What will happen to the Appalachian Trail? (Sustainability Series, January edition)

Ever notice how quickly young people get to the heart of the matter?

When the team behind I Heart Pisgah asked local youth what they love about Pisgah National Forest, Ronya, thirteen, said:

“I love this forest because it’s a habitat for so many creatures. And because it’s full of life — and I don’t think we can take that life away.”

She pretty much nailed it, right?

There’s an endless list of other important reasons to protect forests, but another one that stands out to us right now is that forests help mitigate climate change.

So when we heard about I Heart Pisgah’s coalition, we knew we had to learn more about it.

Will Harlan, Big Ivy resident and Editor in Chief of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, readily admits that although he’s an avid outdoors lover, forest planning never quite piqued his interest. “Honestly,” he says. “It always sounded like a yawner.”

But when the U.S. Forest Service released their preliminary 30-year-plan for Pisgah National Forest in 2013, it was alarming enough to change Harlan’s mind. The draft plan proposed substantial increases in logging.

It would leave 70% of Pisgah — including many well-loved corridors like the Appalachian Trail and the Mountains to Sea Trail, as well as vital habitats like trout streams and watersheds that provide clean drinking water for WNC residents — unprotected and open to timber harvests.

More than 300 of his Big Ivy neighbors showed up at a meeting in the community center to ask the Forest Service questions about their plan. And the overwhelming support for our forests snowballed into what is now I Heart Pisgah, a coalition of businesses, organizations, and thousands of citizens who believe the 1.1 million acre Pisgah National Forest deserves protecting and intentional planning.

“It’s been so inspiring and astonishing to hear so many people speaking passionately about how much they love Pisgah,” says Harlan.

And the people have definitely spoken.

  • Over 100 kids spoke at a youth rally last August. Check out this beautiful video that captures what kids love about Pisgah, in their own words.

  • The Forest Service received more than 22,000 public comments about the plan, 98% of which favor permanent protections for Pisgah.

  • The Buncombe County Commissioners and Asheville City Council have both passed unanimous, bipartisan resolutions supporting more protected areas in the Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest.

I Heart Pisgah is a coalition of more than 100 businesses, organizations, and thousands of citizens. And growing. “We’re building a critical mass of people who all have this shared vision for protecting the places where we play,” says Harlan.

If you’re inspired to join that critical mass, you can join right here. It’s free, and there will be events in the next few months once the forest plan is released. You’ll be able to learn the latest news, write letters to the Forest Service, and make sure your voice is heard.

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