The Feasibility of Forestry Operations Within the Asheville, NC, Municipal Watershed
Asheville is a rapidly growing city in western North Carolina, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Asheville draws drinking water from two artificial reservoirs, Bee Tree and North Fork, located northeast of the city. The reservoirs collectively hold of 6.5 billion gallons of water. The two watersheds total 22,000 acres, and are almost entirely covered by hardwood forests. The watershed lands have recently come under jurisdiction of a conservation easement held by the Conservation Trust of North Carolina, as a steward for the City of Asheville. The easement ensures that the public traveling along the Blue Ridge Parkway will have an unaffected viewshed, and that the city’s populace will have clean water supply. However, the easement technically permits forestry operations within the watershed, if such management benefits Asheville. There is some interest by the city to pursue such management. This master’s project qualitatively and quantitatively analyzes Appalachian municipal watershed forestry management for Galax, VA, Spartanburg, SC, Altoona, PA, and Greenville, SC. A review of these municipalities’ management experience, their history, water quality, and current management emphasizes the importance of developing Best Management Practices specifically for municipal watershed management. If these are used in forestry operations, timber harvesting may potentially benefit Asheville financially. However, a GIS-based analysis that examines the potential of harvestable lands within the Asheville municipal watershed reveals substantial limitations for hypothetical forestry management. Given the details of the easement, riparian buffers, and three slope scenarios (15%, 25%, and 35%), very small areas are hypothetically available for forestry management (e.g. a maximum of 25 hectares under a scenario of < 35% slope). Road networks designed to minimize land impacts and connect potential forestry sites were all deemed entirely impractical, and would undoubtedly not meet criteria established by the conservation easement. The qualitative analysis suggests that careful management of forestry operations could benefit Asheville. However, the quantitative, GIS-based analysis concludes that extremely small areas are available for harvesting and related management. Using this information, and considering the ecologically invested populace of Asheville, forestry management is not recommended for Asheville, NC.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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