In March 2017, the Nantahala Ranger District issued a Scoping Notice for the Southside Project in North Carolina. The project includes timber harvests and treatments on stands within and near the Chattooga River headwaters. Despite strong public opposition, the District Ranger signed the final decision approving the project in February of 2019.
The project includes harvesting timber on 317 acres of national forest land (196 acres of 2-age harvests/ 121 acres of group selection); herbicide applications throughout timber harvesting sites, and on roads and skid trails; and burning 37 acres, in combination with a separate but connected proposal to burn 722 acres at Bull Pen and 956 acres at the eastern portion of the project area around Jacks Creek. Nearly 60% of the stands of timber offered for harvesting in the Southside Project are over 100 years old, and are prime candidates for old-growth restoration. At least two stands of timber are existing old growth, with trees near or over 200 years in age.
The latest: January 2021
Despite overwhelming public opposition throughout the Forest Service decision-making process (2017-2019), the Nantahala Ranger District is now gearing up to execute their controversial Southside Project. The old growth stand on top of Brushy Mountain that contains trees over 220 years old is scheduled for cutting, along with a stand adjacent to Granite City housing trees 140+ years old. The Southside Project will also cut down large old trees surrounding the Round Mountain spur of the Foothills Trail estimated at 120-150+ years old, and more. All told, almost 60% of the 317 acres on the block for timber harvesting is over 100 years old, and some of it is over 200 years old. Old growth forests are extremely rare, and are rich in biological diversity. Southside also includes logging habitat for the imperiled Green Salamander, widespread herbicide applications to kill native forest species in favor of “crop trees,” and road construction on steep, highly erodible soils.
The lead Forest Service personnel responsible for approving the Southside Project have retired. Now there’s a new district ranger for the Nantahala Ranger District, and a new forest supervisor for the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest. Today, the Forest Service has the complete discretionary authority to revisit this bad project, and make changes to reduce its most contentious elements. During recent conversations with the new District Ranger Mr. Troy Waskey, he stated that he’d “look at” Southside.
What can you do? Contact Ranger Waskey at firstname.lastname@example.org or (828) 371-5543 and ask that for starters, he drop the stands at Brushy Mountain, Granite City and Round Mountain on the Foothills Trail. Please make your voices heard!