News Release

Find a Research Natural Area within your Local National Forest

March 29, 2017

Asheville, NC — If you want to take a step back in time and see what your local forest may have looked like 100 years ago, look for a Research Natural Area. There are 33 RNAs within 13 National Forests located throughout the Southern states excluding Tennessee. The new RNA website will help you locate one near you. RNAs are permanently protected and kept under natural conditions as much as possible. They include exceptional ecosystems or ecological features and rare or endangered plants or animals as well as select examples of more common ecosystems.

The website also includes information on obtaining permission to carry out a study on an RNA or scheduling a field trip for students. The website includes an interactive map that provides data on RNAs by name and state. One can also search for RNAs with specific flora, fauna, at-risk plant and animal species, or old growth forests. A quick-start user guide facilitates use of the map.

Currently there are more than 430 RNAs established nationally. The Black Mountain RNA in the Pisgah National Forest, NC was the first RNA to be established in the Southern Region in 1933. The Southern Region’s RNAs range in size from as little as 18 acres Guilliard Lake RNA in the Francis Marion National Forest, SC up to 2,092 acres in the Little Laurel Run RNA, George Washington National Forest, Va. The total acreage designated as RNAs in the Southern Region is 19,179 acres. Overall, U.S. Forest Service RNAs cover more than 250,000 acres.

The RNAs are a network of protected ecosystems that are designated for non-manipulative research, educational purposes, or for maintaining biological diversity. The website is a joint effort of the U.S. Forest Service’s Southern Research Station (SRS) and the Southern Region (R8), along with the San Dimas Technology and Development Center. Margaret Devall, SRS research ecologist emerita, and Mary Long, regional conservation planner at R8, developed the website content together and are the RNA liaisons.