The GNSA: Simple Concept; Difficult Implementation

Setting aside a relatively minuscule 25,500 acres of the Pisgah National Forest as a National Scenic Area (out of the Pisgah’s total 510,00 acres) to protect from logging the aesthetic services it provides should be easy, right?

Hiker on Grandfather Mountain, taken by Mark Roberts.
Hiker on Grandfather Mountain, taken by Mark Roberts.


For an environmentalist, and for the many who enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the answer seems ridiculously obvious. But from the campaign that has been ongoing for five years and is still going strong, it’s clear the reality of the situation is anything but.

National Forests Are Not National Parks

Which means their level of protection is not the same.

Quick history: The National Forest Service broadly manages National Forests for the diverse ecosystem services they provide, from recreation and ecological productivity to timber management. As such, National Forests are vulnerable to logging projects.

In 2006, the Forest Service presented plans to permit logging in the Globe Forest, which comprises some of the famous vistas near the Blue Ridge Parkway between Grandfather Mountain and Blowing Rock. The communities of Boone, Blowing Rock, and Watauga rallied to not only protest this venture, but to ensure that more logging projects would not tarnish these highly scenic – and visible – 25,500 acres.

Their fear: such projects could take a serious bite out of Blue Ridge Parkway scenery and, in turn, local tourism, which accounts for over $300 million in revenue annually in the three counties that would comprise the GNSA.

Acting quickly, all three town’s governing bodies called for the creation of national scenic area, which would eliminate logging there forever. And so the proposed “Grandfather National Scenic Area” (GNSA) was born.

The Wild South Connection

Wild South has partnered with the Boone, Blowing Rock and Watauga communities to spearhead the GNSA campaign. Their mission, which I chose to accept: Obtain a higher level of federal protection for this special area of Pisgah National Forest.

This, I am discovering, is much easier said than done.

And because my internship largely revolves around the communications planning and community outreach involved in obtaining a NSA designation for GNSA, this will undoubtedly be an engaging and eventful summer!

If A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words… 

Then this video about the GNSA is priceless. Check it out!