Craggy Mountains WSA

Carolina Mountain Club Proposed Position

Wilderness Designation for the Craggy Mountains Wilderness Study Area

August 5, 2010

The Carolina Mountain Club endorses wilderness designation for the Craggy Mountains Wilderness Study Area.

The Craggy Mountains WSA is 2,380 acres roughly encompassing the area north of Blue Ridge Parkway land from Bee Tree Gap eastward to northeast of the Greybeard Overlook. As a Wilderness Study Area, it qualifies as wilderness, is managed as wilderness, and is recommended for wilderness protection by the U.S. Forest Service.

Some of CMC's activities would be limited if wilderness designation is achieved. Power tools cannot be used. Group size is limited to 10 people in North Carolina wilderness areas. Other restrictions include no logging, no mining, no bicycles, no roads, no off-road vehicles.

The Craggy Mountains WSA is within Pisgah National Forest, and the national forest boundary forms the northern boundary of the WSA. The MST runs for about one mile in the WSA. It enters the WSA between the Craggy Visitor Center and Craggy Pinnacle and leaves the WSA just east of the Greybeard Overlook. Douglas Falls and most of the Douglas Falls trail are in the Craggy Mountains WSA. Hawkbill Creek and Little Snowball are not part of the Craggy Mountains WSA. See map.

The Craggy Mountains WSA is contiguous to the Craggy Gardens segment of the BRP which was discussed in the proposed Parkway management plan that CMC commented on a couple of years ago. The Parkway has classified the area around Craggy as a Special Natural Resources management zone. The “appropriate activities” in this zone include “extremely low tolerance for impacts or intrusions”, “experience the special habitat in its natural state with minimal evidence of human intrusion, and manage to maintain low use levels to protect resource integrity. If conditions warrant, “close some especially fragile areas to visitor use”, etc. BRP views this area as appropriate for special, low-impact management. Creating a contiguous wilderness area is compatible with already existing Parkway management.

The unique geology of the Craggy Mountains WSA promotes a high level of biodiversity. UNCA's spring wildflower / bird weekend often includes a trip to Douglas Falls because of the old-growth forest and unusual plant diversity, and, the Douglas Falls trail is in the “Best Wildflower Hikes of WNC”. Gray's lily was mentioned in one of the write-ups. This area includes unspoiled portions of Carter Creek and Waterfall Creek.

CMC endorses wilderness designation for the Craggy Mountains WSA and its inclusion in the   National Wilderness Preservation System since it is the closest Wilderness Study Area to Asheville. Visitation to the area is high. Its unique geology promotes a high level of biodiversity. This area is logically linked to the Big Butt wild area just two to three miles north by a neck containing old growth, including the ten acre Walker Cove Natural Area.

According to the NC Sierra Club website, the WSA was recommended for Wilderness designation by the Forest Service in the Land and Resource Management Plan of March, 1987. Wilderness designation was called for by Congressman Jamie Clark in the 101st. Congress and by Charles Taylor in the 102nd. Congress. It was defeated because the same bill proposed de-listing some other WSAs, not because the Craggy Wilderness Area was not wanted.

A series of Congressional laws have protected land as wilderness and provided the legal designation of wilderness. In the Wilderness Act of 1964 Congress established a National Wilderness Preservation System and included within it an initial 9.1 million acres. The Shining Rock and Linville Gorge Wilderness Areas were designated in this act. The Craggy Mountains Wilderness Study Area was created as part of Public Law 93-622 of 1975. This law created additional wilderness areas in the eastern United States to further the purposes of the Wilderness Act of 1964. As part of the NC Wilderness Act of 1984 passed by Congress, 1280 acres were added to the Craggy Mountains Wilderness Study Area.

To further the purposes of the NC Wilderness Act, Wilderness Study Areas are reviewed by the Secretary of Agriculture regarding their suitability for preservation as wilderness. Wilderness Study Areas are managed to maintain their present existing wilderness character and potential for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System.