Designation will advance critical restoration projects aimed at improving forest health and recreational opportunities on National Forests.

As part of its national Treasured Landscapes, Unforgettable Experiences conservation program, the National Forest Foundation (NFF) has recently designated the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests as a Treasured Landscape. 

“This new initiative will elevate and focus our work on these iconic forests,” said Mark Shelley, the Asheville, NC-based eastern program director for the NFF. “Western North Carolina’s bountiful natural resources are the cornerstone of our identity, our economy and our quality of life. Outdoor recreation benefits North Carolina’s economy, communities, and visitors, and we look forward to working with local partners and the Forest Service to ensure these benefits continue.” 

As the nonprofit partner of the Forest Service, the NFF works across the country to engage Americans in the restoration, stewardship and enjoyment of National Forests and Grasslands. Through this designation, which the NFF is calling the Investing in the Great Outdoors campaign, the nonprofit is working with the Forest Service and emerging community interests to address and expand much-needed restoration efforts on the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests of western North Carolina.  

Photo by Jeff Clark

Bad Ford Trail, Pisgah National Forest

Formally designating the Nantahala and Pisgah as a Treasured Landscape marks the beginning of NFF’s Investing in the Great Outdoors campaign, which will work to raise private contributions to supplement limited federal funding available for restoration work on the forests. Through grants and contracts to local community groups and businesses, the NFF will help restore forest resources while increasing the collective capacity of local groups to engage in hands-on stewardship and recreational improvements.

“The NFF’s collaborative model brings together the community - businesses, conservation groups, stakeholder and recreational user groups and the Forest Service - around the goals of improving forest health through collaborative restoration and creating sustainable recreation opportunities that enhance the quality of life and the outdoor experience that this region is famous for,” Shelley explained.  

“Community engagement is essential to improving recreation and forest health. We need to tap into the enormous energy and creativity of the surrounding communities who care for and value the many benefits these Forests provide.”

Allen Nicholas, Forest Supervisor of the National Forests of North Carolina

Economically, the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests provide an important contribution to the vitality of nearby communities – through recreation and visitor spending. Unfortunately, the cost of maintaining recreation sites and forest health combined with the region’s population growth and demographic changes are causing damage to heritage sites and natural resources and straining recreation facilities, trails and roads. 

“One-hundred and forty-nine thousand anglers fished for trout in the mountains of North Carolina in 2014, contributing $383 million to NC’s economy and supporting 3,600 jobs,” said Keith Curley, Vice President for Eastern Conservation at Trout Unlimited, citing a recent report from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. “It is unlikely these recreational and economic opportunities would be available without a healthy Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests. The national forests supply habitat, food and cold, clean water upon which a thriving trout fishery depends. Trout Unlimited and its 45 member chapters in the southern Appalachian region are excited about the NFF Treasured Landscape designation and the forest restoration and protection opportunities it will support.”

Photo by Jeff Clark

Upper Whitewater Falls, Nantahala National Forest

The campaign will focus on iconic recreation locations on the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. These are unique, regionally renowned sites which experience some of the highest visitation in the East. Additionally these sites play an important role in the overall health of the Forests, so they are critical opportunities for restoration and stewardship.

Proposed activities include:

  • Pisgah National Forest - Linville Gorge: trail maintenance and invasive species treatments
  • Pisgah National Forest - Wilson Creek: trail maintenance and stream restoration
  • Pisgah National Forest - Catawba Falls: providing safe access to the upper falls
  • Pisgah National Forest - Big Ivy: trail maintenance
  • Nantahala National Forest - Chattooga River: boating access and trail construction
  • Nantahala National Forest - Nantahala River: access improvements
  • Nantahala National Forest - Tsali: trail maintenance, invasive species treatments, and campground improvements
  • Nanthala National Forest - Snowbird Mountain: trail maintenance

Investing in the Great Outdoors is intended to catalyze forest-wide change as collective efforts improve recreational infrastructure, restore forest health and foster stewardship of these valuable natural resources. This comprehensive approach will supplement the Forest Service’s efforts to increase sustainable recreation opportunities and the pace and scale of restoration across these premier Eastern forests.  

According to the NFF’s Mark Shelley: “For western North Carolinians, a strong connection to our great outdoors is part of our identity. From hikers to anglers, mountain bikers to hunters, loggers to biologists, to outfitters, guides, mountain lodge operators, and outdoor equipment producers - even breweries and cideries, all of us rely on this region’s bountiful natural resources for our livelihoods and recreation. This campaign will allow all of us to come together to share in the restoration and stewardship of these critical resources.”  

For more information on the National Forest Foundation’s Investing in the Great Outdoors campaign on the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests, visit:

National Forest Foundation