Swannanoa Valley Alliance For Beauty & Prosperity
PO Box 1341 Black Mountain, NC 28711
828-669-6677 828-669-8862 fax

Asheville Watershed: Management Points/Questions

Concerning Proposed Commercial Logging Program

-Why a commercial logging proposal in the first place? Why, if the central purpose of the Asheville Watershed (AW) is to provide high quality water, is the City proposing commercial logging of that 22,000 acre City asset and treasure?

Moreover, given the importance of the AW, how did the decision to contract out a forestry management plan evolve to that point without public-stakeholder input into the decision? Doing so, appears to have presumed a logging-basis to watershed management goals without looking at alternative management possibilities.

-Didn't Asheville already have this discussion over a decade ago and decide not to log the AW? People are asking why, after a four-year often-contentious community discussion that resulted in logging being stopped on the AW in 1991, is the City again proposing a logging operation? People have been under the impression that the AW is protected by a Conservation Easement where tree removal would be for road maintenance and other limited non-commercial prescriptions.

-Is this a good time for an AW management policy change given confusion over status of Water Agreement? People also wonder why is the City proposing this major change in AW management policy just as a reconsideration of the entire Water Agreement is commencing? Would it not be prudent to put this discussion off until we know the results of those discussions?

-Was a base-line ecological assessment done prior to contracting the forestry plan? Given the incomparable value of the 22,000 acre AW as a City asset, was a comprehensive ecological survey done prior to deciding to do a forestry management proposal? An ecological survey would assess and document the biological, wildlife, and botanical contents of the AW. If not done already, should one be done now, before proceeding with approval of a commercial logging operation?

-Is generating money the primary purpose of this commercial logging proposal? City staff have repeatedly stated & written publically that the impetus for developing a forestry management plan for the AW is to address problems of "access" for emergency vehicles/workers and lowering the "danger from fires." Both these reasons appear dubious as rationales for a commercial logging operation in the AW. However, we have learned informally that the real purpose for the logging proposal is to generate money for the City. Is money generation the primary motivation for this logging proposal?

-Is the money generated by commercial logging worth the added risks to water quality? While finding funding for City needs is a laudable and necessary obligation of City Council, is logging the AW an effective place to extract cash at the possible risk to water quality? This question is particularly relevant as all water experts point to 'protection of the source' as the first-line method of ensuring high-quality water.

-How much money will be made, per year and as a % of annual Water Dept. revenue? If money is the real reason for the logging proposal, how much money will be realized, over what period of time?

Moreover, how many acres per year will be logged, by what logging method, to realize that money flow?

What percentage of the Water Department's annual budget is the projected annual revenue from logging on the Asheville Watershed?

-Will logging distract an already-stretched staff from water production duties? What staff will the City assign to preparing, monitoring, and following up any logging program that is approved? Will staff logging-support assignments distract them from the primary role of providing water? Please explain, as we understand the AW and Water Department staffs are already stretched to the breaking point to accomplish their existing assignments.

-Has a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of commercial logging on the AW been done? During the 1987-91 discussions about logging the AW, we learned from forestry experts that logging in the AW will not improve water quality. They also told us that done right, a limited commercial logging program might result in no degradation to water quality. But, they also told us that mistakes in logging, building skidder trails, or maintaining the roads to accommodate logging equipment combined with unexpected rain events put the water quality at greater risk of being harmed.

Question: Will the amount of money expected from this logging program outweigh the added risks to water quality created by such logging?

Has a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis been prepared including management assumptions?

-Is the money generated worth the compromise to security on the AW? Engaging a commercial timber firm to do a logging program in the AW will mean a compromise to security. In addition to the loggers, there will no doubt be need for inspections, public scrutiny, and media coverage. Is the money generated worth that compromise to security?

-Will the AW's visual resource to valley and Blue Ridge Parkway be harmed? During the 1987-91 controversy over logging in the AW, the Blue Ridge Parkway expressed its concern over the visual impact of logging on this, one of their most untouched viewsheds. What will be the visual impact of this proposed commercial logging program on the AW?

-Is managing the AW for timber the only definition of a "healthy" forest? What is a "healthy" forest? Or is the question, "Healthy" for what and for whom? A 'healthy' forest for timber production, by necessity, tries to get rid of tree species that are not commercially profitable. On the other hand, a manager choosing to manage a forest for bio-diversity 'health' would not consider commercial logging a good management decision.

-Is the City proposing to change the AW's management goal from single-purpose, high-quality water source to the duel-purpose of water AND commercial tree farm? City Council can choose to make this management shift, but we need to be clear about the course we are taking and the implications of doing so in the short and long terms.

-What is the time-frame and design for public input in the decision? Will there be specific informational meetings and tours for various stakeholders in the public in Asheville and Black Mountain prior to a decision being made? Having the discussion simply as part of a City Council meeting does not seem adequate for the enormity of this proposed shift in management purpose.

Additional Questions Will Be Raised Once the "Forestry Management Proposal" is presented on June 15, 2004

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