30 Years of NC Wilderness

NC Wilderness Celebration

2014 marks the 30th Anniversary of the 1984  NC Wilderness Act. Throughout the year we’ll be sharing information about these wonderful NC treasures. Check back often and learn more about our 12 NC Wilderness areas!

NC Wilderness and WSA Map

Here’s some background information from the Wilderness Society’s North Carolina’s Mountain Treasures.

With the 1975 Act, which the Congress carefully specified would apply only east of the 100th Meridian, the dam broke. The Act designated 16 new wilderness areas in the East, most in the Southeast. They included 15,000 acres of land in the Nantahala and Cherokee National Forests as the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness and 3,600 acres in North and South Carolina and Georgia as the Ellicott Rock Wilderness. The Congress also created 17 wilderness study areas (areas meant to be managed in such a way as to protect their wilderness values until the Congress decides their future).

In an enormous leap forward for Eastern wilderness, the North Carolina Wilderness Act of 1984 designated several more areas as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

On the Nantahala, the Congress designated:

• 3,680 acres as an addition to the Ellicott Rock Wilderness;
• 10,900 acres as the new Southern Nantahala Wilderness;
• 2,980 acres as an addition to the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness.

New wilderness protection on the Pisgah included:

• 3,400 acres of additions to the Linville Gorge Wilderness;
• 7,900 acres as the new Middle Prong Wilderness Area;
• 5,100 acres of additions to the Shining Rock Wilderness.

The North Carolina Wilderness Act also established several wilderness study areas on the Pisgah, among them: Harper Creek (7,138 acres); Lost Cove (5,708 acres); and an extension to the Craggy Mountain wilderness study area totaling 1,280 acres. Two new wilderness study areas were also created on the Nantahala: Overflow (3,200 acres); and, Snowbird (8,490 acres). In all, the 1984 Act designated 68,700 acres as wilderness and established wilderness study areas totaling 25,816 acres.

Today, according to the U.S. Forest Service, there are 103,226 acres of wilderness in North Carolina, nearly two-thirds of it on the Nantahala and Pisgah, lesser amounts on the Croatan and Uwharrie National Forests. Acreages, of course, though handy measures of relative size and relative success, matter little in the scope of things. It is the places that matter. It is in these splendid wild places where we live our stories about wilderness. It is from them that we take away the images that energize the American wilderness movement and the people who comprise it.

How much wilderness ought we to protect? For some, the first acre was one too many. For others, such as noted writer Wallace Stegner, the answer is “as much of it as is still left and as many kinds–because it was the challenge against which our character as a people was formed.” We have the opportunity to add to our enduring resource of wilderness by doing what we can to help shape the upcoming Nantahalah-Pisgah Forest Plans. Central to that process is defending the forests’ remaining roadless areas.

Click on the links below to learn more about our NC Wilderness Areas.

North Carolina – Map

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