The upper loop trail in Joyce Kilmer hosts a diverse cove forest, featuring a variety of tree species. It is part of the Nantahala National Forests, and close to where firefighters are fighting a wildfire. File photo by Mike Belleme/Carolina Public Press
Ager asks question about national forests during forum
NC Rep. John Ager, D-Buncombe, asks the panel a question about the national forests during Carolina Public Press’ Feb. 19 forum at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

Carolina Public Press held a public forum about the future of the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests in North Carolina, which span more than 1.1 million acres across 18 counties in the western part of the state.

The forests are at a critical moment. After an 8-year planning process, the U.S. Forest Service released the draft of the Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest management plan on Friday, Feb. 7. When approved, the plan will set 20-year policies focused on the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests, including overseeing a multiple range of uses — from hiking and biking to wilderness and timber harvesting.

Carolina Public Press has reported on the revision process since it began eight years ago, including publishing more than 50 stories and holding events including public forums and trainings about the plan and public lands.

Lead environmental contributor Jack Igelman has reported on the development of the draft plan since the beginning, and he and Managing Editor Frank Taylor moderated.

Panelists were Michelle Aldridge, planning staff officer, U.S. Forest Service; Lang Hornthal, communications and development director, EcoForesters; Dr. Jonathan Horton, professor of biology, UNC Asheville; Josh Kelly, public lands field biologist, MountainTrue; and Andrea Leslie, aquatic biologiest, NC Wildlife Resources Commission. An audience Q&A followed.

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