Survey Reveals Eastern Old Growth Bonanza

June 29, 2000

Steve Holmer

A comprehensive survey released this month has documented 77,418 acres of old growth forests in the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest. This makes up 7.5% of the Nantahala-Pisgah land base. This acreage reflects 141 delineated old growth sites found in numerous large geographic areas and mountain ranges in western North Carolina. The survey found that 17 old growth sites in this national forest are over 1,000 acres in size. These large sites constitute three-quarters of the old growth acreage that was found.

This survey was coordinated by the Western North Carolina Alliance, with help from the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition and the North Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club. It includes the field work of numerous researchers that have been verifying old growth forests in the Nantahala-Pisgah throughout the 1990s.

"This effort began in the early 1990s out of concern about the fate of old growth forests on national forest land" said Bob Gale, who is the Ecologist for the Western North Carolina Alliance. "The Alliance started the Seeking Older Forests campaign to involve the public in the process of nominating potential old growth sites. The results of this survey reflect hard work by people like Rob Messick to verify some of these nominations, and it puts into clear perspective the importance of protecting sensitive parts of the Nantahala-Pisgah land base."

Only 37% of the old growth acreage that was found in this survey falls within the inventoried roadless areas that are now being considered for permanent protection. Currently, only 21% of the old growth forest delineated in this survey has permanent protective status in Wilderness or Research Natural Areas. Securing the inventoried roadless areas would be a step toward protecting more of the old growth acreage found in this survey. However, even if the inventoried roadless areas were protected, 42% of the old growth acreage found in this survey would have no permanent protective status. For more information please contact Rob Messick, c/o Western North Carolina Alliance, 828/258-8737