The U.S. Forest Service has completed the environmental assessment process and made a final decision on the Twelve Mile Project on the Pisgah National Forest's Appalachian Ranger District in Haywood County. Once implemented, the project will help maintain a healthy and diverse forest that supports wildlife, provides a sustainable output of timber, improves water quality and aquatic habitat, and improves access to the forest.
"Many people helped us throughout the planning of this project and I thank them for working with us to identify what needs to change on this landscape and how to achieve our goals while being responsive to public comments and environmental concerns," said Appalachian District Ranger Richard Thornburgh.
Projects like Twelve Mile start with an assessment and analysis of the area including forest age and structure, types of tree species, wildlife habitat, and transportation. This study revealed how much forest stands were departed from their natural range of variation. For example, in the mesic oak ecozone, the loss of American chestnut and fire suppression has led to dominance by red maple and blackgum. The dense shade of these trees makes it difficult for young oaks to grow up. Harvesting some trees will allow more light to reach the forest floor and improve the growth of the remaining trees. This also creates young forest habitat.
The project will also ensure there is small patch old growth dispersed across the forest. This helps ensure habitat connectivity between medium and large patches of old growth. Both young forest and old growth, as well as wildlife openings, are needed to provide food and habitat for a diversity of wildlife species at different times in their life cycle. For example, the golden-winged warbler is a tiny songbird that uses specifically designed harvest areas within large forested landscapes for breeding and feeding.
The landscape assessment also identified opportunities such as restoring woodlands and shortleaf pine, and other needs such as stream restoration and transportation improvements. Frequent management actions such as thinning and prescribed burning are needed to maintain the open canopy of woodlands. Fire is also important for maintaining fire-adapted species like shortleaf pine. Restoration of streambanks will help to improve water quality. Changes to the road system will also improve water quality while providing and improving access for recreation, research, and management activities and private landowners as well as reducing maintenance needs.
Work in the project area will begin this year and will continue for 10 or more years. More information is available at https://go.usa.gov/xdDej.
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