Monday, July 6, 2020

Precautionary Fish Consumption Advisory Issued by Obed Wild & Scenic River

On July 1, 2020, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) announced a 6.7-mile extension of the existing precautionary fish consumption advisory due to mercury on the Emory River in Morgan County. Additionally, a new precautionary advisory due to mercury in smallmouth bass is being issued for a portion of Daddy’s Creek in Morgan and Cumberland Counties. Obed River fish were also tested on multiple occasions and were not found to have elevated levels of mercury. Obed Wild & Scenic River includes portions of Daddy’s Creek, the Obed River and Clear Creek. Common recreation activities on these streams include boating, fishing, wading and swimming.

TDEC provides these advisories so the community can make informed decisions about whether or not to consume the fish they catch. In a 2006 statewide screening of Tennessee rivers and lakes, Emory River was identified as a waterbody where mercury levels in fish were elevated and an advisory was issued in 2007. Additional studies by TDEC and the Tennessee Valley Authority indicated these elevated mercury levels in fish extended further upstream than previously thought.

This new notification expands the advisory 6.7 miles upstream to the mouth of the Obed River. The Emory advisory, which is for all fish species, now extends from US Hwy 27 (Mile 12.4) upstream to the mouth of the Obed River at mile 28.4. Only a short section of the upper Emory River is inside the Obed Wild & Scenic River.

The Daddy’s Creek precautionary advisory is for smallmouth bass only and will extend from its mouth on the Obed River upstream to Interstate 40, near Mile 20. This section includes the portion of the stream that was designated by Congress as a National Wild & Scenic River and includes the portion within Catoosa Wildlife Management Area.

TDEC advises that pregnant or nursing mothers and children avoid eating the fish species included in the advisory and that all others limit consumption to one meal per month. Other recreational activities such as boating, swimming, wading, and catch-and-release fishing carry no risk. Warning signs will be posted at public access areas.

Obed Wild & Scenic River is the only Wild & Scenic River in Tennessee. The State of Tennessee classifies Daddy’s Creek as an Exceptional Tennessee Water and the Obed River as an Outstanding National Resource Water.

For a complete listing of Tennessee’s current fishing advisories plus additional information about the advisory issuance process, visit: https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/environment/water/documents/water_fish-advisories.pdf

An EPA website has additional information about mercury at: http://www2.epa.gov/fish-tech/epa-fda-advisory-mercury-fish-and-shellfish








Jeff
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Thursday, July 2, 2020

Smokies Adds New "Emergency Manager" Position

Great Smoky Mountains National Park recently announced the hiring for a newly created "Emergency Manager" position. This new position will function to coordinate emergency medical response and search and rescue operations with responders inside the park in partnership with local agencies and organizations. Ranger Liz Hall will fill this new job. She will also lead preventative search and rescue efforts, such as providing safety information to hikers by staff and volunteers.

Ms. Hall comes to the Smokies from Yellowstone National Park, where she served in the Emergency Services office since 2017. Prior to her job in Emergency Services, Liz was a law enforcement ranger in the Lamar River District. Before working at Yellowstone National Park, Liz was a backcountry ranger at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Skagway, Alaska.

“I am excited that the park was able to fill this essential position with someone with the skill and experience that Liz holds,” added Lisa Hendy.

Liz has a master’s degree in public administration and is a Nationally Registered Paramedic. She spends her free time volunteering with a local search and rescue team and working her search and rescue dog, Reu. She also enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and boating. Liz grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee and she is excited to come home and work in the park that introduced her to conservation and the National Park Service. She is moving to the Smokies with her husband, Travis Hall, who is also a ranger, and their young son.







Jeff
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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

A.T. Volunteers Return to the Trail

Appalachian Trail (A.T.) volunteers have been given the green light to resume Trail maintenance following guidelines offered by the National Park Service and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Maintenance work was put on pause in late March this year as safety guidelines and procedures were developed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among volunteers, hikers, and Trailside communities. The guidelines are intended to keep everyone safe. While much of the Trail is open for hiking and volunteer work, COVID-19 spread is dynamic. Some states and public lands could shut down if there are spikes in new cases, and volunteers will abide by all closure orders should they occur.

As volunteers begin assessing and repairing any damage to the Trail, all visitors should be aware that many sections of the footpath have not been monitored or maintained for several weeks. This means you might encounter obstacles such as bushy/overgrown areas, downed trees across the footpath, or erosion damage from rainstorms. Overgrown sections are also high-risk areas for ticks, so be sure to follow tick bite prevention techniques and perform tick checks frequently. Overnight campers and visitors in parking areas should pay careful attention to potential hazard trees and dead branches overhead.

We also still advise all campers to avoid using shelters and privies along the Trail. Over 200 shelters and privies are still closed by their respective land management agencies, and maintainers have been asked to postpone cleaning these structures until further notice to help keep them safe from potential COVID-19 infection.

Should you encounter a downed tree or any other significant maintenance needs on the Trail, please send an email to info@appalachiantrail.org describing the exact location and the type of maintenance needed.







Jeff
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Monday, June 29, 2020

USFS Acquires 49-Acre Tract in Fires Creek on Nantahala National Forest

The U.S. Forest Service has acquired a 49-acre inholding at the headwaters of Laurel Creek, a tributary to Fires Creek, in a popular recreation area on the Tusquitee Ranger District. Funding for the purchase comes from the North Carolina Threatened Treasures FY 2020 Land and Water Conservation Fund Appropriations.

The tract, which is completely surrounded by national forest, had been privately owned until it was purchased by Mainspring Conservation Trust in 2017.

In closing on the sale to the U.S. Forest Service, Jordan Smith, Executive Director for Mainspring said, “We are thrilled that the Laurel Creek inholding is forever part of the National Forest, after more than a decade of uncertainty. Mainspring is grateful to the landowners, who were willing to seek a conservation solution for this incredibly significant property, the organizations and supporters who helped donate to this project so the property could become public land, and for our partners at the U.S. Forest Service, who recognized what this inholding means to hikers, hunters, and people who love the Fires Creek Area. This project exemplifies what can happen when everyone works together for permanent conservation.”

The parcel includes a section of the Rim Trail, a 25- mile foot and horse path that traverses the rim of the Tusquitee Mountains and Valley River Mountains that form the Fires Creek watershed. The Rim Trail loop starts at the Fires Creek Recreation Area and connects to other trails including the Shinbone, Sassafras, Phillips Ridge, and Bristol Horse Trails.

“This property is an important wildlife area used by sportsmen for bear, deer, turkey, and grouse hunting and ensures recreation access to the Rim Trail,” said District Ranger Andy Gaston. “Mainspring Conservation Trust has been a great partner in adding public lands to this well-loved part of the Nantahala National Forest.”

Acquisition of the property also helps provide for abundant clean water through protection of the headwaters of Fires Creek, Laurel Creek, and Phillips Creek that flow into the Hiwassee River Basin, the primary source of drinking water for residents in North Carolina and Georgia.



Jeff
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Friday, June 26, 2020

National Park Service Seeks Information on Theft of Pink Lady Slipper Plants in Big South Fork NRRA

National Park Service is seeking information related to the theft of approximately 30 pink lady slipper plants (Cypripedium acaule) along Leatherwood Loop Trail, on or about June 8-9, 2020. On June 11, park staff discovered holes where the plants were known to be present. Flowering and vegetative individuals at the site had been counted by park staff two weeks earlier, on May 28, so an accurate count of how many plants were dug was possible.

Park rangers are requesting that anyone with information on this plant theft case or any other plant thefts that the public is aware of to call the Resource Protection Hotline at (423) 569-7301.

Visitors are reminded that all fossils, rocks, plants, animals and cultural artifacts located within Big South Fork NRRA are protected and may not be collected.







Jeff
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Monday, June 22, 2020

Forest Service Issues Warning About Black Bears in Pisgah National Forest

The Pisgah National Forest warns visitors to North Mills River, Bent Creek Experimental Forest, and Black Balsam and surrounding areas on the Pisgah Ranger District to be on the look-out for black bears. On the Grandfather Ranger District, bears have also been active at Table Rock and the Old Fort Picnic Area.

Black bears look for food that campers and trail users bring on their trips. While black bear attacks on people are rare, such attacks have resulted in human fatalities.

To avoid bear attacks, experts recommend the following:

* Keep your dog on a leash in areas where bears are reported.
* If you notice a bear nearby, pack up your food and trash immediately and vacate the area as soon as possible.
* If a bear approaches, move away slowly; do not run. Get into a vehicle or a secure building.
* If necessary, attempt to scare the animal away with loud shouts, by banging pans together, or throwing rocks and sticks at it.
* If you are attacked by a black bear, try to fight back using any object available. Act aggressively and intimidate the bear by yelling and waving your arms. Playing dead is not appropriate.

Visitors are encouraged to prevent bear interactions by practicing these additional safety tips:

* Do not store food in tents.
* Properly store food and scented items, like toothpaste, by using a bear-proof container, or leaving them in your vehicle. (Many toiletries that seem to have little to no odor can still attract bears.)
* Clean up food or garbage around fire rings, grills, or other areas of your campsite.
* Do not leave food unattended.
* Never run away from a bear-back away slowly and make lots of noise.

The large number of bear sightings and encounters in the past few years has led to required use of bear-proof canisters in the Shining Rock and Black Balsam areas. Backcountry users must use commercially-made canisters constructed of solid, non-pliable material manufactured for the specific purpose of resisting entry by bears.

For more tips, visit go to www.fs.usda.gov/nfsnc and click on "Learn about Bear Safety," or www.fs.usda.gov/visit/know-before-you-go/bears.







Jeff
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Saturday, June 20, 2020

Tourism to Blue Ridge Parkway creates $1.4 Billion in Economic Benefits

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 14.9 million visitors to the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2019 spent $1.1 Billion in communities near the park. That spending supported 16,341 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $1.4 Billion.

“Over the past several weeks, NPS staff have been working hard to safely increase access to Blue Ridge Parkway, a unit of the National Park System which contributes to individual and collective physical and mental wellness,” said Superintendent J.D. Lee. “We welcome visitors back to the park and are excited to share the story of this place and the experiences it provides. The parkway has a long history of connecting communities in our region and introducing our visitors to this part of the country and all that it offers.”

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. The report shows $21 billion of direct spending by more than 327 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 340,500 jobs nationally; 278,000 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $41.7 billion.

Lodging expenses account for the largest share of visitor spending, about $7.1 billion in 2019. The restaurant sector had the next greatest effects with $4.2 billion in economic output. Motor vehicle fuel expenditures were $2.16 billion with retail spending at $1.93 billion.

Visitor spending on lodging supported more than 58,000 jobs and more than 61,000 jobs in restaurants. Visitor spending in the recreation industries supported more than 28,000 jobs and spending in retail supported more than 20,000 jobs.

Report authors also produce an interactive tool that enables users to explore visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/socialscience/vse.htm

To learn more about national parks in North Carolina and Virginia and how the National Park Service works with communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to www.nps.gov/NorthCarolina or www.nps.gov/Virginia







Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking
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