The Forest Service recently released alternatives for wilderness in Big Ivy. Wilderness is the strongest possible protection for Big Ivy and the only way to permanently protect Big Ivy from logging and mining.
Unfortunately, only of the four alternatives includes any new wilderness recommendations, and it is only a relatively small increase. The other three alternatives do not recommend any new wilderness protections for Big Ivy.
We have joined 32 other outdoor organizations across the region in supporting an expanded wilderness for Big Ivy. The expanded wilderness will not in any way affect the current network of trails. They will all continue to be open to all current uses, including mountain biking. The expanded wilderness also will not affect hunting in any way. Hunting will continue to be legal throughout Big Ivy. The expanded wilderness will simply prevent logging, mining, road building, and development in the most remote and sensitive areas of Big Ivy.
The Forest Service is accepting comments and input specifically about wilderness at NCplanrevision@fs.fed.us
A sample letter is pasted below. Feel free to cut and paste any portions of this letter or come up with your own comments. It's important to keep comments focused specifically on the wilderness qualities of Big Ivy.
(You can view the Forest Service assessment of Big Ivy here. Big Ivy's assessment is on pages 27-29. You can also view the four proposed alternatives here. The table on page 9 compares the four alternatives.)
Dear Pisgah-Nantahala Forest Planning Team:
I hope you will consider expanding the Craggy Mountains wilderness boundaries in Alternatives B and C to include a contiguous wilderness area from Forest Road 63 (Stony Fork Road) to State Road 197 (North Fork Road).
The Craggy wilderness boundaries should extend from the currently proposed Craggy Mountains wilderness area, continue above Laurel Gap Trail and along Brush Spring Ridge, and around Forest Road 74 to include the northern section of Big Ivy to State Road 197.
The expanded wilderness area should include the old-growth forests, North Carolina natural heritage lands, and rare species habitat that have been excluded from the current alternatives.
And in the northern section of Big Ivy, all of the Forest Service (closed) roads and wildlife openings are located in a narrow section along State Road 197. The remaining acreage is ideally suited for wilderness, as affirmed by the Forest Service’s own current evaluations and previous inventories of old-growth forest and rare species. Including this expanded area would also enable the Craggy Mountains Wilderness Study Area to exceed 5,000 acres in size.
Most of the forest’s old-growth forests and much of its rare species habitat occurs in the expanded wilderness area, as the Forest Service’s own inventories indicate. Almost 100 acres of spruce-fir forest occur in the high-elevation corridor above Laurel Gap Trail and along Brush Spring Ridge. Old-growth forests are also located in the northern section of Big Ivy—including parts of Cedar Cliff Knob, Pigpen Knob, Sheepwallow Knob, High Knob, Big Butt, Little Butt, Sugarhouse Cove, and Pinnacle Mountain.
The Big Butt Trail is an ideal wilderness trail with unique opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation. As The Forest Service’s own evaluation states, “Near the Big Butt Trail on the eastern boundary, there is little evidence of human modification in the diverse high-elevation forests.” The Forest Service evaluation also confirms that “there
are also opportunities for primitive and unconfined recreation throughout the area, especially along the eastern boundary.”
Over 40 documented locations of 32 rare plant and animal species are located in the northern section of Big Ivy and along the high-elevation corridor that is currently excluded from wilderness recommendation. Additional cerulean warbler habitat has recently been confirmed on Pigpen Knob and Sheepwallow Knob.
The North Carolina Natural Heritage Areas Program recognizes the ecological significance of the Big Butt/Brush Fence Ridge high-elevation corridor and the northern section of Big Ivy. Over 1,200 acres of natural heritage areas are identified on High Knob, Pinnacle Mountain, and in Sugarhouse Cove, and an additional 252 acres are located on Cedar Cliff Knob. Each of these natural heritage areas is listed as a high priority area.
The northern section of Big Ivy and the high-elevation corridor are a significant portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway viewshed, especially from the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center, one of the most popular visitor points along the Parkway. The Mountains to Sea Trail would also be better protected by an expanded Craggy wilderness boundary.
Native brook trout abound in the headwaters of Corner Rock Creek, Straight Creek/North Fork, and Town Branch. Rich cove forests and exposed cliff faces are found on slopes and ridges throughout the northern section of Big Ivy, including High Knob, Pigpen Knob, Sheepwallow Knob, and Cedar Cliff Knob.
This expanded Craggy Mountain wilderness area is the heart of a 100,000 acre contiguous protected area surrounding it, which includes the Big Tom Wilson Preserve, Blue Ridge Parkway, Mount Mitchell State Park, and the Asheville Watershed, along with adjacent Pisgah National Forest lands.
This expanded wilderness area is supported by Friends of Big Ivy’s 2,000 members— along with members of 32 additional regional outdoor organizations. The local Big Ivy community also supports an expanded wilderness boundary.
Thank you for considering the expansion of the recommended Craggy Mountains wilderness area to safeguard the old growth forests, rare species habitat, watersheds, solitude, and primitive recreation opportunities unique to the northern section and high-elevation corridor of Big Ivy.