The USDA Forest Service hosted the Nantahala and Pisgah forest plan revision objection meetings via teleconference, Aug. 2-4.
The meetings included discussions between Forest Service officials, objectors, and interested parties who provided input during previous public comment periods.
“The meetings are incredibly valuable because they give us an opportunity to better understand the objection issues and consider potential remedies,” said Deputy Regional Forester Rick Lint, who serves as the objection reviewing officer. “I’m greatly appreciative to everyone who provided input. This is an important opportunity for us to discuss possible solutions together.”
The meetings were organized by related topics including recreation, wilderness, soil and water, roads, forest management, wildlife, and climate change.
Lint was joined by Forest Supervisor James Melonas and the objection resolution team, which includes forest planning specialists from local and national Forest Service offices.
The revised plan would replace the current plan, which has been in use since 1987 and has not seen significant changes since 1994.
Local environmental and outdoor organizations, private citizens, and local government representatives took part in the discussion, which included about 75 participants each day.
Throughout the meetings, Lint and Melonas expressed appreciation for the concerns raised and their confidence in the process to revise the plan. The objection resolution team is reviewing all objections and considering suggested remedies.
“We always strive to learn, to do better, to listen, and to account for different viewpoints,” said Melonas. “We have had a very collaborative process, and this objection period furthers our open public efforts.”
Following the meetings, the Forest Service plans to complete any work needed to make the forest plan consistent with the objection reviewing officer’s response to the issues raised.
The plan is expected to be finalized in the coming months. The timeline to complete the plan will depend on what is required to address input from the meetings.
The recorded meetings are scheduled to be posted to the website for the National Forests in North Carolina later this month: http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/nfsnc/nprevision
The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests are part of the Southern Region of the U.S. Forest Service. The region encompasses 13 states and Puerto Rico. Known as Region 8 within the Forest Service, the Southern Region consists of 14 national forest units and two special units. National Forests in the Southern Region are managed to strike a balance between resource development and protecting wild places for recreation and wildlife.