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  1. #1
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    Courthouse area timbering project update


  2. #2
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    Could you post a quick summary for those without a subscription?

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  3. #3
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    WAYNESVILLE — Environmentalists reached a compromise with the government Monday that will spare some of the most sensitive areas of Courthouse Creek from logging.

    The agreement with the U.S. Forest Service means 54 acres of mostly high elevation trees in Pisgah Ridge National Heritage Area are off the table.

    The entire project, which the forest service has said is necessary for habitat improvement and forest health, will now include 368 acres in a bowl-shaped zone in Pisgah National Forest visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway and Devil’s Courthouse.

    The legal agreement also required the forest service to decommission a road constructed to allow for logging in the three stands that are now out of the project.

    Western North Carolina Alliance, one of the groups that challenged the timber plan, will help the forest service remove culverts, re-grade and re-seed the roadbed.

    The Southern Environmental Law Center appealed the project on behalf of the Wilderness Society, Wild South and Western North Carolina Alliance.

    It’s unclear how much of the timber work will be visible from the parkway, said DJ Gerken, senior attorney at the law center.

    He said the agreement, at the least, mitigates the impact to the view and possibly erases it. Overall, he said, the groups are very pleased.

    “We didn’t get everything we wanted, that’s what makes it a compromise,” he said. “It’s a substantially improved project.”

    The decommissioning of the road is important to long-term environmental health.

    “Roads are one of, if not the primary cause of, water quality problems on the forest,” said Hugh Irwin, conservation planner with the Wilderness Society, in a written statement. “Decommissioning the road just makes sense. It saves the forest service money by reducing the size of its road system, protects important trout habitat around Courthouse Creek, and ensures that this road stops causing environmental damage.”

    The Southern Appalachian Multiple Use Council, which has in the past represented timber interests, could not be reached Monday.

    The logging, which could begin as early as 2015, is dispersed in sites across the 7,000-acre Courthouse Creek area. The project would take four to five years and harvest about 6 percent of the trees in the area.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by jn35646 View Post
    Could you post a quick summary for those without a subscription?

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    Life Pro Tip: Delete your cookies and you don't need a subscription to access the online AC-T.

  5. #5
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    thanks to both of you

  6. #6
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    I'll try to get to the FS office and see the new maps if they have any - no details in the release about which three stands are out of scope but my hope is they will not be putting a new bridge over Chestnut Creek right at the falls as they had previously planned. I actually think more of the project should be visible from the Parkway so people will come to realize the impact of logging and the FS isn't allowed to hide much of it from view. The problem with the viewshed is that it concentrates logging in areas 'out of sight' and thus 'out of mind'...
    many gears, some pies

  7. #7
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    Hey Woodman, did you see the PR from Southern Environmental Law Center?

    Southern Environmental Law Center » Newsroom » Conservation Groups Reach Agreement With Forest Service

    A key piece of the agreement involves decommissioning approximately five miles of Forest Service Road that ran through the State Natural Heritage Area. Decommissioning includes returning the road to a more sustainable state by removing culverts and artificial stream crossings, re-grading the road to a more natural contour and seeding the roadbed. This work will be completed by the Forest Service in a partnership with the Western North Carolina Alliance who, along with partners, will explore opportunities to provide recreational access.
    I am thinking they mean parts of 5003/140A and possibly parts of 5031 - which could mean they restrict bike access to all those roads. That was discussed in the original proposals. All we have is the vague statement that they will 'explore opportunities to provide recreational access"
    many gears, some pies

  8. #8
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    I was finally able to get a few answers about the details of the agreement. As I had guessed, the agreement is about FR 5031 and FR140A. Based on my conversations with USFS road FR140A is not a system road to begin with, and thus much of the work detailed along it is dropped from the project. The road was actually decommissioned a few years back but no work to actually decommission it was ever performed (like removing culverts). In the near to mid-term this means (AFAIK) that it will just remain as it is and no change in it's use designation will occur - but the USFS isn't really clear on that point. At some future date they may decide to get the road put back into the road inventory and this might happen before any decommissioning ever occurs, and what designation it gets then is anyone's guess. I know USFS likes to have FR140A available as a potential fire break and for prescribed burns.

    Also of interest to us is that FR 5031 will be decommissioned from Kiesee Creek to Farlow Gap. As with FR140A, the final designation of the 'trail' that it will become isn't at all decided, nor is there any planned timeline for making such a decision.... Western North Carolina Alliance has agreed to spearhead the road/trail conversion.

    The bottom line, so far, is that all of FR140A and FR5031 between Kiesee Creek and Farlow Gap are in a state of limbo as far as their official designation is concerned. Again, there was no timeline stated regarding when such final designation might even be discussed.

    I'm trying to get my hands on an updated project map, if/when I do I'll post it.

    The rest of the project is going to move forward, like it or not. Operations could begin as soon as spring this year - and once they start I expect that access to the project areas will be totally restricted while they are working.

    If you like to ride back there in the middle of nowhere Pisgah, then get it now and get it often - before it's out of bounds for several years.
    many gears, some pies

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