The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Thomas Fraser

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GATLINBURG — The director of the National Park Service is expected in Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Saturday to celebrate National Public Lands Day.

Director Chuck Sams plans to make some remarks in appreciation for the volunteers who help backstop national park maintenance costs before citizens fan out for various tasks across the park. Sams is the first Native American to head the park service, and he will be joined by Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Chief Richard G. Sneed.

Big South Fork wild hogsWild hogs are seen rooting in a sensitive area. Hog season opens later this month in Big South Fork.  National Park Service

ONEIDA — Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area this week announced regulations for those wanting to kill invasive wild hogs during the upcoming fall and winter seasons.

Most hog populations within the protected areas of BSF are believed to be present on the Tennessee side of the park, which spans the Kentucky border. Feral hogs have been present in East Tennessee for generations. They destroy local flora and fauna mainly by rooting in low-lying mountain and valley areas. They are especially fond of salamanders, many species of which are in grave decline. In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, hunters are regularly deployed to cull hogs throughout the park.

“The wild hog is an invasive exotic species that has a significant negative impact to native species and do a great deal of damage to farmlands and residential areas. The damage they cause threatens park resources including federally listed plants,” according to a release from the park service.

Deer hunting season opens in Tennessee Sept. 24.  During these big game seasons, wild hogs may be harvested with the appropriate weapon that is legal for that specific season and during an extended hog hunting season that lasts from the end of the deer season until the end of February.”

To clarify:

  1. Archery season: a hog hunter can hunt with a bow or crossbow.
  2. Muzzleloader season: you can hunt with a muzzleloader, crossbow or bow.
  3. Rifle season: you can hunt with a bow, crossbow, muzzleloader, rifle, shotgun or pistol.
  4. Extended hog season you can hunt hogs with anything as long as it is legal for harvesting a deer.

Hunters in search of wild hogs in the area are told to go to the Tennessee side of the park.

For more information on hog permits, contact Big South Fork NRRA at (423) 286-7275, or Obed WSR at (423) 346-6294.

1 smokies most wanted infographic credit Emma Oxford GSMA

This story was provided by Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

GATLINBURG — Great Smoky Mountains National Park is celebrating the success of a community science project led by nonprofit partner Discover Life in America (DLiA) called Smokies Most Wanted. The initiative encourages visitors to record life they find in the park through the iNaturalist nature app. DLiA and the park use these data points to map species range, track exotic species, and even discover new kinds of life in the park. 

“iNaturalist usage in the Smokies has skyrocketed from just four users in 2011, to 3,800 in 2020, to now more than 7,100 users,” said Will Kuhn, DLIA’s director of science and research. 

In August, the project reached a milestone, surpassing 100,000 records of insects, plants, fungi, and other Smokies life submitted through the app. Among them are 92 new species not previously seen in the park.

black bellied salamanderJonathan Cox

Great news from the Smokies via Instagram!

The “salamander capital of the world” just gained a new member! Meet our 31st species: the Cherokee black-bellied salamander, or Desmognathus gvnigeusgwotli. Its species name means “black belly” in the Cherokee language. Scientists used genetics to find out that it is different from the other black-bellied salamander in the park.

This salamander is common throughout the park and is known for its extremely dark belly and hunting along the banks of streams. If you see a large, dark-bodied salamander with a flattened tail resting on a river rock or poking its head out of a streamside hole, it’s likely the Cherokee black-bellied!

Remember to always appreciate salamanders and other wildlife from afar. Many of our salamanders breathe through their skin. The oils on our hands can stress them out, disrupt their breathing or even spread infections. Please help us keep our salamanders slimy and avoid picking them up!

— Great Smoky Mountains National Park

adopt a crag photoVolunteers are needed to improve and maintain climbing and approach areas at the Obed.  National Park Service

WARTBURG The Obed Wild and Scenic River will host the park’s annual Adopt-a-Crag event on Saturday, Sept. 11 in cooperation with the East Tennessee Climbers Coalition.

Volunteers are needed to help with a variety of projects, including general trail maintenance and litter pickup. Participants should meet at the Lilly Pad Hopyard Brewery at 9 a.m. to register and receive a project assignment. Carpooling is suggested, and volunteers should bring their own lunch, water, hand tools and gloves.

When the work is done, volunteers are invited to spend the day climbing, kayaking or hiking. The ETCC plans a volunteer appreciation dinner that evening at the Lilly Pad.

For more information, contact the Obed Wild and Scenic River at (423) 346-6294.

MEMPHIS Area residents were invited to a film screening of “Keep the Lights On” and a panel discussion at the Memphis Rox climbing gym with community members, local advocates and policy experts. The event, which ran from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, coincided with Global Climbing Day, and professional rock climbers Nina Williams, Manoah Ainuu (who recently summited Everest), Olympic Silver Medalist Nathaniel Coleman, and Fred Campbell hosted and participated in community and climbing-oriented events prior to the film screening and conversation. 

The film follows Memphis Rox staff member and leader Jarmond Johnson, recounting his experiences with intermittent energy access growing up in South Memphis, his growth into a gang activist and mentorship role at Rox, and, ultimately, working with professional rock climber and environmental activist Alex Honnold (best known for the academy award-winning film, Free Solo) to bring solar energy to the gym. Following the screening, Jarmond and a panel of experts discussed takeaways from the film, and how equitable access to solar energy could help all Memphians keep their lights on. 

— Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

KNOXVILLE — People assembled at 6 p.m. Aug. 19 to speak for the trees threatened by development of an art installment at the half-acre Cradle of Country Music Park at the corner of Gay Street and Summit Hill Drive downtown.

The Harvey Broome Chapter of the Sierra Club organized the protest against the removal of five mature oak trees to make way for the sculpture and its base, which was originally commissioned to a New York City artist in 2018 and will cost the city $600,000, according to reporting from Compass. The online news outlet also reported Friday that Councilwoman Seema Singh has requested a pause in the project to determine whether there are alternatives to removing the trees.

“While five trees will be removed, 12 are being preserved, and nine new trees are being planted. It is a net gain of four trees. Over time, as the new trees mature, there will be more canopy than exists now,” city spokesman Eric Vreeland told Hellbender Press.

The project was commissioned under former Mayor Madeline Rogero, who was quoted at the time in a city government blog post as saying: “We’ve been increasing our collection of public art in recent years — both in terms of quantity and quality. The Public Art Committee has done a great job in commissioning a wide variety of intellectually-stimulating murals, sculptures, painted stairs, metal relief and other pieces. And now, this latest project will completely transform a small underused pocket park into a dynamic downtown focal point.”

Knoxville’s influence on the nascent country music scene is described in a walking tour offered by Visit Knoxville that highlights the city’s connections to country stars such as Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, and the Everly Brothers.

IMG 6088You might have to pay to park at some of these trailheads in Great Smoky Mountains National Park starting next year. These old trail badges are displayed in Fontana Village on the south side of the Smokies. Thomas Fraser/Hellbender Press

Smokies parking fees will generate $7 million in revenue for park infrastructure

GATLINBURG — Getting outside just got more expensive.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced Monday the park would proceed with plans for a $5/per day parking pass required of all cars staying in one spot for more than 15 minutes.

Weekly passes will be $15, and annual passes will be available for $40, according to a release from the park service. Fees will also increase $3 for backcountry and campground permits, meaning campers and backpackers will have to fork over $8 a night.

CITIZEN TIMES: Child killed by falling tree was a very rare twist of horrible fate

Karen Chavez of the Asheville Citizen Times wrote a great article on tree-related deaths in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and beyond following the death last week of a Georgia child killed by a falling tree as she was occupying a tent in Elkmont Campground.

She reports the death of the child was only the 11th tree-linked death in the national park’s history.

The first such death was reported in 1934, when a Civil Conservation Corps worker was killed. Tree-related deaths since are normally associated with roadways and hiking trails.

“‘Deaths related to falling trees or limbs account for about 2 percent of total recorded deaths in the park. It’s an incredibly rare and tragic occurrence and accounts for the first-ever fatality caused by a tree falling on a tent in park history,’” according to an interview Chavez had with park spokeswoman Dana Soehn.

ky floodsHeavy flooding is seen in eastern Kentucky this weekend. State of Kentucky/Office of Gov. Andy Beshear

Another round of severe flooding hits the Southern Appalachian region

UPDATED: The death toll from last week’s unprecedented flooding in Kentucky reached at least 29, as some areas contended with additional flooding over the weekend. Fifteen of those, including four children, died in Knott County, which is about 100 miles north of Kingsport.

Water service to nearly 67,000 connections has been affected, as well as 17 wastewater-treatment systems in eastern Kentucky, according to Gov. Andy Beshear’s office. 

“We are currently experiencing one of the worst, most devastating flooding events in Kentucky’s history. The situation is dynamic and ongoing,” Beshear said in a statement.

“What we are going to see coming out of this is massive property damage and we expect loss of life. Hundreds will lose their homes. And this will be yet another event that will take not months, but years, for our families to rebuild and recover from.”

Published in News, Water
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