U.S. Forest Service supervisor in North Carolina Marisue Hilliard to retire Dec. 30 after 32 years of service, says increase in recreational use biggest challenge for agency

LOS ANGELES , December 29, 2011 () –

The head of U.S. Forest Service operations in North Carolina, Marisue Hilliard, will retire Dec. 30 after 32 years with the organization, the Citizen-Times reported Dec. 28.

Hilliard had responsibility for North Carolina's four forests: the Croatan, Nantahala, Pisgah and Uwharrie. They encompass 1.25 million acres of public land and with 5 million visitors a year, the forests are second in the list of most-visited in the U.S., according to Hilliard, the Citizen-Times reported.

In the last 20 years, the Forest Service's greatest challenge has come as its focus has shifted to people from timber, with particular emphasis and controversy surrounding recreational use, Hilliard said.

For example, diverse user groups of the Upper Chattooga River in Jackson County have struggled for decades, putting Forest Service plans at the center of competing aims, the Citizen-Times reported.

The agency's plans issued this summer left paddlers, environmental groups and fishers angry. Boaters were unhappy that their use of the river was limited while conservationists criticized the plan, saying it was too lenient.

The primary source of this article is the Citizen-Times, Asheville, North Carolina, on Dec. 28, 2011.

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