||Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests exhibit unique plant communities and diverse
species. The Land Management Plan (LMP) for these National Forests are currently being
revised under the New 2012 Planning Rule. The revision, legislatively governed as
a collaborative process, provides the opportunity to influence management practices.
Recently through the Federal Registrar the USFS published a “Notice of Intent to Revise
the Land and Resource Management Plan and Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement”.
Much of stakeholder interest has centered on the following statement: “There is a
need to provide direction to proactively manage, maintain, or restore ecosystems,
watersheds, and rare habitats, to better control non-native invasive species, and
to consider riparian area management”.
This analysis builds upon a prior ecological departure analysis of Nantahala and Pisgah
forests that compared each ecosystem’s current structure to its historical Natural
Range in Variation (NRV) to identify departed ecosystems. NRV provides reference conditions
which describe how forest condition classes for an ecosystem were influenced by disturbance
and succession prior to European settlement. I applied the NRV concept in a two part
analysis of restoration needs in Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests to first determine
where within a forest's departure active management interventions are needed and then
to identify watersheds which contain high levels of restoration needs without conflicting
with local stakeholder conservation interests.
Local partners were engaged in verifying results of the restoration needs analysis
and synthesizing potential active restoration techniques. In total, this analysis
identified over 270,000 acres as in need of active restoration, mostly residing within
the mid to late closed forest condition classes. The first portion of this study indicates
that there is currently a need to increase active restoration efforts through management
activities such as prescribed burning. The second portion of this study shows that
there is sufficient area available for timber and prescribed burns to take place that
do not conflict with local stakeholder interests. The results illustrate that prescribed
burning is the appropriate active management scenario for most of the study area,
including seven of the ten watersheds that exhibit the strongest need for active restoration.