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Headlines
Elk Update Park Litter Control
Lepidoptera Blitz Park Targets Emerald Ash Borer
Proposed Park Service Changes Attacked Brook Trout Fishing Returns to Park
Repaving Newfound Gap Road Hemlock Treatment
2005 Bear Hog Dear report Sen. Alexander calls for TVA to do more for Air
Elk Release delayed Final Alternatives for Northshore Road
Cades Cove Survey - Not overcrowded Clingmans Dome Trail and Tower Closed
Roundup® Lethal to Animal Life High-altitude sites tested for nutrient loss, acid .
Ozone Levels for Hikers Not As High As Thought? Hog Wild

2004 Bear Management Summary

EA ON HEMLOCK WOOLLY ADELGID TREATMENT
Mt. LeConte Llamas Rabid Bat Bite
Humans Outpace Nature in Shaping Landscape 08/09/04 Wildlife Update
Park Visitation Down in 2004 New Park Species
Archives - Search past Park news items. Elk Progress Report
Hope for Hemlocks 4 Elk Deaths
National Parks Ordered to Cut Services Quietly Snake Bites Boy in Park
Black Bear Survey Hog Control
New Study on Ramps New Superintendent for Park
Study on Park's Heath Balds Sugarlands Riding Stables May Not Open in 2004
Park's Chestnut Trees National Parks Effect on Local Economies
Half the World's Plants Near Extinction Small Plane Crashes in Park
Search for Big Cats Exploring the Park's Backcountry
Park Now Part of The Lonely Planet All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory Underway in Smokies
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Spring Schedule 2003
May 10th Park Condition Update May 2003 Flood Damage
ATBI Finds New Moth Type Coal Fire Plants Get Permits
Rash of Bear Attacks in Park (with a twist) DON'T COOK IN THE SHELTERS
Exploitation Costs the Earth Cold Water Thrown on Warm Ups
Botanists Probe Medieval Medicine Crows Make Tools
Park Asks Your Help in Saving Hemlocks New Elk Pregnant
Last Cades Cove Family Home Demolished National Park Backers Petition Bush
Ramp Picking Banned from Park Balsam Woolly Adelgid Numbers Decrease
Opinions of Land Swap Heard Smokies' Hemlocks Threatened by Insect
Reward for Park Arsonist Elk Release Update
Hog Hunters Have Gone High Tech Hiker Achieves Triple Crown
Air Quality Improves in Park Smokies Elk are Doing Well
Park's Fish Populations are Down All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory Underway in Smokies
Walking Improves Memory Park Now Part of The Lonely Planet
Newfound Gap Road Construction Newfound Gap Road Reopens
Newfound Gap Road Traffic Schedule Cades Cove Loop Road Temp Closed
Hard Mast Survey Baxter Creek Trail Closed
Prescribed Burns in Cades Cove Prescribed Burn Near Cades Cove closes Trails
Park Spring 2002 Schedule Wildflower Update
  Sign up for Trail Days June 1

 

Rangers step up litter enforcement through Smokies

By The Associated Press
September 1, 2007

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) _ Litter enforcement has been stepped up on a heavily traveled highway into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, National Park Service officials said on Friday.

The 9-mile stretch of U.S. 441 between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg _ popularly called the Spur _ carries more than 12 million visitors and local commuters annually.

In fiscal 2007, 20 percent of the money spent on litter removal went to cleaning up the Spur.

"Many people throw litter out of their vehicle which is a chronic problem in the national park, but we've noticed that a majority of the litter found along the Spur is from people transporting unprotected trash loads from rental units or private residences to dump sites," park superintendent Date Ditmanson said.

Tennessee state law requires loads that could blow off to be tarped and rangers will be enforcing that statute, officials said.

© 2007, The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Bugling elk draw visitors to park
September marks beginning of herd's mating season

By Morgan Simmons
Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A bull elk in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. September is the beginning of mating season for the elk, which were reintroduced in Cataloochee Valley in 2001 and 2002. Volunteers with the Elk Bugle Corp are answering park visitors’ questions about the species

A bull elk in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. September is the beginning of mating season for the elk, which were reintroduced in Cataloochee Valley in 2001 and 2002. Volunteers with the Elk Bugle Corp are answering park visitors’ questions about the species

The elk in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are starting to bugle, and throngs of visitors are heeding the call.

The herd, which numbers about 75 elk, has become a major visitor attraction for the Smokies. In 2000, the year before the elk were released in Cataloochee Valley, about 7,500 vehicles passed through the valley each year.

Today, about 140,000 vehicles drive through Cataloochee annually, with most of that visitation occurring during the elk bugling season, which starts in September and lasts through the fall.

A group of volunteers called the Elk Bugle Corp has been patrolling Cataloochee Valley on weekday afternoons and weekends answering questions and giving informal elk talks to visitors.

They also remind visitors to stay safe distances from the elk, deer, and bear that roam the Cataloochee fields.

To date, the Elk Bugle Corps has contacted more than 11,000 visitors and worked more than 1,000 volunteer hours. Their busiest day of the bugling season was Sept. 2, when they contacted 1,088 visitors in Cataloochee in one day.

Park biologist Joe Yarkovich said bugling activity and fighting among the bull elk has increased markedly over the past week.

“This morning I heard four different bulls bugling,” Yarkovich said. “The cows are split up between two dominant bulls. In the next two or three weeks, things are going to start to get heavy as far as the rut goes.”

The largest rack among the bull elk in Cataloochee belongs to bull No. 17, with a nine-pointer on each side. Park officials said the racks this rutting season are larger and more impressive than last year’s.

Elk were reintroduced in the Smokies in 2001 and 2002 under an experimental program to see if the animals could survive. The program is still in the experimental phase, which means biologists continue to keep a close watch on the herd’s movements and mortality rates.

Biologists confirmed that 17 elk calves were born this year — six female, six male, and five yet to be determined. Of those born, an estimated 11 are still alive. Bear predation is suspected in three of this year’s elk calf deaths, one died from injuries inflicted by a dog or coyote along Big Cove Road, and one was struck by a vehicle on U.S. Highway 441 north of the Oconaluftee Visitor’s Center.

The survival rate of the elk calves born in the park has increased dramatically over the past two years thanks to wildlife managers trapping and relocating bears that stalk the Cataloochee fields during the peak of the calving season.

Park officials say several of the bears that were removed during the calving season have already made the 40-mile journey back to Cataloochee in as little as 11 days.

The survival rate of newborn elk calves in the Smokies has jumped from approximately 30 percent in 2005 to approximately 85 percent in 2006, and just under 70 percent in 2007.

© 2007, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.

Hitchhikers bug Smokies
Park targets emerald ash borer and wood it could ride in on

By MORGAN SIMMONS
July 24, 2006

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is taking steps to thwart the introduction of an exotic insect pest that sneaks into the park and campgrounds on firewood.
The potential invader is the emerald ash borer - a beetle from Asia that was discovered in southeastern Michigan in 2002 and has spread rapidly into Ohio and Indiana.

This summer, Smokies officials are asking visitors from these infested areas across the Midwest to leave their firewood at home.

At Cades Cove Campground, rangers are checking ZIP codes and license plates to intercept firewood brought in from quarantined areas that prohibit the interstate movement of firewood, lumber and wood products in an effort to contain the emerald ash bore.

At this point park officials are relying on education, rather than law enforcement, to stop the introduction of infested firewood.

The store at Cades Cove Campground sells firewood, and visitors also are allowed to collect and burn dead wood already on the ground.

Still, it's not uncommon for campers to purchase their own firewood and bring it with them. The park knows of at least six instances this summer where visitors from quarantined areas in Michigan, Ohio or Indiana came to Cades Cove with their own firewood.

Park officials also have notified stores and campgrounds surrounding the park of the threat posed by the emerald ash borer, which kills ash trees in its larval stage by eating the cambium between the bark and wood.

So far the bright green beetle has killed more than 6 million ash trees in Michigan alone.

Ralph Cooley, state plant inspection health director for the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, said his agency is working with Tennessee and other states so that word of the emerald ash borer reaches state parks and private campgrounds this summer.

"Right now we hope to contain it, and we can only do that with help from the public," Cooley said.

The Smokies has two species of ash, white and green, with white ash being the most common. The trees are found below 5,000 feet and grow in cove hardwood areas and near streams. Some of the park's biggest ash trees are found in the Greenbrier area, where some old-growth specimens reach 15 feet in circumference.

In addition to the emerald ash borer, the park also hopes to block the introduction of the Asian long-horned beetle, another exotic pest that spreads mainly through firewood and is quarantined in portions of Illinois, New York and New Jersey.

Both insects are among a series of non-native invaders that began with the chestnut blight and include the hemlock woolly adelgid, a tiny insect that is attacking hemlock trees throughout the Southern Appalachians.

Kristine Johnson, supervisory forester for the Smokies, said the loss of ash trees in the park would be a blow to the ecosystem, though not as noticeable to the average visitor as the loss of hemlocks.

"This is our window of opportunity to prevent the emerald ash borer from coming into the forests of East Tennessee," Johnson said. "I'm not sure it can be contained forever, but if we can buy just five more years, it will be worth it."

Copyright 2006, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.

Biodiversity inventory takes wing
Lepidoptera Blitz looks at how moths, butterflies impact park's ecosystem

By ROBERT WILSON
August 15, 2006

GATLINBURG - Just as moths are drawn to light, the people who study moths are drawn to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in search of a broader understanding of the insects.
As part of the ongoing All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory, a group of scientists, experts and others are spending most of this week in the park trapping and identifying members of the insect order known as Lepidoptera - moths and butterflies.

Brian Scholtens, an associate professor of general biology at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, is leading the group of about 20 people in the park survey, known as the Lepidoptera Blitz.

He said that more than 1,600 species of moths have been identified in the park and that as many as 2,100 are expected to be found.

About 25 species found so far were previously unknown, and one is known to exist in only two locations in the world, Scholtens said. Both are in the park.

The species they are examining range from butterflies and moths as big as the palm of your hand down to what Scholtens called "micro-moths," which are as small as a quarter-inch from wingtip to wingtip.

He said the group is paying more attention to the moths than the butterflies because more is known about butterflies, which are active in the daylight.

Moths, he said, are more active at night, thus there is more to learn about them.

The group is using light traps placed at different locations around the park and at various elevations to ensnare as many different species as possible, Scholtens said.

Then the bugs are compared, sorted and identified.

The survey, Scholtens said, does not specifically seek to determine populations of the insects, although some aspects of the search can help identify areas of concentration for other purposes.

"We may never know the population size," he said. "We can't do it with insects like they do it with bears. You're talking millions of insects. And part of the thing is that they are active in the dark. We have to be realistic."

The importance of the study and the inventory as a whole, said Nancy Gray, spokeswoman for the park, is that all "life forms" of the ecosystem are interdependent on each other.

"The ecosystem remains healthy," she said, "when all components are there."

It is possible, she said, for parts of the ecosystem to suffer and the system as a whole survive.

But, Scholtens asked, "How many can be removed and the ecosystem remain intact?"

He added that he is "interested in promoting appreciation of biodiversity" because in the last few hundred years, the extinction of species has speeded up because of the encroachment of mankind. The park, he said, "is a beautiful, healthy insect lab oatory. We want to see how the species fit together."

The All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory is a program to catalog all plant and animal species in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Major funding for the project comes from the Friends of the Smokies, the Great Smoky Mountains Association and the National Park Service.

The Lepidoptera project represents an investment of about $4,000. Participants are given travel money to the park, and the park provides lodging during the survey. Participants receive no compensation and are responsible for their own meals.

Copyright 2006, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Announces Temporary Closure of Clingmans Dome Tower

Date
March 23, 2006

Contact
Bob Miller, (865) 436-1207

Great Smoky Mountains National Park managers have announced that the paved trail to the Clingmans Dome observation tower, the tower itself, and the restrooms are closed until May 13 to allow for repaving of the trail.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson said, “The paved trail is badly in need of repaving for safety reasons. We began the paving project in November after leaf season, but had to suspend work when weather got too cold to lay asphalt. Our crews now need to resume work in order to finish the job before the busy summer season.” Park managers emphasized that the Clingmans Dome Road and the Dome Parking Lot (elevation 6,311’) will open for the season as scheduled on April 1 and that those areas offer visitors a good high-elevation vista.

Hikers may still access the Appalachian Trail and the other hiking trails normally reached from the Clingmans Dome area, but will have to get to them via the Forney Ridge Trail head which is located immediately adjacent to the parking lot.



WILD HOG CONTROL IN 2005: During 2005, 235 wild hogs were removed from Great Smoky
Mountains National Park, 132 (56.2%) in North Carolina and 103 (43.8%) in Tennessee. Due to an
abundant acorn crop during fall 2004, reproduction in the wild hog population during 2005 was very
high. Nearly 53% (n=124) of the wild hogs removed were piglet or juvenile animals and most adult
females were lactating or pregnant. One hundred twenty-two (51.9%) wild hogs were removed by
shooting, 108 (46%) were trapped, four (1.7%) were killed by coyotes, and one (0.4%) was struck and
killed by a vehicle. Through a cooperative agreement, 55 of the trapped wild hogs were donated to
the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Agency and relocated to State game lands. In December, the
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission passed a regulation prohibiting the release or allowing
the free ranging of any member of the family Suidae. We continued to work cooperatively with the
North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to monitor for wild hog diseases
including swine brucellosis, pseudorabies and hog cholera (classical swine fever). We also
established protocols with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture to monitor for these wild hog
diseases. Serum samples were collected from 54 wild hogs (23% of the animals removed); 40
samples have been tested and two were sero-positive for pseudorabies.

WHITE-TAILED DEER MONITORING: In August, herd health checks were completed as part of the
Cades Cove white-tailed deer monitor program. All five deer collected appeared healthy and all
animals tested negative for chronic wasting disease. The average abomasums parasite counts (APC)
was 784, indicating a good probability the herd is near nutritional carrying capacity. The 2005 APC
was lower than observed in 2003 (APC = 1,260). An average APC greater than 1,500 would indicate
a good probability the herd is exceeding nutritional carrying capacity.

BLACK BEAR MANAGEMENT IN 2005: Wildlife personnel responded to 165 bear reports covering
64 locations throughout the park. Bear warning signs were posted at 31 locations and 11 locations
including eight backcountry campsites, one shelter, one trail and one field in Cades Cove were
temporarily closed due to bear activity. Wildlife staff handled 18 individuals bears associated with
nuisance activity; six of these bears were relocated outside of the park and one bear was euthanized
due to aggressive behavior. In April, a two-year old male bear was released back into the park after 9
months at the Appalachian Bear Center (ABC). The bear was originally captured on July 8, 2004 near
park Headquarters, weighing only 28 pounds; it also had a broken femur. The bear was taken to The
University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine and surgery was performed to install a plate
to stabilize the femur. The bear gained 161 pounds during its stay at ABC. Wildlife staff and Visitor
Protection staff continued the use of non-lethal techniques such as aversive condition on bears,
conditioning them to avoid people. Several food storage cable systems were also repaired. The black
bear bait-station survey was conducted in July. Percentage visitation by route ranged from 0% to
100.0%. Overall percentage visitation was 72.8%, the second highest visitation rate recorded for the
survey. However, this increase may be partly due to increased movements of bears searching for
food. Huckleberries and blueberries, important summer foods for bears, were very sparse and, as a
result, bears may have been moving more in search of other foods, which may have increased their
likelihood of encountering bait sites. The hard mast survey was completed in August. The mast
index value for all oaks was 1.97 suggesting poor abundance. However, overall white oak and red
oak indices were 0.62 and 2.79 suggesting poor and fair abundance, respectively. Bear researchers
from The University of Tennessee completed their 37th year of ongoing field studies on black bears.
They captured 39 bears during 714 trap-nights and determined a population estimate of 200 bears for
their study area.

Alexander says Smokies air better, calls for TVA to do more

By DUNCAN MANSFIELD, AP Environmental Writer
March 20, 2006

Air quality around the Great Smoky Mountains continues to improve and the East Tennessee region may attain federal pollution compliance for soot and smog emissions sooner than expected, Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander said Monday.

"(But) we've still got a ways to go," he said. "The visibility in the Smokies is far from what it ought to be and the amount of particulate matter (in the air) is bad for our health."


In a meeting with mayors of 14 counties in the Knoxville area facing sanctions if their pollution isn't brought under control, Alexander said he won't be satisfied until the Knoxville-based Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation's largest public utility and a primary polluter, has a scrubber on every one of its smokestacks.

"I'd like to see TVA put sulfur controls on all of its power plants sooner rather than later," the Senate Energy subcommittee chairman said with TVA President Tom Kilgore sitting across the table.

Alexander praised TVA's efforts to this point in cutting pollution at its coal-fired power plants and support of "clean" nuclear power. TVA has spent some $4.4 billion installing six scrubbers at three coal-fired power plants in Tennessee and Kentucky, with a seventh coming on line this summer and three more at two East Tennessee plants by 2010.

But Alexander said further controls are needed and will be "expensive."

"And we are going to have to recognize that here in the Tennessee Valley," he said.

"TVA is very serious about this," Kilgore responded. "We have put our money where our mouth is. We have spent about $4 billion and could spend that much more as we go forward to clean the air."

TVA expects to spend another $1.3 billion on the three scrubbers already planned. That will only affect 18 of TVA's 59 coal-fired boilers, but they are TVA's largest plants and represent about 60 percent of TVA's coal-fired generation capacity.

Kilgore said TVA supports further reductions under the Bush administration's Clean Air Interstate Rules. TVA estimates those will cost another $3 billion to $3.5 billion and cover 80 percent to 90 percent of its fossil capacity.

North Carolina has sued TVA under its Clean Smokestacks Act, claiming TVA power plants are sending pollution across the Smokies into North Carolina. Alexander said the new federal rules would have comparable requirements in every state.

John Bachman, associate director for science policy in the Environmental Protection Agency's Research Triangle, N.C.-based Office of Air Quality and Standards, said the greater Knoxville area should meet requirements by 2009 for ozone _ the precursor to smog formed from nitrogen oxide emissions _ and fine particles from sulfur dioxide emissions by 2015.

EPA initially forecast Knox and surrounding counties would fail the sulfur reduction deadline, but credited TVA and local actions against polluters for revising their estimates, Bachman said.

The 14 counties have been meeting monthly for more than two years on pollution solutions that can be embraced regionally, including reducing speed limits to 55 mph for long-haul truckers on Interstates 40 and 75, banning debris burning on commercial construction sites, halting vehicle idling within their motor pools and education programs for parks and schools.

Jim Renfro, air quality specialist at Great Smoky Mountain National Park, said the park is seeing results. "I can tell that there are probably cleaner clean days and less hazy haze days," he said.

However, Don Barger, regional spokesman for the National Parks Conservation Association, warned that meeting federal limits is not enough. "Attainment is not clean air," he said. "Attainment is a step on the way to clean air."

Get Copyright Permissions Copyright 2006, Associated Press. All rights reserved.

The EA for hemlock woolly adelgid is at the final stage of review prior to issuing the Finding of No
Significant Impact.
HEMLOCK WOOLLY ADELGID MANAGEMENT ACCOMPLISHMENTS 2002-2005: The hemlock
woolly adelgid control project has greatly expanded since 2002, largely due to financial support from
the Friends of the Smokies, US Forest Service and NPS. A full time coordinator and six subject to
furlough forestry technicians were hired 2004. HWA surveys were conducted throughout the park
concentrating on the nearly 800 acres of old growth, 18,000 acres dominated by hemlock, heavily
visited developed areas, and roads. Unfortunately, infestations were identified in all major watersheds
of the park, although there are still areas where HWA has not been seen. Large-scale hemlock
mortality has not yet been observed in the park, but we can expect scattered areas of mortality
throughout the park in the near future.
Integrated Pest Management for HWA includes surveys, pre and post treatment assessments, and
chemical and biological controls. Chemical control activities included foliar treatments with insecticidal
soap and systemic insecticides applied through the soil or trunk of individual trees. Through
December 2005, at least 28,000 hemlocks have been systemically treated covering approximately 450
acres. Foliar treatments done on an annual or semi-annual basis have covered 360 acres. All of the
developed areas in the park have received an initial treatment. Some of the highlights include:
o Cades Cove: Loop road and developed areas receive foliar treatment on an annual basis.
Campground, ranger station and historic areas have been treated systemically with a total of
943 hemlock trees.
o Tremont: Entrance road and administrative portion of Middle Prong trail has been treated.
Developed areas, including the Institute, have been treated with a total of 359 hemlock trees.
o Elkmont: Campground and historic district completed with a total of 1,373 hemlock trees.
o Cosby: Roads, accessible trails, campground and developed areas completed with a total of
806 hemlock trees.
o Oconaluftee: Roads, accessible trails and developed areas completed with a total of 207
hemlock trees.
o All of the major park roads have been or are presently undergoing evaluation and treatment as
part of hazard tree management. So far, 4,102 roadside hemlocks have been treated.
o All of the backcountry campsites have been scouted and treated systemically if necessary.
There were 2,082 hemlock treated.
o Albright Grove loop trail has been completed, a total of 834 hemlocks.
o The Boogerman Loop trail in Cataloochee was treated totaling 1,482 trees.
o The Rainbow Falls Trail was treated to the Falls with a total of 1,013 trees.
o The Trillium Gap Trail was treated to Grotto Falls with a total of 1,189 trees.
Treating trees in developed areas helps ensure visitor safety, aesthetics, and to reduce maintenance
costs. For example, to remove a fifteen-inch diameter hazard tree it costs the Facility Management
Division approximately $150. Treatment for a fifteen-inch hemlock costs an estimated $19.00.
Treatments completed at Elkmont have saved the park over $61,000 in hazard tree removal costs.
Systemically treated trees are protected for three to five years.
Releases of predatory beetles as a bio-control began in 2002. The University of Tennessee started
rearing beetles and supplying the park in 2004. Although it is too early to assess the overall success
of this biocontrol, preliminary monitoring results are encouraging. Releases to date:
Year Releases # of Beetles
2002 10 29,945
2003 7 21,546
2004 13 35,533
2005 36 77,083
2002-2005 66 164,107
A comprehensive monitoring program was initiated in spring 2005 to evaluate treatments in terms of
HWA population levels and tree health. Annual reports will be provided beginning in February 2006.

Smokies Opens Park Streams to Brook Trout Fishing

Date
March 21, 2006

Contact
Bob Miller, (865) 436-1207

For the first time in over 30 years anglers at Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be allowed to catch and keep brook trout under new experimental Park fishing regulations that take affect April 15.


Since 1976 the National Park Service has allowed anglers to fish for non-native rainbow and brown trout, but they have been prohibited from possessing the Park’s native brook, or “speckled” trout, or from fishing in over 150 miles of Park streams where “brookies” predominate. Rainbows and browns were stocked in the Park in the early 20th century after destructive logging practices nearly wiped out the native brook trout.

Biologists in the early ‘70’s were convinced that brook trout were systematically losing range to the non-native fish and predicted that, unless measures were taken, the brook trout would only be found upstream of natural barriers by the year 2000. Park managers also believed that fishing pressure was further reducing brook trout densities. In response to these concerns managers closed the Park to brook trout fishing in 1976 and initiated brook trout restoration projects in select streams.

Thirty years later Park fisheries biologists have found that “brookies” are able to co-exist with the non-native trout in 69 miles of Park streams. Park fisheries managers have successfully restored 17 miles of stream to pure brook trout population using a combination of electro-fishing and through the use of chemicals to remove non-native trout from steam segments that lie above waterfalls and other barriers that prevent upstream movement of fish.

After over 25 years of monitoring trout and non-game populations in fished vs. closed streams, Park biologists had observed that natural occurrences such as floods and droughts were the major force behind changes in fish populations in both open and closed streams. They suspected that allowing angling for brook trout would have no measurable impact on either their numbers or their average size.

In 2002 Park biologists tested that hypothesis by experimentally opening eight streams (4 in TN, 4 in NC) to fishing and harvest for 3 years under the normal GRSM fishing regulations (i.e. 5 fish per day limit, 7-inch minimum size, and single hook artificial lures only). Each stream that was open had a nearby control stream which remained closed. Biologists analyzed population data within each stream (both open and closed) for three years prior to and three years after brook trout fishing was opened.

The study found there were no significant differences in brook trout density or the number of legal brook trout brook trout in any stream opened to brook trout fishing during the study period. Variation which did occur was attributed to natural variation and was not related to open vs. closed.

In interviews conducted during the experiment over 84% of anglers said they were moderately to extremely pleased with the brook trout fishing opportunity. The largest segment of the anglers (25-27%) cited the opportunity to catch a brook trout as the main reason for fishing that particular stream that day. Anglers caught an average of 5-11 fish per trip, but less than 33% of anglers kept the legal brook trout they caught. “Given that we could find no ecological benefit to prohibiting anglers from taking brook trout,” said Park Supervisory Fisheries Biologist, Steve Moore, “and the opportunity to offer anglers a very enjoyable experience, Park management has decided to open nearly all our streams to fishing.”

“So on April 15,” Moore concluded, “All but a handful of the over 700 miles of Park streams will be opened to fishing as part of an experimental regulation to allow additional time to monitor impacts of fishing activity.
“A few short stream segments will still be closed during active brook trout restoration projects. This spring, for example, parts of Sams Creek, Bear Creek, and Indian Flats Prong Streams, which have been recently restored, will remain closed while those populations continue to rebuild to carrying capacity. Once these streams reach carrying capacity, they will be reopened to fishing as well.”

Park managers say that the experimental monitoring period will provide them additional time to be sure that the changes in use do not have unexpected and negative affects on brook trout. Managers will also need the time to complete a required federal rule-making process needed to change current provisions in the Code of Federal Regulations which do not allow brook trout fishing in the Smokies. In the near future the Park also plans to release an Environmental Assessment for public review of the proposed rule change.


Repaving Work to Begin on Newfound Gap Road

Date
February 16, 2006

Contact
Bob Miller, (865) 436-1207

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Dale A. Ditmanson has announced that an 18 month project to repave 10 miles of the Park’s Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441) is set to begin on March 1.
Newfound Gap Road serves as the primary visitor access to many of the Park’s most popular trailheads and scenic overlooks and is a heavily-traveled north-south artery between the tourist hubs of Cherokee, NC, and Gatlinburg, TN. The section to be resurfaced extends from the Newfound Gap Parking Area on the Tennessee/North Carolina state line south to the Park’s Collins Creek Picnic Area.
The work will be performed under a $15,039,853 contract with APAC-Tennessee, Inc. and will be funded and administered by the Federal Highway Administration’s Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division. Completion of the work is expected in October 2007.
Superintendent Ditmanson said, “In negotiating this contract we made every effort to minimize the disruption to visitor access to Park attractions and to our gateway communities. The contract incorporates a variety of work restrictions that are tailored to avoid lane closures during the busiest periods.”
“However,” Ditmanson said, “Given that paving work cannot be done in the coldest months, we could not avoid some traffic delays and still get the work done within a reasonable time frame and within available funds. The lane-closures will not be allowed during weekend days, holidays, or during the month of October, but the schedule varies seasonally, so we will work hard to keep visitors and our neighbors informed about the extent of traffic delays they can expect.”
The contract calls for the following work limitations:
March 1, 2006 through June 14, 2006
No lane closures will be allowed on Fridays from noon to 10:00 p.m. or on Saturdays and Sundays between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. Lane closures will be permitted around the clock from 10:00 p.m. each Sunday night until noon on Fridays. When single lane closures are allowed the contractor may close up to four areas at a time but delays at each closure may not exceed 10 minutes at each location.
June 15 through August 15 in both 2006 and 2007
No day time lane closures will be allowed but the contractor will be permitted to close lanes at night. On Monday through Thursday nights closures can be imposed from 9:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights closures may occur from 10:00 p.m. until 8:00 a.m.
August 16 through September 30 in both 2006 and 2007
No lane closures will be allowed on Fridays from noon to 10:00 p.m. or on Saturdays and Sundays between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. During the month of September no lane closures will be allowed on weekends – day or night – due to heavy traffic created by car shows. Lane closures will be permitted around the clock from 8:00 a.m. each Monday morning until noon on Fridays.
October 2006
Due exceedingly heavy leaf season traffic no work on Newfound Gap Road will be permitted during the entire month of October.
November 1, 2006 through June 14, 2007
No lane closures will be allowed on Fridays from noon to 10:00 p.m. or on Saturdays and Sundays between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. Lane closures will be permitted around the clock from 10:00 p.m. each Sunday night until noon on Fridays. When single lane closures are allowed the contractor may close up to four areas at a time but delays at each closure may not exceed 10 minutes at each location.
Beginning in March 2006 the Park has will have a new toll-free recoding to which will have seasonally updated Newfound Gap Road construction information at 1-888-355-1849. Information on unplanned or emergency road closures in the Smokies are always available at (865) 436-1200 ext 631 (in Tennessee) or (828) 4971909.
No work at all will be allowed on national legal holidays, on Good Friday or the Monday after Easter. No work will be allowed the Friday after Thanksgiving or from December 23 through January 2.
This section of road was last repaved in 1979 and is badly deteriorated. In addition to removal and replacement of old pavement, the contract includes installation of over two miles of steel-reinforced wooden guardrail, repair of 5,900 feet of stone curbing and rehabilitation of 2,900 linear feet of culverts.

Critics assail proposed Park Service changes
Policy could mean cell towers and ATVs in Smokies, they say

By Associated Press
January 12, 2006

SEVIERVILLE - National park supporters say proposed changes in National Park Service management policies could result in cell towers in the woods, mountain bikes on the trails and more planes flying over the Great Smoky Mountains.
"The changes are obviously meant to commercialize and privatize many activities in the parks and open them up to numerous inappropriate uses," said Ray Payne, who has been a volunteer worker in the Smokies for a decade.

Payne was not alone in his criticism Tuesday at a public meeting to take comments on the Park Service's first major policy review since 2001.

The plan is "trying to emphasize parks as economic destinations as opposed to sanctuaries where one can go for inspiration and enhanced knowledge," said Owen Hoffman of the Coalition of Retired National Park Service Employees.

The Park Service said in a statement that the proposed changes are intended to "provide clear definitions, for the first time ever, of 'unacceptable impacts' to resources and 'appropriate uses' of parks."

The intent is to enable "park managers to more clearly anticipate and articulate how impairment of resources can best be prevented."

But critics say the policy changes are an effort to gut preservation-oriented policy in favor of recreational users such as snowmobilers and all-terrain vehicle users.

The National Park Conservation Association says the changes could result in cell tower construction in the Smokies, the country's most visited park on the Tennessee-North Carolina border, as well as lessening the ability to regulate pollution sources and flight paths that affect the park.

Smokies spokeswoman Nancy Gray could not respond specifically to these concerns. "This is not something we have control of in terms of that process," she said in directing participants to the National Park Service Web site for information and to register complaints.

She did say that any changes in Smokies policy would require local review and analysis and would have to comply with federal and state laws.

The meeting, part of a national public comment process, "was a complete waste of time," said Greg Kidd, associate regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association. "I was hoping for an opportunity to ask questions and get answers about some substantial changes."

The public comment period is open through Feb. 18.

 

To review changes and comment on them, please visit the Park Service's site at:

http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?projectId=13746&documentID=12825

Smokies postpone elk reintroduction
Plan delayed because of chronic wasting disease concerns

By simmonsm@knews.com
January 24, 2006

Officials with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have postponed for at least a year a third elk reintroduction in Cataloochee Valley because of North Carolina's concerns over chronic wasting disease.
About 55 elk roam the park's North Carolina side as a result of two experimental elk reintroductions conducted in 2001 and 2002.

Researchers with the Smokies and University of Tennessee say the herd needs 25 to 30 more elk - especially females - to survive over the long term and have requested a two-year extension to the research project.

Kim DeLozier, wildlife biologist for the Smokies, said the park is setting its sights on releasing more elk in the winter of 2006-07, not this winter, as previously hoped.

Meanwhile, park managers and members of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation met last week with North Carolina wildlife and agricultural officials to address concerns over elk-transmitted diseases such as tuberculosis, brucellosis, and especially chronic wasting disease.

"The North Carolina folks want to look at our data so they can better understand the risks," DeLozier said. "It's going to be a slow process, but a necessary process."

The state of North Carolina in 2003 passed a regulation prohibiting the importation of deer and elk because of chronic wasting disease, a transmissible neurological disease related to mad cow disease. Cataloochee Valley, the site of the elk releases, is located about 20 miles north of Waynesville, N.C.

Chronic wasting disease recently was found in a whitetailed deer in northern West Virginia, making West Virginia the fourth state east of the Mississippi to have CWD in its deer herd. The three other states include Wisconsin, Illinois, and New York. The disease, which strikes elk and whitetailed deer, has not appeared in the Southeast.

The elk released so far in Cataloochee have come from captive herds at Land Between the Lakes, a U.S. Forest Service recreation area along the Tennessee-Kentucky border, and Elk Island National Park, in Alberta, Canada.

The new round of elk also would be brought in from Land Between the Lakes, where the elk roam inside a 700-acre gated enclosure.

DeLozier said such captive, but free-ranging, elk herds are monitored closely for disease, and are less likely to get sick than conventional captive or ranch herds.

"We want to bring in adult female elk from LBL, and realistically, we're looking at next winter," DeLozier said. "We desperately need new females to have ample numbers of animals on the ground so that researchers can understand whether this herd will make it over time, or go downhill."

Biologists say the park's existing elk herd has about an 18 percent chance of surviving over the next 50 years, and that the herd currently is not large enough to withstand a catastrophe such as disease outbreaks or poaching.

A disproportionate number of elk calves born in the Smokies have been males. While elk herds in the wild typically have more females than males, the park's herd ratio is about 50 percent male, 50 percent female.

The Cataloochee elk have had their share of parasitic infection - mainly brain worm - and predators are taking a toll, too.

Six of the nine calves born in the park last summer were born in Cataloochee Valley, and of those six, five died within four days. Of those five, four were killed by black bears.

As a way of helping the elk, biologists want to conduct controlled burns in the fields of Cataloochee to clear vegetation and improve calving conditions. They also plan to capture black bears in Cataloochee from mid-May to the end of June and relocate them elsewhere the park while the elk calves are being born.

Copyright 2006, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.

For the love of the Cove

Park using public input to develop plan to address growth-related
threats

By MORGAN SIMMONS, simmonsm@knews.com
December 11, 2005

Surveys taken last summer at Cades Cove indicates a high level of
visitor satisfaction despite the traffic jams and crowded facilities.

The majority (75 percent) of respondents also said that visiting Cades
Cove whenever they wanted was more important to them than being able to
visit without encountering traffic and crowds.

The visitor surveys are the latest step in a lengthy planning process
between the National Park Service and the public that eventually will
produce new management guidelines for Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains
National Park.

The surveys - part of a Park Service planning tool called Visitor
Experience and Resource Protection, or VERP - provide information on
visitors' attitudes and use patterns that will help park managers
provide for visitor enjoyment while protecting the natural and cultural
resources of Cades Cove.

The three visitors surveys were conducted between July 27 and Aug. 2 - the
busiest time of the summer for Cades Cove. One survey simply asked
visitors what they did while in Cades Cove, while a second survey asked
more in-depth questions about how the visitor viewed conditions in the
cove related to traffic congestion and facility overcrowding.

The third survey - given at the Sugarlands and Oconaluftee visitor
centers - asked visitors why they chose to visit, or not to visit, Cades
Cove.

Of the 459 people who participated in this survey, 59 percent said they
were deterred from visiting Cades Cove because they didn't believe they
would have enough time to drive the one-way, 11-mile Loop Road and take in
all the sights. A lesser percentage specifically cited traffic congestion
as their primary reason for not visiting the cove.

Driving the Loop Road around Cades Cove takes on average two to three
hours, or as long as four hours, depending on traffic.

Surveys conducted inside Cades Cove found the five most popular visitor
activities to be:

* Scenic viewing.

* Wildlife viewing.

* Birdwatching.

* Relaxation.

* Cultural heritage education.

Two-thirds of those surveyed were repeat visitors.

Thirty-one percent said they were affected by traffic conditions, but only
a small percentage of those said traffic was bad enough to discourage them
from coming back.

While some of the churches and wildlife-viewing areas along the Loop
Road were identified as the most crowded attractions in Cades Cove, less
than 1 percent of those surveyed said they felt Cades Cove as a whole was
overcrowded.

Fifty-five percent of the visitors surveyed came from seven states:
Tennessee, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and Alabama.

The survey asked 284 visitors leaving Cades Cove to rate their overall
satisfaction. On a scale of 1 to 10, Cades Cove received an average score
of 9.4.

The results of the survey will soon be placed on the Cades Cove Web site
at www.cadescoveplanning.com <http://www.cadescoveplanning.com/> .

Nancy Gray, spokeswoman for the Smokies, said that while the positive
visitor feedback is welcome news, Cades Cove still faces a host of
growth-related threats addressed in the Cades Cove Development Concept and
Transportation Management Plan.

"These are some of the issues identified earlier and why the planning
process began," Gray said.

With about 2 million visitors a year, Cades Cove draws more people than do
many national parks around the United States. In the 1970s, the Loop Road
around Cades Cove averaged about 183,000 vehicles a year. In the 1980s,
that number increased to more than 350,000 vehicles a year, and in the
1990s, the traffic count at Cades Cove averaged 563,000 vehicles a year.

Park managers say vehicle traffic around Cades Cove during the busy
months of summer and fall exceeds road capacity and that the crowds are
putting a strain on the area's visitor facilities and historical
structures.

And while some park visitors have expressed a desire for an alternative
transportation system in Cades Cove, others feel strongly about not having
to give up their personal vehicles.

The Cades Cove Development Concept and Transportation Management Plan
began in 2001 as a cooperative effort between the Smokies and the
Knoxville Transportation Planning Organization.

During Phase I, participants identified the issues and developed five
preliminary alternatives ranging from doing nothing to building a new
visitor center and restricting traffic through Cades Cove in favor of a
mass transit system.

Phase II of the project is expected to last 22 months and will include
additional data collection and environmental study and further refinement
of the five alternatives.

The next round of public meetings is scheduled for this summer. The
results of Phase II will be used to develop a draft Environmental Impact
Statement in 2008, which will present the Cades Cove management
alternative preferred by the National Park Service.

Morgan Simmons may be reached at 865-342-6321.

Copyright 2005, KnoxNews. All Rights Reserved.

Scientists to sample soil in the Smokies

High-altitude sites will be tested for nutrient loss, deposits of acid

By MORGAN SIMMONS, simmonsm@knews.com
December 5, 2005

Scientists literally will be digging for answers when they embark on a new
soil study in the high elevations of Great Smoky Mountains National Park
this spring.

They will sample soils from four sites above 4,000 feet, where acid rain
and polluted cloud water cause some of the worst acid deposition problems
in the Smokies.

The study, funded in part by a $10,000 grant from the Alcoa Foundation,
will target sites examined by the Environmental Protection Agency in the
1980s, enabling scientists to see how the soils have changed.

"We have been studying the effects of acid deposition on streams, and now
we're looking at soils," said Michael Jenkins, forest ecologist with the
Smokies.

"We're filling in another piece of the puzzle."

In conducting the study, scientists will dig down to the bedrock at four
high-elevation sites located on the Tennessee and North Carolina sides of
the 500,000-acre park.

Jenkins said this top layer of soil contains more organisms than
anywhere in the forest.

"Changes in the soil chemistry have a cascading effect that impacts the
plants and trees - and ultimately the animals that rely on them," Jenkins
said.

Plant communities in the park above 4,000 feet include northern hardwood
species such as beech, birch and red maple, as well as forests comprised
of red spruce and _Fraser fir.

Park managers estimate that 95 percent of the Frazer fir forest has been
destroyed by the balsam woolly adelgid - a non-native insect pest - in
combination with stresses induced by acid rain and cloud moisture.

The soil study is expected to reveal if further soil acidification or
nutrient loss have occurred at these sensitive sites since they were
sampled 20 years ago.

"The park is so biologically rich and important to people, it's the
perfect place to do this kind of work," Jenkins said.

Acid rain results when sulfur and nitrogen by-products from fossil
fuel-burning plants, industries, and motorized vehicles combine with
water vapor to form weak acid.

The Smokies' suffer some of the worst acid rain problems in the United
States - especially after major rains or snow melts, when streams in the
higher elevations become more acidic than vinegar, and rainwater may be 10
times more acidic than normal.

The park began monitoring acid deposition more than 20 years ago.

In addition to funding from the Alcoa Foundation, the soil study has
received in-kind support from the Smokies, the U.S. Natural Resources
Conservation Service, and Discover Life in America, the nonprofit
organization that manages the park's All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory, or
ATBI.

The new soil study follows a similar, but larger scale, soil survey
conducted in the Smokies by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation
Service, formally known as the U.S. Soil Conservation Service. The field
work alone for that survey took seven years. Scientists sampled 72 sites
throughout the park, sometimes venturing out for a full week into the
backcountry.

The data from that study, along with digital maps, are expected to be
finished in 2007.

Morgan Simmons may be reached at 865-342-6321.

Copyright 2005, KnoxNews. All Rights Reserved.

Hog wild
Despite efforts to cull them, shrewd animals survive in national park

By FRED BROWN, brownf@knews.com
December 5, 2005

CADES COVE - U.S. Park Ranger Bill Ramsey looks like someone just in from a foot patrol in an Iraqi neighborhood: shotgun clipped at an angle across his chest; gloves; pistol on the hip; boots; and radio for instant communication.
In the Park Service truck, Ranger Bill Stiver moves his AR-15 semiautomatic rifle a little closer to his leg.

If this sounds dead serious, it is, and it isn't. The two men, along with intern Scott Sharp, are out in the lower grasslands near Abrams Creek in Cades Cove on patrol for one of the most dangerous, wily and shrewd animals in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Their quarry is the wild boar, a tough European (suidae) feral pig. The original boars arrived in the park sometime in the early 1900s, escapees from hunting preserves bordering on what are now the park's boundaries.

Since then, they have run wild in the park, damaging flora and fauna. The boar can reach upwards of 250 pounds and with razor-sharp tusks protruding outside his snout like knife blades, it becomes a formidable foe. Females can have up to 12 piglets in a litter, twice a year. Male boars, some of the Russian variety, are known for their particularly nasty attitudes.

And today, park biologists also have to deal with domestic pigs gone feral. These feral pigs differ from their European cousin in snout (shorter), tail (curly) and color (spots). It also appears that the feral hogs have been deliberately dispersed along the park borders.

Thus, the armament when the park rangers take to the areas where they suspect wild hogs. It is easy to spot hog ground: it is as torn up as if a farmer plowed the field.

On this hunt, Ramsey, his 12-gauge shotgun bristling with red shells loaded with buckshot, Stiver and Sharp are setting a hog trap next to a beaver dam bordered by stands of tall, thick river cane.

The site seems about perfect, said Ramsey.

"Look at that river cane," he said. "It is their highway system. The breaks in the cane are their roadways."

The trap, baited with cracked corn, will be placed next to a thick stand of river cane.

Ramsey and Stiver had a boar on the run in the same area a few days prior to the decision to put in a trap. The broad boar, a lumpy shadow in the thickets, disappeared into the river cane, and then apparently sneaked out the other side, finding safe harbor in the tall grass.

"We walked toward each other," Ramsey said. "The hog was between us. We never saw him."

Intricate hog lanes have been cut through the tough cane by the brawny boars. There are left and right lanes, in and out lanes; a hog road around the entire patch of cane acts as a circuitous escape route. There are intersections, lanes leading off into nowhere and trails that disappear into dense forests of green cane, their 7-inch-long leaves intertwining into a green matrix that appears to be impenetrable to all but the hog.

This cold morning, large geese feed in the frosty, laid-over grass. Stiver, Ramsey and Sharp busy themselves with the large iron pipe and chain link fence trap.

Stiver, a wildlife biologist, has been trapping and shooting park hogs for the past 15 years. He has become something of a hog expert. He smiles at the mention, and demurs on handing out his hog stories.

"There is always the legendary hog story," he said. "The big one."

He does mention that his boss, Kim Delozier, supervisor and wildlife biologist, was helping National Geographic film a hog documentary a few years ago inside the park. As the crew lifted the hog trap, the rusty bottom fell out and the big boar began slashing at Delozier.

Stiver, who coordinates the park's hog control program, chuckles, but all in honest admiration of the piggy predicament his boss was in. The hog did slice the back of one ranger's pants and leg.

The river cane is perhaps 10- to 11-feet tall. Some of the thick stalks have been cut off near the bottom, or about 6 to 8 inches up from the ground. It is as if the cane has been chopped at an angle with a machete.

Ramsey and Stiver are at a loss to explain it, other than saying the big boars roll in and snap the base of the cane. But it is oddly cut, like a carrot, sliced at an angle.

Unfortunately for hog eradication, but providential for the hog in the wild, Ramsey is not allowed to shoot unless he can specifically identify the wild boar as such.

"I have to be able to see the pig and have a clear background," he said.

Wild hogs are notorious for hiding in the densest parts of a place, until they come out at night to feed on anything they can find by rooting it up: roots, bugs, and especially salamanders, considered to be a boar delicacy.

In its many years of trying to control the wild hog population in the Smokies, the Park Service, Stiver said, has been able to cut the herd to "maintenance level." That means the 200 to 300 hogs they take a year serve to keep the herd roughly in check, depending on whether there is a great mast year. Then hog population numbers bump up.

"It is like the war on drugs," Ramsey said. "It is an ever-continuing problem."

And when a hog is trapped - sometimes sows with several piglets are caught in the trap - it is either dispatched humanely (shot with a pistol to the heart) or transferred to a state that wants to resettle the hogs in preserves where they can be hunted. Currently, North Carolina is working with the park to take some of the Smokies boars and let them loose in hunting ranges for sportsmen.

Regardless, since 1959 when the hog eradication program began, some 10,600 hogs have been removed, Stiver said. Of that number, roughly 6,000 have been trapped.

A best guess is that if you double the number harvested each year, you get an idea of the size of the herd. That would mean from 500 to 600 roam wild on any given day.

Senior writer Fred Brown may be reached at 865-342-6427.

Contact: Karen Hoffman
klh52@pitt.edu
412-624-4356
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

PITTSBURGH--The herbicide Roundup® is widely used to eradicate weeds. But a study published today by a University of Pittsburgh researcher finds that the chemical may be eradicating much more than that.
Pitt assistant professor of biology Rick Relyea found that Roundup®, the second most commonly applied herbicide in the United States, is "extremely lethal" to amphibians. This field experiment is one of the most extensive studies on the effects of pesticides on nontarget organisms in a natural setting, and the results may provide a key link to global amphibian declines.

In a paper titled "The Impact of Insecticides and Herbicides on the Biodiversity and Productivity of Aquatic Communities," published in the journal Ecological Applications, Relyea examined how a pond's entire community--25 species, including crustaceans, insects, snails, and tadpoles--responded to the addition of the manufacturers' recommended doses of two insecticides--Sevin® (carbaryl) and malathion--and two herbicides--Roundup® (glyphosate) and 2,4-D.

Relyea found that Roundup® caused a 70 percent decline in amphibian biodiversity and an 86 percent decline in the total mass of tadpoles. Leopard frog tadpoles and gray tree frog tadpoles were completely eliminated and wood frog tadpoles and toad tadpoles were nearly eliminated. One species of frog, spring peepers, was unaffected.

"The most shocking insight coming out of this was that Roundup®, something designed to kill plants, was extremely lethal to amphibians," said Relyea, who conducted the research at Pitt's Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology. "We added Roundup®, and the next day we looked in the tanks and there were dead tadpoles all over the bottom."

Relyea initially conducted the experiment to see whether the Roundup® would have an indirect effect on the frogs by killing their food source, the algae. However, he found that Roundup®, although an herbicide, actually increased the amount of algae in the pond because it killed most of the frogs.

"It's like killing all the cows in a field and seeing that the field has more grass in it--not because you made the grass grow better, but because you killed everything that eats grass," he said.

Previous research had found that the lethal ingredient in Roundup® was not the herbicide itself, glyphosate, but rather the surfactant, or detergent, that allows the herbicide to penetrate the waxy surfaces of plants. In Roundup®, that surfactant is a chemical called polyethoxylated tallowamine. Other herbicides have less dangerous surfactants: For example, Relyea's study found that 2,4-D had no effect on tadpoles.

"We've repeated the experiment, so we're confident that this is, in fact, a repeatable result that we see," said Relyea. "It's fair to say that nobody would have guessed Roundup® was going to be so lethal to amphibians."

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT – Kim DeLozier (865-436-1248)

2004 BEAR MANAGEMENT SUMMARY: The annual black bear management workshop was held in April and focused on protocols for handling sick and injured wildlife. We continued to work with officials from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the City of Gatlinburg, Tennessee to manage bears along the Gatlinburg/park boundary. From April 4 to November 11, 2004, we received 163 bear management reports, 29 resulting in estimated property damages of $1,076. Bear activity in front country areas included five campgrounds, three horse camps, three picnic areas as well as several roadsides and parking areas. Bear activity also was reported at eight backcountry shelters (53.3%) and 16 backcountry campsites (18.0%) as well as Mt. LeConte Lodge; six of these backcountry campsites were temporarily closed due to bear activity. Bear activity was also reported along several trails and the Middle Prong trail was temporarily closed due to bear activity. There were no human injuries from bears. We captured 21 individual bears 22 times within the park for management purposes; six of these bears were relocated to the Cherokee National Forest, Tennessee. Two captured bears were taken to the Appalachian Bear Center (www.appbears.org); one of these bears were released back in the park on September 15 and the other is scheduled to be released in March 2005. Four bear mortalities were documented within the park; one bear was euthanized due to aggressive behavior, one injured bear died during handling and two bears were struck and killed by vehicles. In December, A hunter near Gatlinburg harvested a 13.5-year-old female bear that was captured and released on site in the park in 1995. The black bear bait-station survey was conducted in July and the overall bear visitation rate was 66.3%, which was lower than 2003 (67.6%). The hard mast survey was conducted in August and the overall oak mast index was 2.87, suggesting fair hard mast production. Researchers from the University of Tennessee (UTK) completed their 36th year of ongoing field studies on black bears in the northwest portion of the park. Researchers captured 24 bears during 505 trap nights and the Jolly-Seber population estimate for their study area was 260 bears. Extrapolation of this estimate parkwide is a population of approximately 1,625 bears. UTK bear researchers also completed their second year of a pilot study using black bear DNA hair samples to determine population estimates. Visitors approaching, feeding and disturbing wildlife (bears and deer in particular) continues to be a problem, particularly in the Cades Cove area. Wildlife disturbance has become a common problem mainly because the animals have lost their fear of people, and become habituated. Habituated animals can quickly become food conditioned, if fed human food by visitors. Frequently, these animals have to be captured and relocated or even destroyed. The key to protecting wildlife and visitors is to keep the animals wild and afraid of people. To achieve this, in fall 2002 we began experimenting with different forms of aversive conditioning, particularly pyrotechnics, for managing habituated animals, particularly bears. We continued using pyrotechnics on habituated animals in 2004. Although we have received a few complaint letters, results to discourage wildlife from frequenting roadsides and other developed areas appears encouraging.


Great Smoky Mountains News Release
Date: October 26, 2005 865/436-1208

ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT ON HEMLOCK WOOLLY ADELGID TREATMENT AVAILABLE FOR REVIEW AND COMMENT

Great Smoky Mountains National Park managers are seeking public input

on an Environmental Assessment (EA) concerning the Park's management of

hemlock woolly adelgid. Under provisions of the National Environmental

Policy Act, the Park is inviting public comment on a range of treatment

options that include pesticide use and predatory insect releases in front

country and backcountry areas, as well as a no treatment option, during a

30-day public review process that will end on November 18, 2005.

Currently, biologists are managing HWA using experimental control

strategies that include insecticidal soap and oil, systemic insecticide

treatments and non-native predatory beetles. "Since the insect was first

discovered in the Park, HWA populations have become much more widespread

and we are proposing to expand controls to save as much hemlock as

possible without adversely impacting Park resources," said Park Superintendent Dale

Ditmanson.

Hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) is a non-native insect that was first

found in the Park in 2002 that poses an imminent threat to Park resources.

The Park contains more than 18,000 acres of hemlock-dominated forests,

including 700 acres of old growth hemlock aged to 500 years old. The

non-native insect threatens all ages and sizes of hemlock trees.

The EA outlines details of each proposed alternative of which there

are five. The alternatives under consideration are:

1) No Treatment. The Park would apply no treatments to prevent the
spread of HWA throughout the Park; 2) No Action. Managers would
continue to treat hemlocks at the current level; 3) Chemical Control
Only. Under this alternative, the park will use chemicals under
National Park Service Integrated Pest Management established
procedures; 4) Biological Control Only. The Park will release
insect predators to control HWA populations. Currently, two beetle
species are available for release with several more expected in the
future;5) Both chemical and Biological Control. This alternative combines
alternatives 3 and 4, as described above.

Alternative 5 is indicated as the environmentally preferred

alternative. The use of chemicals and biocontrols will allow Park
managers

a range of options to safely apply treatments best suited for specific

areas, i.e., backcountry, high use developed areas, areas near water, and

old growth communities. Superintendent Ditmanson commented that "The

varying methods provide managers flexibility in addressing specific
habitat

concerns that will best protect water resources, non-target species and

threatened and endangered species, while ensuring that visitors will

continue to enjoy Park facilities and resources."

The EA is available for review and can be obtained several ways. A

link to an electronic copy of the document can be found under the

"management documents" section on the Park's website at

http://www.nps.gov/grsm/pphtml/documents.html. A copy of the EA may also

be requested by writing to the address provided below or calling (865)

436-1208.

Comments should be received by the National Park Service by November

18, 2005, and sent to: Superintendent, Great Smoky Mountains National

Park, 107 Park Headquarters Road Gatlinburg, TN 37738 or e:mailed to

GRSM_Hemlock@nps.gov.

Nature News
7 March 2005
The earth moves most for humans
Philip Ball
Agriculture and excavations shape the landscape more than rivers and glaciers.
Nothing moves as much earth as humans do.

Human activities shift ten times as much material on the Earth's surface as all natural geological processes put together.

That's the conclusion of geologist Bruce Wilkinson at the University of Michigan, who has used the geological record to estimate the earth-moving capacity of natural processes over the past half a billion years. He publishes his findings in Geology1.

Wilkinson was inspired to calculate a natural 'baseline' for the movement of soil and sediment after reading a paper published five years ago by geomorphologist Roger Hooke of the University of Maine in Orono2.

Hooke called humans "geomorphic agents", comparing them to land-shaping forces of nature, such as rivers, glaciers, rain and wind.

He reconstructed the history of human impact on the landscape from intentional ground-moving processes such as excavation and mining, as well as unintentional effects caused by erosion of cultivated land.

Hooke found that this impact has been increasing exponentially over the course of human civilization, and suggested that "we have now become arguably the premier geomorphic agent sculpting the landscape".

Wilkinson's calculations now show that there's no argument about it: we are ten times more active at land-shifting than nature. "It doesn't surprise me," Hooke says of the finding -he already suspected that the human impact on the landscape is alarming. "We're headed for disaster," he says.

The new results should help to settle an ongoing debate about the effects of human activity on soil. When natural vegetation is cleared and land is tilled for growing crops, the soil typically becomes more prone to erosion by wind and rain.

But some researchers have argued that, in the United States at least, fresh soil is being formed as quickly as existing soil is being eroded, or that, even if soil is being lost overall, it's not happening quickly enough to cause a crisis.

In the light of his comparison with natural erosion rates, Wilkinson now says that statement "is difficult to substantiate". Hooke agrees: "We're losing agricultural land rapidly." He points out that, according to one estimate, it takes 500 years for natural soil-forming processes to replace an inch of soil.

Rocky horror

Wilkinson based his estimate of natural soil and sediment movement on the rate at which sedimentary rocks have been formed over the past half a billion years. Taking into account that such rocks are also steadily destroyed as one tectonic plate slides under another, he calculates that, on average, the continents lose a few tens of metres thickness of sediment every million years.

In comparison, human earthworks and agriculture lead to a current average loss rate of about 360 metres per million years. That's enough material to fill the Grand Canyon in about 50 years, Wilkinson says.

And although the figure is rising exponentially, it's not just in recent times that human activities have rivalled the effects of nature. Wilkinson calculates that human-related erosion became equal to natural processes about 1,000 years ago.

Hooke points out that a large part of the problem is simply population growth. Although modern agricultural techniques have led to a decline in the amount of earth moved per person, the world's population is growing so rapidly that this outweighs the effects of such improvements.

©2005 Nature Publishing Group

GATLINBURG - After a year of study, the National Park Service (NPS) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) held their fifth round of public meetings on the proposed road along the north shore of Fontana Lake, N.C., to show the public the final alternatives recommended for detailed study.
The agencies expect to present the final alternative to the public this fall.

The proposed road has been a sore spot among residents of Swain County, N.C., since the U.S. Department of Interior promised in 1943 to build a road to replace the one inundated by the building of Fontana Lake during World War II. The lake was built to generate electricity for the aluminum needed to build airplanes.

Since that time, only a short section of the road was built, with nothing having been done since the 1970s. The issue resurfaced in October 2000 when Congress budgeted $16 million to resume construction of the road.

Because the road would be built on federal land with federal money, the National Environmental Policy Act requires the agencies involved - in this case, the FHWA and NPS - to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Studied during the past year were the economic, natural and cultural resources of the area, as well as the potential impact of the proposed road on visual, water quality and air quality resources.

The five alternatives chosen are as follows:

* (1) No action: There would be no improvements to Lake View Road, except for routine maintenance. There would be no changes to the existing conditions in the study area. No compensation would be provided in lieu of building the road. The NPS would continue to provide transportation across Fontana Lake for annual cemetery visits and would maintain current amenities, policies and practices of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

* (2) Monetary settlement: This would provide $52 million in compensation to Swain County to settle the 1943 agreement. No additional roadway would be built. NPS would continue to provide access across the lake for annual cemetery visits.

* (3) Laurel Branch picnic area: A day-use area on the north side of existing Lake View Road, just east of the existing tunnel parking area, would be built, and a new two-way, paved entrance/exit road would provide access to the day-use area. Lake View Road would not be extended past the tunnel; wayside exhibit panels would provide information on the area, and occasional ranger-led programs would be held. A multi-use picnic shelter, picnic tables, several loop trails, a backcountry permit station, drinking fountains and restrooms would be provided.

* (4) Partial-build alternative to Bushnell: A new roadway would generally follow the Lakeshore Trail for 4 to 8 miles from the existing tunnel and around the impounded waters of Forney Creek to the vicinity of the Bushnell Area. Exhibit/museum space would be designed to highlight local heritage. A boat-launching ramp and restricted boat dock, multi-use picnic shelter and picnic tables, a backcountry permit station, an information kiosk, restrooms, a parking area, interpretive trails, and wayside exhibits would be provided.

* (5) Northern Shore corridor: A new road would generally follow the northern shore of Fontana Lake for roughly 29 to 38 miles to the vicinity of Fontana Dam. From the existing tunnel, the road would go around the impounded waters of Forney Creek and continue west. Just west of Calhoun and Mill branches, it would turn north to follow Lakeshore Trail to the area of the former Proctor settlement, then turn west and continue through a portion of Flint Gap. Past Eagle Creek, the corridor would turn to the south and continue west to NC 28 toward Deal's Gap, avoiding major bridge crossings at Forney, Hazel and Eagle Creeks in option 1. The second option is to build major bridges on Forney, Hazel and Eagle Creek embayments with a shorter roadway.

Alternative three is estimated to cost $5 million (in 2004 dollars) and take about two years to complete.

Alternative four is estimated to cost from $77 million to $93 million (in 2004 dollars), depending on whether the road is two-way paved with 10-foot lanes or a two-way gravel with 9-foot lanes. Construction would take about five years.

Assuming funding would be appropriated, alternative five is estimated to cost from $229 million to $374 million (in 2004 dollars), depending on the type of road built and which bridge option is implemented. It would take about 15 years to complete the construction.

If a road is built, FHWA has determined that from seven to 207 jobs would be created.

If a monetary settlement is made, it has been calculated that the money would help create about 45 short-term jobs, starting in 2008, and about 16 long-term jobs starting in 2026.

Among the 75 people attending the meeting, questions ranged from whether a study had been done to determine the anticipated number of animals killed on the proposed road, to whether the monetary settlement would change Swain County's status as a poor county and cause it to lose federal dollars.

Westy Fletcher, of Cosby, an opponent of the road, said, "Looking at the economics, I don't think the people of Swain County would benefit that much from building the road."

Bryson City, N.C., resident Vivian Cook staunchly supports building the road because, she said, "I was born on Hazel Creek. My parents and 6,000 others were promised by the government they would build another road - they gave up their homes on that promise. I feel the government needs to keep their promise and because we need access to our cemeteries."

©The Mountain Press 2005

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT – Kim DeLozier (865-436-1248)

BEARS ARE VERY ACTIVE NOW: Bear activity was reported in Chimneys Picnic Area, Cades Cove Picnic Area and Campground, Cosby Campground, Ramsey Cascade Trail, Alum Cave Trail, Sugarlands Riding Stables, Mt. LeConte Lodge, Spence Field Shelter, Mt. Collins Shelter, Russell Field Shelter, and backcountry campsites 12, 21, 32 and 39. Warning signs were posted at backcountry campsites 21, 32 and 39. Backcountry campsite 12 was closed. Backcountry campsite 40 was monitored with a remote camera for bear activity and later reopened for public use. On July 26, a 205-pound male bear (#1656) was captured in the Chimneys Picnic Area. All four canines of bear #1656 were broken and decaying. Bear 1656 was taken to the University Of Tennessee College Of Veterinary Medicine (UTCVM) and received root canals in all four canines; the bear was released back in Chimneys Picnic area. On July 26, an adult female (#393) with 3 cubs was captured in Cades Cove and relocated to the Cherokee National Forest. A food storage cable at backcountry campsite 18 was repaired.

BEAR MONITORING: The wildlife staff completed the annual black bear bait-station survey. The survey is used to monitor relative changes in the bear population. The survey involves stringing baits (3 partially opened cans of sardines) approximately 8 to 10 feet from the ground at 0.5-mi. intervals along roads and trails to systematically and representatively sample the entire Park. After 5 days, baits are checked for bear visits. Claw marks on trees and/or large tooth-holes in cans provide evidence of a bear visit. The black bear bait-station survey was conducted from July 1 to July 21. Nineteen bait-station routes were established along 211 miles of trails and roads. A total of 392 bait-stations were established. Percentage visitation by bears ranged from 27.7% along the Appalachian Trail/Bradley Fork route to 100% along the Mt. Sterling/Pretty Hollow Gap route. Percentage visitation by section of the Park ranged from 53.3% for the northeast section to 78.1% for the northwest section. Overall percentage visitation was 66.3%, which is slightly lower than 2003 (67.6%).

WILD HOG CONTROL: Wildlife staff removed 7 wild hogs in June and 1 in July. To date, 130 wild hogs have been removed during 2004. If you see a wild hog or signs that wild hog(s) have been rooting in any areas within the Park, please notify Bill Stiver regarding the time and location at (865) 436-1251 or send him an email at bill_stiver@nps.gov. Thanks for your help.

SICK/INJURED WILDLIFE: On July 10, a sick raccoon was captured at the entrance to Cataloochee Campground. The animal was trembling, appeared depressed, and lacked coordination when walking. The animal was euthanized and taken to the UTCVM for necropsy and a rabies test. The raccoon tested negative for rabies, but was positive for canine distemper. On July 30, a dead bat was found near a display case in the B-loop of Cades Cove Campground. The bat was also submitted to UTCVM for rabies testing; results are still pending. On July 28, a cub was struck by a vehicle on Highway 441 about 0.5 miles south of the Sugarlands Visitor Center; however the cub could not be found. On July 31 a 28-pound female cub was struck and killed by a vehicle along Highway 441 about one mile north of Chimneys Picnic area. On August 2, 21-pound male cub was captured in Cades Cove near the Elijah Oliver cabin. The bear had multiple bite wound on its front shoulder and rear legs and most likely a broken back as it was unable to use its rear legs. It appeared the cub was attacked by another bear. The bear died shortly after it was captured.

08/09/04 Great Smoky Mountains National Park RESOURCE MANAGEMENT AND SCIENCE INSIDER.

 

AIR QUALITY – Jim Renfro (865- 436-1708)

RESULTS OF EPA FUNDED OZONE PROJECT: A new journal article reports the results of an EPA-funded ozone project at the park. Portable monitors were used to measure ozone concentrations above and within the canopy of ozone symptomatic and asymptomatic cutleaf coneflower stands at Purchase Knob (elevation 4,900 feet). Ozone exposure measurements showed concentrations decreased as one descended into the canopy from above. Concentrations near the ground were about half those measured one meter above the canopy. The measurements were used to test the accuracy of an ozone deposition model in predicting concentrations within the canopy. Determining ozone concentration as a function of height within the canopy will allow better correlation of ozone concentration with severity of foliar injury. The citation for the article is P.L. Finkelstein, A.W. Davison, H.S. Neufeld, T.P. Meyers and A.H. Chappelka. 2004. Sub-canopy deposition of ozone in a stand of cutleaf coneflower. Environmental Pollution 131:295-303.

08/09/04 Great Smoky Mountains National Park RESOURCE MANAGEMENT AND SCIENCE INSIDER.

Packed with personality
Lodge llamas put it on the line three times a week

By MORGAM SIMMONS, simmons@knews.com
August 15, 2004

GATLINBURG — Llamas may be surefooted, but they're not infallible, and their long lashes and liquid-brown eyes mask their many moods.

This is Alan Householder's third season as llama packer for LeConte Lodge. It's a 13-mile round-trip to the top of Mount LeConte along the Trillium Gap Trail, but for Householder, climbing the 6,595-foot mountain comes easy.


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"Learning the llamas is the real challenge," Householder said. "It took me half a season to know their personalities, and they still surprise me."

Householder resupplies LeConte Lodge three days a week. Over the course of the lodge's nine-month season, this translates into 100 trips a year.


The string

On a recent morning, things got off to a typical start. There were seven llamas, each carrying between 40 and 50 pounds of fresh linen and perishable food for guests at the lodge. Sparky was in the lead, followed by Basso, Crazy Horse, Chip, Dakota, Harley and George.

A few miles past Grotto Falls, Householder and his string of llamas hiked into the clouds, where the hemlocks and rhododendron were dripping wet. Against this backdrop of a subtropical rain forest, the llamas looked downright Peruvian, and the whole procession was eerily quiet as it went up the mountain.

"Llamas can't carry as much as a horse, but only in the mud will you see their tracks," Householder said.

For about 60 years, the lodge used horses and mules to carry supplies up Mount LeConte. Twenty years ago, the lodge, which has operated as a private concession in Great Smoky Mountains National Park since 1925, switched to llamas to reduce wear and tear on the trail.

The lodge houses about 50 people a night and usually is booked full a year in advance.

Householder was tied to the same rope that connected the llamas. Through the rope, he could feel the rhythm and mood of the pack string. It served as his umbilical cord, and it told him that Basso was not having a good day.

Basso began to falter, and at one of the rest stops, he simply lay down. Suspecting saddle sores, Householder removed some of the weight from Basso's back and distributed it among the other llamas. With a little prodding Basso was back on his feet, and the llama train was under way.

"Basso is the sensitive llama," Householder said. "He has issues."


'Llama drama'

Householder said his job offers its share of "llama dramas." Sometimes a llama will lose concentration and step off the mountain, or refuse to step over an unfamiliar obstacle like a fallen tree.

But the biggest llama drama of all was the time a 400-pound black bear sneaked up behind the llamas and chased them down the mountain. It happened during Householder's first season on the job. He was hiking down Mount LeConte when the bear crossed the trail in front of the convoy. The llamas didn't spook, and when the bear continued on its way, Householder assumed he'd gotten off easy.

Three miles later, pandemonium broke loose. The bear had circled back and was stalking the llamas. Because of the steep terrain, the llamas couldn't leave the trail. When they tried to run past Householder, they became entangled in the rope. At a curve in the trail, Householder stopped the llamas and worked his way to the back of the line. He knew what he had to do.

"I felt pretty protective," Householder said. "I started yelling, and I was able to hit the bear with a rock. Its jaws were popping. It backed off, but reluctantly. After I untangled the llamas, we made a fast trip down the mountain."


At the lodge

Toward noon, Householder and the llamas had reached the spruce-fir forest near the top of Mount LeConte and were hiking above the clouds. Householder has hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, as well as the entire Pacific Crest Trail. In 1997 he became the first person to complete the 900-mile Mountain-to-Sea Trail, which stretches from Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Jockey Ridge in North Carolina's Outer Banks.

On his days off, he goes hiking.

Monkshood, turtlehead and grass-of-Parnassus were some of the flowers that were in bloom on top of the mountain this day. The air was uncommonly clear for a summer afternoon, and the crew of the lodge was happy to get its mail after Householder's arrival.

The first thing Householder did was take care of the llamas. After removing their packs, he fed them alfalfa pellets and checked them for saddle sores. The lodge crew had some biscuits and pancakes left from breakfast, and these were fed to the llamas as a form of carb-loading for the 3.5-hour trip down.

After an hour at the lodge, it was time to hit the trail. The packs were stuffed with trash and dirty linen, and the llamas were ready to go. Still tied to the hitching post, they started making more noise than they'd made all day.

Some chittered like squirrels, while others sneezed, coughed and yawned. At one point, George, the last llama in the pack line, began to hum, and others joined in, chanting like Buddhist monks.

"On days like this, I get up here and I don't want to go down," Householder said.

INVENTORY AND MONITORING – Keith Langdon (865-436-1705)

NEW PLANT DISCOVERIES: In the last two weeks three new records of woody plants have been made in the Smokies by DLIA volunteers and park staff. The Palmate-leaved grape (Vitis palmata) was found along Abrams Creek. This is a native woody vine that occurs from the Great Lakes region south through west and central Tennessee to the Gulf Coast states. This appears to be the first record for east Tennessee; a specimen is being sent to the University of Tennessee for confirmation.

The southern subspecies of the Arrowood (Viburnum dentatum var.dentatum) was also found in the Abrams Creek area at low elevation. This native shrub differs from the uncommon northern variety (V.d. var. lucidum) by being much hairier; also the two taxa appear to occur at different elevations in the park.

The Goat willow (Salix caprea) is a small to medium sized exotic tree which has been found in the Cataloochee area of the park. First noticed last fall, definitive identification had to await the emergence of summer foliage. Willows are dioecious, that is, there are different male and female trees. This could be a handicap for distant colonization of new trees, but willows also readily root from broken twigs that fall onto moist soil.

The small stand of Goat willow in the park is in a wet seep on a road side, and the reproduction seen there could easily be from rooted branches. This species is found occasionally in the mountains of North Carolina where it appears to be spreading. It is native to Europe.

NEW EXOTIC BEETLE FOUND AT PURCHASE KNOB: Dr. Charles Stains, retired entomologist, and his wife are volunteer scientists working on the ATBI. Recently they discovered a small round beetle feeding on St. John’s Wort leaves at Purchase Knob. The beetle is the “Klamath Weed Beetle” (Chrysolina quadrigemina) which is native to South and Central Europe and Northern Africa.

This beetle was purposely introduced into the Pacific Northwest region in the 1940’s and eventually other areas to control so-called Klamata Weed (Hypericum perforatum) an invasive plant from Europe that dominated range land in the west.

The discovery of this beetle in the park may be one of the first confirmations of its occurrence in North Carolina. The beetle will feed on native hypericums, (usually called St. John’s Wort), and the Smokies does have some high elevation endemic species in this genus. The park staff has recruited a volunteer to do a quick, targeted inventory of these endemic species in the park.

07/12/2004 Great Smoky Mountains National Park RESOURCE MANAGEMENT AND SCIENCE INSIDER

Rabid bat bites Smokies visitor
Bite is first by animal with rabies reported in park's 70-year history

By JIM BALLOCH, Knoxville News Sentinel
August 14, 2004

A woman hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was bitten by a rabid bat, Park Service officials said Friday.

The 56-year-old woman, who is from Iowa, was hiking on the Old Sugarlands Nature Trail with a group of about a dozen when she was bitten on Wednesday. She is the only person known to have been bitten by any rabid animal in the 70-year history of the park.


According to a Park Ranger's report, the bat was flying around the woman's head, landed on her fanny pack and came into contact with her elbow, on which she received a small puncture wound.

Other members of the group caught and killed the bat and brought its carcass to Sugarlands Visitor Center.

The woman sought medical treatment and began receiving antirabies injections immediately, before rabies tests on the bat were completed at the Sevier County Health Department.

For several years, the park has conducted tests on bats that died or were acting strangely in high human-use areas, "but this is only the third one to come back positive," said Park Wildlife Biologist Kim Delozier. "In the other two cases, there was no human contact with the infected animals."

Although skunks are the animal in Tennessee most likely to carry rabies, bats are the most likely animal with rabies that humans will come into contact. And after several years of testing dead or sick raccoons and skunks, or any mammals that have bitten or scratched anyone, "we have never had a positive rabies test in any species except those few bats," Delozier said.

An oral rabies vaccine program aimed at controlling the disease in raccoons and skunks has begun and will eventually include the park. It involves aerial and ground distribution of small bait packets containing rabies vaccine. The packets are harmless to humans or domestic animals.

Park officials always advise visitors to never feed wildlife and to be especially wary of any animals that are acting unusual or do not seem afraid of humans.

Weather blamed for Park visitor decrease

By:CANDICE GRIMM, Staff Writer August 10, 2004
The Mountain Press

GATLINBURG - A 4 percent decrease in visitation to Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the first half of 2004 is being attributed to wetter than normal weather.
Nancy Gray, Park spokeswoman, said that from January through June of this year, 3,676,319 visitors entered the Park through its three main entrances and 10 outlying entry points. During the same period in 2003, 3,809,769 visitors were counted.

Visitation was slightly higher in January and February of 2004 before dropping off in March, April, May and June. According to Gray, a total of 7.7 inches of rain fell in May, while June was even worse with a total of 8.9 inches of rain.

The average annual rainfall at the Gatlinburg entrance, according to Bob Miller, Park spokesman, is 4.5 inches in May and 5.2 inches for June.

"You're looking at about a 40 percent increase in rainfall for May and almost a 50 percent increase in June," calculated Miller.

"It's difficult to assess why people don't come, but we look for the most common causes, such as bad weather or road construction, which diverts traffic to other entrances or drives them away altogether," Miller added. "Beyond that, it's purely speculation whether it's high gas prices or other economic factors."

While the year-to-date visitation through the Park's main entrances is off for 2004, the 10 outlying entry points throughout North Carolina and Tennessee showed a 1 percent increase so far this year, according to Gray.

The Townsend gateway recorded 588,525 visitors this year, which is an 8 percent decrease over 2003. The 1,419,474 visitors entering the Park at Gatlinburg was down by 3 percent, and the 871,542 visitors entering at Cherokee, N.C., was down 5 percent.

Camping in the first six months of 2004 was also down compared with 2003. There was a 1 percent decline recorded at both the front country campgrounds and backcountry campsites. Camper nights totaled 140,456 at the 10 developed campgrounds this year, which was fewer than the 142,106 reported in 2003. A total of 40,152 visitors registered to use the Park's more than 100 backcountry campsites this year, compared with 40,515 in 2003.

Monthly visitation through each entrance and the percentage of change over 2003, is as follows:

January: Gatlinburg, 125,279 (+4%); Townsend, 50,837 (+3%); Cherokee, 69,973 (no change); outlying areas, 60,927 (-8%). Total, 307,017 (+1%).

February: Gatlinburg, 129,018 (no change); Townsend, 50,045 (-3%); Cherokee, 83,040 (+20%); outlying areas, 74,109 (-10%). Total, 336,212 (+1).

March: Gatlinburg, 202,011 (-8%); Townsend, 80,971 (-1%); Cherokee, 123,502 (-8%); outlying areas, 100,319 (+2%). Total, 506,804 (-5%).

April: Gatlinburg, 278,362 (+1%); Townsend, 111,040 (+2%); Cherokee, 167,621 (-5%); outlying areas, 118,328 (-15%). Total, 675,350 (-4%).

May: Gatlinburg, 285,118 (+1%); Townsend, 126,355 (+1%); Cherokee, 174,781 (-11%); outlying areas, 187,795 (+7%). Total, 774,049 (-1%).

June: Gatlinburg, 399,686 (-7%); Townsend, 169,278 (-24%); Cherokee, 252,625 (-8%); outlying areas, 255,299 (+11%). Total, 1,076,888 (-7%).

Miller said July is always when the most visitation occurs, with either June and October usually following closely behind.

Hope for Hemlock
Beetle-rearing facility propagates predators to annihilate adelgids

By MORGAN SIMMONS
April 8, 2004

TOWNSEND - Ernest Bernard held in his hands a cardboard bucket that contained 2,500 predator beetles, each no bigger than a poppy seed.

A professor with the University of Tennessee's department of entomology and plant pathology, Bernard was in Great Smoky Mountains National Park Wednesday morning to release the first batch of predator beetles raised at UT's new beetle-rearing facility.

Virtually all the hemlock trees at the release site were infested with hemlock woolly adelgids, a tiny, aphid-like insect that has decimated hemlock forests in the northeast United States and is spreading through the Southern Appalachians.

"This is where we hope to stop the hemlock woolly adelgid in its tracks," Bernard said. "Do I just open up this bucket and let them go?"

Joining Bernard were a number of biologists with the Smokies, plus Jim Hart, executive director of Friends of the Smokies, the non-profit group that provided part of the funding for UT's beetle-rearing facility.

Bernard popped the lid, but instead of flying away, the predator beetles clung to the packing material inside the bucket. To transfer the beetles to the infested hemlocks, the biologists took clumps of packing material and draped them on the boughs of the infested hemlocks.

Ten minutes later the predator beetles already had traveled to the base of the hemlock needles and were feeding on their favorite prey.

"They're quite hungry after being in the bucket overnight," said John Nelson, research specialist with UT's department of entomology and plant pathology.

The first hemlock woolly adelgid outbreak in the Smokies was reported in 2002 just north of Fontana Dam. Today the insects have spread throughout the park, with some of the worst infestations occurring in Cades Cove, Cosby, Greenbrier, Cataloochee and Big Creek.

The park contains an estimated 5,000 acres of hemlock forests. Some 700 acres of those are old-growth stands where some of the hemlocks are 400 to 500 years old.

Predator beetles (scientific name Pseudoscymnus tsugae) prey almost exclusively on hemlock woolly adelgids. Studies show that the beetles also will feed on the balsam woolly adelgid, another Asian exotic that has destroyed the high-elevation fir forests in the park.

While chemical treatments and soap sprays are effective in treating adelgid infestations near roads, predator beetles are considered the most feasible and effective treatment for attacking the infestation in the backcountry.

UT's facility is one of only a handful of predator beetle-rearing labs in the country. Park biologists hope to release between 25,000 and 30,000 predator beetles from now until early summer, when the hemlock woolly adelgids become dormant.

Wednesday's release took place just off Lead Cove Trail, about three miles east of Cades Cove. It was a classic hemlock forest with a sparse understory and a stream running through it. A songbird called from the upper canopy. Kris Johnson, forestry supervisor for the Smokies, identified it as a blackthroated blue warbler, a neotropical migrant that nests in hemlock trees.

Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Forest Service released predator beetles at Whitewater Falls in North Carolina's Nantahala National Forest. Those predator beetles were reared at a lab at Clemson University.

Terry Seyden, public affairs officer for the Nantahala National Forest, said Joyce Kilmer National Forest and Linville Gorge Wilderness are high-priority sites for future predator beetle releases in the mountains of North Carolina.

"These beetles appear to be our best bet as a biological control," Seyden said. "There are no guarantees, but we have to try. We don't have the option of sitting back and doing nothing."

Copyright 2004, Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.


Snake bite injures youngster

By:CANDICE GRIMM, Staff Writer August 05, 2004
Knoxville News Sentinel

A 12-year-old Indiana boy is being treated at East Tennessee Children's Hospital in Knoxville after being bitten by a snake Monday in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Nancy Gray of the Park's Public Affairs office said Kenny Hall of Osceola, Ind., was hiking with his family along the Abrams Creek Trail in Cades Cove about noon when he found a copperhead snake and picked it up to look at it.

He was not bitten the first time he picked it up, however, Gray said the snake did bite the boy on his right thumb after he picked it up a second time to show his parents. The family first took the boy to the Cades Cove visitor center where they were told to go to the Cades Cove ranger station.

The family arrived at the ranger station at 2:20 p.m. While the family was enroute to the ranger station, workers at the visitor center alerted rangers that the family had bandaged the bite area and had applied cold compresses. Those treatments are not advisable for snake bites.

When the family arrived at the ranger station, Gray said they were advised by the ranger to remove the bandage and the compress. A LifeStar pediatrician with whom the ranger was in contact confirmed for the family that those treatments were harmful and advised them to keep the boy's arm as low as possible below the heart.

According to rangers, by the time the boy arrived at the ranger station, his hand was almost double in size and was discolored around the bite. The swelling had also begun to creep up the boy's arm and he was complaining of pain and tenderness, Gray said.

Within five minutes of the family's arrival at the ranger station, a Rural Metro ambulance from Blount County had arrived and the boy was taken to Blount Memorial Hospital in Maryville where he was treated and released.

Janya Marshall, associate director for public relations at East Tennessee Children's Hospital, confirmed Tuesday that the boy was being treated there and was reported to be in fair condition.

Five snake bits were reported at the Park last year

"We had a high number of snake bites last year, but this is the first one I've been made aware of for this year," said Gray, adding that she doesn't know if there have been other bites because some people don't report them.

According to Gray, a rainy season usually does bring out more snakes "which is indicative of why the snake was on the trail." Gray explained that while people may have been safer around snakes this year than usual, more snakes have been seen because snakes usually come out to sun after a rain.

To avoid being bitten by either of the two poisonous snakes found in the Park - the copperhead and the timber rattler - Gray offered these safety tips:

n Never pick up a snake; leave them alone and look at them from a distance.

n Don't put hands or feet anywhere that you can't see what is there, such as under a rock or log or into a crevice.

n Stay out of tall grass unless you are wearing thick leather hiking boots.

n Stay on the trails.

n When crossing a fallen log on the trail, step up onto it and then out away from it rather than stepping over it.

If a snakebite does occur, Gray said the following measures should be taken:

n The bite can be washed with soap and water.

n If possible, the bite area should be kept lower than the heart to keep the venom from spreading.

n If the bite is to a hand, immediately remove all rings or bracelets.

n Keep calm, do not run, but do seek medical attention.

Never put ice or cold compresses on a bite because that can cause more tissue damage. Do not bandage the area or use a tourniquet. Do not cut into the wound or try to suck out the poison because this does not prove to be useful and could cause further injury.

Park awaits test results of four mysterious elk deaths
By Associated Press
April 10, 2004

GATLINBURG - The unexplained deaths of four elk in different areas of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have wildlife biologists awaiting test results, according to park officials.

The park has a herd of about 60 elk from a reintroduction project started in 2001.

Remains of all four animals found in recent weeks have been taken to the University of Tennessee department of veterinary medicine, a statement released Friday said.

"We have been remarkably lucky with an 88 percent survival rate in our adult elk during the first three years of this five-year experimental release," said park wildlife biologist Kim DeLozier.

He said "late winter is also a time of high stress for elk and many other species."

On March 19, a male elk was found near death in the Towstring area near Cherokee. Rangers had reported dogs running wild a few miles away days before the elk was found, and dogs were seen chasing the elk into a river.

On April 1, a park volunteer in Cataloochee Valley saw a male elk showing signs of a neurological disorder, including loss of balance. By the time biologists arrived, the animal was near death and had to be euthanized. The symptoms were consistent with a parasitic brainworm.

Wildlife managers overseeing about 3,000 elk in Kentucky have found that the brainworm kills about 10 percent of the herd each year.

On March 15, researchers began getting a mortality signal from the radio collar on a bull. The collars are designed to send the signal if the animal remains motionless for several hours. It will also signal if a collar falls off.

On Sunday, a park neighbor found remains of an elk in the White Oak area just outside the park. The collar was found nearly a mile from the remains.

On Wednesday, biologists found the carcass of a female elk that had been outside the park in Maggie Valley.

DeLozier said that "even with the recent deaths, the park elk project continues to meet or exceed our original expectations. And this year's calving season is only about six weeks away, so we may see as many as 20 calves in 2004 to replace these losses."

Copyright 2004, Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Associated Press
March 18, 2004

The public has become accustomed to easy access to
National Park rangers and services, but budget
constraints mean cutbacks this summer across the
country.

National parks told to cut services quietly
Internal memo follows report claiming underfunding

WASHINGTON

National parksuperintendents are being told to cut
back on services - possibly even closing smaller,
historic sites a couple days a week or shutter visitor
centers on federal holidays - without letting on
they are making cuts.

The disclosure came as a parks advocacy group issued a
report claiming that America's national parks are being
underfunded by as much as $600 million a year, forcing
severe cuts that threaten resources and undermine
visitors' enjoyment.

The message to superintendents was disclosed by an
association of retired National Park Service employees.
The group released a memo e-mailed last month to park
superintendents in the Northeast from the Park Service's
Boston office.

Memo urges PR strategy Among the memo's suggestions for
responding to tight budgets this year are to possibly
shutter visitor centers on federal holidays or during
winter months, close parks Sundays and Mondays, and
eliminate all guided ranger tours and lifeguards at some
beaches.

The memo also advises workers to warn officials if
controversy arises over any changes they make.

'If you think that some of your specific plans will
cause a public or political controversy, Marie and I
need to know which ones are likely to end up in the
media or result in a congressional inquiry,' says the
memo sent Feb. 20 by Chrysandra Walter, the Park
Service's deputy director for the Northeast region.

Walter was referring to Marie Rust, the Park Service's
director for the Northeast region, who is based in
Philadelphia. Walter also wrote that she was relaying
instructions from Randy Jones, the Park Service's deputy
director.

'Randy felt that the issuance of a press release was the
most problematic,' she wrote.

'He suggested that if you feel you must inform the
public ... not to directly indicate that 'this is a cut'
in comparison to last year's operation,' she continued.
'We all agreed to use the terminology of 'service level
adjustment' due to fiscal constraints as a means of
describing what actions we are taking.'

'Chill over the National Park Service' Former park
superintendent Denny Huffman, representing a group of
retired Park Service employees, and Jeff McFarland,
director of a professional association of park rangers,
said the memo illustrates a broader attempt to sugarcoat
facts while stifling people.

'Make no mistake about it. There is a chill over the
National Park Service today,' Huffman said at a news
conference. The NPS memo and news conference material
are online at www.hastingsgroup.com/npsretirees.html.

National Park Service spokesman Dave Barna didn't
dispute the memo's authenticity or that it reflected an
agency-wide trend. He said the agency's aim was to avoid
a public relations fiasco, and cuts would be done
judiciously; for example, the only parks to close on
holidays or weekends would be small, historic sites.

'All we're saying is, 'Let us know in advance so we know
about this.' We don't feel it's necessary to have 380
parks out there whining about their budgets,' he said.

The Park Service's budget has steadily increased during
the Bush, Clinton and previous administrations, Barna
said, but had to absorb $50 million in firefighting
costs and $150 million in repair costs from Hurricane
Isabel last year.

Homeland security also is expensive - each change in the
color-coded threat level from yellow to orange costs the
Park Service $1 million a month, he said. That pays for
200 law enforcement rangers from the West to guard
monuments and memorials in the East, he said.

This year's Park Service budget is $2.56 billion,
including $1.6 billion for operations. The rest is for
building projects, acquiring land, historic preservation
and maintenance.

'Endangered Rangers' report On Tuesday, the National
Parks Conservation Association issued a report, titled
"Endangered Rangers," estimating that the parks are
getting just two-thirds of the funding they need,
leading to staffing shortages and the deterioration of
park facilities.

As a result, it said, American Indian artifacts are
being stolen from Chaco Culture National Historic Park
in New Mexico; black bears are being poached in
Shenandoah National Park in Virginia; and museum
collections are piled in offices at the Little Bighorn
Battlefield National Monument in Montana or in a
basement at Acadia National Park in Maine.

It also hinders law enforcement, detracts from ranger-
guided programs and is forcing some parks to close
visitors centers or clean bathrooms less often, the
group said.

Don Murphy, deputy director of the National Park
Service, said the Bush administration has been focusing
its efforts on catching up on park maintenance that has
been put off for years. At the same time, it has been
spending money to protect national icons, such as the
Statue of Liberty and Washington Monument, and prevent
illegal immigration through parks along the nation's
borders.

'There certainly is a need. No organization has all of
the money at a particular time that it needs,' he said.
'You know what the budget is like. It's tough and we
have to go in and fight for every penny and the public
and our own employees need to know we recognize there is
a need out there operationally.'

The service has been seeking to dedicate money to parks
that have seen dwindling funding in an effort to 'make
these parks whole again,' but without funding increases,
it will start impacting visitors, Murphy said.

NPCA recommended a number of short-term possibilities to
alleviate problems, including seeking donations from
private companies, partnering with volunteer groups, and
allowing parks to keep more of the fees they collect at
entry gates.

But in the long-term, the group said Congress will have
to close the funding gap and to cover the $50 million in
annual expenses that result from heightened homeland
security demands.

The report is online at www.npca.org.

(c) 2004 The Associated Press.


Death jeopardizes park's horseback riding season
Construction at stable also put on hold
By MORGAN SIMMONS
February 26, 2004
Sugarlands Riding Stables in Great Smoky Mountains National Park may be closed this season due to the death of its operator, park officials said.
Donald R. Manis, who died Feb. 15 of lung cancer, took over the horseback riding concession in 2003 after the stable's previous operator, Pete McCarter, lost his renewal bid with the National Park Service.
Under the terms of his eight-year contract, Manis had agreed to spend $100,000 to build a barn, hayshed and related facilities. At the time of Manis' death, the project had passed an environmental review, and the park service was working with Manis on a suitable construction design.
Park spokesman Bob Miller said site preparation for the new riding stables was under way but will now stop.
Miller said Manis' contract could be passed on to his family. But, he added, the family members would have to prove they have the adequate finances and experience to run a stable operation.
He said a second option would be for the Manis family to sell the concession to another qualified operator. Miller said a similar transaction occurred about 10 years ago when Jack Huff sold his interest in LeConte Lodge to Stokely Hospitality Enterprises, the lodge's current operators.
A third option, said Miller, would be for the park to re-advertise the contract from scratch.
"If that happened, it's very unlikely we would get the stables back open by mid-March, even under temporary facilities," Miller said.
Pete McCarter, whose family had operated the horseback riding concession as McCarter's Riding Stables for almost 70 years, said at this point he didn't wish to elaborate on whether he would re-bid on the contract.
"We might be interested if it becomes available, but right now my prayers are with Manis' children," McCarter said. "I recently lost a parent myself."
Concessioners in the Smokies do not pay taxes or rent, but they are required to pay the National Park Service a percentage of their profits. Eighty-percent of the franchise fees paid by the concession are used to cover concession-related expenses such as water and sewer improvements.
Miller said the Sugarlands Riding Stables concession would be handled at the National Park Service's regional or national level and not by managers at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
There are four horseback riding stables in the Smokies, one in North Carolina and three in Tennessee. Each concession is limited to running a maximum of 40 horses on a given day, and during the peak tourist season, the stables stay booked.

Copyright 2004, Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.

INVENTORY AND MONITORING - Mike Jenkins, Ecologist, (865-430-4742)
WHY GO BALD? UNDERSTANDING THE AGE AND ORIGIN OF SOUTHERN APPALACHIAN HEATH BALDS: Heath balds in the southern Appalachians have long attracted attention because of their unique appearance and location on the landscape. They are treeless evergreen shrub lands that are surrounded by forests, because the southern Appalachian landscape lacks a climatic treeline, the origin of this striking and sudden transition from forest to shrub land has puzzled ecologists for decades. Most ecologists believe that heath balds result from disturbance to forest-heath communities, but the nature of this disturbance and when it occurred are unknown. Recent soils mapping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park by the Natural Resources Conservation Service has provided intriguing information about heath balds. Balds are underlain by a dry organic soil ranging in thickness from just over 1 m to just less than 50 cm. Below, there is a very thin weathered bedrock layer on top of solid bedrock (metasedimentary sandstone and slate). These organic soils are extremely acidic (pH typically below 3), nutrient poor and contain high levels of aluminum, which is toxic to most plants. These heath bald soils are, by far, the most organic-rich soils (80-95 % organic matter) in the Park. Within the organic horizon there is no apparent change in the nature of the soil, indicating that each bald has persisted since its formation.
Recently, Dr. Robert Young and Lucus Conkle of Western Carolina University began examining the age and formation of heath balds in the Park. Heath bald soils sampled to date by Rob and Lucus have a radiocarbon age ranging from approximately 1,000 to 3,000 years before present. These dates represent a minimum age of formation for each bald. Consistently, the base of the soil has been a thick, persistent charcoal layer suggesting that bald formation may be initiated by fire. The origin of the fire is still problematic. The age of bald formation rules out European influence (in the 10 balds examined thus far), but the involvement of aboriginal peoples is still a possibility. It is also very possible that natural fire initiated during dryer periods of climate may have resulted in intervals favoring the formation of balds. The Western Carolina University working group is currently pursuing a variety of paleoecological indicators in the Park's heath bald soils to begin answering some of these questions. It is possible that these unusual environments may harbor the best record of Holocene (last 10,000 years) climate in the southern Appalachians. If true, it would be yet another reason to protect and appreciate these unique and mysterious areas.
New park manager named for Smokies
Officials say new superintendent won't be reassigned any time soon

By RICHARD POWELSON, powelsonr@shns.com
March 3, 2004

WASHINGTON - The National Park Service today announced that Dale Ditmanson, a veteran parks manager now based in Philadelphia, is the next superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Ditmanson, 50, said in an interview that his wife Suzanne, a graduate of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, remains a huge Vol fan. Both of them earlier camped in the Smokies, and love the region, he said.

His selection comes 18 months after the National Park Service decided to move the Smokies’ last top manager, Michael Tollefson, after only two years to lead Yosemite National Park in California through a major restoration after a devastating flood.

Ditmanson now is the associate director of the federal parks in the 13-state Northeast Region based in Philadelphia. He has been the superintendent, acting superintendent or assistant superintendent at several federal parks, including Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona and Utah, Fossil Butte National Monument in Wyoming, and Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in Colorado.

Glen Canyon has twice the land and water area of the Smokies (1.2 million acres versus 520,000 acres within the Smokies). But the Smokies has by far the most visits of any national park - about 9.2 million visitors a year.

Two support organizations for the Smokies said the top issues now facing park management are how to deal with severe traffic congestion at popular Cades Cove and whether to build the long-studied North Shore Road along Fontana Lake on the North Carolina side of the park.

Gary Wade is president of the Friends of the Smokies, which has provided millions of dollars in donations and volunteer services to the park in recent years. He said he is encouraged that Park Service officials promise the next superintendent will remain for a significant tenure to address top goals.

"We are looking for a commitment to the area, a long tenure as superintendent, and a recognition and support of the partnership needs in the park," Wade said.

Don Barger, spokesman for the National Parks Conservation Association, said whoever is the next superintendent is facing federal funding shortfalls at the popular national park.

"The greatest difficulty the next superintendent will face will be managing a park with grossly inadequate resources," Barger said. "They are trying to scramble right now to get through this fiscal year. We have found a consistent 30 to 35 percent shortfall in operating funds for parks" across the country.

Barger said the next Smokies manager also has to settle whether to build the North Shore Road, which environmental groups oppose as unneeded and damaging to the pristine area.

Since Tollefson was moved to Yosemite in late 2002, the Smokies has been managed by assistant superintendent Phil Francis. Francis, who has won broad praise for past work as either assistant or acting superintendent, reportedly was one of the two finalists when Ditmanson was chosen.

Francis declined to comment Tuesday. But two close associates said he supports the choice of Ditmanson and plans to remain at the Smokies as assistant superintendent.

Richard Powelson may be contacted at 202-408-2727.

Copyright 2004, Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.

 

INVENTORY AND MONITORING - Mike Jenkins, Ecologist, (865-430-4742)

A NEW PUBLICATION ON THE IMPACTS OF HARVEST ON RAMP POPULATIONS: Until recently, the wild ramp or leek (Allium tricoccum) was the only plant that could be dug up and collected in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (only the fruit, nuts, and berries of other plants can be harvested). In the late 1980s, park staff began to notice that populations of ramps in many areas appeared to be declining. Soon after, Park Botanist Janet Rock undertook a project to determine if harvesting was impacting ramp populations and, if so, how many years did it take populations to recover. Janet, along with her co-authors Drs. Brian Beckage and Louis Gross (Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville), recently published the results of this study in the scientific journal Biological Conservation (volume 166; pages 227-234). Janet developed an approach that removed an incremental number of plants (0, 25, 50, 75, and 100 %) from experimental plots. Following removal, population recovery was monitored for up to seven years across plots. Data analyses by Janet and her co-authors found that harvesting negatively impacted the size and growth of plants within populations. In addition, only limited population recovery was observed four years after harvest. Using modeling techniques, recovery times were projected for the various levels of harvest. Projected recovery times ranged from 2.5 years following a 5 % harvest to a projected 148 years following a 95 % harvest.

The decline and protracted recovery documented in this study recently led the National Park Service to ban ramp harvesting in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This type of research is critical since it provides the type of peer-reviewed information needed for science-based management decisions. Anyone interested in more information on this project or a copy of the recently published article should contact Janet Rock (865-430-4743; janet_rock@nps.gov).

HOG CONTROL: Wildlife staff removed five wild hogs in February. To date, 39 wild hogs have been removed during 2004. If you see a wild hog or signs that wild hog(s) have been rooting in any areas within the Park, please notify Bill Stiver regarding the time and location at (865) 436-1251 or send him an email at bill_stiver@nps.gov. Thanks for your help.
Researchers survey births of black bears
By MORGAN SIMMONS
March 15, 2004

TOWNSEND - The red maple had a twisted trunk, which probably spared it from the logger's ax. Growing on the north side of a steep ravine, it towered over the surrounding trees like a lone giant.

Katie Settlage, a graduate student at the University of Tennessee, was here in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to check on black bear No. 1567, a 9-year-old female equipped with a radio collar. With Settlage was Frank van Manen with the U.S. Geological Survey's Southern Appalachian Field Laboratory.

The red maple measured 43 inches in diameter near the base of the trunk and gave little indication it was hollow. The only opening was a narrow slit 15 feet off the ground that looked barely wide enough for a breadbox to fit through. A close inspection revealed claw marks on the bark, and the radio signal - a series of slow, steady beeps - said the female bear was still inside.

"It's remarkable how tight a space a bear can fit through," van Manen said. "How they manage to squeeze into some of these places is beyond me."

For the past 30 years, researchers with UT have been monitoring black bear reproduction in the Smokies by tracking radio-collared females to their winter den sites. The inspections take place in late February and March to give the cubs, which are born in mid-winter while their mothers hibernate, time to grow.

The research shows that black bear reproduction is closely tied to the amount of food available in the fall. Van Manen said slightly less than half of the black bears checked this year in the Smokies bore cubs over the winter, and he attributes that to the scarcity of acorns in the park last fall.

"We check bears while they're hibernating because it's the only time of year the bears stay put," van Manen said. "It's a great opportunity for us to weigh the cubs and weigh the females and correlate the mother's reproductive output with her physical condition."

Settlage, who had been conducting fieldwork in the park for weeks, said black bear No. 1567 is the last denning female she will check this season. The den tree is located just a quarter-mile from the road, but reaching it meant wading across a rain-swollen river and fighting through rhododendron thickets.

In the early days, UT researchers carried aluminum ladders to the den trees. Today, they rig climbing ropes.

The entrance to the cavity was a vertical opening 36 inches long and only 10 inches wide. Peering into it with a flashlight while dangling from a rope 15 feet off the ground, one could easily see the 75-pound bear curled up about 6 feet below.

The bear was awake and very much alone. Settlage said that when bear No. 1567 was captured last summer and outfitted with a radio collar, she weighed only 75 pounds.

"That's not her peak weight, and that's probably why she didn't have cubs," Settlage said.

Settlage took detailed measurements of the den site. The red maple was located on a 52-degree slope facing almost due north, and the cavity entrance was on the downslope side of the tree. She described it as an easy den tree, given its close proximity to the road and the fact that the hollow section did not extend very far below the entrance hole.

"Sometimes the holes are 60 to 70 feet up, and the trees are hollow all the way to the ground," Settlage said. "That's when you really need a good flashlight."

The bear occasionally looked up, but for the most part she seemed decidedly indifferent to the all the activity above. Biologists estimate that 60-80 percent of the park's female bears hibernate in hollow trees, while the rest utilize rock crevasses or ground cavities formed beneath the root masses of fallen trees.

Van Manen said that from what he has seen in the field, bears hibernating on the ground tend to be more aggressive than those denning in trees.

He said black bears recycle their waste internally during hibernation, and their special metabolism keeps their bones from weakening during the winter denning season.

"Black bears don't hibernate in a deep sleep, but they're adapted in other ways to denning up for a long time," van Manen said.

Biologists say most of the park's male black bears have emerged from their winter dens. Females without cubs will be next, followed by females with yearlings, and finally, females with new cubs.

Van Manen said that as long as the den site is good, black bears don't mind a little disturbance, citing as an example a black bear den in a rocky bluff overlooking Interstate 40 in North Carolina's Pisgah National Forest.

He said bear No. 1567 should emerge from her tree den in the Smokies any day.

"She'll have to rely on her fat reserves 'till April," van Manen said. "In May, she'll eat squaw root, the first resource of food with any significant calories. I've seen some bears that, by the end of winter, have barely enough reserves to survive, but I believe she'll make it fine."

Copyright 2004, Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.


GSMNP Elk Progress Report 2005

From the Elk website: ncelk.org

Since the last update in February, the 2005 field season has proven to be
quite busy. On a very positive note, there have been no adult elk
mortalities this year to date. The lone death that was documented was a
1.5-year-old bull (#65) that resided in fields behind Oconaluftee Visitor
Center. Bull #65 had been in poor condition for several months and finally
succumbed to meningeal worm (Parelaphostrongylus tenuis) in late February.
This is a marked contrast from 2004 when 6 mortalities of adult elk were
documented by the end of April.

Field work this summer has been split into two crews, one documenting calf
production and the other sampling vegetation exclosures throughout GSMNP.
There are 60 pairs of exclosures to be sampled and this will last into
early fall. These exclosures were last sampled in 2002, and these
comparisons of species composition will provide invaluable data as to the
effects, if any, that elk are having on vegetation in the Park.

While only halfway through the summer of 2005, we have encountered many
highs and lows this calving season. As of this update, we have documented
the births of 9 calves (3M:4F:2?) since the first weekend in June. Those
calves were born in Cataloochee Valley (n = 6), on the Blue Ridge Parkway
(n = 2), and Oconaluftee (n = 1). Unfortunately, 5 of those died within 4
days of birth, including all calves born in the fields of Cataloochee
Valley. The lone calf born away from the fields is still alive with its
mother in the general vicinity of the Cataloochee maintenance area. All
mortalities, except one, were the result of predation by black bears.
Throughout July we will continue searching for calves belonging to elk
inhabiting more remote areas in and around GSMNP.

On a more positive note, bull elk in Cataloochee Valley are exhibiting the
most impressive antler growth to date. We've already seen several 6x 6 elk
and this week I observed a 6 x 7. Also, after weeks of hard work the lone
cow elk (#42) residing south of Cullowhee, NC was finally captured in late
March and returned to Cataloochee after a 3-year absence.

Saving the seed of forest giants

Project aims to breed trees fine as ancestors that can fight blight

By MORGAN SIMMONS, simmonsm@knews.com
November 10, 2003

GATLINBURG - The tree along the Little Greenbrier Trail measured 30 feet
tall and 8 inches in diameter. As post-blight American chestnuts go, it
was practically a champion.

The bark was cracked and swollen, and the ground was sprinkled with
empty seedpods - called chestnut burrs - that resembled hedgehogs and bore
witness to the tree's ability to produce flowers and fruit.

"You don't find many with the resistance to hold out this long," said
Matthew Wood, forestry technician for the Great Smoky Mountains National
Park.

This summer and fall Wood hiked hundreds of miles in the Smokies looking
for American chestnut trees that have reached flowering age before falling
prey to the chestnut blight. Overall, he verified the location of more
than 200 survivors, the largest being a tree near Gregory's Bald that
measured 1 foot in diameter and roughly 55 feet tall.

Considered one of the greatest environmental disasters since the last ice
age, the chestnut blight was accidentally introduced into the northeastern
United States in 1904, probably on imported Asian chestnut logs.

Soon the blight, which is caused by a fungus that attacks the bark and
eventually girdles the tree, spread from Florida to the Ohio Valley,
killing an estimated 4 billion American chestnuts, one-fourth of the
hardwood tree population that grew within this range.

The blight reached the Smokies in 1925, and by the mid- to late 1930s the
American chestnut was eliminated as the dominant tree species in the park.


Today the lethal fungus survives on decaying logs and leaves. Wood said
that because the blight does not affect the chestnut's root system, trees
still persist through re-sprouting.

"The American chestnut is definitely not an extinct species," Wood said.
"There are re-sprouts in the understory, and occasionally you'll find
trees with flowers, but in general the blight kills the re-sprouts before
they can reproduce."

Wood said American chestnuts need plenty of sunlight and like acidic,
well-drained soil. He said they're commonly found on south-facing slopes
along with oak species such as northern red oak and chestnut oak.

For his survey he hiked about 30 ridgeline trails through the Smokies,
sometimes camping out overnight. He found a number of chestnut sites
through the record keeping of Arthur Stupka, the park's first naturalist,
who made a wealth of natural-history observations related to the park's
flora and fauna.

Wood's location data will help produce a parkwide map of chestnut
locations and could be the first step in the park's consideration for
restoring American chestnuts in the future.

For the past 25 years The American Chestnut Foundation has been
backcrossing American chestnuts with blight-resistant Chinese chestnuts
nationally to produce a tree that can withstand the blight but otherwise
is identical to the American chestnut.

Paul Sisco, plant geneticist for the foundation, said the breeding
project has produced trees that are highly blight-resistant and at least
94 percent American chestnut in genotype.

He said these trees should be available for testing among various
cooperators by 2008, and available to the public within the next 10
years.

This fall the foundation gathered seeds from four American chestnut
trees in the Smokies. Sisco said these seeds will be used to breed trees
that are blight-resistant but genetically similar to the park's native
chestnuts.

"It's a way of preserving genetic integrity, a way of making sure that if
the park service proceeds with a reintroduction, the blight-resistant
trees will be in the park's parentage," Sisco said.

Morgan Simmons may be reached at 865-342-6321.

Copyright 2003, KnoxNews. All Rights Reserved.


Tourists who flock to national parks bring their wallets

More money spent in Smokies than at any other location

By TIM MOLLOY, Associated Press
November 12, 2003

LOS ANGELES - A new study of the country's national parks concludes that
they aren't just rich in natural beauty, they're also an economic boon -
with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park topping the list.

The National Parks Conservation Association, which released the study,
said it shows that visitors to the nation's national parks spent $10.6
billion a year, supporting 212,000 jobs.

Visitors to California parks spent $1.1 billion, the most of any state,
said Daniel J. Stynes, the Michigan State economics professor who
conducted the research.

The study found that people spend more money in the Smokies than in any
other park. Annual spending in the Smokies totals $574 million, enough to
support 9,629 jobs.

The association said the study underlined the importance of federal
funding to preserve parks.

"These places are the soul of America, and the heart of many local
economies," said NPCA Pacific Regional Director Courtney Cuff. "If they
are to stay that way we must invest in protecting them."

The study used National Park Service 2001 annual visitation numbers at the
nation's 348 national parks, and visitor surveys conducted by Stynes and
the Park Service.

It measured spending on hotel and lodge reservations, campground fees,
restaurants, gas, groceries, souvenirs and other expenses related to
visiting the parks, but did not include admission fees.

The findings weren't news to some people who work near national parks,
including LouAnn King, the property manager at Bear Creek Cabins near
Yosemite. The study found that visitors to Yosemite spend $320 million
annually, supporting 7,527 jobs.

King said everyone she knows in the community of Midpines has a job tied
to Yosemite, and that the federal government should spend enough to
maintain it.

"Yosemite needs to be kept going and well-maintained," she said. "That way
everyone keeps their job and everyone's happy."

The study's findings were released as President Bush signed an interior
appropriations bill that Cuff said "doesn't even cover the cost of
inflation for care of these national parks."

The federal government budgeted $1.6 billion this year for operating
expenses including staffing, monitoring species, maintaining trails, and
interpreting cultural and historic sites at parks nationwide, according to
the Park Service.

The bill Bush signed would add $55 million for the next fiscal year, but
the group had sought an additional $170 million, Cuff said.

Park Service spokeswoman Elaine Sevy said the agency gets help from
outside sources including state and local governments, individuals,
conservation and recreation groups, businesses and American Indian
tribes.

Several federal agencies are holding a conference next week in Los
Angeles to talk about ways of attracting more money and volunteers for
parks and programs.

"Partnerships are essential in providing support financially and through
volunteerism to help the National Park Service accomplish its mission of
stewardship ... and providing recreation and conservation," Sevy said.

Copyright 2003, KnoxNews. All Rights Reserved.


Dying plants double
New calculation of threatened species gives startling result.
1 November 2002
HELEN PEARSON


Mutisia magnifica is one of 4,000 species found only in Ecuador.
© C.Ulloa

Nearly half of the world's plants could be close to extinction, scientists
have warned. The calculation triples previous estimates.

The number of plants on the standard Red List of threatened plant species
is a massive underestimate, say the botanists, because it lacks data on
tropical forests. When estimates from here are taken into account, the
fraction of species under threat spirals from 13% to between 22% and 47%1.


Monitoring the environments most at risk would cost only US$100 per
species per year - $12.1 million in total - says Nigel Pitman of Duke
University in Durham, North Carolina, one of the report's authors.

"We may be on the edge of a mass extinction of plants," says Pitman. "We'd
like to see a major investment for the world's threatened flora."

The figures are startling, and probably in the right ballpark, says
botanist Michael Nee of the New York Botanical Garden. Razing tropical
forests for farming is thought to be a prime cause of species
annihilation. "There are too many people raping the landscape," says Nee.

Red or dead

Species get put on the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List when they
are formally identified as being close to extinction. But this excludes
unidentified or poorly studied plants.

"There are thousands of plants in the tropics that deserve red-listing but
no one's got around to checking if they qualify," says Pitman.

Working in tropical countries, Pitman and his colleague Peter Jorgensen
found that the number of species unique to each country is a rough guide
to the number that is threatened.

There are too many people raping the landscape
Michael Nee
New York Botanical Garden

Ecuador, for example, has 4,000 species that are found nowhere else.
Nearly 3,500 are under threat, because they often grow in small regions,
where a landslide or fire can wipe them out.

To find the global proportion of plants under threat, Pitman and Jorgensen
pooled the numbers of species unique to each country. The exact number is
hard to pin down because estimates of the number of plant species range
between 310,000 and 422,000.

"It's an interesting attempt to connect the dots of our picture of global
plant extinctions," comments ecologist Hal Mooney of Stanford University
in California. "The numbers they calculate should add to growing concern
about irreversible species loss."


References
Pitman, N.A. & Jorgensen, P.M. Estimating the size of the world's
threatened flora. Science, 298, 989, (2002). |Homepage|


© Nature News Service / Macmillan Magazines Ltd 2002

Park plane crash kills Seymour man


By:CANDICE GRIMM, Staff Writer March 30, 2003


The crash of a single engine Thursday night in Great Smoky Mountains
National Park has claimed the life of a Seymour man.


Charles Woodson, 42, died when the Cessna 172 he was piloting crashed
about one mile east of the parking lot between Clingmans Dome and the
Collins Gap area.

Park spokeswoman Nancy Gray said park rangers were notified about
10:15 p.m. Thursday by the Federal Aviation Administration that Woodson
was overdue at McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville.

Woodson's flight plan indicated he was to travel from Columbia, S.C., drop
off a passenger in Pickens, S.C., and then land at Knoxville.

Shortly after the overdue aircraft was reported, emergency locator
transmitter signals were reportedly received by other airplanes in the
vicinity of Clingmans Dome. At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest
point in Tennessee and straddles the border with North Carolina.

Gray said park rangers and members of the Civil Air Patrol began their
search for Woodson's aircraft about 1 a.m. by walking the trails with
handheld emergency locator transmitters.

According to the Civil Air Patrol, Woodson had radioed that he was having
electrical problems just before the FAA lost radar contact with his plane.


Friday morning at 9:25, the crash site and Woodson's body were located by
Park Ranger Jeff Srebernak. The site was about 40 yards south of the
Appalachian Trail across the North Carolina border.

About 35 members of the National Park Service and the Civil Air Patrol
conducted the ground search. A fixed-wing aircraft was about to begin an
air search Friday morning when Woodson's airplane was located.

The National Transportation Safety Board will file an accident report
following their investigation of the crash. The debris from the crash is
to be removed by an insurance company.

Gray said the last airplane crash inside the national park also involved a
Cessna 172 and occurred in 1999 off Jake's Ridge Trail. This is the 45th
airplane crash in the park since the park began keeping records in 1928.




Mountain Press
Sevier County
August 17, 2003

Search for big cats inconclusive

By:CANDICE GRIMM, Staff Writer
cgrimm@themountainpress.com

A small poster pertaining to possible cougars hangs in a Great Smoky
Mountains National Park educational office.The existence of mountain lions
in Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been a mystery for at least 30
years.

Also known as cougars or pumas, some people think mountain lions are
present here, especially those residents and tourists who believe they
have seen one.

Dr. Don Linzy, a professor of biology at Wytheville Community College in
Wytheville, Va., has never seen one here, but he is among those who
believe cougars live here.

His most credible evidence is a video taken in January 2001 by a couple
from Florida.

"They were in the park, the lady got out and was walking along a stream.
She looked at an area of rocks with a small cave and saw a cougar looking
at her out of the cave. She called to her husband who got the video
camera.

"I have the video and there is a cougar looking out of that cave. It's the
only photograph of a cougar that exists for the park," said Linzy, adding
that he has located the cave and been inside it looking for hair samples.
Unfortunately, because Linzy did not learn of the video until almost a
year after it was taken, he was unable to find any evidence in the cave.

"Where they came from, I can't say, but I think they're here," added
Linzy, who is currently conducting research to prove the presence of
cougars in the park.

Linzy's research involves having put up 55 hair snares from Davenport Gap
to Cades Cove.

The snares consist of 4- by 4-inch pieces of carpet containing 10 nails
driven in a circular pattern protruding from them. A paste designed to
attract wildlife is put on the carpet then it is nailed two feet off the
ground on a tree.

To attract wildlife to the snare, a piece of aluminum pie tin is hung from
a branch above the snare. When the animal investigates the reflective tin,
it is drawn to the scent on the snare and rubs against it, leaving fur on
the nails. The hair samples are sent to a genetics lab in British
Columbia, Canada, for identification.

"So far we've gotten hairs from black bears, a lot of coyotes, red fox,
gray fox, deer and a wild boar - but no cougar," said Linzy.

It's the same story with the two remote infrared-sensing cameras which
operate 24 hours a day and have a flash on them. Linzy said they've been
placed in areas where there were very reliable cougar sightings and while
they've gotten photos of a lot of animals, none of them were cougars.

Kim DeLozier, supervisory wildlife biologist for the park, said so far
this year there have been nine reports of sightings of big cats in the
park.

"I believe some of the observations are credible, but my feeling is what
people are seeing are not wild-born cougars but they could possibly be
captive cats released illegally," said DeLozier, adding that such animals
would probably not survive because they are unprepared for living in the
wild.

"Think about it - if you have cougars and you want to release them
someplace where they could live happily ever after, what better place than
Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We just don't know for sure."

It is not illegal to own cougars in Tennessee and DeLozier said he
remembers as a youngster growing up in the area he saw "cougar kittens for
sale" advertisements in an area newspaper every year.

In his 25 years with the park, DeLozier said there have often been
"flurries of observations" in an area, then none. This fact, coupled with
information from veterinarians and people who have had big cats,
strengthens DeLozier's feeling that captive-born big cats may be what
people are seeing.

On June 13, DeLozier said a woman in Gatlinburg reported she was standing
on a deck at 9:30 a.m. when she saw a black mountain lion walking up the
drive across the way and described it to be 6 feet long, with a 3-foot
long tail.

On July 9, someone on the Foothills Parkway West reported observing a
mountain lion. On July 12, on Cades Cove Loop, someone reported seeing
what may have been a panther.

"We can't say they don't see something. I think some people do see
something, but I don't get a positive feeling they're native Eastern
cougars left over from years ago," said DeLozier.

All of the information DeLozier receives is provided to Linzy, including
any photographs. One of the remote cameras Linzy uses was provided by the
park and posters on cougars are displayed in the visitor center and back
country campsites urging people to let park rangers know if they see one.

DeLozier said another biologist from Clemson University spent about five
unsuccessful years during the 1970s trying to prove the existence of
cougars in the park.

Linzy said the best report he has is of a sighting in 1976 or 77 of a
female cougar with a cub that was sighted in Chimneys Picnic area and one
or two people actually followed them a considerable distance.

"I investigated some kills in the late 1970s in Cades Cove that looked as
if a deer had been cached by a mountain lion," said DeLozier, adding that
a bear will cache a deer kill in a different manner than a mountain lion
or even a bobcat would. "We have park employees that have seen big cats,
biology teachers that have seen them in the past and many credible
observers - but there's just no hard core proof."

Linzy asks that anyone with information about cougar sightings contact his
assistant Don Jones, a volunteer at the park. Jones can be reached at
Sugarlands Visitor Center, 436-1291.

©The Mountain Press 2003

 

Alone at Last
Almost 10 million people a year visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Here's how to avoid them all.

By Tyler Currie
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, May 28, 2003; Page C02


If you seek solitude, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is not an obvious destination. Traffic in the park is infamous, often grinding to a crawl in July and October, the two busiest months. More than 9.3 million people visited the Smokies last year, by far the most of any national park.

By comparison, Grand Canyon and Olympic national parks combined -- both vastly larger western preserves -- had fewer than 8 million visitors. Meaning the Smokies are jampacked, right? Well, not exactly.

According to the National Park Service, 95 percent of visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains stray little from their vehicles. And the bulk of these tourists stick to the small number of paved roads. Yet the park, straddling Tennessee and North Carolina, sprawls for 800 square miles, most of it inaccessible by car or truck.

The lesson for solitude seekers is simple: Ditch your ride, grab your pack and disappear into what is arguably the greatest wilderness in the eastern United States.

Our guide into the heart of this wilderness is Vesna Plakanis. She and her husband, Erik, own A Walk in the Woods, an outfitter whose services include leading backpackers, even novice ones, to the least visited parts of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Carla Lopez, Laurel Johns and I, all city dwellers with limited backpacking experience, gather early on a recent Friday morning at Plakanises' home in Gatlinburg, Tenn. She comes across as even-tempered, ruggedly athletic and intensely maternal -- all cardinal virtues in a guide. She asks how much water we've had today. The humidity is high and dehydration will be a risk. A few cups, we say. She softly commands us to drink more before settling down to assess conditions. They're not good.

Storms have pounded the Smokies for a week. According to reports from the Park Service, a dozen park roads are closed, with some sections washed away. Backcountry trails are clogged with downed trees.

Rivulets have become unfordable walls of white water. But the rains, for now, have abated beneath a brilliant morning sun. Plakanis decides that our trip, with slight adjustments, can proceed safely.

We pick up our requisite but free backcountry permits from Big Creek Ranger Station in the northeast corner of the park. Plakanis has selected this part of the park because it's far from the tourist arteries in the western and central regions. We launch our two-night trip at the head of Big Creek Trail, a quarter-mile beyond the ranger station.

Big Creek itself, which parallels the trail, is swollen from the storms. The creek's rapids and thunderous pounding contrast with our own light pace.

We'll take nearly five hours to hike slightly more than five miles on the first day. But our guide's slow, mile-an-hour progress is purposeful. It seems as if every few minutes we pause to discuss another plant or tree, or the people who once inhabited these woods -- first the Cherokee Indians, and later Scotch-Irish settlers. Plakanis, we quickly realize, is more than just a guide. She's a naturalist. A forest guru. A professor in hiking boots.

A recurring theme in Plakanis's lessons is wilderness survival, for which purpose there is no plant more important than the hemlock, she says. In large quantities, hemlock is a diuretic. Its inner bark can be stripped and cooked like noodles or ground into flour. But when Plakanis asks me to nibble on a hemlock needle, I look at her skeptically.

Isn't this what Socrates used to commit suicide? No, she says, Socrates's hemlock was a small plant with white flowers, not the evergreen tree of the same name. Fine. I stuff a pinch of needles into my mouth. Slightly tart. A mixture of rosemary and guava skin. High in vitamin C. Not a bad flavor -- for a tree.

Three miles into our hike, we cross a cluster of fragmented red bricks. These heavy manufactured objects are a jarring incongruity. I'm sweating under the weight of my tent, sleeping bag and a few days' food. What fool would lug bricks back here? Plakanis says they are the remains of an old logging road.

Most of this area, she says, was clear-cut before the park was established in 1934. The landscape as it must have appeared 70 years ago is difficult to imagine -- silt-choked streams, bald mountainsides.

Yet today the forest is thick with life. Great Smoky Mountains park is home to an estimated 100,000 species, including more than 130 varieties of trees and 4,000 other plant species. We are surprised to learn that the Smokies are one of the most biologically diverse areas outside of the tropics. Plakanis says the current state of this forest -- many trees are more than 70 feet tall -- shows the enormous recuperative power of nature.

The more we walk, the more we eat: rock tripe, a delicious papery lichen; toothwort, which tastes like horseradish; birch sticks, which have the minty flavor of wintergreen.

Some of the forest's treasures are just bizarre: a centipede that secretes a brown juice that smells like toasted almonds; wolf's milk, a mushroom that pops like a zit when squeezed and oozes a reddish ink. Of course, not everything in the woods is innocuous. We identify poison ivy, stinging nettles and rhododendron, whose toxic parts Cherokees used to commit suicide.

By the time we reach our campsite under a grove of towering hemlocks, Plakanis has just about finished our crash course in backcountry survival. We now know what to do if we encounter a bear, how to use a snake-bite kit, how to purify water, how to weather a lightning storm and what to do if we become lost. We pitch our tents, prepare some freeze-dried spaghetti and begin the day's final lesson -- how to start a campfire using just one match.

In the morning, we brew coffee and eat granola. Plakanis hands us a map and traces the series of trails that will take us to tonight's campsite on Mount Sterling. It's a steep, six-mile hike that gains several thousand vertical feet.

We're going on without Plakanis. Her husband injured his shoulder a few days before. Although she didn't cancel our trip, she could spare only one night away from home. Now we're on our own. She admonishes us to drink plenty of water, to take care of our feet and to be cautious when crossing streams. "Okay, I'll stop being a mom now," she says. She gives each of us a hug and heads down the mountain. We continue up.

As we gain elevation, the forest changes remarkably. The hemlocks that dominate the lower mountainsides give way to sugar maples and yellow birch trees. Farther up, past 4,500 feet, spruce and fir trees abound. We reach the 5,800-foot summit of Mount Sterling late in the afternoon. There is no wind, and the gnats swarm our heads like a plague. We pitch our tent in a field of stubbly alpine grass. Just beyond camp stands an abandoned fire tower.

After dinner I climb the tower as the sun drops behind the western slopes. The panorama is incredible. The mountains look like giants sleeping under green blankets. The wind across the tower top is a cold gale that carries the gnats away.

Solitude. In the country's most popular national park, no sign of man as far as the eye can see.


© 2003 The Washington Post Company


 

Visitor Center Hours

Cades Cove Visitor Center
Open every day except Christmas Day.
January 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
February 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
March 9:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
April - August 9:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
September - October 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
November 9:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
December 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Location
Inside the park near the mid-point of the 11-mile, one-way Cades Cove Loop Road.

Special Programs
Ranger-led programs are conducted seasonally. Check at the visitor center for times.

Exhibits
Indoor and outdoor exhibits of Southern Mountain life and culture. Includes Cable Mill, a grist mill which operates spring through fall, the Becky Cable house, and other historic structures.

Available Facilities
Great Smoky Mountains Association bookstore and shop. Public restrooms.


Oconaluftee Visitor Center
Open every day except Christmas Day
January - April 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
May 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

June - August
8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
September - October 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
November - December 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Location
Inside the park, 2 miles north of Cherokee, NC, on US-441.

Special Programs
Ranger-led programs conducted seasonally. Check at the visitor center for location and times.

Exhibits
The adjacent Mountain Farm Museum contains a fascinating collection of log structures including a farmhouse, barn, smokehouse, applehouse, corn cribs and others. Demonstrations of farm life are conducted seasonally.

Available Facilities
Great Smoky Mountains Association bookstore and shop. Public restrooms and telephones. Soda and water machines. Backcountry permit station.


Sugarlands Visitor Center
Open every day except Christmas Day.
January - February 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
March 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
April - May 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
June - August 8:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
September - October 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
November 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
December 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Location
Inside the park, 2 miles south of Gatlinburg on US-441.

Special Programs
Ranger-led programs conducted seasonally. Check at the visitor center for locations and times.

Exhibits
Free admission to 20-minute film about the park. Extensive natural history exhibits.

Available Facilities
Great Smoky Mountains Association bookstore and shop. Public restrooms and telephones. Soda and water machines. Backcountry permit station.


Gatlinburg Welcome Center - Downtown
Open every day except Christmas Day.
10:00 a.m. -6:00 p.m.

Location
At traffic light #3 on the parkway in downtown Gatlinburg.

Available Facilities
Great Smoky Mountains Association bookstore and shop. City of Gatlinburg information. Public restrooms and telephones.

Gatlinburg Welcome Center - On the Spur between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg
Open every day except Christmas Day
October
Sunday - Thursday 8:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Friday- Saturday 8:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.

November - April 8:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Location
Located 2 miles outside of Gatlinburg on US-441 South

Available Facilities
Great Smoky Mountains Association bookstore and shop. City of Gatlinburg information. Public restrooms and telephones.

Sevierville Visitor Center
Open every day except Christmas Day.
8:30 a.m. -5:30 p.m.

Location
Highway US-66 in Sevierville

Available Facilities
Great Smoky Mountains Association bookstore and shop. Sevier County, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville information. Public restrooms and telephones.

Townsend Visitor Center
Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
January - May 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
June - October 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
November- December 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Location
Townsend, Tennessee, on US-321.

Available Facilities
Great Smoky Mountains Association bookstore and shop. Townsend and local area information. Public restrooms and telephones.

Historic Grist Mills

Cable Mill in Cades Cove
Open From March 15 through the Sunday following Thanksgiving 9:00-5:00

Location
Inside the park near the mid-point of the 11-mile, one-way Cades Cove Loop Road.

Exhibits
Water-powered grist mill.

Mingus Mill near Oconaluftee
Open From March 15 through the Sunday following Thanksgiving 9:00-5:00

Location
Inside the park, 2 miles north of Cherokee, NC, on US 441.

Exhibits
Turbine-powered grist mill.

Seasonal Road Schedule

Balsam Mountain
Open May 11 - October 31, 2007
Buses, RVs and motorhomes prohibited on the road.

Cades Cove Loop Road
Open all year from sunrise until sunset
This road will be closed to motor vehicles on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10:00 a.m. from May 9 through September 26, 2007 to allow bicyclists and pedestrians to enjoy the cove.

Clingmans Dome
Open April 1 - November 30, 2007

Heintooga Ridge Road
Open May 11 - October 31, 2007
Buses, RVs and motorhomes are prohibited on this road.

Little Greenbrier
Open March 9 - December 31, 2007

Parson Branch
Closed due to flood damage. Expected to reopen in mid-September 2007.

Rich Mountain
Open March 9 - November 9, 2007
Buses, RVs and motorhomes are prohibited on this road.

Roaring Fork
Open March 9 - November 30, 2007
Buses, RVs and motorhomes are prohibited on this road.

Roundbottom/Straight Fork
Open March 9 - November 12, 2007

Frontcountry Camping


Frontcountry campsites allow visitors to camp near their car.
Frontcountry campgrounds have campsites that can accommodate tents, pop-up trailers, or RVs.

The National Park Service maintains developed campgrounds at 10 locations in the park:
• Abrams Creek
• Balsam Mountain
• Big Creek
• Cades Cove
• Cataloochee
• Cosby
• Deep Creek
• Elkmont
• Look Rock
• Smokemont

Please scroll down the page for information about each of these campgrounds. You can download a park map to find the locations of these campgrounds in the park.

Each campground has restrooms with cold running water and flush toilets, but there are no showers or electrical or water hookups in the park. Shower facilities are available in the communities surrounding the national park. Please inquire about the nearest facilities when you check-in at the campground. Each individual campsite has a fire grate and picnic table.

During summer and fall, sites at Elkmont, Smokemont, Cades Cove, and Cosby may be reserved online or by phone at (877) 444-6777. Reservations are accepted only for May 15-Oct 31. All other campgrounds are first-come, first-served. Additional information about when you can make reservations.

In addition to individual campsites, several frontcountry campgrounds offer a limited number of group camping areas.

Campground Rules and Regulations
Includes regulations concerning food storage, generator use, and quiet hours.

Campground

Map

Number
of Sites

Fee

Elevation

2007 Open/Close
Dates

Maximum RV Length

Abrams Creek

Map*

16

$14

1,125'

3/9-10/31

12'

Balsam Mountain

Map*

46

$14

5,310

5/11-10/9

30'

Big Creek

Map*

12

$14

1,700

3/9-10/31

No RVs

Cades Cove
Reserve Now

Map*

159

$17-$20

1,807'

Year Round

40'

Cataloochee

27

$17

2,610'

3/9-10/31

31'

Cosby
Reserve Now

Map*

165

$14

2,459'

3/9-10/31

25'

Deep Creek

Map*

92

$17

1,800'

4/1-10/31

26'

Elkmont
Reserve Now

Map*

220

$17-$23

2,150'

3/9-11/30

Trailers-32'
Motor Homes-35'

Look Rock

Map*

68

$14

2,600'

5/11-10/31

No size limit

Smokemont
Reserve Now

Map*

142

$17-$20

2,198'

Year Round

Trailers-35'
Motor Homes-40'




All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory -

A huge project is underway in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is estimated that there are over 900,000 species of life within the boundaries of the park, but only about 10,000 have been cataloged. The Park is believed to be the most biodiverse place on the planet north of the tropics. A new type of organization, Discover Life in America, is going to attempt to catalogue all species of life in the Park boundaries over the next 12 to 15 years. Discover Life is a partnership of universities, colleges, museums, government agencies, corporate sponsors, and volunteers. One of the organizations goals is to have one web page for each species of life in the park, complete with all known information on the species. Volunteers of any age and from all over the world are wanted to participate in the project. Some early finding, a tarantula the size of a mite, and seven species of flies new to science.

Park Now Part of The Lonely Planet -

Erik and Vesna of A Walk in the Woods led Ian Wright and the Brittish crew from The Lonely Planet on an overnight trip to Mt. LeConte Lodge in early August, 1999. The Lonely Planet is a travel show that has aired for the past five years on the Discover and Travel Channels and is viewed by 35 million people worldwide. The segment will be part of The Lonely Planet's Guide to the Deep South, and will air in late December or early January. The trip was a great success. Some highlights were a meal that Ian ate of food totally foraged during our hike up, and a perfect Myrtle Point sunrise.

 

Immediate Release
Date: May 8, 2003

Contact: Bob Miller 865/436-1207

Some Smokies Roads Remain Closed by Flood Damage

Now that this week's floodwaters have subsided, managers at Great Smoky
Mountains National Park have reopened the Cades Cove Loop Road and all the
Park's campgrounds, but several Park Roads remain closed. View photos.
<http://nps.gov/grsm/gsmsite/storm.html#photos>

The 10 mile section of Little River Road from the Townsend Wye junction to
its intersection with Elkmont Road remains closed today, and through the
coming weekend, while crews remove storm debris and repair washed out road
shoulders. The Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area and the Wear Cove Entrance are
also closed through the weekend pending bridge inspection and the
reopening of Little River Road. Park managers say that the closure applies
to hikers and cyclists as well as vehicles.

A Park contractor began work Thursday morning to clear a large mudslide on
the Gatlinburg Bypass. Unless the roadway covered by the 100-foot wide
three-foot thick sheet of mud has suffered damage, managers hope to
re-open the Bypass by the weekend.

A seven-mile segment of the Foothills Parkway from Look Rock to Lake
Chilhowee in Blount County suffered a serious washout and may take
months to repair. Visitors may still travel the ten miles of the Parkway
from its junction at U.S. 321 to Look Rock and the Top of the World
community. The Foothills Parkway in Cocke County is open as normal.

The following gravel secondary roads remain closed until further notice:
In Tennessee: Greenbrier Road above the Ranger Station, Tremont Road above
the Great Smoky Mountains Institute, Rich Mountain Road, Forge Creek and
Parson Branch Road. In North Carolina: Cataloochee Turnpike (old 284) from
Big Creek to Cataloochee and the Straight Fork Road near Cherokee, NC are
still closed. The Heintooga Round Bottom Road has been closed all winter
and is not scheduled to open until May 17.

Please note that road openings/closings may change throughout the day.
Please call (865) 436-1200 for current information.

Park managers say that the big unknown is the condition of the Park's
800-mile trail system. According to Chief Ranger Jim Northup, "We expect
to find that many sections of trail have been washed out or covered by
debris and many footlogs are probably gone. So, hikers and backpackers
should use extreme caution on our trails, especially when crossing streams
and picking their way around damaged trail sections."

Current information on Park roads and facilities can be obtained by
calling the Park's main information number (865) 436-1200 where an
automated message kept updated. .

Date: Sat, May 10, 2003

COMMUNICATIONS CENTER NOTES

Visitor Center Hours: Cades Cove 9:00 - 5:00, Oconaluftee 8:00 - 4:30, Sugarlands 8:00 – 6:00.

Campgrounds: Abrams Creek Campgrounds is closed due to flooding. Balsam Mountain and Look Rock campgrounds are scheduled to open 5/16. Metcalf Bottoms and Greenbrier Picnic Areas are closed due to flooding.

Road Closed : Little River Road (from Elkmont Jct to Townsend), Parson’s Branch Road, Rich Mtn. Road, Upper Tremont Road, Gatlinburg By-Pass, Greenbrier Road, Old NC 284, Upper section of Cataloochee Valley Road, Straight Fork Road, Foothills Parkway (from Look Rock to Rt 129), and Wear Cove Road. Balsam Mtn / Heintooga Road is scheduled to open 5/16.

BACKCOUNTRY NOTES


Bear Closures/Warnings: Warnings at site #6 and Russell Field.

Trail Closures: Polls Gap Trail. The second foot bridge on Hazel Creek is washed out. The first two foot logs on Caldwell Fork Trail are washed away which means the Boogerman Trail is only connected from one side. Trails to Mt LeConte have been checked and there is much damage but trails are passable. Trails in any drainage are likely to be eroded.

PARK SPRING OPENINGS SCHEDULED

Great Smoky Mountains National Park has announced its spring opening schedule for Park facilities, including secondary roads, self-registration campgrounds, and concession operations.

Roads - Many of the secondary roads that are set to open on March 14 include: Forge Creek, Little Greenbrier, Parson Branch, Rich Mountain, Roundbottom/Straight Fork, and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Clingmans Dome Road is set to open on April 1 and the Heintooga Ridge Road at Polls Gap will open on May 16.

Two current road construction projects will have minimal impact on travelers to the Smokies this spring:

The last of the Newfound Gap Tunnels Rehabilitation project to complete the stone masonry on the guard walls near the two tunnels on the Tennessee side of the Park has resumed and will require intermittent single lane closures in these areas. The lane restrictions will occur on weekdays only, with no lane closures permitted on the weekends. The project will be completed in May.

A construction project to rehabilitate the Laurel Creek and Tremont entrance roads began in January 2003 and is scheduled through September 2003. During the spring period, motorists can expect some minor delays while flaggers are used to control traffic flow through alternating lanes of traffic. No lane blockages will be allowed from April 18 through April 27 to accommodate Easter holiday traffic. During the busiest summer months lane closures will only occur on nights during the week.

Operating Hours for Visitor Centers -The three visitor centers are open daily and the operating hours through March are: Sugarlands Visitor Center, near Gatlinburg, TN, is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Cades Cove Visitor Center, near Townsend, TN, is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, NC, hours will be 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

The National Park Reservation Service (NRPS) provides visitors an opportunity to make reservations at three of the Park’s developed campgrounds, group campsites, horse camps, and picnic shelters. Reservations can be made 5 months in advance by calling 1-800-365-2267 or by Internet at http://reservations.nps.gov.

Family Campgrounds open on a staggered basis starting March 14. (See the following schedule for exact dates.)

Three of the Park’s 10 campgrounds are on NPRS from May 15-October 31: Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont. Camping fees are $12 per site at the smaller, more primitive campgrounds, $14 at the more developed campgrounds, and, at the reservation campgrounds during the period May 15-October 31, sites will cost $17 per night. In addition, Elkmont riverside campsites are $20 per night.

Group Camping will be available at seven campgrounds (see schedule for opening dates) and reservations need to be made through NPRS. Group camping is available at Big Creek, Cataloochee, Cosby, Deep Creek, Elkmont, Cades Cove, and Smokemont. The cost for group camping ranges from $20 to $63 per site/night.

Horse Camps at Anthony Creek, Big Creek, Cataloochee, Towstring, and Round Bottom will open March 14 and reservations are only available through NPRS. Horse site fees are $20 at all horse camps except for Big Creek where it is $25.

Picnic Areas - There are 10 first-come, first-serve picnic areas. Open all year are Cades Cove, Chimney Tops, Cosby, Greenbrier, Deep Creek, and Metcalf Bottoms. Big Creek and Collins Creek will open on March 14 and Heintooga and Look Rock are scheduled to open on May 16. The private, larger picnic pavilion at Twin Creeks opens on April 1 and reservation is available through NPRS only. Twin Creeks fee ranges from $35-$75 depending on the use and the number of people. In addition, picnickers can reserve five other picnic pavilions on NPRS. They are located at Collins Creek, Cosby, Deep Creek, Metcalf Bottoms, and Greenbrier picnic areas. The cost is $20, except at Greenbrier where it is $10.

Horseback Riding is available at four horse concession operations in the Park. The rates are $20 per horse per hour. The horse concession between Gatlinburg and Park Headquarters will open this year as Sugarlands Horseback Riding Stable, following the award of a new concession contract to operate this stable. The tentative opening date for Sugarlands Horseback Riding Stable is May 15. The Smoky Mountain Riding Stable and Cades Cove Riding Stable will open March 14. Smokemont Riding Stable starts up April 5. In addition to horseback rides, Cades Cove Riding Stable also offers, buggy rides ($7.50 per person) and hayrides ($6 per person), as well as special Ranger led hayrides ($8.50 per person).

LeConte Lodge, accessible only by trail, will open on March 24. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 865/429-5704, fax 865/774-0045 or e:mail reservations@leconte-lodge.com. One night at the lodge costs $82.75 per adult and $66.50 for children 10 and under (tax not included). The price includes two meals--dinner and breakfast.

Campground Concessions - The Cades Cove Campground Store will open for business on March 29. The store provides groceries, and camping supplies, firewood and ice, bike rentals, vending, limited food service and souvenirs. The Elkmont Campground concession provides firewood, ice, and vending of soft drinks, newspapers, and snacks. Smokemont Riding Stables provides firewood, ice and soft drink vending. Firewood is available on a self-service basis at Balsam Mountain Campground.

CAMPGROUND SCHEDULE

Campgrounds Fee Open Group Sites Opening Date

Tennessee:

*Cades Cove $14, $17 Year-round March 14

*Elkmont $14, $17 March 14 March 14

Cosby $14 March 14 March 14

Look Rock $14 May 16

Abrams Creek $12 March 14

North Carolina:

*Smokemont $14, $17 Year-round March 14

Balsam Mountain $14 May 16

Deep Creek $14 April 4 April 4

Big Creek $12 March 14 March 14

Cataloochee $12 March 14 March 14

*$17 per site during the reservation period May 15-October 31. At Elkmont, riverside sites are $20 during reservation period only.

For more detailed information on Park programs or services, consult the Park's newspaper, Smokies Guide, which can be obtained free at the Park's visitor centers, call the Park at 865/436-1200 or check the Park’s web site at www.nps.gov/grsm.

-NPS-


Coal-fired plants get permits
Agreement brings end to lawsuit

By The Associated Press
June 20, 2002

NASHVILLE - The Tennessee Air Pollution Control Board has agreed to issue proposed state permits for two coal-fired power plants near Great Smoky Mountains National Park, requiring them to publicize information about the air pollution they create.

The agreement announced Wednesday settles a lawsuit filed in Davidson County Chancery Court last month by a tourism company and three environmental groups. Final action on the permits must be made by Sept. 16.

The organizations were angry that more than three years after the state's deadline to issue permits for the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston and John Sevier power plants, the agency still did not have them.

Federal and state law requires the board to issue the permits within 18 months of the date they are deemed complete. For the two TVA plants, that was in 1997.

The permits require plants to abide by Environmental Protection Agency rules on compliance reporting, record-keeping and monitoring.

"This is a complete victory for the citizens of Tennessee," said Dave Muhly, associate regional representative for the Sierra Club, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. "For over three years, these TVA plants have been allowed to operate outside the law.

"It's only unfortunate it took a court action to bring the state into compliance with federal and state law."

The other groups participating in the lawsuit were the National Parks Conservation Association, Our Children's Earth Foundation and A Walk in the Woods, a Gatlinburg eco-tourism company.

TVA has said that despite not having the permits, the plants were still complying with the Clean Air Act.

A spokeswoman for the state attorney general had no comment on the settlement.

All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory finds new moth type in Smoky Mountains
September 2, 2002

GATLINBURG - A recent discovery during the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory is a moth new to science in the genus Ligdia, whose closest geographic relative is a European species known as the Scorched Carpet.

"This group of moths was thought to hail only from the old world, and its presence in the Smokies suggests an ancient geographic connection between North America and Europe," said Dr. David Wagner of the University of Connecticut, who helped collect the first known specimens of the species.

The new moth is an inchworm or looper that is part of the family Geometridae, which is a large and successful group of moths. Their caterpillars are an important source of protein for songbirds.

The species has a wingspan of nearly an inch and is black and white in color. At rest, with its wings outspread, it resembles a bird dropping, perhaps a ploy to confuse predators.

Ligdia was first taken in highelevation black light traps by Dr. James Adams of Dalton (Ga.) State University and is believed to be endemic to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park's hardwood cove forests.

"They were very distinct when the trap was opened, and it was clear we had something new and remarkable," said Wagner. "Discoveries such as this lead us to believe that the Smokies will prove to be a treasure trove of biodiversity and the most worthy park for an ATBI."

Other than high pollution levels in the park, there are no apparent threats to the Ligdia. However, the species is still poorly studied and little is known about its natural history. Scientists are unsure about what it eats, how it lives and what are sources of future threats.

Copyright 2002, The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.


DON'T COOK IN THE SHELTERS! On July 13, a bear was reported going into the
Mt. LeConte shelter during the night. Apparently, visitors cooked hotdogs
and hamburgers inside the shelter, even though there is sign in the shelter
warning people not to cook in the shelter. The bear was attracted to the
hamburger grease in the fireplace of the shelter. These same visitors were
reported to be angry because there was no chain-link on the shelter to keep
the bear from entering. On July 14, the 140 pound female bear was captured
and released on site as a form of aversive conditioning. Unfortunately,
this was unsuccessful and the bear returned later that night, this time
getting into some dirty pots, not to mention keeping the visitors up all
night. The shelter was closed temporarily while arrangements were made to
remove the bear. During the night of July 16, the bear was captured in a
footsnare (thanks to the trail crew and their delicious bait!). A litter
crew of five wildlife and four fire employees arrived early the following
morning and the bear was immobilized and carried out 6.5 miles. Disc
Jockeys from a local radio station (105.5) happened to be in the area on
the morning of July 17 and broadcast live via cellular telephone. The bear
was relocated to Carter County, Tennessee in the Cherokee National Forest.
Since this incident, there have been two more reports of bears in the area.

Bear Attacks - Good reminder of who really is the most dangerous animal (hint: it is not a bear.)

The following items were taken from various Updates in 2002.

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
RESOURCE MANAGEMENT AND SCIENCE
WEEKLY UPDATE

BEAR ASSAULTED BY VISITOR AND LOOSES LUNCH ? On June 28 at 11:50 a.m.,
several visitors approached a bear in a field in Cades Cove to take
photographs. Visitors reported that a man and woman proceeded to get
within 2-4 feet of the bear. Visitors reported the man suddenly began to
kick and stomp the bear many times. The man was reported to even grab the
bear and throw it a short distance and then continued kicking the bear
until it left the area. Once the bear fled, the man then reached into the
grass and picked up a white-tailed deer fawn which the bear had apparently
captured. The fawn, which had major injuries from the bear, was
transported the Cades Cove ranger station by another visitor. There were
several witnesses to this event, and with visitor assistance regarding
vehicle description and license plate number, park rangers were able to
capture the assailant. The individual was cited and released. In this
case, all parties, including the assailant, bear and fawn were losers. The
individual will have to go to court and pay a fine, the bear lost his lunch
and the fawn had to be euthanized. Warning signs advising bears of
aggressive visitors were not posted although considered!

GIVE ME A BREAK! BAD NEWS BEAR ? On July 7, 2002, elk researcher, Jennifer
Murrow, investigated the sound of an animal cry while driving on the west
end of Cades Cove Loop Road. Upon investigation, she discovered a small
bear attempting to kill a deer fawn. The bear appeared to be a yearling
weighing around 50 pounds. A crowd of about 50 people gathered quickly and
many people tried to approach the bear. One visitor was observed throwing
three baseball size rocks at the bear, apparently trying to get the bear
away from the fawn. Murrow moved the crowd away from the bear to a safer
distance and discussed with the crowd the significance of not interfering.
This incident occurred in the same general area where a visitor assaulted
the bear two weeks ago, and it is quite likely that this was the same bear!

ANOTHER CADES COVE BEAR ASSAULTED -- On July 22, we received several
reports that a small bear near the Dan Lawson place bit a visitor.
According to the reporting parties, several young men were chasing the bear
when one of them tried to pick it up for a photograph. The bear apparently
bit him on the hand and according to the reporting parties, the bear did
not break the skin. However, the individual that was bitten never reported
the incident so the type of injury is not known. A short time later, the
same bear was involved in another altercation. This time, a visitor was
reported hitting the young bear with a stick while holding a sheath knife,
apparently provoking the bear so his friends could videotape his manliness.
Other visitors witnessed the event and got a license plate number and
description of the vehicle. In fact, a visitor assisted rangers by
stopping his vehicle at the exit of Cades Cove and lifted the hood as if
his vehicle had stalled. The tactic allowed rangers to catch up to
attacker and give him a ticket. There have been numerous bear jams in Cades
Cove in the past several weeks.

Cold water thrown on warm ups
Stretching your muscles doesn't make them any more resilient.
30 August 2002
JOHN WHITFIELD
Stretching before or after hitting the squash court might be a waste of time. It does little to reduce injuries or muscle soreness, say researchers1.

Warming up and cooling down by stretching caught on in the 1960s, when recreational exercise became popular. It was thought to reduce the risk of unused muscles going into painful spasm.

The spasm theory turned out to be wrong, but the stretching habit stuck. It is one of the "many superstitions about how to prevent injury and improve performance", comments physiotherapist Rob Herbert of the University of Sydney, Australia.

Herbert and his colleague Michael Gabriel have reviewed the evidence on stretching. They found five published studies with samples large enough and controls good enough to be considered reliable. All measured the effects of stretching on muscle soreness; two also looked at injury risk.

None of the studies showed any significant benefit. "We can say with a high degree of confidence that stretching does not prevent muscle soreness," says Herbert. "We can't rule out that it reduces injury risk, but the weight of evidence is against it."

There's no conclusive evidence that stretching protects muscles, agrees London-based physiotherapist Mark Todman. "In fact, you can make your joints more vulnerable by overstretching," he says.
But, "people like stretching", he points out - they might get a psychological benefit from feeling limbered up.

Experiments on rabbits give the same result, says Thomas Best of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. "We think that when we stretch we're changing the tissues in some way that'll prevent injury," he says. "But in an animal model, stretching doesn't seem to affect muscle damage."

Stretching may be good for some groups, says Best, including the elderly. All the reviewed studies were on healthy young adults, such as students and army recruits. "At this point we haven't answered the whole question," he says.

If the benefits of stretching are a myth - along with having cold showers and abstaining from sex before a game - is there anything people can do to improve their performance and reduce the after-effects of sport?

Todman recommends a gentle jog before strenuous exercise. This "may prevent injury, but the evidence is very sparse," says Herbert. He thinks that repeated exercise alone builds up resistance to muscle damage: "The only way to prevent soreness is to get soreness."


References
Herbert, R. D. & Gabriel, M. Effects of stretching before and after exercising on muscle soreness and risk of injury: systematic review. British Medical Journal, 325, 468 - 470, (2002). |Homepage|

© Nature News Service / Macmillan Magazines Ltd 2002



Exploitation costs the Earth
Saving natural resources saves money.
9 August 2002
TOM CLARKE
In terms of hard cash, natural habitats are worth far more if left intact than if they are exploited, a new report shows. This is true even if the converted habitat brings apparent economic gains.

In net terms, every year's loss of natural habitat from practices such as logging and farming costs around $250 billion in each subsequent year, the report finds1.

"The economics are absolutely stark," says ecologist Andrew Balmford of the University of Cambridge, UK, who led the research team. "We thought that the numbers would favour conservation, but not by this much."

Natural goods

The new analysis places a value on the goods and services that nature provides, just like businesses provide goods and services to consumers. The ability of a forest to regulate climate by absorbing greenhouse gases, filtering water and trapping nutrients are natural services, and the goods include wild animals and plants that can be harvested sustainably.

A worldwide network of nature reserves both on land and at sea would cost about $45 billion a year to maintain, the report estimates. But the loss of natural goods and services if these habitats were wiped out is much more - between $4,400 billion and $5,200 billion.
The calculations make the reserves "a pretty good investment", says Robert Costanza, an ecological economist at the University of Maryland in Solomons and member of the research team.

Balmford's group based their analysis on five real-life examples: logging of Malaysian tropical forest, small-scale agriculture eating into Cameroon forests, destruction of mangrove swamp in Thailand for shrimp farming, drainage of Canadian marsh for agriculture, and demolition of Philippine coral reef by dynamite fishing.

For each one, they estimated the economic returns of exploitation, from the sale of timber or fish, for example, plus the jobs that the industry provides. They compared this with the value of goods and services from a relatively pristine neighbouring ecosystem.

But putting a value on natural resources is "extremely difficult", says Kevin Gaston, an ecologist at the University of Sheffield, UK; previous efforts by Costanza and others2 have been heavily criticized.

For example, there are few hard figures on which to base dollar estimates of nutrient cycling or carbon dioxide absorption. But even by the most conservative measures, the value of ecosystems is "indisputable", agrees Gaston.

Cashing in

Nature's worth is neglected, says Costanza, because it provides goods and services to the public as a whole, not to private interests. Generally speaking, economics only deals with the conventional market-place, made up of stocks, shares and services with clear cash value.
But there are simple steps that can help, the research team suggest. Taxes on polluting or environmentally damaging industries such as logging will help to transfer the cost of lost ecosystem goods and services to the conventional market. Carbon credits for less-polluting countries, currently under discussion to help address climate change, are another economic instrument that can help.

In the short term, the abolition of environmentally flawed subsidies would go a long way to addressing the problem, the researchers argue. These help industries such as agriculture or manufacturing to operate profitably in a region in which they would otherwise not be able to.

Sugar-cane farmers in Florida, for example, are supported by the government to allow them to compete with neighbouring Cuba. As a result, sugar-cane growing is unprofitable overall and has damaged the unique wetlands of the Florida everglades.

Worldwide, subsidies such as these cost governments around $950 billion each year - enough to pay for a worldwide network of nature reserves 20 times over.


References
Balmford, A. et al. Economic reasons for conserving wild nature. Science, 297, 950 - 953, (2002).
Costanza, R.The value of the world's ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature, 387, 253 - 260, (1997).

© Nature News Service / Macmillan Magazines Ltd 2002

Clever crows know their tools
Birds have rare talent for tool-making.
9 August 2002
KENDALL POWELL

Crows may be some of the most innovative toolmakers in the animal kingdom, say researchers.

A team at Oxford University, UK, observed Betty, a New Caledonian crow, shaping a hook from a straight piece of wire - and using it to retrieve food1.

The bird had never used wire before, or observed others using wire, and had not been trained. Previously, only humans were thought to make tools out of objects without prior experience. "This is solving a problem which is new in the experience of the animal," says team leader Alex Kacelnik.

Behavioural scientists are finding that some of the cognitive abilities of this family of birds, including crows, jays and magpies, are comparable to those of mammals, says James Ha, who studies primate and crow behaviour at the University of Washington in Seattle. "These guys are right up there with your dog," he says.

In trials, Betty was presented with a straight wire and a bucket of food dropped out of reach down a pipe. Betty would first try to use the wire to lift the bucket; if that didn't work, she quickly fashioned a hook by pulling on the wire with her beak. She successfully gained food in more than half of the trials.

This species of crow, Corvus moneduloides, which is native to the southwest Pacific island of New Caledonia, also makes tools in the wild to retrieve insects from holes in trees or from under leaves on the forest floor2. The birds craft hooked tools out of twigs and shape barbed leaves into tapered implements. The new study explored their tool-making ability in the lab.

References
Weir, A. A. S., Chappell, J. & Kacelnik, A. Shaping of hooks in New Caledonian crows. Science, 297, 981, (2002).
Hunt, G. R.Manufacture and use of hook-tools by New Caledonian crows. Nature, 379, 249 - 251, (1996).

© Nature News Service / Macmillan Magazines Ltd 2002

Botanists probe medieval medicine13th-century folklore inspires 21st-century research scheme.22 July 2002 JOHN WHITFIELDResearchers in Wales are following the lead of medieval medics in the hope of finding new drugs. A project will begin later this year at the country's National Botanic Garden to explore the work of a medical dynasty, the Physicians of Myddfai."[The Myddfai's work] may make a significant contribution to modern medicine," says Terry Turner, a pharmacist at the University of Wales in Cardiff who is involved in the project. "These old boys knew what they were doing - they were experimental and knowledgeable people.

"Myddfai is a village in South Wales. Here, in the early thirteenth century, a physician named Rhiwallon founded a line of doctors that spread across Wales and persisted for hundreds of years - some Welshmen still claim descent from the physicians.Legend has it that Rhiwallon's mother was a lake fairy who told him which plants had medicinal uses and where they could be gathered.The Myddfai's most important text, the Red Book of Hergest, dates from around 1400. It describes nearly 500 remedies for ailments such as deafness, lumps and fever, derived from more than 200 plants. "The level of detail is extraordinary," says Rhodri Griffiths of the National Botanic Garden of Wales in Llanarthne. This detail could be vital; the chemicals in a plant depend on when it is picked and how it is processed.

When the botanic garden's newly built science centre opens - probably this October - the laboratories hope to probe the Myddfai knowledge using modern techniques such as chemical screening, tissue culture and genetics.Drug companies worldwide are scouring nature for leads. Many are basing their searches on local knowledge, from past or present.Closer lookThe Myddfais' writings are a jumping-off point, not a map, Turner told this week's Society of Conservation Biology meeting in Canterbury, UK. "One mustn't take them as a stricture. We have an awful lot of information that they didn't have." For example, he says, modern extraction techniques get at chemicals that the Myddfai couldn't with just alcohol. There might be therapeutic compounds in the stuff they threw away.

Some well-studied plants might bear further inspection. The Myddfai treated tumours with a poultice made from foxglove - long used to treat heart disease. "There's a strong case for saying 'let's look more closely and see what's there'," says Turner.The garden's £5-million science centre also intends to team up with farmers in the Myddfai region to develop a commercial medicinal herb-growing operation.
© Nature News Service / Macmillan Magazines Ltd 2002
Society for Conservation Biology16th Annual Meeting, Canterbury, UK, July 2002

 

National trails day: June 1
May 17, 2002

It’s time again! The 6th annual Appalachian Trail Work Day on National Trails Day will be held on Saturday June 1, 2002. Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Regional Office of the Appalachian Trail Conference, and the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club will coordinate the work. In recent years nearly 200 volunteers have participated in this effort to care for the A.T. in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The A.T. Maintainers Committee of the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club has total responsibility for insuring that the A.T. and its facilities in the park are maintained on a continuing basis. With your help on National Trails Day projects are completed that otherwise would not be accomplished because of a lack of muscle power. In addition, this day is the primary way of raising funds to help with the maintenance of the Trail. Your registration fees are the primary source of funding for the A.T. Maintenance Fund managed by Friends of the Smokies.

It’s time to register for this year’s event. We need you again! The registration fee is $10 ($12 if you register on the day of the event). Registering early helps the Crew Assignment Committee get workers placed in work groups and increases your chance of being assigned to your hike/work preference – and it helps us to get a count for the evening picnic. Only 230 applications can be accepted – so send your form in to reserve your spot on this fun day. You’ll receive a commemorative T-shirt, lots of "Thank you’s", and a great feeling from knowing you’ve helped keep the world’s best-loved foot-path in good condition.

Sponsors for the event are: Blue Ridge Mountain Sports, The Happy Hiker, Earth Traverse, Union Tools, Little River Trading Company, River Sports Outfitters and The Climbing Center, Collier Foods, and Food City. We are grateful to these businesses for their continued support of the Appalachian Trail.

If you have questions please call Friends of the Smokies (Tennessee Office [Nan Jones] – (865) 453-2428 or 800 845-5665; North Carolina Office [Don McGowan] – (828) 452-0720) or contact Phyllis Henry (865) 577-2604 or (865) 974-3877.

We’ll see you at Sugarlands Visitor Center near the Gatlinburg, Tennessee entrance to the park on June 1st!


May 16, 2002
Immediate Release Bob Miller (865)
436-1207
New Forest Insect Pest Discovered in Smokies

Biologists at Great Smoky Mountains National Park have confirmed the Park's first-recorded infestation with the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, a tiny aphid-like insect that attacks and kills hemlock trees. The first outbreak was confirmed last week about 3 miles north of Fontana Dam in the Swain County, NC portion of the Park and a second infestation was found this week about a mile from Cades Cove in Blount County, TN.

The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid is native to China and Japan and is a close relative of the Balsam Woolly Adelgid that has killed over 90% of the Park's Fraser firs at areas like Clingmans Dome and Balsam Mountain. The hemlock adelgid was first detected in the mid-Atlantic states in the 1920's but was not recognized as a serious pest until its population exploded when it reached large forested areas such as Shenandoah National Park in the 1970's. In Shenandoah about 80% of the Park's hemlocks are now infested and most are expected to die.

Throughout the 1990's federal and state biologists monitored the adelgid's slow spread north into Maine and south along the Appalachians. The tiny insect can be spread by larger insects, on the feet of birds, and by wind, but the fastest spread occurs when infested landscape materials are brought in for planting in developed areas. Between 1999 and 2001 the insect is believed to have made the jump quickly from the Virginia/North Carolina border down to the Robbinsville, NC area via this human transport.

The hemlock adelgid feeds by sucking sap from the bases of the tree's needles, starting with the underside. This parasitism retards the host's growth and causes its needles to discolor from deep green to grayish before they drop off. The loss of new growth generally results in mortality of the tree within a few years. The infested twigs are fairly easy to recognize because the insects clump together at the base of each needle into a whitish mass that resembles a small cotton swab.

Areas of the Smokies which are primarily hemlock occupy only about 5,000 acres of the half-million acre national park, but individual hemlocks are scattered widely throughout the Park from the lowest elevations to about 5,000 feet. The hemlock is of particular importance when it grows along stream banks where its deep shade helps to keep mountain streams sufficiently cool to host the Park's cold water fish populations.

According to the Kris Johnson, Supervisory Forester at the Smokies, "There is a range of treatment alternatives that may slow or hopefully, someday prevent the widespread loss of hemlocks from our forests. Trees can be treated by injecting a pesticide into the soil where it is taken up through the roots and/or they can be soaked with a soap solution. There are also some promising results from introducing an Asian beetle that feeds exclusively on the adelgid".

Johnson said, "The soap and pesticide must be applied by hand so it is not practical to treat large or isolated stands, but in developed areas or with smaller outbreaks we may be able to keep an outbreak in check."

Park Vegetation staffers treated the North Carolina stand last week with both the soap and the pesticide and will continue to monitor those trees to see if those treatments were effective. The extent of the infected stand near Cades Cove has not yet been mapped, so managers have not decided on a course of action.

Park managers are asking hikers and others visiting the Park to report any sightings of hemlocks with the characteristic cotton-swab deposits on their needles to the Park's Vegetation Management Office at (865) 436-1707. Specific locations and close-up photos are especially helpful in confirming any new infestations. Homeowners who suspect that hemlocks in their yards or other non-park areas may be infested can report their sightings to their county agricultural extension agents.


* * * NPS * * *

Park Plans Prescribed Burn Near Cades Cove
April 23, 2002

Weather permitting Park managers at Great Smoky Mountains National Park plan to conduct the Park’s largest prescribed burn since the Park’s Fire Management Plan was approved in 1996. A 1,034-acre tract of forest just west of Cades Cove is scheduled for burning on Wednesday, April 24.

The central purpose of the Park’s fire use in the interior regions of the Smokies is to replicate as nearly as possible the role that naturally-occurring fires played in shaping and maintaining the Park’s biologically diverse ecosystem. In the case of Wednesday’s "Arbutus Ridge Burn" the Park’s goal is to perpetuate and maintain the yellow pine forest type.

Historically, the Arbutus Ridge area was predominantly a yellow pine forest, a condition that was maintained in pre-settlement days by periodic fire. Over the past 70 years or more the pines have been gradually crowded out by oaks and other hardwoods, which can sprout in the shady under-story that has been a result of total suppression of fire. Another factor in the decline of pines in the Smokies has been a large infestation with southern pine beetles. The Arbutus Ridge Burn is expected to create a variety of sunny openings and enhance pine regeneration.

The area to be burned is on Arbutus Ridge which lies within about ? miles outside the Cades Cove Loop Road and at least 3 miles inside the Park boundary in Blount County Tennessee. The burn boundaries are made up almost entirely of natural and existing man-made boundaries: Cooper Road to the north, Wet Bottom Trail to the east, Abrams Creek to the south and Stony Branch to the west.

Along with having good control lines already in place to keep the fire within its approved perimeter, the Park has assigned approximately 25 firefighters to ignite the burn and to catch any slop-overs outside the established containment lines.
For safety reasons Park officials plan to close all or a part of four trails: Abrams Falls Trail from the Cades Cove trailhead to Abrams Falls; Cooper Road from the Cades Cove Loop Road to Hatcher Mountain Trail; Wet Bottoms Trail between Abrams Creek Trail and Cooper Road Trail; and Rabbit Creek Trail from its junction with Abrams Creek Trail to the Hannah Mountain Trail junction. In addition the Elijah Oliver Place will be closed to visitor access. Due to the large acreage of the burn area, the closures are expected to be in place for several days top ensure that any hazards due to hot spots and dead snags can be taken care of prior to allowing hikers back into the burn area.

From The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.

Seven 'Comeback' Elk Pregnant

March 23, 2002
CATALOOCHEE, N.C. - The new elk population in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is expected to grow by summer because seven of the nine females in the herd brought to the park this year are pregnant.
Elk researcher Jennifer Murrow said she believes some elk in the herd brought to the park last year also are pregnant, but won't know for sure until summer.
"We're pleased with it, of course. That's what's important about this project, that the elk will be able to produce young," said Nancy Gray, spokeswoman for the park.
The elk are part of a five-year experiment to determine if the animals can make a comeback in the mountain park that straddles North Carolina and Tennessee.
Elk disappeared from the Smokies 150 years ago because of loss of habitat and extensive hunting. The first elk in the project were released last spring.
Six calves were born last summer. Four of the calves survived and are doing well, according to Murrow. The second group - 27 elk from Elk Island National Park in Canada - will be released from the pen in April.

By staff reports

From The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.

Wildflower Update 03/21/2002

Last week we witnessed the birth of the early spring wildflowers in the Greenbrier section of the Park. On March 13, as we climbed past 2,200' we entered a layer of new green growth, with bunches of Hepatica, Fringed Phacelia, Spring Beauty, and Rue Anemone flower buds sticking up, just starting to open. What a difference a day makes! The same walk on the 14 greeted us with hundreds of freshly opened white blossoms littering the hillsides in full splendor. There were even some Yellow Trilliums modestly flashing some yellow of their petals.

In the Smokies, spring unfolds her skirt of flowers starting at the mid elevations in descending waves downward. It then goes back to conquer the highest elevations.

Today I did a short walk in the old Sugarlands community at around 1,500-1,600' checking on a prime morel patch. It was too early for the 'shrooms, but as I left the road behind I found pockets of flowers in full bloom. Came across many Bloodroots, with some even beginning to loose their petals. Again, the wonderful early whites of Hepatica, Rue Anemone and Star Chickweed covered the moist slopes. They were joined with the yellows of Spicebush, and a few Halberd-leaved Violets. The odd hairy tufts of Fraser's Sedge's flowers were out.

Young Yellow Buckeye trees are starting to leaf out. The small ones, with their unopened green leaves sticking up from their terminal buds, could be mistaken for some kind of weird mountain pygmy plam tree. The canapy and forest floor are littered with small red Red Maple flowers.

Erik Plakanis

©A Walk in the Woods 2002

Newfound Gap Road Reopens

On Saturday March 17th, Newfound Gap Road will open to traffic in both directions over the weekends as work on the two tunnels wraps up. Also, for the first time since construction began around Thanksgiving, the Chimney Tops Trail will again be accessible.

"For the most part, all of the hard work is done," Park spokesman Bob Miller said.

The tunnel walls still have to be painted and work on the exterior of the tunnel is set for upcoming weeks.

"Historically, the (retaining) walls were made out of stone," Miller said.

The stones were removed from the wall so a concrete reinforced core could be built to meet federal highway requirements. The stones will be replaced as a covering to balance those requirements with a more aesthetic and cultural appearance.

Work on the tunnels has remained on schedule with varied times of road closings since the project began almost four months ago.

"They're right on time," Miller said.

Weekday travelers will still experience one-lane closures in one tunnel or the other through May 17, as the workers finish small jobs and paint the inside walls. During that phase, the single-lane closures will continue for 24 hours a day because of scaffolding inside the tunnels, however, the roads will be open from now on in both directions from 6 p.m. on Fridays to 6 a.m. on Mondays.

After Saturday, restrictions on the kinds of vehicles allowed will also come to an end.

"There's no height limit anymore," Miller said.

Buses, R.V.s and trailers can now pass safely.

Greg Wilkerson

©The Mountain Press 2002

Baxter Creek Trail will be closed for 30 days starting Mar 6 2002 for bridge construction.
Park Openings and Events for Spring 2002

Great Smoky Mountains National Park has announced its spring opening schedule for Park facilities, including secondary roads, self-registration campgrounds, and concession operations.
Roads – Many of the secondary roads that are set to open on March 15 include: Forge Creek, Little Greenbrier, Parson Branch, Rich Mountain, Roundbottom/Straight Fork, and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Clingmans Dome Road is set to open on April 1 and the Heintooga Ridge Road at Polls Gap will open on May 17.

Tunnel construction on the Tennessee side of NewfoAund Gap Road will require one lane alternating traffic through the tunnels through March 15. Beginning March 16 buses and RVs will be permitted to travel through the tunnels and work will continue with intermittent single lane closures through May 18, but no lane closures will occur on the weekends. After May 18, construction will cease during peak summer season and resume on August 19 for completion in about one month.

Operating Hours for Visitor Centers – The three visitor centers are open daily and the operating hours through March are: Sugarlands Visitor Center, near Gatlinburg, TN, is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Cades Cove Visitor Center, near Townsend, TN, is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, NC, hours will be 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

The National Park Reservation Service (NRPS) provides visitors an opportunity to make reservations at three of the Park’s developed campgrounds, group campsites, horse camps, and picnic shelters. Reservations can be made 5 months in advance by calling 1-800-365-2267 or by Internet at http://reservations.nps.gov.

Family Campgrounds open on a staggered basis starting March 15. (See the following schedule for exact dates.)

Three of the Park’s 10 campgrounds are on NPRS from May 15-October 31: Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont. Camping fees are $12 per site at the smaller, more primitive campgrounds, $14 at the more developed campgrounds, and, at the reservation campgrounds during the period May 15-October 31, sites will cost $17 per night. In addition, Elkmont riverside campsites are $20 per night.

Group Camping will be available at seven campgrounds (see schedule for opening dates) and reservations need to be made through NPRS. Group camping is available at Big Creek, Cataloochee, Cosby, Deep Creek, Elkmont, Cades Cove, and Smokemont. The cost for group camping ranges from $20 to $63 per site/night.

Horse Camps at Anthony Creek, Big Creek, Cataloochee, Towstring, and Round Bottom will open March 15 and reservations are only available through NPRS. Horse site fees are $20 at all horse camps except for Big Creek where it is $25.

Picnic Areas – There are 10 first-come, first-serve picnic areas. Open all year are Cades Cove, Chimney Tops, Cosby, Greenbrier, Deep Creek, and Metcalf Bottoms. Big Creek and Collins Creek will open on March 15 and Heintooga and Look Rock are scheduled to open on May 17. The private, larger picnic pavilion at Twin Creeks opens on April 1 and reservation is available through NPRS only. Twin Creeks fee ranges from $35-$75 depending on the use and the number of people. In addition, picnickers can reserve four other picnic pavilions on NPRS. They are located at Collins Creek, Cosby, Deep Creek or Metcalf Bottoms picnic areas and the cost is $20.

Horseback Riding is available at four horse concession operations in the Park. The rates are $15-$20 per horse per hour at the following stables: McCarter's will open on March 9 and Smoky Mountain on March 15. Smokemont begins March 23 and Cades Cove on April 1. At the Cades Cove horse concession, buggy rides ($8 per person) and hayrides ($6 per person) are offered. The Deep Creek horse stables will be closed during the 2002 season.

LeConte Lodge, accessible only by trail, will open on March 25. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 865/429-5704, fax 865/429-0045 or e:mail reservations@leconte-lodge.com. One night at the lodge costs $81.50 per adult (tax included) and includes two meals--dinner and breakfast.

Campground Concessions - The Cades Cove Campground Store and bicycle rental will open for business on April 1. The store provides snack foods with several hot food items. Wood concessions are available at Elkmont, Smokemont, Cades Cove, and Balsam Mountain.

For more detailed information on Park programs or services, consult the Park's newspaper, Smokies Guide, which can be obtained at the Park's visitor centers for $.25 or call the Park at 865/436-1200 or check the Park’s web site at www.nps.gov/grsm.

CAMPGROUND SCHEDULE
Campgrounds Fee Open Group Sites

Tennessee:

*Cades Cove $14, $17 Year-round March 15
*Elkmont $14, $17 March 15 March 15

Cosby $14 March 15 March 15
Look Rock $14 May 17
Abrams Creek $12 March 15

North Carolina:

*Smokemont $14, $17 Year-round March 15
Balsam Mountain $14 May 17
Deep Creek $14 April 5 April 5
Big Creek $12 March 15 March 15
Cataloochee $12 March 15 March 15

*$17 per site during the reservation period May 15-October 31. At Elkmont, riverside sites are $20 during reservation period only.


March 11, 2002

From The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.

Prescribed Fires in the Cades Cove

Weather permitting, managers at Great Smoky Mountains National Park plan to conduct a series of prescribed fires Thursday and Friday (March 21,22) in the Cades Cove fields.

According to Acting Park Superintendent Phil Francis, "With the limited amount of smoke that these grass fires produce, neighbors outside the Park should not notice any appreciable smoke, but those with asthma or other respiratory problems should avoid visiting in Cades Cove where smoke may be heavy during the burns."

Altogether the Park plans to burn off the dead grasses from about 20 tracts totaling about 800 acres.

Fire managers are not sure that they will be able to complete the burns on all 800 acres during the two-day period. If they cannot finish Friday the remainder will be burned whenever burning conditions are favorable and sufficient personnel are available to ensure that the burns can be safely contained within their planned boundaries.

Burning the fields at this time of year will help accomplish several Park management goals: first, maintain the fields in an open condition economically to enhance wildlife viewing; second, help promote the re-establishment of native grasses such as Indian grass and big bluestem which would have been present during the late-19th and early 20th century period for which the Cove is historically significant.

Decades after the pastures were acquired by the Park most of the Cove was planted in non-native fescue in the 1950s and '60s.

March 15, 2002
©The Mountain Press 2002

National Park backers petition Bush for more funds

By Richard Powelson, News-Sentinel Washington bureau

WASHINGTON - Supporters of national parks delivered nearly 19,000 petitions to the White House on Wednesday - including 335 from Tennessee - that urge financial support for natural resources.
The petitions ask President Bush to back spending an additional $280 million next fiscal year for the parks' pressing needs.

The coalition encouraging the petitions, Americans for National Parks, is composed of about 150 organizations, state and local agencies and businesses. One prominent member is the National Parks Conservation Association, which has a regional office in Knoxville.

To make its case for more funding, the groups identified some problems:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina, the most visited in the country, has frequent haze from air pollution and needs funding to monitor and evaluate air quality and more law enforcement to protect its half-million acres and nearly 10 million annual visitors.

Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona had several California condors die last year, but had insufficient funding to determine the cause.

Valley Forge National Historical Park in Pennsylvania lacks staff to open to the public most of the sites used by Gen. George Washington and his troops in their 1777-78 encampment.

Charles Maynard, former longtime leader of the Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a private fund-raising group, told supporters of national parks gathered outside the U.S. Capitol building Wednesday that many people sacrificed and gave up their homes and churches when the Smokies became a national park in 1934.

Smokies' personnel often get tied up at the busiest areas of the park - the visitor's center and at an accident or a crisis in one area - and don't have time to patrol the park regularly to protect its resources, he said.

Private groups, such as Friends of the Smokies, have raised a million dollars or more per year to help with expenses of their area's national park. The Smokies alone needs about $7 million extra per year, the coalition estimated.

Bush has proposed a $31.5 million budget increase for the National Park Service next fiscal year - a 1.4 percent increase over this fiscal year's level. That is not enough to cover even employees' annual cost-of-living raises, the coalition said.

Richard Powelson

Copyright 2002 The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.

Last Cades Cove Family Home Demolished

Offspring salvage part of its remains

By Ken Garland, News-Sentinel Blount County bureau

CADES COVE - Ruth Davis stood quietly Monday and looked at the pile of rubble that was once the home where she, her sister and two brothers grew up. It was the home where her parents, Kermit and Lois Caughron, spent most of their married life.

And it was the home that has stood vacant for almost three years since her father died. The National Park Service had ordered the house torn down.

The house, which was built in the early 1950s, didn't have historical value, according to the park service.

The Caughrons were the last family to live in Cades Cove. Lois Caughron moved out after her husband died in 1999. The Caughrons farmed and had cattle in the cove.

The park service gave lumber that could be salvaged from the house to the Cades Cove Preservation Association, a group interested in helping maintain Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The lumber was pulled from a pile and loaded onto trailers, which will be taken to the home of Ronnie Chambers in Walland.

Association officials have said they would like to construct either the house or a replica of the Cable Schoolhouse, from which lumber to build the house was taken.

Davis said she almost did not go to Cades Cove to help salvage the lumber.

"I wanted to, and then I didn't want to," she said. "I came up here last week and took some pictures of the house."

Now, she is left with memories.

"I remember my dad sitting in front of the fireplace," she said, her voice catching. "And when we would come to see him, he would walk out with us and sit on the front porch. He'd be there when we left."

Park Service maintenance workers pulled down the house in the morning, long before volunteers were allowed in at noon. The loop road was closed while maintenance workers replaced a low-water bridge near the Tipton-Oliver House.

"We tried to keep as much of it intact as we could," said Dale Brukiewa, the roads foreman for Cades Cove.

"The roof is pretty much intact, but the exterior walls took a beating."

He said workers ran a cable through windows at the front and back of the house and pulled out the ends. They then ran the cable through the front and back and pulled those walls out, collapsing the remainder of the house.

Brukiewa said some walls showed signs of deterioration. He said the sill plate that ran along the bottom of each wall showed signs of rot and insect damage.

Brukiewa said maintenance workers had already removed the windows from the house.

"People had already started to break them," he said. "They (windows) were wavy glass and some had bubbles in them.

"I think a lot of the ceiling is pretty good. The roof itself, it's pretty modern. There were no historic nails in the house that we could find."

Davis' husband, John Davis, her son, John Paul Davis III, and grandson, John Paul Davis IV, helped with the salvage.

"This is my grandpa's home, and my momma's home," John Paul Davis III said. "And I got married right over there," he said, pointing to a rise behind the house.

"I wonder how the people who made this decision would like to have a cable run through their grandpa's house and it pulled down.

"My oldest son is old enough to remember coming here. He stayed at night. The others (children) will have to hear stories. My brother's kids will have to hear stories."

A short while later, the youngster found a fabric belt and took it to his grandmother. They talked awhile, and the boy went back to the rubble. He returned a few minutes later with most of a skirt.

"It's my skirt," Ruth Davis said, a smile on her face.

Although Caughron died almost three years ago, he was not forgotten by visitors. Bunches of artificial flowers have been left at the gate across the driveway to the home.

And Monday, an artificial daffodil was taped to a piece of gate hardware, a memory to Kermit Caughron who for many people was Cades Cove.


Copyright 2002 The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.

February 26, 2002

Balsam woolly adelgid numbers decrease in Smokies

By Carson Brewer, special to GoSmokies.com

Sometimes it’s amazing to see nature change course and do something good to compensate for her evil deeds of the past. Or does she deserve no credit because she’s just doing what comes naturally?

Let us study the case of the balsam woolly adelgid for some enlightenment on these matters.
You remember the balsam woolly adelgid.

The people who are supposed to know about such things first called it the balsam woolly aphid. But they later decided aphid was wrong and adelgid was right. They are insects. To live, they suck life’s juices from a beautiful evergreen tree, the Fraser fir.

Fraser firs and red spruces together comprise what’s called the Great Smokies spruce-fir forest. It grows only on the highest mountains of the Southern Appalachians. The spruce-fir forest grows at altitudes ranging from about 4500 feet to 6600 feet above sea level. The insect was brought from Europe to North America in nursery stock sometime before 1908, when it was discovered on balsam fir in Canada. It never reached the Southern Appalachians until sometime after 1957, when it was discovered on Mt. Mitchell, where 11,000 fir trees were already dead.

In 1963, the first adelgids were found inside the national park, on Mt. Sterling. Smoky Park officials believe wind carried the insects from Mitchell to Sterling.

By the end of 1978, the adelgids were nearly everywhere in the park where Fraser firs grow. In fact, they had been killed in most places. The Park Service put up the best fight against the adelgids at Clingmans Dome, where heavy spraying equipment could be used. The spray used was something called Safer’s insecticidal soap, a fatty acid made of plant and animal oils.

Dr. Ronald L. Hay, an associate professor in the University of Tennessee’s Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, and two of his graduate students, Kristine D. Johnson and C. Kristopher Eagar, in 1978 finished a 2-year study of the adelgids in the park.

Ron Hay said the summit of Clingmans Dome was the only place in the park free of adelgids at the end of ’78. He predicted in 1978 that the adelgids would kill the firs on the Dome within 10 to 15 years. He predicted the adelgids will finish killing the mature firs on Mt. Guyot within 3 to 5 years and those on Le Conte within 5 to 10 years.

Chris Eagar and Ron Hay are no longer fighting adelgids in the park. Kris Johnson is still after adelgids. She’s a vegetation specialist now, for the Park Service. Some vegetation in the park she wants to keep. Fraser fir, for instance. This means she has to keep fighting adelgids.

She’s got help. At least some of it is free. Birds are working for her. Some of them eat adelgids. Spiders also eat adelgids. And so do spider mites. Some of these critters eat both adelgids and adelgid eggs. Both help. Niki Nicols, who has been working for TVA and UT, also will help Kris this year.

And the adelgids themselves are working for her. At least, they’re working against themselves. Kris explained.

Early in the adelgid invasion, there were lots of healthy fir trees to provide food for the insects. But as time passed, there came to be fewer and fewer healthy fir trees and more and more adelgids. Each adelgid had less to eat and each fir tree had fewer adelgids working to kill it.

Another factor is that this is a younger fir forest. Walk the crest of the Smoky high country and you see more young firs and fewer adults.

Adelgids prefer adult trees. They can sink their toenails into the rough bark of old trees and move faster. Young firs have smooth, almost slick bark. Not ideal for adelgid travel.

Kris offers proof that the adelgids are becoming fewer. She and her helpers placed 100-square-centimeter traps in firs on Clingmans Dome, Le Conte, Mt. Sterling and Balsam Mountain in 2000 and 2001:


Dome 2000: 9 adlegids
Dome 2001: 7 adelgids
Le Conte 2000: 8 adelgids
Le Conte 2001: 2 adelgids
Balsam 2000: 78 adelgids
Balsam 2001: 3 adelgids
Sterling 2000: 20 adelgids
Sterling 2001: 2 adelgids

February 19, 2002
CADES COVE ROAD CLOSED TEMPORARILY
Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced the temporary closure of Cades Cove Loop Road to motorists February 25-March 3 for road construction on the south side (exit side) of the 11-mile one-way road. However, hikers and bikers will have a unique opportunity to recreate along the road with some restrictions during the week closure.
Park Maintenance crews will replace the 70-foot concrete, low-water creek crossing near the Tipton Place. The existing culvert under the crossing is too small to carry the water and the road has a deep dip there that causes larger vehicles to bottom out.
The Park's Maintenance crew will replace the concrete culvert with a larger drainage system to prevent the water overflow from spilling across the road. Oftentimes in the winter water passing over the road freezes causing a hazardous situation.
"When motorists negotiate the existing crossing often their rear bumpers would scrape the asphalt," said Smokies Superintendent Mike Tollefson. "We hope to correct that problem at the same time that we improve the drainage structure."
While the loop road will be closed to vehicles, pedestrians will have access to a portion of the road and all the trails. Monday, February 25, through Friday, March 1, visitors will be permitted to travel the road from the entrance for about 7 miles past the visitor center, which will be closed, to Hyatt Lane where they can cross the valley back on to the entrance side of the Loop Road. The loop road will be off limits for the remaining section of road (about 4 miles) from the construction site to the exit, near the Ranger Station, where large construction vehicles will enter the road. The other cross road located near the entrance, Sparks Lane, will remain open but the public will not be able to enter the loop road on the south side (exit side).
On Saturday, March 2, and Sunday, March 3, all of the road will be accessible to hikers, bikers and cyclists, but visitors will have to go around the construction area during the curing concrete phase.
"There will be some National Park Service vehicles travelling the road during the construction so we would like to warn pedestrians to use caution and be on the look out for these moving vehicles," said Superintendent Tollefson.
The Cades Cove Campground will remain open and is unaffected by the road closure.
-NPS-

Ramp picking Banned from Smokies Park in Bid to Save Native Plant

By The Associated Press

GATLINBURG - Collecting ramps, the onion like harbinger of spring for many in the Appalachians, will be banned from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Managers of the country's most-visited national park worried that lovers of what has been described as the "sweetest tasting, vilest smelling plant that grows" could harvest it to death in the Smokies.

The Smokies has allowed individuals to pick a peck of ramps - about a grocery bag - a day for personal use even as the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah National Park barred the practice in recent years.

But a recently completed five-year study suggested the leek's numbers are threatened in the Smokies by growing ramp demand, fueled by regional festivals and recipes in magazines such as "Southern Living," Superintendent Mike Tollefson said Tuesday.

Everyone expected that "ramp collecting would eventually decline on its own as the native mountain-born people who grew up living off the land grew older," he said. "This has not happened."

The Smokies study didn't calculate exactly how many ramps are left in the national park, but the trend was clear.

"We didn't want to wait until there was one ramp left," Smokies spokesman Bob Miller said.

The study found that contrary to folk wisdom, ramps do not re-sprout if a collector leaves a little of the root tip, or rhizome, in place rather than pulling it up entirely.

The research also found that a ramp patch extensively harvested could take 20 years to recover.

Though ramps are not endangered and can be found growing in mountain forests above 3,000 feet as far north as Canada, the Smokies has a responsibility to preserve its native plants and animals, Tollefson said.

"A key mission of the National Park Service is to provide sanctuary, in perpetuity, for all the plants and animals in the park," he said.

Ramps, considered a tasty addition to everything from barbecue to cornbread, can still be picked legally in the Cherokee National Forest surrounding the Smokies or bought commercially.

February 20, 2002

Smokies' Hemlocks Threatened by Insect
Woolly Adelgids Turn up in South Carolina

By Morgan Simmons, News-Sentinel staff writer
February 16, 2002

A tiny, aphid-like insect that destroys hemlock trees has been discovered in the mountains of northwest South Carolina about 40 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The hemlock woolly adelgid was found this winter in a grove of old-growth hemlocks in the Oconee National Forest, near Walhalla, S.C. The infestation was discovered by a tree climber looking for the tallest hemlock in the Eastern United States. The infestation is believed to have been under way for two to hree years. So far it has weakened some of the trees but has not killed them.

Last year an outbreak of hemlock woolly adelgids was confirmed just northwest of Robbinsville, N.C., and on Santeetlah Lake. Those discoveries placed the insect less than 10 miles from the Smokies park and the Joyce Kilmer-Slick Rock Wilderness.

The insects are about the size of the head of a pin, but they develop large colonies that suck vital sap from hemlock trees. Smokies officials worry the adelgids could have a catastrophic impact on the park's extensive hemlock stands.

Park Forestry Supervisor Kristine Johnson said news of the South Carolina outbreak is troubling even though it's located farther from the park than the North Carolina outbreak discovered a year ago.

"This is an old-growth forest that migrating birds are likely to visit," Johnson said. "One thing that alarms us is the possibility that birds passing over this area will stop and pick up adelgids on their feet and fly here on their next stop."

A native of China and Japan, the hemlock woolly adelgid was accidentally introduced into the United States in the 1950s and has since caused widespread destruction of hemlocks in the Northeast.

Until recently, the closest the insects had come to the Smokies was Virginia. In Northern Virginia's Shenandoah National Park 80 percent of the hemlocks have been lost.

The Smokies' hemlock stands cover approximately 3,820 acres, or about 1 percent of the park's acreage. The Smokies contain one of the largest remnants of old-growth Eastern hemlocks in existence.

Forestry experts say the trees are especially valuable because they provide the shade along mountain streams that maintains the cool water temperatures vital for trout and other aquatic species.

Hemlocks grow in about 25 Tennessee counties outside the Smokies. They are especially prevalent in river gorges and on north-facing mountain slopes. They are often sold in nurseries in upper East Tennessee and on the Cumberland Plateau.

Hemlock woolly adelgids form white clusters on the needles of the trees. Unlike many destructive arboreal pests, they do not attack the bark.

While outbreaks in yards or urban settings can be treated by spraying with soap or insecticides, forest-wide infestations are difficult to control.

Researchers say biological controls are the most promising weapon for combating backcountry outbreaks. One such is an East Asian ladybird beetle that preys specifically on hemlock woolly adelgids.

Johnson said early detection and treatment of the adelgids could help control an infestation in the park before it spreads.

She said on large hemlock trees where the adelgids are high off the ground and difficult to detect, the best thing to look for is a thinning of the crowns.

Anyone who believes they've seen hemlock woolly adelgid in or around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is asked to contect Kristine Johnson at 865-436-1707.

Copyright 2002 The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.

Opinions of Land Swap Heard

By Bryan Mitchell, News-Sentinel staff writer
February 14, 2002

Dozens of people lined up Wednesday evening to voice their opinion of a proposed land swap between the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with support outpacing opposition 2-to-1.

"The trade will reconnect the nation and allow us to build schools for our children's future," said Leon Jones, chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

The meeting, attended by approximately 100 people, was held on the University of Tennessee Agriculture campus and was the second of three meetings scheduled to collect public input about the proposed land ex-change. A similar meeting was held Tuesday night in Cherokee, N.C., while a final forum will be held tonight in Asheville, N.C.

The Cherokee would like to trade 168 acres of National Park land known as the Ravensford tract - which looks like an upside down Italy and lies on the southern edge of the park - for a 210-acre tract near the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Those in support contend the site is a near-perfect location to build a new school to replace the dilapidated 40-year-old school the Cherokee now use. They also say they would be trading away more land than they are requesting.

"Our current school is located on a dangerous intersection and needs to be replaced altogether," Cherokee, N.C., resident Ted Rose said.

Those opposed fear the school is a front for the Cherokee band's desire to build more casinos. They charge the swap may be illegal.

"I don't want to see this land full of parking lots and casinos at the edge of the park," attendee Roger Jenkins said. "The park ought to remain an intact ecosystem."

Historically, precedence rests on the side of the Cherokee: Two similar land swaps have been successfully completed in the past, in California and Florida.

"While they are not common, they are also not unheard of," said Pat Parker, chief American Indian liaison officer.

The Cherokee have already raised $8 million for the proposed $15 million school and contend that without the new facilities it will be harder to retain students and teach their rich culture.

"We don't want our language to die," Jones said.

Copyright 2002 The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.

EXPERIMENTAL ELK RELEASE -- Female #12 was euthanized on September 23, 2001. The necropsy results were inconclusive, but signs strongly indicated she suffered from a neurological parasite. These results are indicative of meningeal worm (Parelaphostrongylus tenuis). We cannot say for certain at this time. One female remains in the Cherokee area. We are continuing to monitor the movements of the one elk on the Cherokee Indian Reservation and two elk just outside the Park boundary. All remaining elk are being located daily in and
around the fields of Cataloochee Valley. The calf of the relocated female was darted on November 21, 2001. The calf was radio-collared, given eartags (#29), and released into the herd on November 23, 2001. He weighed 230 pounds and appeared to be in excellent condition. The calf remained with the herd for two
days and then started making exploratory movements. We are monitoring his movements carefully. Please remember that going into the fields to approach elk is prohibited. Please look only from a distance.
GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK RESOURCE MANAGEMENT AND SCIENCE WEEKLY UPDATE ISSUE NUMBER 113 December 3, 2001

 

SHARP FIRE ARSONIST .. $5,000 REWARD -- Over the past couple of weeks, the arson-caused Sharp Fire burned about 7,500 acres between the Park boundary, Deep Creek and Noland Creek. An Incident Management Team from the State of Florida was brought in to help manage the fire. They did an outstanding job working with the Park and the local communities. Considering the ruggedness of the terrain, the dry conditions, and the resulting fire behavior, the Park was fortunate that the fire was controlled without any major accidents.

Obviously, the Park does not condone arson-caused fires. These type of ignitions are not planned for and human and structural safety is placed in jeopardy. There were at least eight other fires that burned on Park
jurisdiction over the last two weeks - all believed to be arson caused. All these arson fires, coupled with numerous starts on private land, caused the Park Superintendent to offer rewards for the arrest and conviction of arsonists. The reward for the Sharp Fire was $5,000.

Again, the Park does not condone arson-caused fire because human and structural safety is placed in jeopardy. However, the overall biotic effects of these fires are not always negative. For example, it is estimated at this time that 90-95% of the Sharp Fire burned with an intensity that did not kill the overstory trees. This opening of the understory should cause opportunities for some sun-loving plants to thrive, at least for a couple of years. And, at least in a few areas, it is expected that yellow pine regeneration will occur. Yellow pines, in general, are disappearing in the Park due to lack of regeneration and mortality due to the Southern Pine Beetle. Park natural resource specialists will be monitoring the effects of the Sharp Fire to learn as much as possible from it.

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK RESOURCE MANAGEMENT AND SCIENCE WEEKLY UPDATE ISSUE NUMBER 112 November 26, 2001

SCHEDULE FOR TUNNEL REPAIRS ONNEWFOUND GAP ROAD (US 441)

STAGE 2 Jan. 19 - Mar. 15, 2002 STAGE 3 Mar. 16 - Sept. 27, 2002
No buses, trailers, or RVs allowed.Short sections of road near the two tunnels will be restricted to only one lane of traffic. Traffic will be regulated by automatic traffic signals 24 hours a day. BE PREPARED FOR LONG DELAYS, especially on weekends.

No construction work on weekends or holidays.

Mar. 16 - May 18: During the week, temporary single lane closures at the two tunnels with flaggers directing traffic. EXPECT LONG DELAYS.

May 19 - Aug. 18: ROAD IS OPEN. No construction work.

Aug. 19 - Sept. 27: Temporary, single lane closures with flaggers.


HARD MAST SURVEY -- Hard mast (i.e., acorns, hickory nuts, etc.) is probably the most important fall food for wildlife in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM). Annual variations in hard mast production affect food habits, movements, habitat preference, reproduction, and therefore, density of black bears. Hard mast also is an important fall food for other wildlife species including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, chipmunks, squirrels and wild hogs.


Since 1979, hard mast surveys have been used to collect baseline information for assessing and monitoring mast production in GRSM and its influence on black bear population dynamics. The 2001 hard mast survey was conducted from August 10-26.

A total of 270 trees, representing 8 mast producing species were surveyed. The overall mast index for oaks was 3.58 suggesting good oak mast production, although white oak mast production was significantly lower than red oak mast production. Overall white oak and red oak indices were 1.46 and 4.76, respectively, suggesting poor white oak production and very good red oak production. In fact, the red oak index was the second highest in the history of he survey. Mast survey indices for hickory, walnut, and beech were 0.00, 5.00, and 2.70 respectively, however, sample sizes for these trees were very small.


The abundant oak mast crop should allow bears to gain sufficient weight for winter hibernation and cub production, and result in fewer movements of bears out of the Park in search of fall foods. The good mast crop may also result in high reproduction of exotic wild hogs.

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK RESOURCE MANAGEMENT AND SCIENCE WEEKLY UPDATE ISSUE NUMBER 111 November 19, 2001

Hog Hunters Have Gone High Tech
243 Hogs Trapped Last Year
By Carson Brewer, special to GoSmokies. com
January 7, 2002

The hog hunters in Great Smoky Mountains National Park have gone high tech, says Kim Delozier, senior wildlife technician in the park. Kim says the six men who hunt the European wild boar in the park wear clothing with a human scent suppressant that keeps the hogs from smelling them. This allows the hunters to get closer to the hogs. And the men hunt with new military rifles that produce only low sound on the first shot fired and near silence on subsequent shots.

Kim has been involved in the years-long effort to reduce the park's hog problem longer than any other person. He thinks the half-dozen men who hunt and trap hogs have reduced their number and the damage they do about as much as is physically and financially possible. The hunting and trapping goes on about 11 months of the year. October is the month the hogs can live it up without living dangerously and eat like pigs. A fresh crop of acorns is on the ground then, and the hogs usually can fill their bellies quickly and safely.

The hunter-trappers last year killed or trapped 243 hogs, compared with 203 in2000and 386 in 1999. The most they ever took out in one year was 1146 in 1986, the year the hunter-trapper program got started as a high-priority project. Sixty-one percent of those taken last year were shot and 38 percent were trapped live. The trapped hogs were given to the state of North Carolina for release in hunting areas many miles from the park. The state of Tennessee has no such arrangement for hogs trapped on the Tennessee side of the park to be resettled in Tennessee hunting areas.

Though the hunter-trappers have gone high tech in their hunting, Kim says when they trap hogs they mostly use shelled corn, the bait they've used for years. They putdown a trail of corn leading to a hog trap. If a hog is hungrier than he is suspicious, he'll follow the corn trail right into the trap. A variation of that bait is corn soaked in molasses until it ferments.

The ancestors of these particular swine were brought into this country in about1912 and taken to a private hunting lodge owned by George Gordon Moore, an American businessman with international connections. He thought he could gain business advantages with his associates if he could invite them to hunt big game on Hooper Bald, in the mountains of Graham County, North Carolina. Events proved him wrong. His rich friends didn't think highly of invitations to hunt wild hogs, bears, bison, elk and wild turkeys in the Carolina mountains. He had a fine lodge built, using lumber sawed from a different species of tree for each room. To keep his guests clean, Moore installed the first bathtubs in the county. People walked for miles to see them. Nevertheless, the project flopped. Moore, short of cash, failed to pay his lodge manager and gave him the lodge to satisfy the debt. Meanwhile, the hogs were exploring their new territory and expanding it. It was about 1950 that they swam the Little Tennessee River and moved their rooting operations into the Great Smokies.

The National Park Service people didn't immediately realize what a creature they had to deal with. In its ceaseless search for food, it rooted up Great Smokies soil to find the tiny corms of spring beauties, small pink-blooming wildflowers that grow in beds of many square yards. It did the same for many others of the park's finest flowers. Belatedly, the Park Service fought back, starting in 1959. From then through last year, hunter-trappers killed or trapped 9738 hogs. They should get their 10,000th hog late this year or early next. And Kim thinks the job his men are doing is about as good as can be done. This big wild hog is the "most prolific large animal in North America," Kim says. A sow can birth up to a dozen piglets per litter and she can, but usually does not, produce 2 litters per year. On the other hand, the black bear, the hog's greatest enemy in the park, produces only 1 litter every 2 years and the cubs nearly never number more than 4 or 5 per litter; 2 is the most likely number.

Smokies Elk are Doing Well
Second release is scheduled to take place next month
By Morgan Simmons, News-Sentinel staff writer
December 31, 2001

It was almost a year ago that a large crowd gathered to witness the release of 25 elk in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where the animals had not been seen for almost 200 years. Since then the herd has produced at least three calves, lost one adult to brainworms, and put on ample body fat to survive another winter.

Biologists say the five-year project, which calls for the release of 50 additional elk in Cataloochee Valley for a total of 75, is off to a promising start.

"The elk are thriving," said park spokesman Bob Miller. "And while a few herd members have been mobile, for the most part the gang has stayed right here. The fact that this first batch hasn't moved a lot has saved a lot of worries."

Miller said that over the past year most of the elk have hstayed within two miles of the 3-acre acclimation pen that was their home during their first two months in the park.

Two bulls did spend several months just outside the park on the Cherokee Indian reservation but returned to Cataloochee on their own when the breeding season arrived in October.

Last summer project biologists responded to reports that a cow elk and her calf that had moved just east of the park had caused minor damage to a barbed-wire fence.

Miller said the landowner was worried that poachers might kill the cow and calf on his property, and he asked park biologists to catch them and take them back into the park.

None of the elk that made forays outside of the park did damage to corn and other crops, although these foods were readily available. Based on the analysis of elk droppings,the elk are eating a wide range of foods, including tree leaves, pine and hemlock twigs, and grass.

Over the next four years, biologists will continue to observe Cataloochee's growing elk herd to see how the animals adapt to the mountain habitat.

The estimated $1.1 million cost of the project is being covered by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association.

Of the 25 elk released in the Smokies early this year, one was euthanized after suffering acute neurological symptoms consistent with brainworms. A necropsy of the animal ruled out brucellosis, tuberculosis and chronic wasting disease.

Predators - most likely coyotes - are believed to have been responsible for the death of at least one and possibly as many as three elk calves. Researchers say that six, possibly seven, cows may have delivered calves, but only three are confirmed to have survived.

Over the past year the Cataloochee elk herd has drawn nearly 150,000 visitors to the three-quarter-mile-long valley at the eastern end of the park. That's nearly double the average level of visitation there. Elk viewing was especially popular in October when the bulls moved into the fields in the evenings to bugle their mating calls.

"Most people are having a ball seeing these huge, majestic animals," said Cataloochee Ranger Walt West. "We work pretty hard to educate people about the need to keep their distance from the elk, both for safety reasons and to minimize disturbance. We have posted signs warning visitors not to approach the elk, and we write citations to those who don't cooperate."

While the first elk came from Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in West Tennessee and Kentucky, the second release batch is expected to arrive in January from Elk Island National Park in Canada.

Biologists believe the Elk Island herd will be more inclined to wander than the first herd since they will have come from a larger enclosure. The second herd also is expected to be more wary of vehicles and visitors than the elk now on hand.

According to park biologist Kim DeLozier, the increased mobility may be a mixed blessing.

"If the new elk don't stay in Cataloochee Valley, it could pose a challenge for us to radio-track them from the ground, and we will need to do much more tracking from the air," DeLozier said.

"On the plus side, we may learn more about what types of habitat elk will utilize other than grassy meadows, which only comprise about 2 percent of the park."

DeLozier said the animals from Elk Island will have to be transported 2,500 miles in a three-to-four day trip, subjecting them to more stress than the elk from Land Between the Lakes.

To minimize stress, DeLozier said the arrival of the second herd won't be a public event, and the animals will be transferred from trucks to the acclimation pen without fanfare.

"We are very satisfied with the success of the project so far and especially with the results of the captive acclimation period prior to release," DeLozier said.

"It appears the acclimation helps keep the elk healthy following their arrival,helps bind the group into a cohesive social group and helps reduce their wanderings by imprinting them to the pen site."

Copyright 2001 The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.

NEWFOUND GAP ROAD TUNNELS PROJECT TO BEGIN --

There are two tunnels on the Newfound Gap Road, the north-south road through the Park, which are in sore need of repair. Some of the tunnel roof work needs replacement, and the roadbed of the tunnel will be lowered to accommodate the larger sized vehicles we have on the roads now, that weren't around in the 1930s.

The Maintenance Division has taken the lead on this project, working with the Federal Highway Administration, but the other Park divisions have also been involved. For example, Resource Management and Science conducted a study last year that resulted in one construction option not being considered, because it would have had long-lasting environmental effects.

Much thought has gone into the timing and planning of the construction to avoid disruption to park visitors as much as possible. Some work is scheduled to begin on November 1, but that should have little impact on traffic. The road will be completely closed from November 26 through December 21 and again from January 3 to January 31. From January 31 to March 15, 2002, there will be single lane closures with traffic lights, and no buses, trailers, or RVs allowed. From March 16 to May 18, there will be temporary single lane closures. The road will be fully open next summer, from May 19 to August 18, then some additional work from August 19 through September 27.

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK RESOURCE MANAGEMENT AND SCIENCE WEEKLY UPDATE ISSUE NUMBER 106 October 15, 2001

At the end of the construction, these two tunnels will be much safer for the visiting public. Electronic signs will be placed at the north and south entrances to the road to inform visitors of current conditions. Also, visitors may call the toll free
number 1-888-355-1849 for current information on the status of the road.

Hiker Achieves 'Triple Crown'
By Glenn Adams
Associated Press Writer
Saturday, Oct. 27, 2001; 9:30 p.m. EDT

THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL, Maine –– For 10 months, he started walking at sunup and didn't stop until nightfall.

On Saturday, "Flyin'" Brian Robinson became the first person to hike each of the three U.S. National Scenic Trails in a calendar year when he reached the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail atop Maine's highest peak.

He averaged about 30 miles a day since setting out Jan. 1, destined to complete the Pacific Crest Trail in the West, the Continental Divide Trail in the Rockies, and the Appalachian, which runs from Georgia to Maine.

With a handful of well-wishers in tow, Robinson finished the 2,168-mile Appalachian on Saturday atop mile-high Mount Katahdin.

"This is the toughest five miles," Robinson said after reaching the snowy, wind-swept summit around 11 a.m.

Tackling hiking's "Triple Crown" – 7,400 miles through 22 states – took Robinson through hip-deep snow, scorching heat and more than 1 million feet of upward climb.

To save precious time, he ate while he walked: Snickers bars, peanut butter, anything calorie-rich. Nary a pound was shed from his 6-foot-1, 155-pound frame.

Seven pairs of running shoes later, he looked no worse for the wear Saturday, save a bushy black beard he last trimmed in April.

What nearly got him, he said, was the isolation. Since he never slowed down and barely stopped, no one could keep up long enough to make good company.

"I'm celebrating in my own way and a lot of that is internal and spiritual," he said at the end, where he had prepared for an anticlimactic ending.

"And yet I was quite exhilarated," he said.

Only two dozen people have achieved hiking's Triple Crown in their lifetimes. In 1999, two men became the first to hike two of the trails in a single year.

Robinson hiked the Pacific Crest – 2,645-miles from Mexico to Canada – in 84 days and six hours, averaging better than 31 miles a day before covering 2,588 miles of the Continental Divide, which has no fixed route over much of its length.

Robinson, 40, of San Jose, Calif., is on a leave of absence from his job as a systems engineer for Compaq. He saved $10,000 for the venture, which he dreamed up three years ago after completing the Pacific Crest for the first time.

Jeffrey Schaffer of Napa, Calif., author of Pacific Crest Trail guidebooks, said last month that Robinson's accomplishment would be "the greatest feat of endurance on any of the trails."

"I think it's comparable to trying to climb the highest peaks on all seven continents in a single year," added Karen Berger of Bronxville, N.Y., author of "Hiking the Triple Crown."

"I've quit saying what can and can't be done on the trails," she said. "Humans are amazing."

© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press

AIR QUALITY --

The Park monitored its thirteenth unhealthy ozone day for 2001 on September 13 at Cove Mountain, with an 8-hour average of 86 parts per billion (an 8-hour average over 84 ppb is an exceedance of the ozone health standard). Thirteen days is still thirteen days too many days for a national park, but significantly lower than the previous 128 days between 1998-2000. Cloudier and wetter conditions this summer helped to keep ozone levels from building up too high. Ozone pollution is formed by a chemical reaction of nitrogen oxides and
hydrocarbons in the presence of sunlight.

Data from the Park's gaseous pollutant and meteorological monitoring network can now be accessed over the web. A new capability has been added to query the NPS database from a web form. The web site is http://12.45.118.202/. More options on accessing data and summaries are presented on the Data Access entry page at http://www2.nature.nps.gov/ard/gas/netdata1.htm.

The State of North Carolina "Clean Smokestacks Bill" saw some progress in late August to becoming a reality. The proposed bill, already approved by the Senate, is being considered by the House. The new agreement maintains the high air quality standards approved by the Senate and reduces the estimated cost to consumers by about one-third -to just $2 per month for the average consumer, beginning in 2003. The bill would allow pollution to be reduced from North Carolina's 14 coal-fired power plants. Sulfur dioxide emissions would be
reduced by 74% by 2013 and nitrogen oxide emissions would be cut by an estimated 72% by 2007. Toxic mercury emissions would also be cut dramatically.

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK RESOURCE MANAGEMENT AND SCIENCE WEEKLY UPDATE ISSUE NUMBER 103
September 24, 2001

 

 

Fish Populations are Down--

Large stream surveys have been completed in Little River and Cataloochee. Based on visual observations, it appears that fish populations are down about 50%. The reductions in density and biomass are apparently the result of three years of drought.

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK RESOURCE MANAGEMENT AND SCIENCE WEEKLY UPDATE ISSUE NUMBER 103
September 24, 2001

 

All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory -

A huge project is underway in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is estimated that there are over 900,000 species of life within the boundaries of the park, but only about 10,000 have been cataloged. The Park is believed to be the most biodiverse place on the planet north of the tropics. A new type of organization, Discover Life in America, is going to attempt to catalogue all species of life in the Park boundaries over the next 12 to 15 years. Discover Life is a partnership of universities, colleges, museums, government agencies, corporate sponsors, and volunteers. One of the organizations goals is to have one web page for each species of life in the park, complete with all known information on the species. Volunteers of any age and from all over the world are wanted to participate in the project. Some early finding, a tarantula the size of a mite, and seven species of flies new to science.

Park Now Part of The Lonely Planet -

Erik and Vesna of A Walk in the Woods led Ian Wright and the Brittish crew from The Lonely Planet on an overnight trip to Mt. LeConte Lodge in early August, 1999. The Lonely Planet is a travel show that has aired for the past five years on the Discover and Travel Channels and is viewed by 35 million people worldwide. The segment will be part of The Lonely Planet's Guide to the Deep South, and will air in late December or early January. The trip was a great success. Some highlights were a meal that Ian ate of food totally foraged during our hike up, and a perfect Myrtle Point sunrise.

Walking Improves Memory -

Research published in the journal Nature (Ageing, Fitness and Neurocognitive Function, Nature, 29 July 1999 ) concludes that vigorous walking helps brain function. Experiments conducted at the University of Illinois showed marked improvement in people's "executive control functions" when walking three times a week. Executive control functions, ability to make, reconsider and remember choices, establishing and managing plans and schedules, help older people live independently. Activities like weight lifting and other anaerobic exercises did not improve these functions.

 

 

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