***Update July 2***
The public comment period for the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan ended in June. Before it was over, the Forest Service heard from nearly 800 Audubon advocates who submitted comments, accounting for 10 percent of all comments received by the Forest Service.
Those are amazing numbers! Thanks to everyone who spoke up to advocates for specific birds and places in the forest that are special to you. Your voices combined will help shape the plan that will govern our public forests for a generation.
The next step is for the Forest Service to review comments and revise the plan, a process that will take about eight months. When a revised plan is released in 2021, we’ll have another chance to review it and will keep you updated along the way.
In the meantime, you can help by getting out in the forest to look for birds! Submitting your bird sightings on eBird.org helps show the Forest Service just how many birders care about these public lands and provides valuable data to researchers monitoring the forests.
***Original post February 1***
The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests in western North Carolina total more than 1 million acres. This landscape—a mosaic of high ridgelines, plunging rivers, and vital bird habitat—belongs to everyone. That means the general public (you and me) have a say in how the land is managed and protected.
The forests are governed by a single plan under the U.S. Forest Service. And that plan is about to undergo significant changes. The Forest Service will release a draft plan and environmental impact statement in February, with updated goals and standards that will impact everything from timber harvesting and mountain bike trails to habitat restoration that is crucial to the survival of birds like Golden-winged and Cerulean warblers and Wood Thrushes.
Audubon North Carolina is the voice for birds in the management of these public lands, and we have been tracking the plan revision process closely. For the past five years, we have worked with stakeholders through the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest Partnership and National Forest Foundation led Stakeholders Forum to help shape the plan.
The goal of these efforts has been to reach a consensus on forest management that prioritizes high-quality forest (and bird) habitat and provides ecosystem services, such as clean air and water, while also allowing the many people in western North Carolina who make a living on the forest to continue to support their livelihoods in a sustainable way.
We don’t know exactly what the revised plan will say, but we do know that Audubon will be paying close attention to what it means for birds. When the plan is released next month, Audubon will provide specific comments and recommendations based on the plan's contents, and you’ll have a chance to weigh in as well.
In the meantime, stay tuned for informational calls and click the links below for an overview of the three components Audubon is tracking most closely. If you have any questions, reach out to Audubon North Carolina Director of Conservation Curtis Smalling at firstname.lastname@example.org.