From early discussions in 2013 to a draft plan available today covering the next 15 years, the Nantahala and Pisgah forest management proposal has been revised in coordination with tribal, state and county governments.

But the collaboration didn’t — and doesn’t — end there. A significant part of that decision making needs to come from the public. Your thoughts on diverse areas such as wildlife habitats, clean water, forest access, cultural resources, recreation and local economic contributions have the ability to shape a forest plan that all of us will have to live with for at least a half of a generation.

A quick synopsis of the draft is available at https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd699387.pdf, but the whole plan, including a virtual open house and the ability to submit comments is found at USDA Forest Service website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc/home/?cid=stelprdb5397660.

The draft plans divides the 1 million acre Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest into several management areas. Locally, the Eastern Escarpment totals nearly 140,000 acres of forest service land in five counties, including Watauga.

The plan is also divided into the areas of multiple economic drivers, including manufacturing, health care, construction, agriculture, wood products and tourism — in other words, areas that touch most of us in many ways.

The 90-day public comment period ends June 29, so time is of the essence. Help the forest grow by making your voice heard.

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