The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

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0Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning Executive Director Nancy Manning stands in a wetland in the Oak Ridge Cedar Barrens. She is cultivating a project that involves students from nearby Jefferson Middle School.  Ben Pounds/Hellbender Press

New TCWP director already helping our kids ‘Explore and Restore’

OAK RIDGE — The students looked for tiny animals, tested water samples and took careful note of plants. Their recorded observations of Oak Ridge Cedar Barrens, a state natural area, were part of their class at the adjacent Jefferson Middle School (JMS), but volunteers from many outside organizations helped them with their scientific processes. They joined the students on the side of a wetland as they walked through the tall native grasses beneath the red cedars that give the small protected area its name.

Among these volunteers was new Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning Executive Director Nancy Manning. Manning became TCWP’s chief operating agent Aug. 1 of last year, succeeding Sandra Goss after they worked together for a month. Centered in Oak Ridge, TCWP has a storied history preserving and maintaining not just the small Oak Ridge Cedar Barrens area but also Obed Wild and Scenic River and Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. While Manning is continuing that work, she’s put a special focus on fighting “nature deficit disorder” a term credited to Richard Louv and his book Last Child in the Woods.

The phrase refers to a lack of direct experience with nature, and Louv tied such a deficit in his 2005 book to psychological disorders and obesity. So Manning conceived the “explore and restore” program, which gives students a chance to both study and maintain natural areas, and brought it with her from Texas to Tennessee. 

Last modified on Saturday, 22 June 2024 00:13

Screen Shot 2024 06 21 at 9.36.41 PMIn this image from a social media video, a woman and child are seen outside the Bearskin Lodge in Gatlinburg. Biologists have concluded the bear is too habituated to humans and plans call for trapping and euthanizing the animal.  Hellbender Press

The incident caught outside a Gatlinburg hotel was not “normal bear behavior” and relocation of a fed, fearless bear isn’t an option

GATLINBURG — Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency biologists plan to trap and euthanize a bear featured in a viral video posted June 16 to the Facebook account of a woman who lists Chicago as her home.
The video, which is no longer viewable by the public, shows a woman holding a small child just outside the Bearskin Lodge. The woman and other guests had opted to stay outside despite being asked to come into the hotel lobby after a black bear appeared, according to TWRA.
The bear rears on its hind legs and sniffs the woman and the child’s foot, which she recoiled in fear. At one point the bear’s claws become hooked on the woman’s clothing. The bear ultimately retreats, snuffling and pawing around a nearby rocking chair before leaving with what appears to be garbage in its mouth.
“This is an example of how unfearful people have become of wildlife and how misunderstood black bears can be,” said TWRA spokesman Matthew Cameron via email. “They are not Teddy bears. They are large, powerful animals with sharp claws, sharp teeth and strong jaws.” 
Last modified on Saturday, 22 June 2024 01:11

IMG 0772 1 scaled e1718391630730 1024x577A parklet in Washington DC with brightly colored planters filled with local pollinator plants.  Molly McCluskey 

From pocket parks to large-scale projects, cities around the world are working to reverse a troubling trend.

This story was originally published by The Revelator.

Every June, cities around the globe celebrate Pollinator Week (this year, June 16-22) an international event to raise awareness about the important roles that birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles and other small animals serve in pollinating our food systems and landscapes. These crucial species are declining worldwide, with many on the brink of extinction.

Cities have responded to this crisis with a variety of urban initiatives designed to foster pollinator habitats and in the process transform once-stark cement landscapes — as well as pocket parks, curb strips and highway dividers — into lush, welcoming areas for pollinators and humans alike.

In Washington, D.C., ambitious pollinator projects are abundant on rooftops of public, office and private spaces, ranging from the renovated D.C. Public Library’s main branch to National Public Radio’s headquarters, which hosts an apiary. Throughout the District of Columbia, municipal code requires buildings to maintain the tree boxes and curb strips outside their properties. This often leads to creative landscaping on the smallest of scales. 

Last modified on Saturday, 22 June 2024 00:48

Bumble Bee (Bombus sp.) collects pollen from Purpletop Vervain (Verbena bonariensis).A bumble bee (Bombus sp.) collects pollen from purpletop vervain (Verbena bonariensis) in a pollinator plot on the Tennessee Aquarium plaza in Chattanooga.  Tennessee Aquarium

Aquarium celebrates Pollinator Week with activities and giveaways June 17-23

Doug Strickland is a writer for the Tennessee Aquarium.

CHATTANOOGA — Pollinators. They’re kind of a big deal.

From iconic monarch butterflies and humble honey bees to fast-flying hummingbirds and acrobatic ... lemurs?! ... the animals that help plants reproduce are collectively known as “pollinators.” Whether intentional or accidental, the actions of pollen-transporting species contribute tremendously to the health of their respective ecosystems and are responsible for a shocking amount of the food we eat.

The benefits of the human-pollinator relationship are a two-way street. According to the Pollinator Partnership, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about the role pollinators play, pollinators are responsible for roughly one of every three bites of food we eat and propagate over 180,000 different plant species — including more than 1,200 food crops.

Last modified on Tuesday, 18 June 2024 12:19

unnamedVicky Wallace gets assistance crossing a creek in her off-road GRIT wheelchair during an adaptive camping outing along Cooper Road Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Yvonne Rogers/Hellbender Press

Adapted to their environment, wheelchair users venture into Smokies backcountry

TOWNSEND — Four wheelchair users ventured this month to an Abrams Creek backcountry campsite in a first for the Smokies.

Borne by GRIT Freedom Chairs, the able trekkers arrived June 8 in a collaborative event featuring Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Knox County, Kampgrounds of America Foundation and Catalyst Sports. The intrepid group had headed up about a mile of the wide, gravel Cooper Road Trail over hills toward Campsite 1, past horses, along and through streams, finally reaching their campsite. The three-wheeled, arm-powered GRIT chairs are designed for off-road routes.

For much of the route the adaptive hikers used their arms to move their chairs, but other people accompanied them on foot, sometimes helping them up difficult hills or over streams. Those in the chairs enjoyed the mountain water that rushed over their feet.

Park Ranger Katie Corrigan talked about highlights of the natural world around them and led discussions on the concepts of wildness and wilderness. Just like many other backcountry campers, the group of adventurers ate s’mores and slept in tents at the campsite before heading back down Cooper Road to the trailhead the next day. 

Last modified on Friday, 21 June 2024 22:10
Thursday, 13 June 2024 12:55

Don’t fear the shy Joro

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JoroJoro (pronounced “Joe-row”) spiders have made their way to the U.S. from Asia. They may appear intimidating, and can bite like most spiders, but are harmless when left alone.  Pexels via Virginia Tech

Newest invasive exotic spider is harmless, though it doesn’t belong here

Theresa “Tree” Dellinger is a diagnostician at the Insect Identification Lab in the Department of Entomology at Virginia Tech, where she identifies insects and other arthropods and provides management suggestions for insect-related problems. This article was provided by Virginia Tech.

BLACKSBURG — The large, brightly colored Joro spider has been sighted recently on social media in many more places than it has ever been seen in the United States, as exaggerated, misleading stories about the arachnid have gone viral. Yet they pose no threat, except perhaps to insects and to other spiders.

“Joro spiders will likely continue to spread in the U.S., but they aren’t the ‘flying venomous spider invasion’ that’s been sensationalized in the media,” said Virginia Tech entomologist Theresa Dellinger. Answering the questions below, she shared facts about this much maligned spider species.

Q: Where do Joro spiders come from?

“Joro spiders (Trichonephila clavata) are native to east Asia and can be found in Japan, Korea, China, Indochina and Nepal. First reported in northern Georgia in 2014, they are an invasive species of spider that likely entered the U.S. on materials imported from east Asia.” 

Last modified on Saturday, 15 June 2024 16:07

Excerpt from 1966 Mining Congress JournalThis is an excerpt from a 1966 article in Mining Congress Journal indicating mining interests were already aware of the potential for climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions.

Circuit Court ruling: Private emails on public servers don’t always equal public records

KNOXVILLE — A Knox County judge ruled in a lawsuit that spun off from the “Coal Knew, Too” scandal that emails sent or received by a University of Tennessee professor aren’t public records.

Circuit Court Judge William T. Ailor turned aside a bid made by Knoxville-based writer Kathleen Marquardt to review the emails of Chris Cherry, a professor with UT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, according to court records. 

Marquardt filed the Public Records lawsuit four years ago, but the case didn’t actually make it into a courtroom until a pair of hearings held earlier this year. 

According to Judge Ailor’s opinion, the bare fact that Cherry and freelance reporter Élan Young (who was also employed by UT at the time and currently writes for Hellbender Press) exchanged emails using their UT accounts “does not raise the emails themselves to the level of being public records.” 

The origins of the lawsuit date back to 2019, when Cherry rescued some old coal industry trade journals that a colleague was about to toss in a dumpster after cleaning out an office.

In one of the discarded issues of the Mining Congress Journal was an article from 1966 that contained a statement from the then-president of a coal mining organization explaining that fossil fuel use was causing an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide that would cause vast changes in the Earth’s climate through global warming. 

Published in News, Air, 13 Climate Action
Last modified on Wednesday, 12 June 2024 01:02

Less carbon, more chill: ORNL tech reduces refrigerator CO2 emissions by 30 percent

ORNLfridgeA novel technology developed by ORNL keeps food and beverages refrigerated with an advanced evaporator, phase change materials, metal foam, direct-contact defrosting technology and a low global warming refrigerant.  Oak Ridge National Laboratory 

OAK RIDGE — A technology developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory keeps food refrigerated with phase-change materials, or PCMs, while reducing carbon emissions by 30 percent.

More than 100 million household refrigerators in operation across the United States consume up to 2 kilowatts of electricity daily. These refrigerators contribute to energy consumption and carbon emissions by using compressors that cycle on and off day and night, pumping refrigerants across evaporator coils to maintain low temperatures for fresh and frozen compartments. 

(Hellbender Press previously reported on the development of new coolants and systems at ORNL).

ORNL’s innovation uses advanced evaporators with PCMs installed in each compartment for cold energy storage. PCMs are useful for heating and cooling because they store and release energy when changing from solids to liquids or vice versa. Researchers applied porous metals, direct-contact defrosting technology and a refrigerant with low-global-warming potential to enhance performance and minimize environmental impact.

“PCMs are integrated with evaporator coils to keep temperature constant, requiring one operating cycle and allowing refrigerators to operate almost 100% at nighttime, when energy use is lower,” ORNL’s Zhiming Gao said. “This reduces electricity demand, saves costs and maintains efficiency.”

— Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Wednesday, 05 June 2024 20:03

HBG Program: Cryptocurrencies and Climate Change Casualties Featured

images 1

KNOXVILLE John Nolt, a member of the Sierra Club’s Harvey Broome Group executive committee and professor emeritus in philosophy at the University of Tennessee, will present a program about cryptocurrencies and their detrimental long-term effects on the environment. Cryptocurrency “mines” (data centers, really) pull enormous quantities of power from the electrical grid.

Thus they are attracted to states like Tennessee where electric power is relatively cheap.

The event is set for 7-8:30 p.m. June 11 at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, 2931 Kingston Pike, Knoxville.

Last modified on Monday, 17 June 2024 15:13

peerys mill damPeery’s Mill Dam on the Little River is slated for removal by the Army Corps of Engineers for environmental and public safety reasons.  Elan Young/Hellbender Press

Army Corps still committed to Little River dam removal for ecological and safety reasons, but timeline uncertain 

TOWNSEND — The remainders of two low-head dams on the Little River in Blount County, Rockford Dam and Peery’s Mill Dam, are slated for removal by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) following the release in July 2023 of a Project Report and Environmental Assessment that investigated the lower 32 miles of the Little River.

The Corps confirmed this week that plans are moving ahead to remove the two dams. 

Peery’s Mill Dam was the site of 4 separate drownings in the last 15 years, giving it the notorious reputation as the deadliest dam in Tennessee in the past quarter century. Late last month, three women had to be rescued from the churning waters there, prompting questions from the community about the status of the Corps’ removal effort. 

Little River Watershed Association president Andrew Gunnoe says that watershed advocates are eager for the dam removal project to move forward because doing so would provide both ecological and community benefits. 

Last modified on Sunday, 16 June 2024 11:04
Wednesday, 05 June 2024 18:07

Learn the basics and beauty of freshwater snorkeling at a Conservation Fisheries panel

HEAD1Andrew Zimmerman

KNOXVILLE — Join Conservation Fisheries, Inc. and other experts for a discussion on how to HEAD UNDERWATER to snorkel and enjoy the beautiful underwater biodiversity of the Southern Appalachians.

The free event is set for 6-8 p.m. June 15 at Remedy Coffee, 800 Tyson Place, Knoxville.

The panel will be led by CFI Director Bo Baxter; Casper Cox from Hidden Rivers of Southern Appalachia; Jennifer Webster from Little River Watershed Association; and TVA Fisheries Biologist Justin Wolbert. 

Last modified on Monday, 17 June 2024 09:48

Eastern spotted skunk handstand Agnieszka Bacal.An eastern spotted skunk is seen in its signature defensive handstand. If the stance doesn’t deter predators it will let loose a caustic and malodorous spray akin to mace.  Agnieszka Bacal via Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources

Striped skunks thrive as spotted cousins decline

This story was originally published by The Appalachian Voice.

BOONE — A characteristic white stripe on a black pelt is an instant warning to tread gently.

Nature’s stink bomb, the striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) carries this distinctive mark on its back. But Appalachia has a second variety of this master of malodor, marked instead by a blotchy pattern of black and white fur.

The eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius), was not always as rare as it is today. Decades ago, it was relatively common for trappers to catch the polecat, as it’s also known, for its pelt. But spotted skunk populations crashed between 1940 and 1970, according to a landmark paper from the University of Missouri looking at harvest data from trappers. By the 1980s, the study found, harvest numbers had plummeted by 99 percent, reflecting a steep decline in the skunk’s population.

Meanwhile, the spotted skunk’s striped cousin has thrived throughout the United States. So why have their populations diverged so drastically?

SpottedSkunkStudyBlogA spotted skunk trapped as part of Emily Thorne’s Virginia Tech study of the animals.  Emily Thorne

Last modified on Monday, 03 June 2024 16:06

IMG 0793 1Cleanup crews clear a section of roadway in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area following storms that swept the park May 26.  National Park Service

Search came as Big South Fork cleans up after May 26 storm that brought May rainfall total to 12 inches

WARTBURG — Searchers found the body of a man that was the subject of a search that began Memorial Day after he was swept away by high water in Daddy’s Creek in the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area in Morgan County. 

Morgan County emergency management director Ethan Webb late Friday identified the victim as 57-year-old Wade Davis, originally identified by authorities as a Cumberland County resident. National Park Service personnel recovered the body about a mile downstream from Devils Breakfast Table near the Obed River. It is a rugged, steep area traversed by the Cumberland Trail.

Daddy’s Creek is a popular kayaking destination featuring class III and IV rapids that flows into the Obed River. Heavy rain had swollen the creek out of its banks, Webb said. Davis was with a family member when he lost his footing while wading and was swept downstream.

Multiple agencies were involved in the search “by air, by water and by land,” Webb said. “There wasn’t a day we didn’t search.” Drones, inflatable boats and a Highway Patrol helicopter were used. At least 25 people were involved at some point during the search, which was complicated by the speed of the water and rapids.

“We were in constant contact with the family,” he said. On Friday, the family received at least a measure of closure.

Published in News, Earth
Last modified on Tuesday, 18 June 2024 12:24

TWRA recovers body of teenage drowning victim

TWRA logo

ROCKWOOD — Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officers and local agencies recovered the body of Roane County resident, 19-year-old Braeden Hartup, from Watts Bar Reservoir just after 2 a.m. May 26. 

The initial 911 call, concerning a male who had jumped from a boat and did not resurface, came in just after 9 p.m. May 25. Hartup and 10 others were on an anchored pontoon just south of Rockwood, near the Winton Chapel Access Area. Witnesses stated that Hartup decided to swim and jumped into the water from the front of the boat. Hartup was not wearing a life jacket. 

TWRA officers and local agencies used a remote-operated vehicle to locate and recover Hartup’s body in 24 feet of water. The body was transported to the Knox County Medical Examiner’s Office. This is the eighth boating related fatality this year. The incident remains under investigation. 

Find boating and statistical information at

Published in Feedbag, Water

One person hung on for dear life as big waves churned back and forth for minutes. 

hanging onThanks to our friends at Compass for linking our original coverage and pointing us to the video of the spine-chilling incident. Tap the More…  button to access the full original article, which begins below, and the video from which we snapped this frame.


Mead’s Quarry lakeshore after the rockslideTowels, shoes, plastic toys and sunglasses were among the items left behind Saturday afternoon when dozens of people were forced to flee as powerful waves battered the shoreline after a rockslide at Mead’s Quarry Lake.  J.J. Stambaugh/Hellbender Press

At least one person transported by ambulance; witness describes other injuries at Mead’s Quarry

KNOXVILLE — Calvin Sebourn was one of dozens of men, women and children who found themselves fighting for their lives Saturday afternoon at Mead’s Quarry Lake when a sudden rockslide triggered 10-foot-tall waves that inundated the opposite shore. 

Luckily, it appeared that no more than five people received minor injuries and only one of them was hurt badly enough to warrant an ambulance trip to a nearby hospital. 

The quarry is one of the most popular attractions at Ijams Nature Center in South Knoxville, and authorities said Saturday night it would be closed until further notice while the site is inspected. 

Published in News, Earth
Last modified on Saturday, 22 June 2024 01:33
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