The North Zone of the Cherokee National Forest is in need of some help. Spanning seven counties in upper east Tennessee, the North Zone is an incredible asset to the local economies of the region, as a supply of drinking water, a tourism destination and a source of forest products.
However, past land management practices, including those prior to the land coming under public ownership as a national forest early in the 20th century, and future threats from invasive forest pests, left large portions of the forest in need of restoration. In order for the Cherokee’s North Zone to continue to be a strong, resilient and healthy ecosystem, the forest is now in need of a sound plan for restoration. A good restoration plan should be based on science, garner public support and consider varied management approaches including active methods such as regeneration cuts, targeted thinning and prescribed fire and passive methods that would allow nature to take its own course.
Many different individuals and organizations are passionate about their concerns for the Cherokee National Forest, but in the past they have not all agreed about how this national forest should be managed. That long-term lack of cohesion, coupled with strained budgets and planning hurdles, resulted in a situation where the necessary forest restoration was a very elusive target.
Two and a half years ago, in partnership with Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy convened a diverse group of stakeholders to determine what landscape restoration for the North Zone should look like. “It was time to think outside of the box and do things differently,” says Tom Speaks, the Cherokee National Forest Supervisor. The assembled group was made up of environmentalists, sportsmen, loggers and forest managers, and they have worked for two years to develop a set of consensus-based recommendations to the Forest Service about how forest restoration should be conducted in the North Zone of the Cherokee National Forest.
For more information visit: http://www.communityplan.net/cherokee/