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Environmentalists, local governments oppose Pisgah National Forest plan

Looking north from Apricot Buttress on the western flank of a mountain called The Chimneys - part of the Jonas Ridge, which forms the eastern rim of the Linville Gorge.
Ken Thomas
A view of the Apricot Buttress in the Pigsah National Forest on the western flank of a mountain called The Chimneys.

The U.S. Forest Service has wrapped up a week of meetings in Asheville on a new management plan for the Pisgah National Forest. The proposal has been a decade in the making, and faces widespread opposition.

The most controversial part of the plan would allow logging in about half the forest, including areas of old-growth trees.

Will Harlan is a biologist and lead organizer for the I Heart Pisgah Coalition. He says the plan needs to focus on preservation.

"We need stronger rules in place," Harlan said. "We need more protected areas in place to ensure that our drinking water is healthy and clean, our rare species are protected, our beloved trails and scenery are protected."

The city of Asheville, Buncombe County, and a host of environmental groups have objected. Harlan says a legal challenge is likely if the logging expansion is in the final version of the plan, which will be released later this year.

"The good news is that the Forest Service can still fix this plan," he said. "If they take some of the suggestions they've heard at these objection meetings they can very easily fix this plan before they finalize it."

Bradley George is WUNC's AM reporter. A North Carolina native, his public radio career has taken him to Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and most recently WUSF in Tampa. While there, he reported on the COVID-19 pandemic and was part of the station's Murrow award winning coverage of the 2020 election. Along the way, he has reported for NPR, Marketplace, The Takeaway, and the BBC World Service. Bradley is a graduate of Guilford College, where he majored in Theatre and German.
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