What do those designations really mean?

The Forest Service recently released their proposed maps for managing Big Ivy for the next two decades. The maps contain confusing alpha-numerical designations for different parts of the forest.

The Forest Service proposes to designate most of Big Ivy as 1 or 2a. Friends of Big Ivy advocates changing those designations to 3, 4b, 5, and 6.

 What exactly does that mean? Here is a brief layman's explanation of those designations.

An area designated as 1 is managed mainly for commercial timber production. Roads are built to access the timber, and trees are cut and actively managed every few years. 

A 2a designation is managed very similar to 1, though the purpose of its designation is different. Trees are still cut and harvested on a regular basis, but its purpose is not just financial but also to benefit deer hunting, species habitat, or some other use.  

3 protects backcountry recreation and areas primarily shaped by natural processes. Older forest conditions, roadless areas, and large tracts of backcountry recreation are emphasized. Timber harvests are still possible, but the primary management focus is recreation. 

4b protects viewsheds and scenery. These are recreation corridors managed for scenic and natural qualities. Timber harvests are also technically still possible here, too, but the primary management focus is on scenery.

5 is a special interest area or research natural area managed to protect rare species or features like old-growth forests. 

And 6 is a recommended wilderness study area, which is open to all forms of recreation, including hiking, backpacking, camping, angling, horseback riding, and hunting. It excludes motor vehicles, logging, and other extractive uses. The Craggy Mountain Wilderness Study Area was designated decades ago and still awaits Congressional approval.

Based on the current and future biological and cultural values of Big Ivy, Friends of Big Ivy recommends that the 1 and 2a designations be replaced by 3, 4b, 5, and 6 designations.

Big Ivy contains more than 30 rare and endangered species and over 3,000 acres of old-growth forest, yet it is not currently designated as a special interest area. It is part of the viewshed of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Mountains to Sea Trail, yet very little of the viewshed is protected by 4b designation. And Big Ivy's primary use is backcountry recreation, yet none of Big Ivy is currently assigned designation 3. 

These designations need to change in order to protect the scenery, water, wildlife, recreation, and old-growth forests of Big Ivy.