Opinion: Old growth slated for cutting

Chattooga Conservancy calls for concerned citizens to attend a meeting to object to cutting old growth forests in the headwaters of the Chattooga Wild & Scenic River in N.C., near the Ellicott Rock Wilderness Area. The Chattooga Conservancy calls for the public to attend this important meeting about the Southside Project, and to participate in a protest rally at noon on Nov. 1, to demand that their voices be heard. The meeting will be hosted by the U.S. Forest Service, and will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 1 at the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest office in Asheville, 160 Zillicoa St. The “objection resolution” meeting is now 8 a.m.-noon.

At this meeting, the Forest Service has decided to speak only to those who qualified as formal “objectors” to the agency’s Southside Project, to seek a solution to the conflict. Though the Forest Service received over 200 comments on the Southside Project, just the Chattooga Conservancy and 29 other organizations and individuals will be recognized at the conflict resolution meeting. Other members of the public are allowed to attend, but will not be permitted to speak.

What is at stake?

The Nantahala Ranger District of Nantahala National Forest has proposed a so-called “ecological restoration project” targeting 20,000 acres of public land in Macon and Jackson Counties, near the Ellicott Rock Wilderness Area and the Chattooga Wild & Scenic River. Ironically, the Southside Project includes cutting down rare, old-growth forests, heavy herbicide use and excessive prescribed burning. Only one-half of 1 percent of old-growth forests remains in the Southeast. Native old growth forests harbor an unparalleled richness of biological diversity, provide carbon sinks to mitigate the effects of climate change, and provide critical habitat for endangered species such as the Green Salamander.

Why is it important for the public to attend?

The public owns our national forests! The Forest Service works for the public. Chattooga Conservancy knows the public understands the ecological, economic and aesthetic values of native forests, and citizens should be allowed to participate and have their voices heard at this important meeting.

How Can The Public Make A Difference?

The noon protest rally will provide a forum for those who would like to speak in protest of the Southside Project, and to ask that—as the owners of our national forests—their voices be heard. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that has,” said Margaret Mead. For more information click here or call 706-782-6097.

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Old growth at Granite City that is slated for cutting. Photos by Kevin Fitzpatrick.

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