Thursday, August 25, 2016

ATF Warns About IEDs on Kentucky Trails

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Kentucky State Police have issued a public safety advisory with regards to IEDs on trails in eastern Kentucky.

In Harlan County, Kentucky there have been three confirmed incidents of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) being hidden inside trail cameras, which exploded and injured people. An operation was conducted and nine IEDs were located and dismantled. Other devices, however, may still exist.

Some of the trail cameras were found abandoned on paths in rural areas routinely accessed via the Dave Smith Drainage Area (Woodland Hills Subdivision, Harlan, KY), on the Little Black Mountain Spur in Harlan County. These IEDs were designed to explode when a person inserted batteries into the trail camera. Other IEDs were designed to be detonated by a trip wire leading to the trail cameras. In some instances, containers such as milk jugs, protein powder containers, or paint cans were placed nearby the explosive device. In addition, there is information that a tree stand had been placed in the woods with an explosive device attached.

Authorities caution people to not handle any trail cameras, tree stands, or any other items that they did not place themselves. If you locate a trail camera, tree stand, or other item for which an IED could have been connected that does not belong to you, do not touch it and immediately notify law enforcement, providing them with the GPS coordinates if possible. You can contact Kentucky State Police Post 10 (606-573-3131) or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) (859-219-4500).

The man believed to have planted the devices was arrested back in June. On August 11th, while in federal custody, authorities brought the suspect back to Harlan County so that he could assist in locating the remaining live devices. At the trailhead, however, the suspect attempted to escape, but was fatally shot by Lexington Fire Investigator Captain Brad Dobrzynski. It is thought that the man placed the devices in the cameras in order to deter other people from stealing them.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Katahdin Woods & Waters - Our Newest National Monument

On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis today applauded the designation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, the first national monument to preserve the landscape and honor the history and culture of Maine’s North Woods. The Antiquities Act, which was used to make this designation, permanently protects 87,500 acres of lands donated to the National Park Service earlier this week by the Elliottsville Plantation, Inc., (EPI). This land donation includes the East Branch of the Penobscot River and its tributaries, one of the most pristine watersheds in the Northeast.

This weekend, Secretary Jewell will visit the national monument lands in Penobscot County, Maine, to celebrate the designation with state and local officials and members of the public. National Park Service staff will be on site to assist with the first steps to open the park.

EPI is the nonprofit foundation established by Roxanne Quimby and run by her son Lucas St. Clair. Their gift of land is accompanied by an endowment of $20 million to supplement federal funds for initial park operational needs and infrastructure development at the new monument, and a pledge of another $20 million in future philanthropic support.

The new national monument – which will be managed by the National Park Service and is now the 413th park unit in the National Park System – is located directly east of the 209,644-acre Baxter State Park, the location of Maine’s highest peak, Mt. Katahdin (5,267 feet), the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The boundaries of the new national monument also include 4,426 acres of private land owned by the Baskahegan Company, which requested inclusion should the company in the future decide to convey its lands to the United States or a conservation buyer, on a willing seller basis, for incorporation into the monument.

The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument designation is the result of a years-long effort by Quimby and her son. Quimby purchased the lands with a portion of the wealth she created as a co-founder of Burt’s Bees in 1984, and developed the idea of gifting the lands to the American people as part of the National Park System. St. Clair, raised in Maine and dedicated to preserving the landscape and access for recreational activities, and a small EPI staff, have been operating the lands as a recreation area for several years.

The new national monument includes the stunning East Branch of the Penobscot River and a portion of Maine’s North Woods that is rich in biodiversity and known for its outstanding opportunities to hike, canoe, hunt, fish, snowmobile, snowshoe and cross-country ski. These and other traditional activities will continue to be available in the new national monument.

The new monument is also a storied landscape. Since the end of the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago, the waterways, wildlife, flora and fauna, night skies, and other resources have attracted people to the area. For example, the Penobscot Indian Nation considers the Penobscot River watershed a cultural and spiritual centerpiece and since the early 19th century, logging has been a way of life. Artists, authors, scientists, conservationists and others – including Teddy Roosevelt, Henry David Thoreau and John James Audubon – have also drawn knowledge and inspiration from the area’s resources.

National Park Service staff will hold a series of public listening sessions throughout the Katahdin region starting the week of September 12 to begin work on the management plan that will be developed during the first three years. Details of the listening sessions, including dates and locations, will be shared with local newspapers and posted to the monument’s website ( NPS’s planning will be done with full public involvement, with special emphasis on understanding the ideas and concerns of the local communities.

The approximately $100 million total gift to the American people from the EPI, was facilitated by the National Park Foundation as part of its Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks.

“This extraordinary gift sets the stage for a strong and vibrant second century for America’s national parks,” said Will Shafroth, President of the National Park Foundation. “Through their vision and generosity, Ms. Quimby and her family are carrying on the philanthropic tradition from which the national parks were born 100 years ago, and which helped create Grand Teton, Acadia and Virgin Islands National Parks.”


Emerald Ash Borer Infestation Confirmed in North Carolina

Forest health officials with the U.S. Forest Service have discovered declining ash trees due to infestation by the emerald ash borer (EAB) whose presence was confirmed on the Appalachian Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest and on private lands along the French Broad River from the Tennessee state line to Marshall, NC.

Decline and death of ash from EAB occurs in a relatively short period of time (one to two years). Ash tend to become brittle very soon after they are killed leading to mid stem failures of trees in the infested area likely beginning within the next year. Hazard tree mitigation for EAB-killed ash trees should begin as soon as possible after the tree dies. Hazard tree migration for EAB affected ash is generally much safer when trees are removed as they die as opposed to when they reach full mortality and become very unstable.

The U.S. Forest Service will focus hazard mitigation work on ash trees located in developed recreation areas like campgrounds and picnic areas though affected trees will be present throughout the forest. Forest visitors should be cautious along roads and trails as the ash mortality is likely to be high in affected areas across the district. Check your suroundings before placing your tent or resting under a tree canopy. Avoid dense patches of dead trees. Be vigilant and look up for trees with broken limbs or tops as you drive forest roads or hike forest trails especially in windy conditions. Trees and branches can fall at anytime but are much more likely during wind events or following ice or snowstorms.

Adult EAB beetles are metallic green, about 1/2-inch long, and attack only ash trees leaving a D-shaped hole when they emerge from the tree in spring. Individual trees can be saved if they are chemically treated before decline symptoms are present. More information is available at including a bulletin describing the signs and symptoms of EAB and an insecticide fact sheet.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Programming Note: Friends Across the Mountains Telethon on Wednesday Night

This Wednesday, August 24th, is the 22nd annual Friends Across the Mountains Telethon. The event will again be broadcasted on WBIR-TV Channel 10 in Knoxville, TN and WLOS-TV Channel 13 in Asheville, NC from 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM.

The broadcast will highlight projects and programs that Friends of the Smokies has funded over the years. It's a fun event that raises awareness of both the Park's needs (as the only major national park without an entrance fee), and the ways that Friends of the Smokies helps to fulfill some of those needs every year. The telethon raises roughly $200,000 each year, and has raised more than $3 million dollars over the last 20+ years.

Volunteers will be on hand to help answer phones and keep running totals of the money raised throughout the evening.

If you wish, you can make a donation right now by clicking here.

Hiking in the Smokies

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Man sentenced to 16 years in prison for murder in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

A homicide investigation by Special Agents with the Investigative Services Branch (ISB), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Cherokee Indian Police Department has concluded with a strong sentence handed down by a federal judge.

Forrest Dakota Hill, age 23, must serve 200 months in federal prison for the March 2015 murder of a man on federal land. He must also serve five years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term.

Court documents show that on March 29, 2015, a 911 call alerted officers to a stabbing that had taken place inside Oconaluftee (Smokemont) Baptist Church inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Paramedics found the deceased victim with multiple stab wounds. Records also show that Hill, the victim and another individual drove to the church together, and over the course of their visit, Hill stabbed the victim with a knife during an unprovoked attack, causing the victim’s death. Following the fatal stabbing, Hill and his companion left the church and returned to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino where they picked up another person and then departed for a local hotel.

Investigators determined that the victim was stabbed at least 16 times in the chest, back, neck and elsewhere. Court records list the cause of death as “internal hemorrhage due to multiple stab wounds.”

“It takes a depraved person to kill another human being, but an evil one to carry out the murder inside a religious institution founded upon the belief in the sanctity of human life,” said U.S. Attorney Jill Rose. “While we can never replace their loved one, we hope that Hill’s lengthy prison term will bring closure to the victim’s family and friends.”

Chief Ranger Steven Kloster of Great Smoky Mountains National Park also attended the sentencing hearing. “The National Park Service appreciates the coordination and cooperation of all involved agencies to bring this case to a successful prosecution,” he said.

Hill pleaded guilty to a second degree murder charge in April 2016. He is currently in federal custody and will be transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. All federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Shenandoah National Park Reopens Trails

Shenandoah National Park has announced that the Snead Farm Fire Road and Snead Farm Loop Trail have been reopened to hikers, but remain closed to visitors with dogs. These trails are located near the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center (mile 4.6 Skyline Drive) in the North District of the park (see Map). Because of recent incidents with bears and dogs the greater Dickey Ridge area remains closed to visitors with dogs (see Map, red rectangle), however, the open/mowed area immediately surrounding the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center and restrooms (see Map, green oval) is open to dogs on a 6-foot leash.

During the closure period from August 4-18, 2016, park staff regularly patrolled the trails and monitored with remote trail cameras. No additional unusual bear behavior was documented on those trails during the closure period.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Smokies Superintendent and Gatlinburg Mayor Lead Gatlinburg Trail Hike

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cassius Cash and City of Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner invite the public to join them on a hike along the Gatlinburg Trail on Saturday, August 20 at 9:00 a.m. in honor of the National Park Service Centennial. Hikers should meet in front of Sugarlands Visitor Center to begin the 4-mile, round trip hike which follows the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River to Gatlinburg. Superintendent Cash has committed to hike 100 miles in the park during 2016 and has challenged the public to do the same.

The 100-mile goal is part of the “Smokies Centennial Challenge-Hike 100” program. This program aims to inspire all potential hikers—young and old, new and skilled—to experience and gain a new appreciation and stewardship for their national park. Over 350 people have already met the challenge and recorded hiking over 100 miles in the park. Cash has led hikes with over 170 participants to date including 90 young people from youth organizations.

To complete the Hike 100 challenge, participants must hike any 100 miles of maintained trail within the park boundaries between January 1 and December 6, 2016. These miles can include everything from the front country nature trails to the extensive backcountry network of trails. Participants can choose to hike the same trail repeatedly or choose to hike many different trails to accumulate a total of 100 miles. Participants who reach the 100-mile goal will earn a commemorative “Smokies Centennial Challenge – Hike 100” pin and be invited to a park celebration hosted by Superintendent Cash.

As part of the Hike 100 program, the park is hosting hikes for several regional youth organizations throughout the year. These opportunities will provide a chance for groups, who otherwise face barriers to travel due lack of transportation or funding restraints, a chance to explore the Smokies. These groups will have the added benefit of hiking alongside Superintendent Cash, as well as experienced hikers from the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club and Carolina Mountain Club.

The Superintendent is also providing a unique opportunity for the general public to hike alongside him on his way to reaching the 100-mile goal through a series of four hikes open to the public including this hike on August 20. Information about the dates, trails, and how to sign up for one of these public hikes is provided on the park website on the Hike 100 page.

In addition to information about the public hikes, the Hike 100 page on the park website provides opportunities for the Superintendent and hikers to share their experiences and reflections about their journeys towards their 100 miles, and a hiking log that participants can use to track their miles. Please visit the website at

The Smokies Centennial Challenge – Hike 100 program is made possible in part by an Active Trails grant from the National Park Foundation through the generous support of The Coca-Cola Company and The Coca-Cola Foundation as well as through the continued support of Great Smoky Mountains Association and Friends of the Smokies.

For more information about the Smokies Centennial Challenge-Hike 100 program, please visit the park website or contact them by email at