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Western

FOES FEAR YOU CAN’T SEE THE FOREST FOR THE TREES 

Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder. That also goes for value. Covering the landscape along a mountain road, trees are lovely to behold and create vistas that draw visitors — and their money — to western North Carolina. Thinned out, they provide prime habitat for many species of wildlife and a valuable source of timber. So the U.S. Forest Service plans to begin logging 212 acres south of Blowing Rock next year, despite the ill will the plan has reaped.

More than 1,000 people commented on the Forest Service’s initial proposal. Watauga County, Blowing Rock and Boone opposed it — an uncommon move for local governments — and passed resolutions supporting a special designation to protect the scenic views that help drive the region’s tourism industry. The Forest Service revised its plan and says it has bent over backward to accommodate complaints.

The harvest will be scattered throughout an 11,225-acre section of Pisgah National Forest, with no clear-cutting allowed. That will increase costs and reduce revenue for whoever wins the bid to cut the trees, says Bob Slocum, executive vice president of the North Carolina Forestry Association, which represents timber companies and related interests. “That type of harvest is what the Forest Service has gone to because of environmental pressure from various groups.”

The trees might be cut in stages over a decade, and those in popular scenic areas are more likely to be spared. “We’re leaving probably twice as many trees as we normally would,” Forest Service spokesman Terry Seyden says.

That might not be enough to appease opponents. At least one, Charlottesville, Va.-based Southern Environmental Law Center, isn’t ruling out a lawsuit that could delay or derail the project. It contends that the plan doesn’t adequately protect views or old-growth trees. Spokeswoman Cat McCue says the group will continue talking with the Forest Service in hopes of avoiding legal action, but that dialogue has gone on for several years. “We are willing to hear from the Forest Service again, but the community is very strongly behind a designated scenic area. And we support that.”


Even before the influx of neohippies, mountain folk had a tradition of doing their own thing. It has long been part of the highland charm. Bumper stickers urge: Keep Asheville Weird, and visitors seem to like the vibe. Downtown Asheville on a Saturday night can feel as lively as uptown Charlotte. But it's not the only place with a freaky streak. In nearby Haywood County, a state trooper discovered a small amount of marijuana in a car driven by the county tourism director. She says it wasn't hers. Even so, this could be an opportunity to plunder Asheville's thunder with another bumper sticker: Keep Our Mountains Smoky.

MARION — Superior Machine Company of South Carolina plans to add at least 25 workers this year at its factory here, which employs nearly 55. The Florence-based company may add another 25 if there are enough qualified applicants. The plant specializes in repairing rock-crushing equipment.

GRANITE FALLS — Charles Snipes, 74, retired as CEO of Bank of Granite. The title went to Scott Anderson, 52, the president and chief operating officer. Snipes, who has worked at the bank 25 years, plans to quit as chairman in April. He succeeded John Forlines as CEO in 2005.

FOREST CITY — Ultracoat, a subsidiary of Shelby-based Ultra Machine & Fabrication, plans to open a factory here to paint military vehicles. The $2 million plant, scheduled to begin production in May, will employ nearly 50 by the end of 2009. Ultra Machine employs about 400 in two factories in Cleveland County.

MARION — Swift Galey let go about 150 of 525 employees at its fabric plant here. The Atlanta-based textile maker blamed Asian competition.

CULLOWHEE — Student applications for the fall 2008 semester at Western Carolina University totaled 5,352 in mid-January — up more than 62% from last year. Officials credited targeted recruiting.