View Full Version : Fires Creek Watershed/Nantahala Forest needs your support

05-16-2008, 22:37
Help Stop Backcountry Development in Nantahala National Forest

Fires Creek Watershed at Risk

We take for granted that our public lands will stay free of the development that is covering many mountainsides and ridges in Western North Carolina. Your help is needed to assure that development does not happen deep within the backcountry of the Nantahala National Forest in the pristine Fires Creek Watershed. The Fires Creek Watershed is one of the most significant watersheds in the Southern Appalachians for its wild character and recreation potential. It is rare in the region to find an isolated watershed with a trail system where multi-day hikes away from any roads are possible. It is rare to find an entire watershed of streams where the water and rare aquatic species are relatively intact. It is rare to find such a unique watershed where there is so much potential for great recreation. However, development on a 50 acre in-holding could destroy and degrade all of that. The Forest Service is in the initial stages of considering a proposal for road access to the inholding. Your comments are needed to tell the Forest Service that the public's interest in the pristine streams and forest and recreation potential of the area are more important than a private development.

The Forest Service has asked for comments on the proposal. Written comments can be sent to Steve Lohr, District Ranger, Tusquitee District Ranger, 123 Woodland Drive, Murphy, NC 28906. Comments may also be sent via email to:

comments-southern-north-carolina-nantahala-tusquitee@fs.fed.us (comments-southern-north-carolina-nantahala-tusquitee@fs.fed.us)

Comments are needed by May 23, 2008 (although we just learned that the comment period has been informally extended for 2 weeks until June 6). Don't delay in sending these important comments in, but if you can't get them in right away, you will have through June 6.

Let the Forest Service know you don't want development allowed deep within the national forest. Below are some specific points you can make. If you use or enjoy the Fires Creek Watershed or other areas of our national forest be sure to mention that.

The Fires Creek area is an invaluable public resource that should not be degraded by building a road deep into this public land that is not needed by the public.
The scoping notice makes it sound as though there is an existing road that is drivable almost to the inholding that would provide access for the developers. This is not the case. The Phillips Ridge Trail travels up Laurel Creek and Hickory Cove Creek, in many cases a few feet from the creek banks. The trail travels on an old logging road bed that had not been maintained in decades. In use and in condition it has been a trail, and in the view of the general public it has long been a foot and horse trail. The Forest Service is calling a portion of this trail a "road", but it would require major construction to make it a road suitable for access and home construction. Much of this "road" is currently unsuitable for vehicle use because it is too close to the streams. The public sees the Phillips Ridge trail as essential trail access for the area.
The Phillips Ridge Trail leads to the Fires Creek Rim Trail, a premier 26 mile backcountry trail that travels the entire rim of the Fires Creek watershed. Road access using the Phillips Ridge Trail would destroy or degrade this trail access to the Rim Trail.
The environmental impacts of constructing this road are unacceptable. There are rare species on Laurel Creek and in Fires Creek downstream from the proposed development that could be impacted by sedimentation and pollution from the road and development.
Laurel Creek is a prime candidate for native brook trout reintroduction. The proposed road access follows the creek closely, with the creek being only a few scant feet away from the route in places. There are already sedimentation issues from the route along the creek. These sedimentation issues should be addressed and the travel way returned to the trail use that the public wants.
The Fires Creek Watershed is prime habitat for wildlife that thrives in isolation from development. Bear and other wildlife are known to avoid active roads and development. When development moves in, they are inevitably harmed. A development with road access in the midst of this otherwise unspoiled area would degrade this otherwise prime wildlife habitat.
The Rim Trail is a unique 26 mile loop that traverses the rim of the watershed. Numerous trails like the Phillips Ridge Trail wind their way through the valley along beautiful streams with cascades and waterfalls to join the Rim Trail, offering one of the most appealing trail systems in the Southern Appalachians. The proposed development lies on top of the Rim Trail. A development would drastically degrade the backcountry experience of hikers through the area. Because of the steep slopes outside the inholding, relocating the trail outside the development may be difficult or impossible.
The combination of impacts to the Phillips Ridge Trail and the Rim Trail would impact the recreation potential of the entire watershed. Trail access around the Rim Trail would at best be made more difficult even if the trail can be relocated. The backcountry experience would be degraded by the close proximity of a development. The destruction of this public recreation resource for private access is unacceptable.
A 0.9 mile section of the Phillips Ridge Trail was upgraded in 2006 for higher level road use using public storm damage funds. This road upgrade was not in the public interest and was counter to the uses called for in the Nantahala Management Plan direction. Yet the proposed development access relies on this upgraded section of road. It is not appropriate to keep this upgrade that the public does not need or want for the benefit of the developers. This section should be returned to its service as a trail and stream impacts that resulted from this upgrade should be addressed.http://www.democracyinaction.org/dia/TrackImage?key=612695578

05-17-2008, 08:49
Thanks for the update. I hope I can finally hike the whole rim before it's gone.

05-17-2008, 09:27
Jeepers Cuffs, that font is small!

This is a very important issue for folks who like to hike, and want to see our National Forests protected. I flew over the area a few weeks ago (see attached photo). I hope many of you will take 15 minutes to write a letter to the FS, so we can keep this area undeveloped.

I'll be hiking the rim trail in a few days. I have faith, that if the hiking community expresses a desire to have the rim trail around, that the FS will keep it open. You need to raise your voices though!

05-17-2008, 09:39
Jeepers Cuffs, that font is small!

I went ahead and fixed it.

Too lazy to go find my glasses this morning. :D

05-17-2008, 09:54
That was my fault! I have a huge screen, so originally it came out HUGE, so I reduced it... too much! Thanks Skids for the fix!

05-17-2008, 10:03
We need to keep this issue alive. Sounds like time is getting short.

05-17-2008, 11:08
thanks skids, now i can read it!

05-17-2008, 14:43
Where is the development speciffically going to be?

05-17-2008, 15:10
Jeff (Mowgli) did a presentation on this at the SoRuck, but there is a section of private land near where the Phillips Ridge Trail intersects the Fires Creek Rim Trail that is private. If I read this correctly they are proposing to reopen the Phillips Ridge Trail as a vehicle access to the private land. One of the problems this will cause is that the Phillips Ridge Trail is about the only tentable piece of land in that area. It's also right beside the only reliable water source in that area. Bringing in a bulldozer to turn this abandoned logging road into a route for construction equipment and cement trucks can't be a good thing for the creek or the immediate area. The terrain here is rugged and any construction is going to have a significant impact on the surroundings.

05-19-2008, 22:21
The Fires Creek area is truly amazing, and the Rim Trail is quite possibly the best unsung section of trail its length in the East. Losing any part of it would be a tragedy.

Even if you've never hiked there, please send in a comment to the USFS.

05-19-2008, 22:31
Email sent. Everybody else jump on board. I wrote a few words of my own and then copied and pasted Cuffs EXCELLENT points.

05-20-2008, 00:12
I sent an email in support of the rights of private property owners to do with their property as they please. These watersheds are nothing more than a pretense for the eventual taking of property.

05-20-2008, 00:22
I said the same thing, but urged the USFS to work with the owners to reach a compromise on how/where to build a road to reach the development. Annihilating most of an existing side trail up a relatively pristine cove and trout stream is probably the worst option available. Why not obtain access through the opposite side of the ridge, where development is already very close and existing roads are in place nearby? Hoping for no development is foolish and unfair to the owners, but that shouldn't stop thoughtful planning.

05-20-2008, 07:25
good point. why have the access from within the rim when the road could be built from the Andrews side.

Tipi Walter
05-20-2008, 08:04
Where is imminent domain when you need it? Why doesn't the govt designate the whole place a wilderness area and take the land like they did in the Smokies? The battle to turn nearby Slickrock/Kilmer into wilderness was fought long and hard by Jesse Helms but now that he's gone it might be easier to get wilderness designation for the Fires Creek area.

You can't let private ownership dictate the destruction of a holding within the Nantahala and yet our antiquated private property rights allow thoughtless people to do just that. Even if someone owns a parcel of forest land, why would they want to disfigure a fairly pristine area with bulldozer, asphalt and homes??

I wish I could remember the exact Ed Abbey quote, but it goes something like this: Why is it that when someone destroys buildings and development they are called criminals, but when someone destroys God's handiwork in nature it's called progress?