Restoration Needs of Forest Ecosystems in Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests


Urban, Dean

Ponder, Marissa





Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences


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.



NRV, forests, Nantahala, Pisgah, restoration


Restoration Needs of Forest Ecosystems in Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests


Master's project


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