Every 15-20 years, National Forests undergo a planning process. Thanks to recent changes in the way these are conducted, the opportunity for public involvement is greater than it has ever been. Nantahala nad Pisgah are currently entering the public comment period of this phase of the process. The plan is in development and they are looking for input and previewing some of the current thinking on the plan. The Access Fund and the CCC have been actively engaged in this for several years now, submitting letters at the appropriate stages, attending meetings and providing input. We hosted an information session on 7/9 a Black Done Mountain Sport, you can find the presentation from that meeting below. It will give you a general overview of the process, where things stand, and what we're focused on.
Currently, climbing is not a recognized activity in the forest and there is no fixed anchor policy in place. Both of these things mean that we have very little to stand on when it comes to access or fixed anchor issues in the forests. While we don't think that climbing or fixed anchors are currently at risk, we do need to take this opportunity to get them included in the plan so we can ensure access to the crags, the ability to maintain trails to climning areas and the ability to place and maintain fixed anchors.
Now it's time for the broader community to get involved. We've prepared a short hand out on the process and what we, as climbers, would like to see. You can find that below. Please try to attend one of the public information sessions if you can. These are casual, drop-in meetings where you can see maps of proposed planning areas and talk with the forest planning team. Climbers showing up to these meetings demonstrates how much we value the climbing areas in these forests. If you're not sure what these areas are, here's a short list: Whitesides, Looking Glass, Cedar Rock, John's Rock, Big Green, Table Rock, Shortoff, the NC Wall, the Amphitheater, Hawksbill and all the rest of Linville Gorge.
Our main themes for the comment letters and what we believe climbers should focus their comments on are:
Climbing! - Greater recognition, understanding and inventory of climbing on Forest
Stewardship - Improve climbing areas stewardship, trails, non-system trails used for approaches
Fixed Anchors - Appropriate, modern and clear fixed anchor policy
Resource protection - Maintain successful collaborative approach to sensitive resources (Peregrines, plants)
Public Meeting Dates:
July 11, 6-8 p.m.: Nantahala Ranger District at Tartan Hall, 26 Church St., Franklin
July 13, 6-8 p.m.: Pisgah Ranger District Office, 1600 Pisgah Hwy, Brevard
July 25, 3-6 p.m.: Appalachian Ranger District at Appalachian District Office, 632 Manor Road, Mars Hill
July 25, 3-6 p.m.: Cheoah Ranger District at Cheoah District Office, 1070 Massey Branch Road, Robbinsville
August 8, 3-6 p.m., Tusquitee Ranger District, Brasstown Community Center, 255 Settawig Rd, Brasstown
If you can't make the meetings, you can also email comments to: NCplanrevision@fs.fed.us with the subject line: “Geographic and Management Area building blocks,”or by mail at the following address:
Attn: Plan Revision Team Leader,
National Forests in North Carolina
160 Zillicoa St., Suite A
Asheville, NC 28801
The first draft of the plan will hopefully come out in 2018 and will also have a critical public comment period. We'll continue to work on ensuring that the best interests of climbers are represented.