Clean Water for North Carolina ∙ Dogwood Alliance ∙ Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project ∙ Southern Appalachian Forests Coalition ∙ Swannanoa Valley Alliance for Beauty and Prosperity ∙ Western North Carolina Alliance ∙ Wildlaw Sustainable Forests Program

For Immediate Release                Contact:  Hope Taylor-Guevara or Gracia
July 23, 2004                                                    O’Neill, Clean Water for NC, 251-1291
                                                                       Hugh Irwin, Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition, 252-9223
                                                                       Bob Gale, Western North Carolina Alliance 258-8737
                                                                       Ben Prater, Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project, 258-2667


Seven environmental groups issued today an urgent call to the Asheville City Council not to approve the proposed “Forest Management Plan” for Asheville’s watershed at its session on July 27. Instead the Council should make a commitment to get the public involved in developing a detailed plan that will be truly protective of the public’s water and other natural resources.  The document presented last Tuesday at a City Council Work Session, called the “Forest Management Plan,” doesn’t include any cost-benefit analysis for the management practices called for, and makes contradictory and ill-advised recommendations for habitat improvement, invasive species control and fire management. There has been no involvement of the public in development of this proposal, a striking contrast to other cities, such as Greenville, SC, whose watershed forest management plans have strong public “buy-in.”
It’s unclear that even the Conservation Trust for North Carolina, which holds a conservation easement for the city’s watershed, knew much about the proposal before it was presented to Council on Tuesday. For example, the 5 to 10 acre clearcuts recommended in the document are clearly at odds with the requirement for “uneven aged” management in the easement. A hasty effort by city officials to amend the plan in order to bring it to a vote at next Tuesday’s City Council Meeting is challenged by Bob Gale of the Western North Carolina Alliance.  “This is a symptom of how premature and inadequate this proposal is. For example, the proposal includes recommendations for logging to improve habitat for only a few abundant wildlife species, while sacrificing habitat for others, and there is recognition of invasive species problems, yet the proposal recommends logging that will actually cause invasive species to spread.”

Also contrary to the requirements of the conservation easement, the proposed 50 foot wide logging along roads and other small clearcuts could disrupt beautiful views from the Blue Ridge Parkway. The City Council wasn’t even shown Blue Ridge Parkway “viewshed” maps with the proposal, in order to assess this impact.

The document is noteworthy for its lack of specific protective requirements for the watershed’s most fundamental purpose—water quality,” according to Hope Taylor-Guevara, executive director of Clean Water for North Carolina.  “There’s nothing enforceable here to ensure the public that its water quality is protected from degradation by sediment from logging practices or even that the ability of the watershed to filter and capture water will not be damaged for generations.”  Lislott Harberts of the Southern Forestry Foundation, who did some demonstration forest improvements in the Asheville watershed over 15 years ago, noted at the time that previous logging practices had damaged the biodiversity and water quality characteristics of the watershed.

After reviewing the proposal, Alyx Perry of Wildlaw’s Sustainable Forests Program, commented, “Even a small landowner carefully managing their forest would want a more detailed plan than this before beginning management activities. It’s good that the City started a process of planning for forest management, but the Council shouldn’t be making a decision that could begin action on the ground before a detailed plan is drafted with public input.”

“This proposal comes to the Council without adequate biological surveying having been done, so we don’t even know what resources we have in the watershed,” comments Hugh Irwin, Conservation Planner for the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition. “In addition, the plan fails to recognize the role the watershed plays in the larger conservation area of the Black Mountains. And the proposal is premised on logging to manage for catastrophic fires, yet catastrophic fires don't naturally occur in the Southern Appalachian mountains.”

Mayor Charles Worley has repeatedly said that it’s not a logging plan that’s under consideration. If that’s the case, say environmentalists, then why not go ahead and strengthen conservation easement to prohibit commercial logging completely as Greenville, SC has done for its 27,000 acre watershed. “Why does the plan recommend that 50 foot strips be logged along an unspecified number of miles of roads in the watershed?” asks Monroe Gilmour of the Swannanoa Valley Alliance for Beauty and Prosperity. “Why do all of the habitat recommendations involve logging? This plan is really just a Trojan Horse for logging in our watershed.”
The groups, as well as city activists concerned about protection of their water source, expect that the public will make its concerns known next Tuesday, July 27th at the 5 PM City Council meeting in Council Chambers. This is an opportunity for the City of Asheville to “do the right thing,” by managing the watershed for clean water, reliable supply, reduction of invasive species and “viewshed” preservation. The City should seek input from environmental groups and the public who have years of cumulative expertise to help the public-supported plan a reality.

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