Thursday, February 20, 2020

New eBook provides hikers with trail information while hiking in Glacier National Park

Are you planning to visit Glacier National Park this summer - or anytime down the road? I wanted to let you know that I just published a new eBook that provides hikers with access to detailed trail information while hiking in the park.

Exploring Glacier National Park is the mobile version of, the most comprehensive website on the internet for hiking trail information in Glacier National Park. This book was published to provide readers with convenient access to the information contained on while in the park, or on the trail, where internet access is most likely not available. Additionally, the format of this book will provide a much better experience for smartphone users.

Exploring Glacier National Park covers 68 hikes. Like the website, the book includes driving directions to each trailhead, detailed trail descriptions, key features along the route, difficulty ratings, photographs, maps and elevation profiles, which provide readers with a visual representation of the change in elevation they’ll encounter on each hike. Some hikes will also include historical tidbits related to the trail. Whether you're looking for an easy stroll in the park, or an epic hike deep into Glacier's backcountry, this book provides all the tools you'll need to make your hiking trip as enjoyable as possible.

As with our four websites, this book also contains several directories that will help you choose the best hikes suited to your preferences and abilities. This includes hikes listed by location within the park, hikes listed by key trail feature, and hikes sorted by difficulty rating. I’ve also included lists of our top 10 hikes, the best easy hikes, the top fall hikes, and the top early season hikes.

The book is now available on Amazon.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Smokies Recruits Volunteers for Clingmans Dome

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is recruiting volunteers to help provide visitor information at Clingmans Dome. The information center sits at 6,300 feet in elevation, providing a unique opportunity for park volunteers to assist in educating visitors about high-elevation, spruce-fir forests, while also providing recreational, trip planning, and directional information.

The information center, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps, originally served as a comfort station, but was converted into a seasonal information center in 2010. The center also includes a bookstore area managed by the Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA) offering visitors the opportunity to purchase guides and maps, outdoor apparel, and other GSMA products. Volunteers will work alongside GSMA employees. Each volunteer is asked to work one four-hour shift per week from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., April 1 through November 30.

At this time, new volunteers are needed on each day of the week, except Tuesdays and Thursdays. New volunteers must attend an orientation session on Monday, March 9, from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 help learn more about the Clingmans Dome area. At each training, guest speakers will share unique biological and historical information about high-elevation forests and Clingmans Dome. The training will be held at the Oconaluftee Administration Building near Cherokee, NC. Volunteers should bring a bag lunch.

To sign up for this volunteer program or receive more information, please contact Park Resource Education Ranger Florie Takaki by phone at 828-497-1906 or by email at


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Monday, February 17, 2020

USDA Forest Service seeks help to expand access to national forests and grassland areas

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service is seeking public assistance to help identify national forest and grassland areas where the agency can provide greater access to hunting, fishing, and other recreational opportunities.

The agency today posted a draft list of about 90,000 acres of Forest Service land where hunters, anglers, and other recreationists are allowed but have limited or no legal access to the areas. The outreach is tied to agency efforts to implement the John D. Dingell, Jr., Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019 that mandates federal land management agencies work to evaluate how to expand access to public lands.

The Forest Service is seeking nominations that describe federal lands not on the list. The lands identified must be managed by the Forest Service, be a minimum of 640 contiguous acres, and be unreachable by foot, horseback, motorized vehicle or nonmotorized vehicle because there is no public access over non-Forest Service land, or the access is significantly restricted.

“National forests and grasslands play host to some 300 million hunters, anglers, and other recreationists each year,” said Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “The input we receive will go a long way toward helping the Forest Service provide even greater access and opportunity for the people we serve.”

The public nomination period to identify parcels for inclusion on the agency’s priority list will close on March 12, 2020. A final priority list will be published soon after and will be updated at least every two years until 2029.

To nominate a parcel of Forest Service land for consideration, email or write to Lands and Realty Management, ATTN: Access Nominations, USDA Forest Service, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20250-1111. Nominations must include the location of the land or parcel, total acreage affected (if known), and a narrative describing the lack of access.


The John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019 is a broad-based law that sets provisions for various programs, projects, activities, and studies in the management and conservation of federally managed natural resources. The law includes steps agencies must take on how federal acres that are now essentially inaccessible may be opened to the public. The collective work of the Forest Service and interested citizens will help the agency decide how to reasonably provide access through such measures as easements, rights-of-way, or fee title from a willing landowner.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Friday, February 14, 2020

Funding Needed for McAfee Knob Trailhead Project to Improve Public Safety and Visitor Experience

One of the most iconic locations along the 2,193-mile Appalachian Trail (A.T.), McAfee Knob has become one of Central Virginia’s most defining — and most visited — landmarks. Approximately 45,000 people visit McAfee Knob each year, often overflowing the trailhead’s small parking lot on the opposite side of the heavily trafficked Route 311.

In order to address parking difficulties and minimize risks for both pedestrians and motorists, a coalition of partners is working with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to construct a pedestrian bridge over Route 311, redesign the McAfee Knob parking area and install informational signage to help guide hikers to the trailhead. Spearheaded by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), the National Park Service (NPS), the VDOT and the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC), this project will significantly improve safety and the overall visitor experience.

“Visitor safety is one of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s highest priorities,” said Andrew Downs, senior regional director of the ATC. “This project will help pedestrians easily and safely cross over to the Appalachian Trail leading to McAfee Knob’s summit, and additional parking areas will minimize the number of people who choose to park on the side of Route 311. However, we’ll need everyone’s help to make this project a reality.”

Construction of the pedestrian bridge is currently scheduled to begin in 2025. However, a small-yet-critical part of the project has not yet been finalized: funding is still needed to purchase a 7-acre parcel of land adjacent to the existing parking area. This land will allow NPS to consider a wider variety of improvements including bathrooms, safer entrances and exits to the parking area, and more orderly parking. The ATC and RATC are currently raising the $200,000 needed to acquire this parcel and remove existing structures before transferring ownership to NPS.

Significant donations to this project have already been made by RATC and 2019 Cox Conserves Hero National Winner Diana Christopulos. The ATC invites supporters of McAfee Knob and the A.T. to help complete this project by making a donation at

A public information meeting on the pedestrian bridge project is being scheduled for this summer. The final date for this meeting and more information about this project will be posted at


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Thursday, February 13, 2020

USDA Forest Service announces challenge to increase focus on problems facing nation’s largest public trail system

USDA Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen emphasized the need to find innovative ideas to tackle the nearly $300 million maintenance backlog on the nation’s largest public trail system. Christiansen called on individuals and organizations to work with the agency to address trail maintenance and sustainability to improve access, keep people safe, and support local economies.

“In 2019, organizations and individuals contributed more than 1.5 million hours on the maintenance and repair of more than 28,000 miles of trail, and we are extremely grateful for their continued support and hard work,” Christiansen told trail advocates during a meeting at Forest Service Headquarters. “However, we must find more ways to erase the backlog. We still have much more work to do, and this is our call to organizations and individuals to share with us innovative ideas and boots-on-the-ground help.”

The agency hopes to expand its employee, grassroots, nonprofit and corporate support as part of a 10-Year Trail Shared Stewardship Challenge. Roughly 120,000 miles of the 159,000 miles of trails are in need of some form of maintenance or repair. Working within current appropriations, the agency has strategically focused its approach to trail maintenance, increasing trail miles improved from 48,800 miles in 2013 to 58,300 miles in 2019.

Christiansen shared the multi-layered challenge with agency partners visiting Washington, D.C., to attend the weeklong 23rd annual Hike the Hill, a joint effort between the Partnership for the National Trail System and the American Hiking Society. Hike the Hill helps to increase awareness and highlight other needs of the National Trails System. The National Trails System consists of 30 national scenic and historic trails, such as the Appalachian National Trail and the Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail, both of which pass through lands managed by the Forest Service.

The agency manages about 10,000 miles of national scenic and historic trails that cross forests and grasslands. More than 32,000 miles of trail are in wilderness areas. The remainder range from simple footpaths to those that allow horses, off-highway vehicles, cross-country skiing and other types of recreation.

The trail maintenance backlog limits access to public lands, causes environmental damage, and affects public safety in some places. Deferred maintenance also increases the costs of trail repair. When members of the public stop using trails, there could be a residual effect on the economics of nearby communities. Recreation activities on national forests and grasslands support 148,000 jobs annually and contribute more than $11 billion in annual visitor spending.

In addition to trails, the agency is working to address more than $5.2 billion in infrastructure repairs and maintenance on such things as forest roads, bridges, and other structures that are critical to the management of agency lands and that benefit visitors and communities. The backlog on forest roads and bridges alone is $3.4 billion.

To get involved with the Trail Challenge you may:

* Contact the nearest forest or grassland office to get more information on what they are doing locally.
* Join or organize a coalition of citizens and work with the agency to address the issues.
* Be mindful of how you use the trails by using Leave No Trace and Tread Lightly outdoor ethics standards.

For more information, email National organizations or corporations can get more information about becoming a Forest Service partner by contacting Marlee Ostheimer, National Forest Foundation Conservation Partnership Manager, at 406-542-2805 or


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Smokies Announces Paving Project in Deep Creek Area

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that a $1.15 million pavement preservation project will begin on Monday, March 2 in the Deep Creek area near Bryson City, NC. Paving will occur along 2.5 miles of area roadways including West Deep Creek Road, East Deep Creek Road, campground and picnic area roads, and day-use parking areas. Work is expected to be completed by Friday, May 15, weather depending.

The Deep Creek picnic pavilion, parking areas, roadways, and trails will remain accessible throughout the project, although visitors should expect delays due to single-lane closures. The lane closures will be managed with flagging operations. Parking areas and pull-offs will be closed intermittently for pavement application. To better accommodate visitors during periods of high visitation, no lane closures will be allowed during weekends or holidays including the week before and after Easter from April 5 through April 19. The campground and picnic area are expected to open for the 2020 season on Thursday, May 21.

The Federal Highway Administration awarded the $1.15 million paving contract to Estes Brothers Construction Inc. of Jonesville, VA. Crews will repair and seal pavement cracks before applying the thin, asphalt overlay. This pavement preservation project will extend the life of the 20-year old asphalt surface.

For more information about temporary road closures, please visit the park website at or follow SmokiesRoadsNPS on Twitter.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Crews Begin Clearing Mudslide on Spur

Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Federal Highways Administration staff assessed the mudslide on the Spur this morning and began clearing operations. The mudslide contains an estimated 500 cubic yards of material in a pile approximately 100 feet in length and 70 feet high covering both lanes of the northbound Spur between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Staff estimate that the removal will require at least 45 dump truck loads of material to be hauled from the site. Currently, operators are using two excavators and seven dump trucks to clear the area. Weather depending, the removal is expected to be complete by this evening.

The slide is located just past Westgate Resorts Road along the northbound lanes of the Spur. Northbound traffic is detoured for approximately one mile at Westgate Resorts Road to Little Smoky Road before reentering the Spur from Beech Branch Road just before the tunnel. Large trucks and over-sized vehicles are being detoured east of Gatlinburg to Highway 321 to use alternate routes such as Highway 416.

National Park Service rangers have received assistance with traffic management by the Gatlinburg Police Department, Pigeon Forge Police Department, and Sevier County Emergency Management Agency.

For more information about temporary road closures, please visit the park website at or follow SmokiesRoadsNPS on Twitter.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

President Proposes $2.8 Billion FY21 Budget for National Park Service

President Trump has proposed a $2.8 billion Fiscal Year 2021 budget for the National Park Service (NPS) prioritizing core mission capacity, increasing recreational and public access and infrastructure improvement.

The Public Lands Infrastructure Fund would help address billions of dollars’ worth of backlogged maintenance, including structures, trails, roads, and utility systems across the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture. The proposal would allocate $6.5 billion over five years, supported by the deposit of 50 percent of all Federal energy development revenue that would otherwise be credited or deposited as miscellaneous receipts to the Treasury over the 2020–2024 period.

"President Trump’s budget supports our ongoing efforts to rebuild, restore, and reinvigorate park facilities and infrastructure for this and future generations,” said National Park Service Deputy Director David Vela. “The President’s request provides funding to modernize our aging facilities, increase accessibility to our public lands for all visitors, and improve our resilience and response to fires and natural disasters.”

Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee stated yesterday, “I am also glad to see the budget continues to include the president’s proposal to rebuild our national parks. The Restore Our Parks Act, legislation that I introduced with Senators Portman, Warner, and King, is based on the president’s proposal and will cut in half the maintenance backlog at our national parks. This legislation is the only way to address the deferred maintenance backlog in our 419 national parks, and the Trump Administration agrees."

Budget Highlights

The President’s budget continues to emphasize infrastructure and asset management. The NPS asset portfolio includes more than 5,500 miles of paved roads, 21,000 miles of trails and 25,000 buildings that serve more than 300 million annual national park visitors. To manage NPS assets, the budget proposes $844.2 million for facility operations and maintenance. Aging facilities and high visitation have created a significant need for infrastructure and facility recapitalization and modernization. To address those needs, the facility operations and maintenance funding includes $188.2 million for cyclic maintenance projects and $121.1 million for repair and rehabilitation projects.

In addition to operations funding, the President’s budget provides $192.6 million for the construction appropriation, which funds construction projects, equipment replacement, project planning and management, and special projects. This includes $127.8 million for line-item construction projects.

These discretionary fund sources are critical to help address the significant maintenance requirements across the NPS. Additionally, the recreation fee program allows the NPS to collect recreation fees at selected parks to improve visitor services and enhance the visitor experience. In 2019, NPS leveraged $175 million in recreation fees to address priority maintenance projects to improve the visitor experience. The NPS estimates that in FY 2020 and FY 2021, $200 and $205 million in fee revenues respectively will be utilized for similar facility and infrastructure projects.

Park Operations
The FY 2021 NPS budget requests $2.5 billion for park operations. The budget proposes $44.2 million to support and enhance diverse public access and recreational opportunities, including $1 million for the Veterans Trades Apprentice Corps, $7.5 million for trail rehabilitation and $1.2 million for family camping experiences and education. The budget also proposes $7 million for increases in operational funding for new and critical responsibilities, including $223,000 for the life home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and $300 thousand for Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home National Historic Site.

To mitigate wildfire risk to visitors, staff and park infrastructure, the budget proposes an increase of $3 million ($4 million in total) for infrastructure resiliency projects at the most urgent sites.

The President’s budget also proposes $11 million to support large-scale wildlife conservation efforts focused on leveraging collaboration between parks and neighboring communities, tribes and states with the goal of implementing all state and local conservation Action Plans.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Friday, February 7, 2020

Mount LeConte Records 7 Inches of Rain Yesterday!

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park posted this on their Facebook page a short while ago:
As these photos show, weather in the Smokies can be extreme and fast-changing! Yesterday, we saw rainfall totals ranging from 5.09 inches at Park Headquarters to 7.04 inches at Mount LeConte. Today, snow has been softly falling all morning at Park Headquarters, and Mount LeConte had around 4 inches of snow as of 9:00 a.m.

Please remember when traveling in the park to check weather forecasts and come prepared. Road closure information can be viewed on Twitter at @SmokiesRoadsNPS; no Twitter account is necessary to see this page.
The park and the region isn't quite out of the woods just yet. Here's the forecast from the National Weather Service:
This Hazardous Weather Outlook is for portions of southwest North Carolina...east Tennessee and southwest Virginia.

.DAY ONE...Today and Tonight

Accumulating snowfall expected across the northern Plateau and higher elevations of East Tennessee and southwest Virginia early this morning and into the afternoon as cold air continues to spill into the region, changing rain to snow. Widespread precipitation will end later this morning and become more isolated by the afternoon.

Snow accumulations of 1 to 3 inches are expected with locally higher amounts up to 5 inches possible across the highest elevations of the Smoky Mountains within advisory areas.

Wind gusts up to 50 mph are possible today across the eastern TN Mountains above 3500/4000 feet due to a tightening pressure gradient. Downed trees are possible due to saturated soils.

.DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN...Saturday through Thursday

The wet pattern will continue into next week with several rounds of rainfall expected, mainly Monday and Monday night, and again next Thursday. Given the saturated soils and high stream levels, any additional rainfall may cause flooding issues.

For updates on park road closures, please visit:


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Park Facilities Closed Due to Inclement Weather

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that Sugarlands Visitor Center, Oconaluftee Visitor Center, and Elkmont Campground will be closed for the remainder of today, February 6, 2020, due to inclement weather throughout the region.

At this time, the following park roads are closed due to high waters and debris along the roadways: Little River Road from Laurel Falls Trail to the Townsend Wye, Wear Cove Gap Road, Greenbrier Road, Cherokee Orchard Road, Lakeview Drive, and Upper Tremont Road. Backcountry trails remain open throughout the park, but trailhead access is limited due to road closures. Hikers are advised to alter their routes to avoid trails with river crossings or to wait until the rivers recede.

For the most up to date information about road closures, follow SmokiesRoadsNPS on Twitter. Visitors may also call the Park’s Road and Weather Information Line at 865-436-1200.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Flash Flood Watch Issued for Smoky Mountains Region

If you're in the Smokies, or planning to visit over the next few days, please be aware of the following bulletins from the National Weather Service. Also keep in mind that streams throughout the park will be well above average flows for the next several days. In additions to the flash flood warnings, the National Weather Service is also warning about the possibility of tornadoes tomorrow, and snow on Friday:
Heavy rainfall with potential for flooding tonight through Thursday evening...

.A slow-moving frontal system will bring periods of heavy rain through Thursday. Today`s rainfall has created favorable conditions for flash flooding with another round of showers and thunderstorms tonight and Thursday. Heavy showers and thunderstorms that repeatedly track over the same areas could result in flash flooding of creeks and streams tonight and Thursday.


The Flash Flood Watch is now in effect for

* Portions of southwest North Carolina, east Tennessee, and southwest Virginia, including the following areas, in southwest North Carolina, Cherokee and Clay. In east Tennessee, Anderson, Bledsoe, Blount Smoky Mountains, Bradley, Campbell, Claiborne, Cocke Smoky Mountains, East Polk, Grainger, Hamblen, Hamilton, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson, Johnson, Knox, Loudon, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Morgan, North Sevier, Northwest Blount, Northwest Carter, Northwest Cocke, Northwest Greene, Northwest Monroe, Rhea, Roane, Scott, Sequatchie, Sevier Smoky Mountains, Southeast Carter, Southeast Greene, Southeast Monroe, Sullivan, Unicoi, Union, Washington, and West Polk. In southwest Virginia, Lee, Russell, Scott, Washington, and Wise.

* Through late Thursday night

* Rainfall amounts of 2 to 4 inches are expected with isolated higher amounts.

* Heavy rain with showers and thunderstorms could cause flash flooding. People in the watch area should be aware of the possibility of rapidly rising creeks and streams. Avoid low lying areas...and be careful when approaching highway dips and underpasses. Never attempt to drive across a flooded road.


A Flash Flood Watch means that conditions may develop that lead to flash flooding. Flash flooding is a very dangerous situation.

You should monitor later forecasts and be prepared to take quick action if flooding is observed or a Flash Flood Warning is issued. If you come to a closed or flooded road...turn around! Don`t drown!

This Hazardous Weather Outlook is for portions of southwest North Carolina...east Tennessee and southwest Virginia.

.DAY ONE...This Afternoon and Tonight

Periods of heavy rain are expected through Thursday. Today`s rainfall will create favorable conditions for flash flooding with another round of heavy rain tonight through Thursday morning. Showers and thunderstorms that repeatedly track over the same areas could result in flash flooding of creeks and streams tonight and Thursday. Rainfall totals of 2 to 5 inches are expected across the area with locally higher amounts possible. Isolated strong to severe storms with damaging wind gusts the primary threat later this evening and overnight into Thursday morning. A few tornadoes could occur as well.

.DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN...Thursday through Tuesday

The potential for heavy rain and flooding will continue through Thursday evening. Isolated strong to severe storms may affect southeast Tennessee mountains and southwest North Carolina early Thursday morning.

Thursday night rain will change to snow across the higher elevations. The eastern TN mountains could see 1 to 2 inches of snow by Friday afternoon above 3500 feet.


Spotter activation may be needed tonight.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Construction Begins on Appalachian Trail Center in Downtown Damascus

Yesterday morning, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and its partners broke ground on the construction of a new Appalachian Trail (A.T.) Center in Damascus, Virginia. This Center will introduce visitors to a variety of helpful information about the A.T. and outdoor recreation in the area, including suggestions for planning hikes and ways to get involved in conservation.

“Damascus has long been a destination for outdoor recreation in southwest Virginia, with the Appalachian Trail bringing tens of thousands of people to Damascus alone every year,” said Andrew Downs, ATC senior regional director. “This new Trail center will help us prepare both new and experienced hikers to enjoy and protect the Trail and its surrounding lands for future generations of outdoor adventurers and nature lovers.”

Located on West Laurel Avenue — just a few steps from the A.T. as it passes through downtown Damascus — the 2,300-square-foot center will be staffed by ATC and support visitor information, educational exhibits and details about neighboring trails. The Center will also serve as a volunteer training hub, providing classes for range of groups who help maintain and protect the A.T.

“The center plays a key role in Damascus as the centerpoint for our downtown — a gravitational core,” noted Gavin Blevins, town manager of Damascus and senior planner for the Mount Rogers Planning District Commission. “It will build upon long-standing partnerships with the ATC, U.S. Forest Service and many other regional entities and partners who have either shown support already or with whom we are currently and continuing to work.”

A joint project of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Town of Damascus and the Friends of Southwest Virginia, the visitor center is currently scheduled to complete construction in late May or early June this year. For the latest updates on the progression of the Trail Center’s construction, keep an eye on

Damascus is also a gateway community for Grayson Highland State Park, which is famous for its wild ponies, as well as its access to Mount Rogers, the highest point in Virginia. This hike is arguably one of the best hikes in the eastern U.S.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Big South Fork Fire Crews Prepare for 2020 Prescribed Fire Season

During the spring months of 2020, fire crews will conduct prescribed fire operations, located along Darrow Ridge Road, in the Tennessee district of the Big South Fork. Prescribed fire, as defined in the approved Fire Management Plan, will be located within the boundaries of the park.

Approximately 800 acres are scheduled to be burned, on the west side to Proctor Ridge Horse Trail on the east side down to the creek. During the burns, some park roads and trails may be closed temporarily for visitor safety.

As priority, fire crews are now working on prepping these units to burn safely and effectively. The expectation is and will be to initiate the prescribed fire as soon as possible. Local communities can expect minimal smoke and visibility impacts.

Implementation of burn operations is dependent upon a variety of conditions. Prescribed fires are conducted within specific parameters including temperature, relative humidity, fuel moisture, and wind speed to name a few.

Fire is an essential, natural process, having shaped the landscape for thousands of years, releasing, and recycling nutrients tied up in vegetation, duff, and organic soil layers, improving the overall health of plants and animals. During the planning of these prescribed burn units, areas of historical, cultural, and ecological importance are protected.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Environmental analysis completed and decision signed for Twelve Mile Project on Pisgah National Forest

The U.S. Forest Service has completed the environmental assessment process and made a final decision on the Twelve Mile Project on the Pisgah National Forest's Appalachian Ranger District in Haywood County. Once implemented, the project will help maintain a healthy and diverse forest that supports wildlife, provides a sustainable output of timber, improves water quality and aquatic habitat, and improves access to the forest.

"Many people helped us throughout the planning of this project and I thank them for working with us to identify what needs to change on this landscape and how to achieve our goals while being responsive to public comments and environmental concerns," said Appalachian District Ranger Richard Thornburgh.

Projects like Twelve Mile start with an assessment and analysis of the area including forest age and structure, types of tree species, wildlife habitat, and transportation. This study revealed how much forest stands were departed from their natural range of variation. For example, in the mesic oak ecozone, the loss of American chestnut and fire suppression has led to dominance by red maple and blackgum. The dense shade of these trees makes it difficult for young oaks to grow up. Harvesting some trees will allow more light to reach the forest floor and improve the growth of the remaining trees. This also creates young forest habitat.

The project will also ensure there is small patch old growth dispersed across the forest. This helps ensure habitat connectivity between medium and large patches of old growth. Both young forest and old growth, as well as wildlife openings, are needed to provide food and habitat for a diversity of wildlife species at different times in their life cycle. For example, the golden-winged warbler is a tiny songbird that uses specifically designed harvest areas within large forested landscapes for breeding and feeding.

The landscape assessment also identified opportunities such as restoring woodlands and shortleaf pine, and other needs such as stream restoration and transportation improvements. Frequent management actions such as thinning and prescribed burning are needed to maintain the open canopy of woodlands. Fire is also important for maintaining fire-adapted species like shortleaf pine. Restoration of streambanks will help to improve water quality. Changes to the road system will also improve water quality while providing and improving access for recreation, research, and management activities and private landowners as well as reducing maintenance needs.

Work in the project area will begin this year and will continue for 10 or more years. More information is available at


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Grand Teton National Park