There’s no stronger land protection classification in the U.S. than official Wilderness designation. Wilderness Areas are federal lands in which human activities are restricted to scientific research and non-mechanized recreation. Hiking and horseback riding are allowed, but activities like mountain biking or riding ATVs are prohibited.
Wilderness designations can only be granted by an act of Congress, but the revised Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan that will be released next month will include an assessment of which lands might be considered for future Wilderness classification.
Audubon is broadly supportive of more Wilderness protections in western North Carolina, but our highest priority is ensuring the creation and protection of high-quality bird habitat. In many cases, this means protecting important habitat in the face of more intensive human activity, but not always. Sometimes, habitat management for threatened birds requires practices such as controlled burns or forest restoration that addresses disease or invasive species.
When the plan revisions are released, Audubon will be pushing for important bird habitat to be included in areas recommended for Wilderness protections. But we will also be considering whether certain inaccessible backcountry areas truly need Wilderness designations and whether more active management is needed in some places to improve the health and resilience of the forest.
Learn more about the forest plan revision process here. If you have any questions, stay tuned for future informational calls with our staff or reach out to Audubon North Carolina Director of Conservation Curtis Smalling at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more on the forest plan: