Tree ring check. Jack Igelman / Carolina Public Press

Listen in as Jack Igelman, lead environmental reporter with Carolina Public Press, and Sam Evans, senior attorney and leader of the National Forests and Parks Program at the Southern Environmental Law Center, talk with CPP News and Community Manager Stephanie Carson about the future of more than 1.1 million acres of national forests in North Carolina — the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests.

The U.S. Forest Service has undertaken a multiyear effort to reshape how these public lands are managed, an effort that will impact much of western North Carolina’s ecology, culture and economy. Multiple groups — ranging from those seeking to protect hunting to those seeking to enhance wilderness — have been involved in trying to shape the plan.

Although national forests receive a level of protection, currently most areas not specifically given higher levels of protection are subject to a range of permitted uses. Timber harvesting is planned periodically in different areas of the forests. But some conservation groups worry that plans to cut sections of the Nantahalla near Round Mountain next year will sacrifice old-growth trees that are rare and deserve protection. So far, the U.S. Forest Service disagrees and says the trees in question are neither old enough nor rare enough to avoid harvesting.

You can read more about what’s happening in our ongoing Forest Lookouts special report, including about the 20,000 public comments submitted to the U.S. Forest Service about the area, proposals to harvest timber from some areas, and the ongoing and serious impact the forests have had on the history and economy of some of the most rural parts of North Carolina.

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