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The Position of the Appalachian Society of American Foresters


Position

The Appalachian Society of American Foresters believes that national forests should be managed under the multiple-use mandates of the Organic Administration Act of 1897 and the Multiple Use-Sustained Yield Act of 1960. These uses include recreation, range, timber, wildlife, and fisheries. Recent trends in national forest management in the southern Appalachians have moved away from the multiple-use mandate and toward the preservation management mandate of the National Park Service. We oppose this shift in management direction and recommend that scientifically-based management strategies be incorporated into the "Rolling Alternative" management plan currently being developed by Forest Service Planning Teams.

An active forest management program that includes timber harvest, prescribed burning and thinning of existing stands, with special consideration to botanically or culturally unique areas, is needed to maintain the health, diversity, and economic benefits of the national forests. Such a program will provide for a variety of habitats and forest conditions distributed across the national forests. A "hands on" plan that provides a wide range of age classes in all forest types on national forests, with close supervision to maintain environmental quality, natural beauty, and unique areas would ensure ecosystem health, promote economic prosperity, and benefit the most people in the long run.

Issues

1. Currently about 30 to 60% of Southern Appalachian national forests are in wilderness areas or in other set-asides where active management is severely limited or prohibited. The amount of land in these categories has increased dramatically in the past two decades. Forest management activities necessary to maintain forest health and sustain multiple values have been critically curtailed in this form of "hands-off" management. Harvesting methods to regenerate valuable, shade-intolerant species have been severely restricted because of threats of litigation and appeals.

2. Restricting timber harvesting on national forests is not in the best interests of the American people. Timber harvesting provides the raw materials for more than 5,000 wood and paper products that are used every day. On national forests, timber harvesting is closely supervised and does not degrade the environment, as decades of documented forest science research has conclusively shown. Timber harvests scattered over the landscape of national forests, besides providing income to forest workers and revenues for schools and roads in affected counties, would create the greatest possible variety of habitats for game and non-game species. Properly conducted timber harvests with appropriate environmental safeguards have little impact on water quality. If timber harvesting is severely restricted on national forests, there will be more harvesting on less regulated lands where environmental impacts are likely to be greater.

3. Ecosystems affected by properly conducted harvesting activities and prescribed burning recover quickly and provide essential requirements for many wildlife species that need early successional habitats. All appropriate forms of harvesting methods, including both even- and uneven-aged methods, should be available for use on national forests to accomplish management goals.

Background

Management Mandate

National forests have been mandated for multiple-use management for more than 100 years. In fact, multiple-use management was born on the national forests and served as a model for forest management on other lands for much of the past century. However, beginning in the 1960s pressures began to build for greater consideration of non-consumptive uses on the national forests, including wilderness. The Wilderness Act was passed in 1964, providing for significant areas of the national forests to be preserved in their "natural state". Nationwide, about 20% of the national forest system was designated as wilderness. Until recently this blend of consumptive and non-consumptive uses provided a wide range of recreational and commercial opportunities on national forests.

Recent Trends

As efforts to promote wilderness or single-use designations for large portions of the national forests accelerated over the past 20 years, active forest management programs have come increasingly under attack. Well-funded, highly vocal groups have been successful in convincing many people that national forests should be managed much like national parks. The Forest Service is now being pressured to designate additional areas as old-growth, scenic, or similar set-asides, which are merely precursors to eliminating timber management from national forests. Recent trends substantiate the shift in national forest management toward the preservation mandate of the national parks.

Consequences

The preservation-dominated management philosophy now being considered by the Forest Service in their "Rolling Alternative" plan will have serious repercussions on national forests. Forest management activities such as timber harvesting, thinning, and prescribed burning, which are necessary to maintain the productivity and diversity of the national forests, will be severely limited or banned altogether under most prescription designations. In addition, fisheries management activities such as stocking, electroshocking, and installation of habitat improvement structures will not be allowed in wilderness areas.

Unreasonable restrictions on timber harvesting and other management activities will negatively impact forest wildlife. Regulated timber harvests indirectly increase habitat diversity and wildlife populations, at no cost to the taxpayer.

Conclusions

The Appalachian Society of American Foresters is especially concerned about maintaining the productivity, health and diversity of southern Appalachian national forests in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. We believe that scientifically based forest management provides the best opportunities for sustaining the wide array of forest resources so valued by people in this region. Management prescriptions must have multiple-use goals where suitable timberland is provided to help meet the demand for wood products of the American public. Designating ever-increasing acreage in the national forests as off-limits to the practice of forestry, and especially timber management, goes against long-established legislative mandates to manage these forests for multiple uses. Once the flexibility to manage the land is lost, future generations of Americans will face declines in overall forest health, plant and wildlife diversity, recreational opportunities, aesthetics, and other forest values.