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National Forest Special Use Permits

Unfortunately, special uses of the National Forests are becoming more and more common. Read below to find out how our forests can be impacted.

Special Use Permits

The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest (CONF) is nationally considered an “urban forest” – one of the few across the country that receives enormous recreational use (2.5 million visitors annually) due to proximity to large population centers. Hikers, cyclists, hunters, anglers, off-highway vehicle enthusiasts and equestrians all recreate on the CONF’s 850 miles of trails. This high usage, and the area’s steep slopes, high annual rainfall punctuated with severe downpours, and highly erodible soils, all contribute to environmental degradation of existing trails.

How do we not love our public lands to death? In order to get more people passionate about the CONF, and all the wild lands and rivers these forests contain, you need to get folks out to experience the beauty and natural wonder of these places. But let’s face it, not all recreationists enjoy hiking or fishing a remote trout stream, and instead, prefer a more adventurous activity. And some recreational activities are more damaging to the environment than others, particularly those with too many participants, or those occurring where infrastructure (for example, trails, roads, parking and toilet facilities) is inadequate to support these activities or level of use.

Issues associated with more adventurous recreational activities involving a large number of participants remain. Over the last several years, Georgia ForestWatch has responded to an ever increasing number of Forest Service Scoping Notices for large-scale, often for profit recreational demands in the CONF. All the Ranger Districts have received Special Use Permit applications to hold massive multi-hundred person adventure races. Some races or sections of races occur on roads and trails that are better able to withstand this concentrated impact, particularly in wet weather. These races become more problematic from a resource degradation standpoint when they occur on trails such as the Benton MacKaye Trail, which were designed for low-impact hiking and solitude is a key part of the recreational experience. Potental problems associated with these large races include parking issues, waste disposal, casual user displacement, intense trail use and site degradation.

Want more information? Read below to find out how our forests can be impacted.

Forest News Summer 2015: “The Impact of Large Competitive Events on the Forest”

Forest News Spring 2014: “Around the Forest”

Forest News Spring 2013: “Around the Forest”

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