooga Cliffs—a unique scenic attraction along the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River—and portions of the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River corridor. A viable wildlife corridor also exists that connects the Terrapin Mountain area with the Ellicott Rock Wilderness Area.

    • Ask the Forest Service to revise their evaluation of Terrapin Mountain’s wilderness characteristics by emphasizing the following points:

Naturalness. The Terrapin Mountain area, as a whole, has a high degree of apparent naturalness. It includes impressive granitic domes at higher elevations, rare plant and animal communities, and supports high quality waters and diverse aquatic communities. Old logging roads throughout the area are not maintained and are almost completely overgrown. Linear wildlife strips, moreover, are not to be considered as a limiting factor for wilderness, under the guidelines of the Eastern Wilderness Act.

Opportunities for Solitude. Wilderness designation would protect the outstanding and abundant opportunities for solitude in the Overflow Creek area. Any impacts to these opportunities are not, as a whole, pervasive, and are effectively screened and buffered by the area’s topography and lush vegetation. Under the Eastern Wilderness Act, moreover, surrounding developments must not be considered to the extent that they were in the Forest Service’s initial evaluation of the area. In addition, the Forest Service should also consider active and/or passive restoration of wilderness characteristics.

Opportunities for Primitive/Unconfined Recreation. The Terrapin Mountain area offers outstanding opportunities for solitude and unconfined/primitive recreation. Under the Eastern Wilderness Act, adjacent land uses and development cannot be the sole negating factor for an area’s opportunities for solitude and unconfined/primitive recreation.

Size & Manageability. The Forest Service argues that existing private land inholdings impact the area, and that a viable wildlife corridor between Terrapin Mountain and the Ellicott Rock Wilderness Area is prohibited by private land inholdings; however, their analysis is incorrect because much of the inholding acres have been acquired by the Forest Service. Under the Eastern Wilderness Act, moreover, adjacent private land ownership patterns should not be the sole negating factor for an area’s size and manageability as a wilderness area. Wilderness designation for the remote, biologically rich Terrapin Mountain area, and its connectivity with Wild & Scenic Chattooga River Corridor and the Ellicott Rock Wilderness Area, will help provide for viable populations of unique native plants and animals.

Note:

  • Help ensure that the Forest Service’s mistakes are corrected, and that the Forest Service gives proper consideration of the Overflow Creek and Terrapin Mountain areas as potential wilderness areas. Your comments can help protect these remarkable landscapes for future generations!

SEND COMMENTS TO:

Submit online (preferred): Forest Service’s online comment analysis and response application
or
Mail To: Attn: Plan Revision Team | National Forests in North Carolina | 160 Zillicoa Street | Asheville, NC 28801