Article from http://www.citizen-times.com on Dec. 16….
No logging on parts of Courthouse Creek
New plan spares 54 acres of high elevation trees
WAYNESVILLE — Environmentalists reached a compromise with the government Monday that will spare some of the most sensitive areas of Courthouse Creek from logging.
The agreement with the U.S. Forest Service means 54 acres of mostly high elevation trees in Pisgah Ridge National Heritage Area are off the table.
The entire project, which the forest service has said is necessary for habitat improvement and forest health, will now include 368 acres in a bowl-shaped zone in Pisgah National Forest visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway and Devil’s Courthouse.
The legal agreement also required the forest service to decommission a road constructed to allow for logging in the three stands that are now out of the project.
Western North Carolina Alliance, one of the groups that challenged the timber plan, will help the forest service remove culverts, re-grade and re-seed the roadbed.
The Southern Environmental Law Center appealed the project on behalf of the Wilderness Society, Wild South and Western North Carolina Alliance.
It’s unclear how much of the timber work will be visible from the parkway, said DJ Gerken, senior attorney at the law center.
He said the agreement, at the least, mitigates the impact to the view and possibly erases it. Overall, he said, the groups are very pleased.
“We didn’t get everything we wanted, that’s what makes it a compromise,” he said. “It’s a substantially improved project.”
The decommissioning of the road is important to long-term environmental health.
“Roads are one of, if not the primary cause of, water quality problems on the forest,” said Hugh Irwin, conservation planner with the Wilderness Society, in a written statement. “Decommissioning the road just makes sense. It saves the forest service money by reducing the size of its road system, protects important trout habitat around Courthouse Creek, and ensures that this road stops causing environmental damage.”
The Southern Appalachian Multiple Use Council, which has in the past represented timber interests, could not be reached Monday.
The logging, which could begin as early as 2015, is dispersed in sites across the 7,000-acre Courthouse Creek area. The project would take four to five years and harvest about 6 percent of the trees in the area.