Forestry in Action

Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan: Balancing Birds and Recreation

By identifying places that can handle more recreation, Audubon is ensuring vital bird habitat remains protected.

North Carolina’s national forests have enough space to support all kinds of people and activities, from bird watching to mountain biking. As population growth continues to expand in areas around our forests, these public lands have only become more important and popular for recreation.

The upcoming Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan Revisions will look at ways to balance more intensive recreational uses with the ecological needs of the forest. As a result, organizations with a significant stake in the plan revision process include recreation groups, such as mountain bikers, horseback riders, birdwatchers, hunters, and ATV users.

As the bird-conservation folks, Audubon has worked with these groups to identify places that are more or less appropriate for higher-impact recreation, with the goal of ensuring that vital bird habitat remains protected.

An example of this kind of partnership is work that has been done with the rock climbing community to introduce seasonal closures of cliffs that are home to nesting Peregrine Falcons. The closures help protect the birds, while ensuring the climbing community continues to have access outside of the nesting season.

Audubon has worked with partners for more than five years to contribute recommendations to the forest plan revision that direct intensive recreation away from important bird habitat. We won’t know the details of the plan until it’s released, but Audubon is hopeful that it will balance the need for access and recreation with protecting the resources 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

Read more on the forest plan:

Managing Habitat for Birds

Protecting Land for Birds

How you can help, right now