Mountain Biking Advocates,
It is now time to submit comments on the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan. Your comments will impact the decisions the USFS makes on how the forest will be managed for the next 20 years. Here is a link to the Forest Plan Revision Homepage: Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests Plan Revision.
Leaders from SORBA, and other key volunteers based in Western North Carolina have been engaged in the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest planning process for a decade to ensure that Forest management practices recognize the importance of mountain biking. SORBA is also a member of the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership. SORBA has provided comments that reflect collaborative agreements from the Partnership. In accord with SORBA, our Chapter supports the following from the draft plan:
1. The recognition that mountain biking is an important and vital outdoor activity on the forest.
2. That none of our major existing system trails (open to bicycles) are threatened in the management alternatives.
3. That management alternatives recognize that more bicycling trails are needed to meet demand and processes are outlined in the plan to allow for future expansion to system trails to meet the growing demand.
However, we are unsatisfied with the proposed Forest Plan’s recommendation that restricts mountain biking to designated trails. Currently, legal riding occurs on many non-system trails in our area, and this change will prohibit this access. We support a designated trail system as a goal within the span of the plan, but before any restrictions to riding are enacted, the lack of riding opportunities in the forest must be addressed first.
In addition, we are not satisfied with the glaring and measurable lack of designated bike trails in some geographic areas, most notably, the Eastern Escarpment. Until the unmet need for riding access is met, we cannot support any new Wilderness areas in the Eastern Escarpment. We do support other protective designations that allow mountain biking. To further evaluate trail needs, we support a Forest Service-led collaborative planning process or trail strategy in each geographic area.
The current designated miles are not meeting the needs of mountain bikers in the Eastern Escarpment. Specifically, only 8 trails out of 59 are designated for bike use – 37 miles out of 157 miles (23%). For comparison, the Pisgah Ledge Geographic Area has 63% of the trails designated for bicycle use. We would like to see a commitment to increase these percentages.
We are very appreciative that one of the stated goals in the Draft Plan for the Eastern Escarpment is to address the lack of mountain biking opportunities We would like to see more in the final plan in the form of a commitment to meet the high use and demand.
We are very proud of the strong relationship that the Alliance has with the Grandfather District. We are committed to helping. Since 2013, our Chapter has led over 1,300 documented hours of volunteer work on the forest. We work closely with the District staff to both reduce the maintenance backlog and improve the riding conditions.
Comments are due by June 29th should be submitted here: Commenting on Nantahala and Pisgah NFs Plan Revision. Please use the talking points above and take a few minutes to submit your comments on the draft plan.
Please also consider:
- Personalizing your comments.
- Provide details on why you love riding in the National Forest and what you would like to see in the future.
- Thank the Forest Service for the opportunity to comment. Also thank them for working with SORBA and our Chapter to take care of the land and advance opportunities for great riding.