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Opinion Letters Blue Valley best protected as ‘wilderness’

Blue Valley, also known as Overflow Creek WSA (wilderness study area), is being considered for an important national legislative change the likes of which we have not seen since 1987 when it was first designated by Congress and approved by the Forest Service.

It is currently managed as a wilderness area even though it could change at any time at the discretion of the Forest Service especially when leaned on by special interest. Some of you may remember Rep. Charles Taylor and his desire for logging the area.

So what’s the big deal? No one seems interested in logging or disturbing this area so why does it need action now? Why not leave well enough alone? As the daughter of a forester and avid backpacker/hiker of this area I will try to convey the answers to these and other questions that have come up about this area.

Blue Valley has approximately 6,000 acres and provides clean water as the mother of the headwaters of the Chattooga and 3,509 acres are roadless. Only 315 acres of old growth forest remains due to logging in the area in times past. Some of you may think that’s plenty and how much forest do we need, really?

To answer this briefly you can look down at this area from the 106 pullout. I urge you all to take a look and pause for thought not just take a picture. While you peer into this “wild land” so close to civilization and think about the biodiversity it contains; try to picture ancestors who lived here before you simply and in tandem with this piece of the woods, and then try to visualize what it might look like with gapping areas where no trees are standing and little to thrive on the destruction.

Oh, it will come back as any wound will heal, but it will never be quite the same. It will not look or operate just as it was before the infliction and no human or animal will be able to live on the desecrated area for some time. The habitants of the area will move to the areas not affected and will pressure that area and deplete it faster causing population to diminish or vanish.

In the west, where more acreage has been protected and earlier, this is less visible and recuperation speedier but in the east we have less to work with and more populous thus putting pressure on what we do have so ANY disturbance to the balance has greater effect to all.

So isn’t there enough protected forest? The answer is “no,” not if you truly want to maintain its wild balanced state. As it stands now, many can argue it is minimal. Mess with any of it and it will be changed for a long time.

Now is the time to protect this area under the guidelines set forth by the Congress. The best protection is under the designation of “Wilderness Area” period. This designation in the east of the U.S. allows for all areas of use prior to designation be “grandfathered in” except for off road vehicles and mountain bikes. Chainsaws will also be forbidden except to maintain and manage the campsites. The roads, campsites, and the use of motorized vehicles on these roads are allowed and all activities that people have enjoyed will continue.

Rep. Heath Shuler is ready to take this area and an area similarly located in Buncombe County to the floor to be protected forever. It will remain intact for not just one generation but many more.

It’s a rare opportunity politically and the Macon County Commissioners can move this forward or walk away. Unfortunately they have for a year been using the bait and switch game to avoid making this very important decision. Thanks to one commissioner, Brian McClellan, who has been steadfast on his view that this area stay protected for economical as well as environmental reasons we will bring this forward for a vote on Feb. 8. I urge all Macon County citizens to write or call each Commissioner and let them know their thoughts about Blue Valley’s future as we know it.

Lee Hodges — Highlands, N.C.





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