March 26, 2008
An editorial appears today's Chattanooga Times entitled "The Rock-Harvesting Travesty." As many of you are probably aware, the Cumberland Trail has been threatened by rock harvesting. American Hiking Society applauds this editorial, and encourages Tennesseans to contact your elected officials regarding this serious conservation issue.
The Rock-Harvesting Travesty
A Chattanooga Times Editorial
Anyone who has traveled around the Sequatchie Valley or the Cumberland Plateau the past few years has seen ample evidence of the soaring regional and national demand for Tennessee's mountain stone. Hundreds of sites offer stack after stack of mountain stone, often along with small boulders weighing a ton or more that are used for landscaping. What motorists and buyers don't see is the despoliation of huge chunks of East Tennessee land cleared of trees and churned by bulldozers to get the stones. But that's just half the problem.
The other half is this: So-called rock miners take much of their mountain stone from property considered in all other ways to be the private property of East Tennessee's homeowners, farmers, foresters and commercial enterprises. If property owners do not own the mineral rights to their land ‹ and many don't, owing to this region's earlier history of poor rural landowners selling their mineral rights to dealers for coal companies ‹ their very land may be vulnerable, under a quirk in Tennessee law, to rock harvesting and rock mining operations.
In that event, rock harvesters with mineral rights claims often just drive onto the otherwise private property, set up an operating shed, and start systematically destroying the stunned property owner's yards, fields and forests to get at the fieldstone, mountain stone, limestone and slate.
Even the state of was unable to protect a portion of the Cumberland Trail, painstakingly built to serve the public, from a destructive rock-harvesting operation that laid waste to the trail.
This is a travesty that should not be allowed. The law should be fixed to disallow dimension stone, the trade name for mountain stone, field stone, slate and sandstone from inclusion under mineral rights.
The dispute over rock harvesting, and whether field rocks and mountain stone legally qualify under mineral rights claims, is a growing problem.
In Sequatchie County, a third of property owners do not own their mineral rights. On Fredonia Mountain, on the Cumberland Plateau above Dunlap, 90 percent of land owners do not own the mineral rights to their land. In Hamilton County, about 10 percent don¹t own those rights. Most of the these landowners, however, are understandably surprised that a glitch in the law allows rock-robbers to legitimate their work under mineral rights.
The results are disastrous.
The state¹s mining law excludes "dimension stone" from the definition of mineral rights. Tennessee's Department of Revenue, however, directs the state to collect a $15-a ton severance tax on extractions of stone. That revenue-grabbing clause is arguably used to qualify dimension stone as a mineral or ore subject to traditional mineral rights and extraction fees.
That rightly makes landowners wonder precisely what they do own when rock harvesters show up. It's also led to a slew of lawsuits and appeals to the Legislature to clarify the conflicting laws defining mineral rights and the absence of regulatory processes on stone harvesting. That conflict should be resolved in favor of stricter regulation that clearly removes dimension stone from mineral rights.
A bill scheduled for a hearing today in the House Committee on Conservation and the Environment, the Tennessee Non-Coal Surface Mining Law
(HB4198 and SB4198), does not go far enough. Lobbyists for the stone industry apparently helped shape it. It should be rewritten to protect ordinary citizens from faulty interpretation of mineral rights.
All this bill does is make harvesting stone subject to registration and permitting fees, and to water quality, reclamation, surety bond and penalty fee requirements. That's not good enough. If lawmakers doubt that, they should visit the wrecked property of private landowners after a rock-robbing operation.
The bill's supposed protections precluding harvesting operations that would pose a hazard to homes, public buildings, schools, churches, cemeteries, designated scenic areas, public roads, streams, lakes, reservoirs, water wells, or other private or public property are more cosmetic than remedial. Tennesseans deserve better.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 4:03 PM
March 15, 2008
The Outdoor Alliance recently produced a video to raise awareness about our nation's antiquated mining laws, and in particular, the Mining Act of 1872.
Please take a moment to view the video below. Afterwards, please take action to help reform the Mining Act of 1872, and bring this 19th century legislation into the 21st century!
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 8:23 AM
January 17, 2008
On Wednesday January 16, Nashville's daily paper The Tennessean published an article written by Staff Writer Anne Paine about the rock harvesting that is taking place along the Cumberland Trail. This issue was recently the focus of an American Hiking Society Action Alert.
The article is being posted here - with permission of The Tennessean. You can view the article online at the following link. The link also contains video content and background information on this important issue.
Mining takes a bite out of state park
Without mineral rights, Cumberland Trail is powerless to put an end to rock harvesting
By ANNE PAINE
SODDY-DAISY, Tenn. — A not-so-welcoming sign greets hikers these days in Deep Creek Gorge along the state's Cumberland Trail:
"Warning Rock Harvesting Ahead. Dangerous equipment and unstable terrain. …"
The forest of hemlock and laurel vanishes just past the sign, and the trail moves onto a muddy mountainside of splintered tree parts and broken chunks of stone where ferns and moss once grew.
This is the result of the harvest of decorative rock — Tennessee's latest cash crop — and it's being done on public land. The state hasn't been able to stop it.
This piece of parkland, part of the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park north of Chattanooga, cost about $2.3 million in state, federal and private funds.
The mining threatens this planned ribbon of green, in the works for decades, which would allow long-distance hiking through some of the state's most scenic terrain.
But the state doesn't own the mineral rights to the land.
Rock — largely sandstone in this area — is being scraped from public and private land and trucked to Atlanta, Nashville and elsewhere to feed consumer demand for upscale rock facing for homes, fireplaces and landscaping. Several thousand tons of rock have been removed from the park, the state says.
"It's not just a few people going in with a pickup truck and picking up rocks," said Tony Hook, head of the Cumberland Trail Conference. "They've got dozers and an earth excavator and dump trucks. They are strip mining."
A piece of heavy earth-shoveling equipment sat at rest from ripping out sandstone and other rock along the trail.
A state report outlines the long-term damage possible to rare wildlife, plants, creeks and the view along the trail, but the Florida-based company doing the work disagrees.
"This is a lot more benign than logging is," said Rick Hitchcock, a Tennessee attorney who represents Lahiere-Hill LLC, which owns the mineral rights in this area.
Timbering took place on the land before the state acquired it, he said, adding that the practice is found around the area and includes building logging roads and clear-cutting trees.
Demand for stone grows
The demand for stone of all kinds as a natural-looking, long-lasting building material has grown.
The production of stone sold in slabs or chunks, called"dimension stone," has increased 30 percent in this country from 2002 to 2006, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Sandstone and limestone, which can be more than 230 million years old, are among the top sellers, with granite — often used indoors — the No. 1 seller. Much comes from established quarries, not skinning the ground.
While some rock harvesting was taking place on private land near the Cumberland Trail, park officials said they discovered the large-scale operation in the state's Deep Creek Gorge a year ago.
Since then, harvesters have cut ragged roads into the area, shaving off a sloping mountainside so there are drop-offs. A 50- to 100-yard section of the Cumberland Trail was buried under debris at one point.
The trail is the central feature of the linear state park planned to run northeast from Signal Mountain near Chattanooga to Cumberland Gap.
A 35-mile section on what will be a 300-mile trail — now half complete — lies in this 5,000-plus-acre parcel.
About $25.9 million has been spent on the state park, which has 21,979 acres so far. Much of the property was purchased from or donated by timber companies, and it's in what was at one time favored coal-mining territory, where mineral rights often changed hands.
"It's just destroying the trail, and not only the trail, but the whole ecology of that area and the watershed," said Fount Bertram with the Tennessee Trails Association.
He has helped build the trail with thousands of others, including students who come during spring break from schools around the country.
"The really scary thing is the land we've acquired from Bowater, Champion and International Paper — none of that came with mineral rights," Bertram said.
"If they can do that to Deep Creek, they can do it anyplace they want to."
Court won't intervene
The state has gone to court more than once to try to get a judge to stop the harvesting, but the court has declined. The state is appealing.
At the core of the dispute is whether the rock is covered by the mineral rights. The mining company says it is. The state says it isn't.
"The state certainly knew they were buying only the surface rights, and they were only paying for the surface rights," Hitchcock said.
Anyone who buys property can find out in the local courthouse whether they're buying the mineral rights along with the property, he said.
Stone belongs to the person holding the surface rights, said Joe Sanders, chief counsel for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, which manages the state park system.
"What does the surface owner really own if you go with the conclusion of Chancery Court?" Sanders asked. "You would own the dirt between the rocks, I guess, and the air over the site. You could mine pretty deep and still be finding rocks."
Dean Rivkin, a University of Tennessee environmental law professor, said severing mineral rights from surface rights has created friction over the years, with strip mining for coal the best example.
"The harm is real to the surface owner, and the mineral owners often do not use best practices and don't respect the property rights of the surface owners," he said.
The state eventually responded to strip mining with a law giving the landowner a say in what happens and holding strip miners responsible for damages.
With rock harvesting, Rivkin said, the "bottom line is the surface owner is not going to be protected, and I would hope the courts would take that into account in making a decision."
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 4:09 PM
January 16, 2008
On Monday I spent the day in the Cherokee National Forest with Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Cliff Hightower. Joining me on a 4.5 mile hike of the Benton MacKaye Trail was the President of the Benton MacKaye Trail Association, Betty Petty, Stop I-3 Coalition Executive Director Holly Demuth, and Benton MacKaye Trail Association Conservation Chair Eric Eades.
This walk was spurred by the recent release of an economic study entitled Corridor K in a Global Economy: A summary of the Economic Development and Transportation Study. The report was released in December by Wilbur Smith and Associates. Local planners have determined that in order to compete in the global economy, we need to build an east-west highway between Chattanooga, Tennessee and Asheville, North Carolina. The consensus among many of the planners is that a 4-lane highway needs to be constructed in the Cherokee National Forest in order to bypass the Ocoee Gorge. I reject the notion that in order to stay productive enough to compete in the global economy, we need to impair the productivity of our public lands at great taxpayer expense. It wasn't all that long ago that former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker was extolling the virtues of the abundant natural amenities surrounding Chattanooga, and promoting these natural areas for recreation to transform Chattanooga into the "Boulder, Colorado of the East." It also wasn't all that long ago that Bill McKibben was here in Chattanooga talking about the value of building durable local economies instead of falling for the false promises of economic globalization.
It makes more sense, both economically and ecologically to enhance the existing roadway in the Ocoee Gorge rather than build a new road smack dab through the heart of prime Black Bear habitat and an Important Bird Area (IBA) known as the Southern Blue Ridge IBA.
During our walk we saw evidence of Wild Turkey (scratching in leaf litter), Coyote (scat) and Black Bear (damage to Forest Service signs). It was a chilly but clear day, and the forest was beautiful. Along the way Eric and I dispatched a few small trees that had fallen across the trail, but this wasn't about trail maintenance. This outing was about discussing some of the many impacts a highway built at taxpayer expense would have upon the Cherokee National Forest and the Benton MacKaye Trail. These impacts include water, air, noise and light pollution in the forest. The proliferation of invasive plant species is another major concern as highways serve as vectors for the spread of these exotic, non-native invaders. The impact to wildlife would be significant. In addition to a thriving Black Bear population, the area is home to White Tailed Deer, Bobcat and a variety of other mammals.
Stay tuned for more updates about Corridor K. If you'd like to get involved in the effort to protect the Cherokee National Forest and it's many trails, you can contact Jeffrey Hunter. For more information about American Hiking Society, please visit our website.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 9:30 AM
January 3, 2008
Grey Wolf - Photo Courtesy of USF&WS
I've always wanted to hear the call of wolves while hiking. On New Years Eve as we hiked back down from Sunset Rock to our cabin at Reflection Riding Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, we heard wolves! The captive Red Wolves at the Chattanooga Nature Center were howling up a storm!
Somehow the call of captive wolves is not quite the same as hearing their wild brethren. Someday I'll have to travel to Minnesota, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming or Alaska to hear Grey Wolves in their native habitat.
Yesterday the NY Times did a piece on the US Fish & Wildlife Service's plan to delist the Grey Wolf from the Endangered Species Act. The article entitled "A Divide as Wolves Rebound in a Changing West" is well worth reading. Wolves have restored balance to Yellowstone National Park, but they are not loved by everyone. Least of all, coyotes!
What are your thoughts about this issue? Do you share my desire to hear and perhaps see this elusive keystone predator in the wild? You can share your thoughts in the comment box below.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 5:44 PM
December 30, 2007
Illegal Motorized Use in the Nantahala National Forest
Photo taken by Jeffrey Hunter on the Fires Creek Rim Trail
Today the Sunday NY Times has a feature article entitled "Off Roading Surge Stirs Dust and Debate in the West." If you read the article, you get the impression that the problem with illegal and unregulated motorized recreation on public lands is restricted to the west. Of course, that's not so. In fact, the problem is widespread, and is acute in some areas here in the southeast and elsewhere across America.
As a hiker, few things upset me more than seeing the damage inflicted to trails and the public lands that surround trails by Off Highway Vehicles (OHVs). Over the last decade, OHV ownership has exploded. Unfortunately, law enforcement on our public lands has not kept pace with this destructive activity. The results of this are clear; eroded trails, illegal incursions into Wilderness areas, smoke and noise belching on our public lands, rare plants destroyed, frightened wildlife, and in many cases, a diminished hiking experience. Let's be clear. Regardless of your recreational interests, no one has the right to destroy our public lands!
As an staff member of American Hiking Society, few things make me prouder than our work to deal with the OHV issue. As the national voice for America's Hikers, we take few issues more seriously than this one. Here in the southeast I have worked with local trail clubs and the media to draw attention to this issue. In 2007, this resulted in an AP article calling attention to ATV damage on the Benton MacKaye Trail in NE Georgia. Our Western Public Lands Initiative Manager Seth Levy has been working hard on this issue, as has our policy expert and VP for Programs Celina Montorfano. Our Oregon based Recreation Policy Specialist Randy Rasmussen has also been hard at work on this issue.
As we enter into 2008, we need you, America's hikers, to join us, American Hiking Society. We will continue to raise our voices on this all important issue. With each new member, our voice grows louder, and our reach extends a little further. In other words, you can help us defend the hiking experience by joining us. Please resolve to join American Hiking Society today! This is one New Years Resolution that you can successfully accomplish in just a few minutes, and you can do so safely and securely on our website.
Thank you for your support! Happy (non-motorized) Trails in 2008!
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 11:59 AM
December 23, 2007
Here is an OP-Ed piece that appeared in today's NY Times. To read three other OP-ED pieces on our warming world, please visit the following link.
By JON CHRISTENSEN
Glacier Peak Wilderness Area, Wash.
“WE don’t need no stinking G.P.S.,” said our guide. It was getting late. And dark. We were descending from the summit of Glacier Peak in the Cascade Range, and our guide wasn’t sure where we were. It was unfamiliar terrain — the kind we’re all going to have to get used to traveling through and living in.
“That thing has been wrong all day,” the guide said as I pulled out my global positioning system receiver. He was a total gearhead, and I had thought he might appreciate my nifty new Garmin Gpsmap 60CSx. But he said, “If you’re always looking down at that thing, you don’t see the territory.” He glanced at his compass and then stared at the rocky ridges poking through the gloaming.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 12:19 PM
December 22, 2007
Editors Note: This is excellent news for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and just in time for the holidays! Special thanks are in order for Tennessee's Senator Lamar Alexander and North Carolina's Congressman Heath Shuler for championing this settlement!
Here's the story from the Asheville Citizen-Times. The Citizen-Times is my favorite daily newspaper in the southeast. Great reporting, and always on top of issues like this!
By Mark Barrett
December 20, 2007 11:52 am
WASHINGTON – The $555 billion budget bill approved by Congress Wednesday night includes a $6 million down payment on a cash settlement of the long-standing controversy over former plans to build a road through a remote section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The bill, which President Bush is expected to sign in the next few days, is a key step toward compensating Swain County for a road along the north shore of Fontana Lake that has never been completed.
A park spokesman said the Department of the Interior will hold negotiations with other signatories to a 1943 agreement that called for the road to settle the issue. Swain leaders in recent years have endorsed a cash settlement of at least $52 million in lieu of the road.
The federal government agreed to build the road after World War II as part of a deal with Swain that added property along the north shore, isolated by the rising waters of Fontana Lake, to the park.
But the agreement was contingent on congressional approval of funds for the road and, as environmental problems and opposition mounted, Congress stopped funding the project and only a small portion of the road was ever built.
The $6 million is roughly the amount left over from an appropriation for an extensive Park Service study of the issue that recommends a cash settlement. People involved say it may take several years for Congress to appropriate the full amount of a settlement.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 7:35 AM
December 20, 2007
Cumberland Trail Threatened by Unregulated Rock Harvesting!
This is YOUR Cumberland Trail State Park!
The Soddy Gorge segment of Cumberland Trail State Park is being hauled off a dump truck load at a time! This is an area where volunteers from all across the U.S. have spent thousands of hours to construct the Cumberland Trail! Not only is the trail being destroyed, but the gorge that this park is supposed to protect is being devastated. Furthermore, these “rock miners” can just leave, since there are no laws forcing them to reclaim and restore the land. The State of Tennessee took this issue to court but the judge ruled in favor of the mineral rights owner. The case is under appeal.
Cumberland Trail State Park Before Rock Harvesting
Cumberland Trail State Park After Rock Harvesting
A Damaged Section of Cumberland Trail State Park
Heavy Equipment in the Park
Road Built Over the Cumberland Trail
What Can You Do?
First, please read the information below to familiarize yourself with this issue. Afterwards we urge you to contact your State Representatives and ask them to amend the mining laws so this type of operation can be regulated. This is a problem not only on public land, but it can happen on private lands too. Now is the time to stand up and ask the people representing you to stop the wholesale destruction of the Cumberland Plateau! Tell everyone you know and get the word out!
In the last decade, the Cumberland Trail Conference (CTC) has raised $1.7 million, provided more than half of the funds to purchase three watersheds (Rock, Possum, and Soddy Creek Gorges) in Hamilton County, and organized 150,000 volunteer hours to design, build, and maintain the Cumberland Trail. This trail is the central feature of the Cumberland Trail State Park. A long distance hiking trail stretching through 11 Cumberland Plateau counties. The Cumberland Trail is also part of the Great Eastern Trail; a long distance trail system stretching from Alabama to New York.
A large fraction of the volunteer hours was invested in the three watersheds and by December 2006, 35 miles of continuous trail was available for hiking and other outdoor recreational pursuits. Regrettably, these 35 miles did not remain open for more than a month. The state closed a section of the trail to public use because of the public safety concern caused by surface rock removal on park property. The holder of the mineral rights, LaHiere-Hill, claimed surface rocks are a mineral.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) filed a suit in the Hamilton County Chancery Court to stop the rock removal. The court opinion and order was issued on April 4, 2007. The order did not stop the rock removal on State Park land but provided limited protection for the trail. Since April of 2007, the rock removal operation has changed. Surface rock removal is now taking place deep within the gorge about 75 feet from the creek. A road goes to the bottom of the gorge and cuts across the trail, and several thousand tons of rock have been removed forever changing the character of the gorge.
Please take action today
Tennessee citizens are needed to help protect your Cumberland Trail State Park from unregulated rock harvesting. Please take a moment to call your State Senator and State Representative.
Once you have identified who your State Senator and House Representatives are, please call them and express your concerns about how rock harvesting is impacting the Cumberland Trail and the surrounding State Park. Timing is important, so we ask you to take action before January 8, 2008! Here are some points to emphasize;
- Ask your representatives to take action to regulate rock harvesting here in Tennessee.
- Specifically, your representatives can introduce or support legislation to limit the environmental impact these mining operations have.
- Ask your representatives to regulate the mining of limestone, sandstone, and dimension stone by amending the provisions of the “Tennessee Mineral Surface Mining Law of 1972." This will require those harvesting rock to reclaim the land after their mining operations are complete.
- The Cumberland Trail State Park was paid for by taxpayer dollars. This public asset is being destroyed and needs to be protected so future generations can experience the beauty of the Cumberland Plateau.
Thank you for taking the time to take action to protect your Cumberland Trail.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 2:11 PM
Kiosk at the Upper Tellico ORV Area
The Asheville Citizen Times is reporting that the Upper Tellico ORV area located on the North Carolina - Tennessee will close from January 1 - March 31 to reduce sediment loads in the Tellico River and to repair the trails. To learn more you can read the article in the Citizen-Times or download the Forest Service decision memo about the closure.
Sediment Pond at the Upper Tellico ORV Area
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 3:12 AM
December 11, 2007
Corridor K continues to remain a concern for many in the hiking, conservation and environmental communities, not to mention hunters and fisherman. Concerns exist because of the potential impact of a new 25-mile, 4-lane highway that could potentially be constructed across the Cherokee National Forest near the Ocoee Gorge - east of Cleveland, Tennessee.
Today, Wilbur Smith Associates released a long awaited Economic Development and Transportation Summary related to the Corridor K project. While I have not yet had time to review this report in detail, I am making it available for concerned citizens to look at here.
Stay tuned for more information about Corridor K as studies related to the project, including the development of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) are completed. This process will take several years to unfold, but we will follow along closely until our concerns are resolved.
In the meanwhile, please Join American Hiking Society. Your support helps us in our efforts to protect hiking trails and the natural areas that surround them.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 8:39 AM
December 10, 2007
On November 6, 2007, noted author and environmentalist Bill McKibben came to town to speak at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The event was sponsored in part by the Benwood Foundation.
McKibben's talk was both inspiring and thought provoking. He talked at length about the importance of local economies. Much of the talk centered around information contained in his recent book entitled Deep Economy.
The Benwood Foundation has made excerpts of McKibben's talk available in a short and hopeful video. Please take a moment to view it!
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 4:23 PM
October 30, 2007
When I hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2000, I was the lucky recipient of something commonly referred to in the hiking community as "trail magic." Trail magic can manifest itself in many ways. In early March barely 50 miles into my trip, I met a woman named "Coosa" at a place known as Unicoi Gap in north Georgia. She was handing out cookies and candy to hikers - including me! People like "Coosa" are commonly referred to as "Trail Angels." Trail Angels are the folks who dispense trail magic. Needless to say, I was thrilled and delighted at her generosity. Two days later a group of elderly men from Toccoa, Georgia who were out on a day hike found me sitting despondently on the side of the trail just north of Kelly Knob. (Don't get me started about Kelly Knob!) I was trying unsuccessfully to dress some deep heel blisters that had formed days earlier. They asked me how I was and I said, "not very good." With that, two medical doctors stepped forward and offered me advice, bandages, and some ibuprofen. They also loaned me a cell phone to call a family member to fetch me so my blisters could heal properly. It was the tonic that I needed at just the right moment.
The next five months saw many similar instances of serendipity, which was defined to me long ago by a mentor of mine as an "unexpected blessing." There were rides from strangers into towns, the offer of a piece of fruit or cold soda by a stranger after we exchanged a brief greeting as our paths crossed. Then there was the amazing incident where a trail crew from the Maine Appalachian Trail Club (MATC) gave me M&M's as I passed them by. Imagine that! People making the trail better for hikers like me, and they were handing out goodies to boot! Simply put, there was hardly a single state of the 14 that the Appalachian Trail traverses where I didn't receive some sort of kindness from a stranger.
After my hike was over, I decided to return the favor. One hot day in 2001 I left a Styrofoam cooler filled with ice cold soda at a trailhead near my home in Warwick, NY. Written on the cooler in magic marker was a note instructing hikers to take one, and to place the empties back in the cooler when they were finished with their beverage. When I returned the next day to retrieve the empties, I found that the cooler had been smashed to pieces, and my gesture, which was intended as a kindness, had resulted in unsightly litter. This caused me to pause. The unintended consequences of my actions had probably diminished someone else's hiking experience. I was bummed.
In the last few years, trail magic along the Appalachian Trail has seemingly become less spontaneous and more planned. This has raised some legitimate concerns and questions. Are there places along the trail where that kind of event is inappropriate? What sort of impact, if any, does this have on the hiking experience?
In the last year or so, a dialog inspired by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy has begun to discuss both the positive and negative implications of trail magic. Some think it's "all good." Others, like me, think that there should be some thought give to when, where and how trail magic is dispensed. Does that make me a curmudgeon? Gee, I hope not. I'm just a hiker with an opinion.
After reading the articles, you might want to visit the Appalachian Trail Conservancy's Trail Magic web page.
Afterwards, we welcome your thoughts and comments on the issue. You can add your thoughts by submitting a comment below.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 1:18 PM
Have you ever spent the day hiking a trail, and when you finally reach your destination, some inconsiderate boob is yacking away on his cell phone? I vividly recall an instance from 7 years ago when I was awoken in Icewater Springs Shelter in the Smokies at 6 AM by a VERY LOUD hiker who felt compelled to call his wife to remind her to bring diet soda to trailhead later that afternoon. What an awful way to start a day!
Recently Leave No Trace released guidelines for cellphones on the trail. They are as follows;
- It is recognized that many outdoor recreationists carry cell phones for safety and emergencies. Be considerate of other visitors: carry and use cell phones out-of-sight and sound of other people. Keep them turned off until needed or left in a pocket on the "vibrate" or "silent" ringer setting.
- Be self reliant, whether carrying cell phones or not. Don't leave ill-prepared or engage in risky actions just because you have a cell phone to call for rescue. Remember that in many remote areas cell phone coverage is limited or non-existent.
- Many people go to the out-of-doors to get away from technology. Please respect their desire for solitude and be considerate when using a cell phone.
What do you thing of these loose guidelines? Please think about it and submit a comment to let your voice be heard.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 11:13 AM
This morning I read with great excitement about a pending purchase of a nearly 10,000 acre tract of forest land in The area is home to rare mountain longleaf pine, similar to what is found on the Alabama section of the Pinhoti Trail. The land is being acquired by Forever Wild.
To read more about this acquisition, please visit the link below.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 10:15 AM | Comments (1)
October 23, 2007
Join the Benwood Foundation, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and the Community Research Council for a lecture by Bill McKibben at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, November 6, 2007.
McKibben is the celebrated author of The End of Nature, which is considered to be a classic work on the worldwide environmental crisis. His most recent projects include the novel Deep Economy and Step It Up 2007, the largest day of protest about climate change in our nation’s history.
The lecture is open to the public and admission is free. It will be held in the Roland Hayes Concert Hall, which is located inside the UTC Fine Arts Center at the corner of Vine Street and Palmetto Street. For a campus map and directions, click here.
More information on the George T. Hunter Lecture Series is available at www.benwood.org.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 12:08 PM
October 19, 2007
In 2005, American Hiking Society created it's second regionally focused program when we hired Seth Levy to manage our Western Public Lands Initiative. Before joining American Hiking, Seth worked for US Senator Susan Collins. Senator Collins represents Seth's home state of Maine. That's right, he's a Mainer!
Seth is responsible for promoting protecting great trails and natural resources found on 26 million acres of western lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Seth has been working diligently to organize week long volunteer trips on BLM lands through our Volunteer Vacations program, and to promote the National Landscape Conservation System through our National Trails Day program.
To listen to a 21 minute interview with Seth about this unique system of western public lands, please visit the link below.
If you are inspired by our work, please support American Hiking Society by becoming a member!
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 10:03 PM
Roan Highlands in June
Anytime land adjacent to a trail is acquired and protected in perpetuity, it's a good thing. When land near the Appalachian Trail in the Roan Highland, it is a special occasion. The Roan Highlands are beloved by hikers, and many cite the area as one of their favorite places along the entire 2,175 mile length of the trail.
Today the Asheville Citizen Times is reporting that a 430 acre parcel known as the Powdermill tract has been acquired after many years of complicated negotiating. Here is the full article from the Citizen Times;
October 18, 2007
NEWLAND - A pristine 430-acre tract of land in the globally significant Highlands of Roan has been purchased by the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, adding to a network of protected lands that are rich in wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities.
The land in Avery County is near the Appalachian Trail and the Pisgah National Forest and includes a high altitude ridge more than 5,000 feet in elevation.
The conservancy closed the deal on the property, known as the Powdermill tract after the creek that runs through it, last week. The purchase was a complex transaction, taking years to complete and involving partnerships among various government agencies, non-profit organizations and individuals.
The project is intended to further the goals of the North Carolina Wildlife Action Plan, adopted by the state of North Carolina in 2005 as its blueprint for fish and wildlife conservation for the next half-century. The plan calls for conservation of a wide array of aquatic and terrestrial species and their associated habitats and prioritizes the need for conservation of key large-acreage areas of high-quality habitat like the Powdermill tract.
“Several developers had approached the landowners, offering to buy the property,” said Carl Silverstein, the conservancy’s executive director. “If we were not buying it now for conservation and protection of wildlife habitat, it would very likely have been lost to development.”
The Powdermill tract is part of a 24,000-acre ecological network that is beloved by the public for its scenic value and recreational opportunities and is enjoyed by thousands every year, including Appalachian Trail hikers and campers; wildflower lovers, bird watchers, and other naturalists; students and classroom field trips; fishing and hunting enthusiasts; and winter recreationists such as cross-country skiers. The Highlands of Roan are also a key wildlife corridor for game and non-game species including black bear, grouse, turkey, and neo-tropical songbirds and is prime habitat for native speckled trout.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 8:21 PM
October 12, 2007
Albert (Al) Gore Jr. and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change".
To read more about this award you can read the NY Times coverage of the story. To learn more about climate change and what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint, please visit the Alliance for Climate Change website, or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) website.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 8:26 AM
July 23, 2007
Long Sought Protection for Great Smoky Mountains at Hand
by Richard Simms - News Channel 9 in Chattanooga
July 12, 2007 - 6:12PM
United States Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) and U.S. Representative Heath Shuler (D-NC) today said the Senate Appropriations Committee approval of an amendment offered by Alexander could send up to $6 million to Swain County and successfully protect the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from the Road to Nowhere.
Senators Alexander and Dole have objected to the significant environmental and economic costs associated with building the decades-old Road to Nowhere. Today’s decision gives the people of Swain County, North Carolina the compensation they deserve, said the lawmakers
“This is an important first step in fulfilling the commitment the United States made to Swain County in 1943 when the building of Fontana Dam flooded a highway,” Alexander said. “Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee did the right thing in unanimously approving a way to give compensation to the people of Swain County, North Carolina instead of building a destructive road through a wilderness area through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is the right solution for the taxpayers of America, the right solution for the people of Swain County and the right solution for those who love the Great Smoky Mountains.”
“I applaud the committee’s approval of this measure to direct funding towards a cash settlement for the residents of Swain County,” said Dole. “The federal government needs to compensate the people of Swain County, and today’s action is a step in the right direction. I look forward to continuing to work with Sen. Alexander and Rep. Shuler to provide the legislative framework for a full cash settlement, which will provide much needed resources for Swain County’s local schools, economic development, and other important services.”
“The people of Swain County have waited over 60 years for a resolution to the issue of the North Shore Road. The Senate’s passage of this amendment today is a tremendous step toward that resolution. I applaud the efforts of my colleagues in the Senate and look forward to working closely with them to secure a settlement for Swain County,” said Shuler.
In today’s Appropriations Committee hearing, Alexander offered an amendment that would allow unspent money in the FY2001 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill to be used for a cash settlement to the people of Swain County, NC.
In May, the National Park Service announced its intention to designate the settlement as the Agency Preferred Alternative to building the road through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The National Park Service expects to formally publish their endorsement of this alternative in September when it will be followed by a 30-day public comment period.
For over two decades, Alexander and others have been fighting against the North Shore Road through the Park. Last March, Alexander and 16 other congressional lawmakers sent a letter to Interior Secretary Dick Kempthorne urging him to stop work on the road and provide a cash settlement instead, explaining the road would have cost 75 times the annual roads budget of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The project to build the road was initiated to replace a state highway flooded by construction of Fontana Dam in the late 1940s. Today’s legislation directs the remaining dollars to the people of Swain County as a down payment on the money that they are owed.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 1:31 PM
May 25, 2007
The Road to Nowhere - Great Smoky Mountains National Park
American Hiking Society applauds the National Park Service for their stance on the Road to Nowhere. This is great news for hikers and all those that feel that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a gem that should be protected from additional road development on the North Shore of Fontana Lake.
Associated Press - May 25, 2007
RALEIGH, N.C. — The National Park Service will recommend paying a cash settlement rather than complete the so-called "Road to Nowhere" in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, officials said today.
The recommendation will be part of a Final Environmental Impact Statement, which is still being written and will likely be published in September, park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson said. "Even though the (final statement) will not be released for several months, we wanted to be responsive to the intense public interest in the status of this undertaking," Ditmanson said in a statement.
The unfinished road from Bryson City to Fontana Dam in far western North Carolina’s Swain County was designed to replace one the federal government promised to replace it as long as Congress provided the funding, environmental concerns and high costs halted construction in 1972.
An earlier draft of the environmental impact statement estimated it would cost about $600 million to complete the road, which would run through an undeveloped area of the nation’s most visited national park. Swain County, meanwhile, only requested $52 million to settle the issue.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 11:28 AM
May 19, 2007
Today I attended a seminar on invasive plant species found in Tennessee. The session was held at Reflection Riding Arboretum & Botanical Garden here in Chattanooga. Led by Dr. Richard Clements, A Professor at Chattanooga State Technical Community College, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council, this seminar identified about a dozen of the invasive species that are found around the Chattanooga area. After a PowerPoint presentation we headed outside and pulled privet for a couple of hours on the grounds of Reflection Riding.
American Hiking Society is poised to follow the lead set by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and get involved with educating our constituents and members about invasive species. We are also hoping to hold some Volunteer Vacations in 2008 that will involve the eradication of invasive plant species.
For more information about how you can attend an Appalachian Trail Conservancy workshop entitled Invasive/Exotic Plant Identification and Removal, planned for July 11, July 27-28, and September 29-30 in Hot Springs, North Carolina please visit the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website.
In the meantime, you can download an excellent document entitled Nonnative Invasive Plants of Southern Forests: A Field Guide for Identification and Control. (16.9 MB)
Here are some photos taken today at Reflection Riding. Enjoy!
Dr. Richard Clements holding a Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) specimen
Close-up of Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima)
Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima)
Weed Wrenches - used to remove invasives, roots and all
Using a weed wrench to pull privet
Privet successfully removed!
Some of today's volunteers posing in front of a large pile of privet
After working all morning in poison ivy, Tecnu was used to
cleanse the oils that cause the itchy rash
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 7:14 PM
April 28, 2007
By Heather Mullinix
April 26, 2007
More than 300 acres of land will be permanently protected from development thanks to the gift of land from Plateau Properties to the state of Tennessee and the Cumberland Trail State Park.
Rob Harrison, general manager of Plateau Properties, was thanked for the gift that includes the top of Brady Mountain, Brady Bluffs and Salt Peter Cave.
"I grew up with all of this," said Harrison. "I went hiking up there and would think, 'This is nice and beautiful and it'll always be here.' As I get older, I realize a lot of these special places won't be here if we don't take steps to protect them."
The donation was made in honor of Harrison's father, the late Arthur Harrison, and Bob Brown, a noted conservationist and champion of the Cumberland Trail.
During the dedication celebration Saturday at the Grassy Cove Community Center, about 200 people enjoyed live music by the Lantana Drifters, food, drinks and desserts donated by area individuals and businesses, hikes to both the top of Brady Mountain and to Salt Peter Cave, and tours of Grassy Cove.
Harrison said his father became involved with the Cumberland Trail when Brown came to Crossville for business and for hiking about 40 years ago. Brown had been hiking with Mack Pritchard, a founder of the Tennessee Trails Association and state naturalist, and had complained of having to travel from Nashville to the Smoky Mountains to hike the Appalachian Trail. Pritchard reportedly told Brown to visit the Cumberland Plateau. Arthur Harrison showed Brown many of Cumberland County's natural treasures, including Peavine, Hebbertsburg, the Obed Canyon and Brady Mountain.
When the idea of the Cumberland Trail was born, Harrison said he believed they envisioned a trail similar to the Appalachian Trail, and Arthur Harrison told the Tennessee Trails group he knew where the trail could go. Since 1968, hikers have been able to hike along Brady Mountain as part of the Cumberland Trail.
"When I was growing up, my dad would take me out on Sunday trips," Harrison said. "Several times we would go to the top of Brady Mountain and hike. I remember hiking up the to top one day and my dad said, 'Well, there's a trail here.' That was about it. I never had any idea of how grand the idea was they were trying to accomplish."
Harrison returned to Crossville from Nashville in 1997 following the death of his father in 1996. Brown, Rob Webber, with the Cumberland Trail Association, and Brown's dog, Trouble, came to visit Harrison.
"They were still at it, working on trying to acquire the trail and put the pieces together," Harrison said. "Not much happened at that point. The next year they would come by and we would work on it some more. Last year, I ran into Mack and he said Bob was real sick, and we decided we needed to make something happen.
"I hope Bob is able to enjoy seeing his life's work come to fruition. And I'm sure my dad is up there in heaven with Bob's dog, Trouble, enjoying this celebration, too. Neither one of them would have wanted such a big fuss, but I'm sure they're glad to see the pieces of the trail come together."
Kathleen Wiliams, executive director of the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation, thanked Plateau Properties and the Harrison family for the land gift. She shared a conversation she had with Brown, who lives in Nashville and is in failing health and was unable to attend the celebration.
"He said, 'I mainly want you to share I am grateful to Arthur Harrison and to Rob. I knew they had a conservation ethic and I want to thank them for their thoughtfulness and thank them for following through with their dad's wishes,'" Williams said.
Mike Carlton, assistant commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, noted the Cumberland Trail was a unique state park in that it connected pearls of natural treasures across the state. The Cumberland Trail begins at Cumberland Gap State Park and runs south to Chickamauga National Military Park in Chattanooga. It includes more than 11,000 acres and 150 miles of completed trails, with another 150 miles of trail planned for the future. It has been built mostly by volunteer labor. Carlton said he first met Bob Brown in the 1980s when Brown would vacation at Cove Lake and volunteer his time to build trails.
Bob Fulcher, Cumberland Trail State Park manager, said, "This is a monumental donation for the Cumberland Trail, which is a work in progress. Moments like these give us the faith and enthusiasm to dive in and get the rest of this done."
Fulcher thanked the Harrison family and Plateau Properties along with other land owners in the area who have allowed the Cumberland Trail to pass through their property during the past 30 years.
Harrison noted there were a number of creative ways to make conservation gifts, and urged everyone to work with organizations like Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation to help preserve Tennessee natural treasures, like Devil Step Hollow Cave at the mouth of the Sequatchie River.
During the celebration, Rep. Eric Swafford said, "Anyone that's ever been involved with the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation knows that when they take one step, they are ready to take the next one."
Devil Step Hollow Cave, at the edge of Cumberland and Bledsoe counties, is the drainage system for Grassy Cove and the headwaters of the Sequatchie River.
"It's an absolutely wonderful piece of property that needs to be moved into the Cumberland Trail," Swafford said.
Petitions were available to be signed and sent to the governor to urge the state to assist with the purchase of the property. Williams said the land is being offered for sale for $2.75 million and includes 400 acres and several buildings that could be used as a hostel for the Cumberland Trail, a cultural museum or other purposes.
For more information about the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation, see the Web site www.tenngreen.org. For information about the Cumberland Trail or volunteer opportunities, see the Web site www.cumberlandtrail.org.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 4:12 PM
April 27, 2007
Corridor K is a study area that involves highway development between Chattanooga, Tennessee and Asheville, NC in an attempt to stimulate economic development. It is vitally important that the trail and conservation community allow their voices to be heard at these important public meetings!
The meetings are planning for the following dates & locations;
Date: Tuesday, May 15
Time: 11:00 a.m. EDT
Place: Ocoee Whitewater Center, 4466 Highway 64, Copperhill, TN
Date: Tuesday, May 15
Time: 5:30 p.m. EDT
Place: Southwestern Community College, 447 College Drive, Sylva, NC
Date: Thursday, May 17
Time: 5:30 p.m. EDT
Place: Cleveland Bradley County Chamber of Commerce, Cleveland, TN
Here is the text from the announcement letter that I received yesterday;
In conjunction with the Southeast Tennessee Development District and SEIDA, Wilbur Smith Associates (WSA) will hold the second series of meetings to further discuss the Corridor K Economic Development study. The first meeting will be held at the Ocoee Whitewater Center in Copperhill on May 15th from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. WSA will be presenting the Draft Corridor K Economic Development Strategy for the Corridor K Study Region and your input is crucial to developing a final ED Strategy for the region. A complimentary light sandwich lunch will be provided, please confirm your attendance so we can plan appropriately for lunch.
Later that same day, another meeting will be held to review and discuss the Draft Corridor K Economic Development Strategy at Southwestern Community College in Sylva, North Carolina starting at 5:30 P.M. An overview of the project will be presented along with the draft strategy; again your input is crucial to the development of a final Economic Development Strategy for the Corridor K Region.
A third meeting will be held at the Cleveland Bradley County Chamber of Commerce at 5:30 P.M. on Thursday, May 17th again to review the Draft Corridor K Economic Development Strategy and provide an opportunity for input and discussion about the draft strategy. Your input is crucial to the development of a final ED Strategy for the Corridor K Region.
The presentation of the Draft Corridor K Economic Development Strategy is a key step in this study. Creating an economic development vision and goals for the future for the Corridor K region is very important in ultimately considering the transportation infrastructure that may be needed to support the regions economic future.
Directions to each meeting location are shown below. In order to make appropriate meeting arrangements, we would appreciate the favor of your RSVP by contacting Frances Hall at (865) 803-8994 or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or need additional information.
Thank you in advance for your interest, support, and participation!
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 10:23 AM
April 20, 2007
A segment of the Cumberland Trail is closed due to rock harvesting
Previously, an article appeared here about rock mining operation that has closed a segment of the Cumberland Trail just north of Chattanooga.
Here is an updated story on rock mining along the Cumberland Plateau here in Tennessee. This is a disturbing trend that will need to be followed closely. This article appeared in the pages of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Friday, April 20, 2007
Rock mining concerns grow among conservationists
By Pam Sohn and Ben Benton
Rock mining along the Cumberland Plateau region of Tennessee is growing, according to residents, and that has at least one regional conservation group concerned.
"This is not a few people in pickup trucks anymore. This is big earthmoving machines, and they're strip mining -- doing the same thing that's prohibited under coal mining rules," said Carson Camp, a county landowner and board member of the Sequatchie Valley Historical Association, the group that supports the coal mining museum at the Dunlap Coke Ovens.
Miners remove Tennessee stone from a section of the Cumberland Trail near Soddy-Daisy. (AP photo)
Tennessee mountain stone -- used on many area buildings, walls and walkways -- has become a commodity so popular that mineral rights owners such as Tennessee Consolidated Coal are hiring contractors to harvest and mine it. Tennessee Consolidated, owners of thousands of acres of mineral rights along the Cumberland Plateau, is at the center of a new rock-mining debate in Sequatchie County. There miners have sued a landowner and developer for access to his property after he blocked roads into it with heavy earthmoving equipment.
Bernard Higgins, general manager of Tennessee Consolidated Coal in Whitwell, Tenn., referred inquiries to Massey Energy Co., the coal company's parent company. Phil Nichols, treasurer of Massey, said he would not comment, but the company may issue a statement later.
Cathie Bird, chairwoman of the mining committee for Save Our Cumberland Mountains, said rock mining, and the mineral rights involved, are a concern.
She said rock mining is more destructive to land than coal mining. But the government does not require damage repair as it does with mining operations covered under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.
The citizens group, known widely as SOCM, has fought more than 30 years for legislation to protect the rights of surface owners against coal company strip mining.
"As with more usual forms of surface mining, the people who live near the mine sites pay with lost peace of mind, decreasing property values, disturbance of viewshed and other resources," Ms. Bird said.
On Wednesday night, Ms. Bird's mining committee discussed rock mining and decided to put the issue on SOCM's agenda.
"We decided we'll have to do more than we're doing right now," she said.
A growing business
The rocks, sometimes referred to as dimension stone, fetch $200 to $800 per ton, and mineral rights owners generally receive a 10 percent to 15 percent royalty. Landowners normally receive nothing.
Tennessee has conflicting laws and state attorney general rulings. The state does not regulate the operations as mining, but the Department of Revenue allows counties to tax the stone as a mined product.
Tisha Calabrese-Benton, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, said water quality regulators sometimes inspect the rock mining operations to check for stormwater runoff problems and violations of water quality permits.
In 2002, about 65 rock harvesting operations were permitted, she said. Now about 172 have been permitted.
In the past 18 months, at least three lawsuits over rock mining have been filed in the Chattanooga area, records show.
In January, the state found itself embroiled in the rock mining issue when harvesters working for a Florida company tore up 75 to 100 yards of the state-owned Cumberland Trail near Soddy-Daisy in the Cumberland Trail State Park.
Two weeks ago, Hamilton County Chancellor Frank Brown denied the state's request for an injunction barring rock harvesting anywhere on park property. But he did order the rock miners not to use mechanized machines to extract mountain stone within 50 feet of the Cumberland Trail or to take rocks "by any means" within 25 feet of the trail.
Chancellor Brown's ruling did not address other issues in the growing debate, including whether Tennessee mountain stone is considered a rock or a mineral. That decision, he said, was for another, higher court or body.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 8:50 AM
April 17, 2007
Here in the southeast, the membership of the many different trail clubs contains a fascinating cross section of our society. You can participate in a hike with a club, and find yourself hiking with doctors, lawyers, scientists, carpenters, school teachers, bartenders and on & on. People of all ages, and backgrounds enjoy hiking.
In the past year, I've had the pleasure of interacting with some of the many dedicated volunteers from the Asheville, North Carolina based Carolina Mountain Club (CMC). The President of the CMC, Lenny Bernstein, has been involved with the issue of climate change for nearly two decades. Until 1999, Lenny viewed this issue as an industry insider. Since then, he has been involved with one of the three IPCC committee's dealing with the subject of climate change.
On the evening of April 17, Lenny joined me for a 27 minute 34 second phone interview about his work with the IPCC on climate change. To listen to this interview, please turn on your computer speakers and click on this link. (12.7 MB). I hope that you find this interview interesting.
At the upcoming Great Southeastern Hiking Festival, we'll have an educational session on the topic of Climate Change. I hope you'll consider joining us for this great event May 3-6, 2007 at the Montreat Conference Center, which is just east of Asheville, North Carolina. We hope to continue this conversation on climate change at the event, in between hikes and some excellent entertainment.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 8:15 PM
March 12, 2007
On Friday March 9, an article appeared in the Chattanooga Times Free Press about a proposed 4-lane highway commonly referred to as Corridor K. Corridor K is a proposed 4-lane road that will stretch from near Cleveland, TN to Asheville, North Carolina. In this article Polk County Attorney Denny Mobbs proposes that the highway should be routed through the Cherokee National Forest along a Forest Service road commonly referred to as Kimsey Highway. This route would bypass US 64 through the Ocoee Gorge.
On Saturday March 10, I crossed Kimsey Highway twice during a 17-mile hike of the Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT) between US 64 at the Ocoee River and the trailhead at the Hiwassee River in Reliance, Tennessee. I took some video along Kimsey Highway for you to see where the Benton MacKaye Trail crosses the road.
This was not my first time in the area. Back on February 7, 2004 on a snowy day, I participated in a trail crew that constructed a part of the BMT just north of Kimsey Highway. Our leader that day was Benton MacKaye Trail Association volunteer extraordinaire Ken Jones! When you build a section of trail, it really allows you to feel a sense of ownership as a hiker. If you've never done it before, I highly recommend it!
Please take a look at the article above, and then view the video below so you can gain an understanding of some of the issues involved with this particular route selection for Corridor K. I apologize for the grainy quality of the video. It was shot at a lower resolution than I would prefer.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 10:20 AM | Comments (1)
February 17, 2007
Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the National Park Service
team up to try and confirm existence of Eastern Cougar
Cougar, also known as a Panther or Mountain Lion - USF&WS / photo by Larry Moats
I'm writing this entry from Denver, Colorado. Yesterday I was in Boulder taking my daughter to visit Colorado University. Perhaps 18 years ago during my first trip to Colorado; I saw fresh Mountain Lion tracks in a puddle in Chautauqua Park in Boulder. That moment raised my pulse rate and captured my imagination at the same time. There is something about sharing the landscape on foot with large predators that is simply magical to me. Perhaps its the awareness that I'm not at the top of the food chain. However you choose to look at it, the presence of a panther usually changes the way one looks at the hiking experience.
Another strong memory is of the time I was leaving the town of Waynesboro, VA in late May 2000 during my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. A local stopped me on the street and told me with wide-eyed wonder that Mountain Lions live in "them thar hills."
Now, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is teaming up with the National Park Service to see if the can confirm that panthers (often called painters in the Southern Appalachians) really exist here in the eastern forests. To learn more about this effort that will use remote cameras, please take a look at the article in the Roanoke Times from February 13.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 11:37 AM
February 5, 2007
Photo simulation from Sugarloaf Cirque showing the 330-foot
wind turbines with 260-foot diameter blades, proposed on the
Redington Pond Range of Maine. Photo simulation by Matt Robinson.
Photo courtesy of Appalachian Trail Conservancy
A week prior to the Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released it's much awaited report on Global Warming, a little publicized wind power project was rejected in Maine. Maine Mountain Power had proposed building a wind farm in the Redington Pond Range in Maine's north woods. This project which called for thirty 400-foot wind turbines would have been built within one mile of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, in one of the wildest parts of the entire 2175 mile trail. The Maine Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) rejected the project by a 6-1 vote.
One of the most ardent opponents of the Redington Wind farm project is Bob Cummings of the Mane Appalachian Trail Land Trust. Bob is an Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker and long time Maine Conservationist. Here is an OP-ED that Bob wrote about this project after it was voted down by the LURC;
Congratulations to LURC commissioners for upholding the rule of law in their rejection of the proposed wind energy complex on Redington and Black Nubble mountains.
The Land Use Regulation Commission was created three and a half decades ago to keep the wild places in Maine wild. The law says new developments must “fit harmoniously into the existing natural environment.” There is no exemption for wind power.
It’s hard to imagine a site more in violation of the clear language of the statute. Or for that matter, what wouldn’t comply if this industrial complex should somehow be upheld by the courts as permissible. The proposal envisioned 30 four-hundred-foot-high, lighted turbines, some located just a mile from a 2,000 mile long national scenic trail.
To suggest as many have done that commissioners violated the law is absurd. The representative of the Attorney General’s Department at the decision meeting tried to be polite to the LURC staff, but his essential message was that it would have been extremely difficult and perhaps impossible to sustain the staff recommendation for approval should it be challenged in the courts. His comments essentially said that the staff was wrong when it claimed in news reports that the Attorney General staff had given it’s okay to the draft.
A key opponent of the project was the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, a tiny organization dedicated to protecting the trail from encroachment. MATC hired the lead opposition lawyer and paid the technical experts, investing, with help from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, $180,000 of scarce funds to oppose the wind energy application...
MATC members clear the blow downs, bridge the bogs, and cut the brush that make the Maine section of the trail the envy of trail clubs up and down the Appalachian mountains. These are not wealthy, elitist, NIMBYs. No volunteer group in Maine does more hard, on the ground work. Last year 200 MATC members contributed 20,000 hours of volunteer work on behalf of the trail. Each of the several votes by these people who know the trail best has been unanimous in opposition.
Pamela Underhill, director of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, said it most eloquently, telling LURC commissioners:
“I’m here because protection of this unusual and wonder-inspiring unit of our national park system matters deeply to me, to the National Park Service and to millions of Americans. I’m here because… it is a national treasure of immense proportion, and it is a gift to the American people – past, present and future – from the American people.”
She added, “The concerns of the National Park Service over the proposed Redington wind farm are based solely upon its location adjacent to one of the most remote and scenic sections of the Appalachian Trail. The National Park Service supports the development of renewable energy in appropriate locations with appropriate environmental protections. We have not opposed some half dozen proposed wind farms in some proximity to the Trail in locations where special Trail values would not be compromised.”
MATC also is not opposed to wind energy. Members voted just this month not to oppose the Kibby Mountain wind power proposal, though this project also would be visible from the trail. Why? Members recognized, rightly, that there is a vast difference between an in-your-face industrial development on ridges abutting the narrow trail corridor, and proposals involving distant ridges.
Global warming is a real threat that this country must somehow recognize and combat. But a token wind project adjacent to the 2000-mile Appalachian Trail is not the place to start. The many miles along the open Saddleback ridge line and north through the twin Crocker Mountains rank among the wildest sections of the entire trail. The Redington/Black Nubble proposal would reverse that happy situation. The trail would overnight become among the most developed sections.
There are many ways to combat global warming. The most critical is conservation. No amount of wind energy will be sufficient. We must somehow reduce our wasteful ways. The true NIMBYs are not those that would protect a national treasure. Rather they are those who are too lazy and selfish to make the slight effort needed to conserve. The NIMBYs are those who grasp at any excuse to maintain their effortless comfort.
Please remember, that it is still not necessary to destroy the last wild places in order to save our planet.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 10:14 PM | Comments (5)
February 1, 2007
Chimney Rock Park - © 2006 Jim Proctor
The State of North Carolina under Governor Mike Easley's leadership has announced a $24 million dollar purchase of Chimney Rock Park. The park is adjacent to the newly created Hickory Nut Gorge State Park.
For more information about this important story, please visit the article in today's edition of the Pisgah Mountain News.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 8:11 AM | Comments (2)
January 2, 2007
Birder Bill Haley looking at a Barn Owl
On Saturday December 30, I participated in the annual Christmas Bird Count here in SE Tennessee. My partner Bill Haley and I ended up seeing a total of 60 different species of birds. Here's a list of what we saw, and how many individuals we saw for each species. It was great fun!
Wood Duck – 2
Gadwall – 12
Mallard – 2
Wild Turkey – 10
Great Blue Heron – 4
Turkey Vulture – 1
Cooper’s hawk – 1
Red-shouldered Hawk – 6
Red-tailed Hawk – 6
American Kestrel – 4
Killdeer – 2
American Woodcock – 3
Rock Pigeon – 46
Mourning Dove – 56
Barn Owl – 1
Eastern Screech Owl – 5
Barred Owl – 1
Belted Kingfisher – 3
Red-Headed Woodpecker – 5
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 7
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – 4
Downy Woodpecker – 4
Northern Flicker – 13
Pileated Woodpecker – 3
Eastern Phoebe – 2
Blue Jay – 35
American Crow – 107
Carolina Chickadee – 21
Tufted Titmouse – 11
White-breasted Nuthatch – 5
Brown-headed Nuthatch – 1
Carolina Wren – 14
Winter Wren – 3
Sedge Wren – 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet – 3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 15
Eastern Bluebird – 11
Hermit Thrush – 5
American Robin - 127
Northern Mockingbird – 11
Brown Thrasher – 4
European Starling – 152
Pine Warbler – 2
Eastern Towhee – 17
Field Sparrow – 58
Savannah Sparrow – 1
Fox Sparrow – 3
Song Sparrow – 58
Swamp Sparrow – 12
White-throated Sparrow – 51
White-crowned Sparrow – 5
Dark-eyed Junco – 12
Northern Cardinal – 15
Red-winged Blackbird – 42
Eastern Meadowlark – 26
Common Grackle – 535
House Finch – 2
American Goldfinch – 11
House Sparrow – 1
Total – 60 species
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 11:37 AM
December 29, 2006
Coopers Hawk - Photo by Richard Schier
Yesterday I was out for a walk on the Tennessee Riverpark, and met a fellow named Dick Schier taking photographs of birds using a digital camera and a spotting scope. This practice is commonly referred to as digiscoping. Dick is a recent retiree who is new to birding. He also mentioned that he's been doing a lot of hiking/walking in his pursuit of birds over the last 6 months. The photo of the Coopers Hawk above is one taken by Dick. I have a feeling that Dick will be taking some amazing photos in 2007 with his brand new spotting scope! I hope to feature some of those images here on this website - thanks to Dick's generous offer to share his work with American Hiking Society!
Speaking of birds, I'll be participating in the Audubon Christmas Count here in the Chattanooga area. I'll be joined by a couple of other members of the Tennessee Ornithological Society. Although we probably won't spend too much time on hiking trails, we'll start before sunrise, and go all day looking to identify and count as many individual birds from as many different species as possible. The final tally should be upwards of 70 species. Last year we had 4 different species of owls (Barn, Bared, Great Horned & Eastern Screech), with three species calling simultaneously! I'll post a full listing of the birds that we find on our count here tomorrow.
If you have a favorite trail where you like to view birds, please use the comment form below, and tell us about the places where you like to connect with the natural world.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 8:00 PM
December 22, 2006
Have you seen Al Gore's film Inconvenient Truth yet? Regardless of your political stripe, I hope you'll take a couple hours out of your busy schedule and see the film this holiday season. Here's the trailer, in case you missed it.
So what does this movie have to do with hiking? Plenty! Global warming threatens many of the places that hikers cherish. From Glacier National Park where the Continental Divide Trail is found, to the many habitats crossed by the Florida Trail to name just a few.
One important lesson that can be taken from Gore's film was pointed out in an article by Carmine Gallo in Business Week entitled Al Gore's Convenient Presentation. Gallo discusses five effective communications techniques that Gore uses throughout the film. Those techniques are;
- Setting the Stage
- Avoiding bullets in PowerPoint presentations
- Making numbers interesting
- Telling personal stories
- Using a hook
Whether you are a hiker that holds a 9-5 job in the business world, the leader of a hiking or conservation organization, or a student that hopes to one day hike your way up the corporate ladder, you can learn a lot from watching Gore's movie and reading Gallo's article (at the link above). Along the way, you just might be inspired to help save the planet. I can't think of a better holiday gift for future generations.
Speaking of holiday gifts, if you're still looking for that last minute present, why not consider a gift membership in American Hiking Society! A one year membership in American Hiking Society will inspire the recipient to get outside, and lead a healthy active lifestyle. It will also help American Hiking Society protect the places where Americans love to hike. If that's not a win-win situation, then I don't know what is!
Happy Holidays, and Happy Trails!
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 10:21 PM | TrackBack
December 3, 2006
Last week while returning from my hike of the Fires Creek Rim Trail, I passed a number of signs along US 64 in Western North Carolina protesting the proposal to build a new interstate highway (I-3) in Georgia, North Carolina, and Tenessee. I-3 is the brainchild of US Congressman Charlie Norwood from Georgia. This interstate highway would link Savannah, Georgia to Knoxville, Tennessee and cut a destructive swath through the heart of the Southern Appalachians. This would impact a number of hiking trails including the Appalachian Trail, the Bartram Trail, and the Benton MacKaye Trail, just to name a few.
With the results of the recent election in, it looks like I-3 may be on the ropes. At least that's the judgment of the Knoxville Metro Pulse.
That's brings me to a new book that I'm currently reading. A Road Runs Through It: Reviving Wild Places is a new collection of essays from more than two dozen writers including David Quammen, Peter Matthiessen, Barry Lopez, Edward Abbey, and Janisse Ray. Proceeds from the book benefit Wildlands CPR. This book explores the impacts of roads upon wild places. Check it out!
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 6:58 PM
November 21, 2006
Cerulean Warbler - Photo credit: USFWS
I just received my November-December 2006 copy of AT Journeys, the official magazine of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. In there is an article entitled Slip-Sliding Away by Scott Kirkwood. Kirkwood is the Senior Editor of National Parks magazine, the official publication of National Parks Conservation Association.
The article discusses the threats that Mountaintop Removal poses to a small migratory songbird - the Cerulean Warbler. The coalfields overlap with the breeding grounds of the Cerulean Warbler, and 10-20% of the bird's habitat is threatened with destruction due to Mountaintop Removal. That's a lot, considering that the bird's population has plummetted by more than 70% since the 1960s. For many folks - like me - birds are an integral part of the hiking experience.
For more information about the conservation of migratory birds - you can visit the Partners in Flight (PIF) website. American Hiking Society is a non-governmental member of PIF.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 4:15 PM
November 20, 2006
Please help spread the word and share, rate, or comment on this video
As someone who has spent many months hiking in the mountains of Appalachia, I understand the need for clean water. After all, when you're backpacking in the mountains, you trust that the streams are free from contaminants, including mercury and other heavy metals - since that's where you're taking your drinking and cooking water from. But I'm only a temporary visitor to the mountains. What about the people who make their home near where mountaintop removal is taking place?
The video above is from the website iLoveMountains.org, and explains some of the many consequences of mountaintop removal mining - including the destruction and impairment of mountain streams. Already more than 1000 miles of streams have been buried as a result of mountaintop removal mining. According to the iLoveMountains.org website;
"More than 450 mountains have been destroyed by mountaintop removal coal mining. Watch this video (08:23) about mountaintop removal featuring Woody Harrelson and a soundtrack featuring an original recording of “Blowin’ in the Wind,” sung by Willie Nelson. Special thanks to Jeff Barrie and the Southern Energy Conservation Initiative for donating footage from the documentary Kilowatt Ours"
When you're done watching the video, please consider asking your Congressional representative to co-sponsor the Clean Water Protection Act (HR2719).
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 11:38 AM
November 18, 2006
Mountaintop Removal as seen from the Pine Mountain Trail in Eastern Kentucky
Were you aware that there's a war going on, right here, right now, in our Homeland? No, I'm not talking about the war on terrorism. The war I'm referring to has received barely any notice by the mainstream media. What I'm talking about is mountaintop removal, and it's taking place right here in Appalachia.
Last May, an article entitled "The Rape of Appalachia" by Michael Shnayerson appeared in Vanity Fair Magazine. One of my partners at the National Park Service gave me a copy of the article to read. While the subject of mountaintop removal was not a new one to me, I was horrified by the impact on communities who live near mountaintop removal operations.
Now I've just finished a new book entitled Lost Mountain by Erik Reece. Reece is a Professor at the University of Kentucky, and is the co-director of the Summer Environment Writing Program conducted in eastern Kentucky's 10,000 acre Robinson Forest. Lost Mountain is a powerful and well written book chronicling the destruction of the ironically named "Lost Mountain" over the course of a year. For a sample of Reece's writing, you can read an article entitled "Moving Mountains" on the website of Orion Magazine.
Now I've learned that two campaigners from the West Virginia based Coal River Mountain Watch, as well as a representative from Kentuckians for the Commonwealth will be coming to The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee on Tuesday November 28. According to Dr. Bryan O'Neil from the University, this is "a very engaging program with personal testimony about the ills of a community living with mountaintop removal."
This road show will take place at 4:30 PM (Central Time) on the Sewanee Campus in Gailor Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public. If you can't make this meeting, please visit ilovemountains.org to learn about the campaign to end mountaintop removal.
Unspoiled Mountains in Eastern Kentucky. Will they remain that way?
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 12:37 PM
November 15, 2006
It's not every day that you receive some good news, but I'm happy to bring you some today. With the election over and US Representative Charles Taylor swept from Western North Carolina's 11th Congressional District by Health Shuler, the "Road to Nowhere" appears to be DOA. Shuler is a proponent of a $52 Million settlement with Swain County, North Carolina. Taylor had supported construction of a road inside the boundary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park at an estimated cost of $590 Million.
The Knoxville News is quoting Swain County Commission's Chairman Glenn Jones as saying, "knew the road issue was dead when Heath got elected," To view a copy of the Knoxville News article, follow this link.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 10:52 AM
November 8, 2006
With Election Day 2006 behind us, the forecast for the 110th United States Congress is.... Partly Cloudy.
As of 9:30 AM Eastern Time on November 8, the Democrats have taken over the US House of Representatives. Control of the Senate remains in question with races in Montana and Virginia too close to call.
Swept out of office this year are two former Congressman who have a lengthy history of not supporting trails and protection for public lands. In North Carolina, Conservative Democrat Heath Shuler unseated incumbent Charles Taylor from the 11th District. The 11th Congressional District includes much of Western North Carolina including lands bordering Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Pisgah National Forest, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Taylor served as the Chairman of the House Appropriations SubCommittee on the Interior and Environment, and supported the construction of the Road to Nowhere in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Shuler, the incoming Congressman does not support construction of the road, and instead, supports a financial settlement with Swain County, North Carolina. It is not clear what impact, if any, the 2006 election will have on the decision regarding the Road to Nowhere. But, according to an article that appeared in the Asheville Citizen Times on October 28, if Taylor isn't reelected, "the road’s probably dead." Lets hope so!
In California, Republican Congressman Richard Pombo has apparently lost in his bid for reelection to represent California's 11th Congressional District. Pombo was a member of the House SubCommittee on National Parks, Recreation and Public Lands. Pombo had advocated for selling off 15 of our National Parks, repeatedly held up legislation related to trails, and suggested offering corporate naming rights to trails. Pombo is being replaced by Jerry McNerney
In New York State, Republican Congresswoman Sue Kelly lost in her bid for reelection to represent the 19th Congressional District. Congresswoman Kelly was a stalwart supporter of the Appalachian Trail (AT), and attended an American Hiking Society reception held on Capitol Hill in February 2006. Hopefully her successor, John Hall, will continue to support the AT in his district, as well as trails across the nation.
In Tennessee, Republican Bob Corker was elected to fill the seat of the retiring Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Corker, the former Mayor of Chattanooga, is a big supporter of trails. During his tenure as Chattanooga's Mayor, Corker started the Outdoor Chattanooga initiative. He also regularly takes backpacking trips along the Appalachian Trail.
Time will tell how the incoming Congress will deal with legislation and funding related to trails and our public lands. To receive regular Action Alerts about Trail Conservation & Policy issues, please take a moment and subscribe to American Hiking Society's Capitol Trails Broadcast.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 10:38 AM
November 3, 2006
The Shiny Blue Marble From Space
Photo Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Image by Reto Stöckli
Sprawl, Pollution, Habitat Loss, Global Warming, Invasive Species. The signs are everywhere. The natural world is under assault from all angles. At times, the news can become overwhelming for those who see the clues in the mountains and hollers of the Southern Appalachians - and elsewhere on this shiny blue marble we call home.
Then this week I read two articles about one of America's favorite trails - the Appalachian Trail, and the threats facing the trail and it's corridor. The first article appeared in the Roanoke Times and is entitled "The AT: An uncertain path". The second article is entitled "Kittatinny Ridge under pressure from developments" and it appeared in the Pocono Record in Pennsylvania.
After reading these articles, I became despondent. The enormity of the threat can be intimidating, but just as I was feeling down - I received a call from a colleague - Sonja. She said, "Jeffrey - the Cranes! They're migrating!" Sonja lives in northern Virginia, and early yesterday morning she was awoken at 4 AM to the sound of thousands of migrating Sandhill Cranes flying over her home in the darkness. Sonja threw open the window and listened to the birds until 6 AM. What a miracle, and a hopeful one at that! Her enthusiam and joy lifted my spirits.
In that vein, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is taking a proactive approach to the threats to the trail, and they are convening a gathering of scientists next week to talk about using the trail as an outdoor lab to monitor the health of the environment along the East Coast. The ATC and its federal partners hope to enlist thousands of volunteers to establish baseline data, and then monitor trends in future years. I'll post information here about how you can get involved - as it becomes available. I hope some of you will become part of the solution!
Please take a moment to visit the Roanoke Times website and view the multimedia content about the Appalachian Trail. Afterwards, put on your day pack and take a young person for a hike. You just might encounter some cranes. Wouldn't that be nice?
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 8:43 AM
March 10, 2006
National Park Service extends comment period to April 7, 2006.
The National Park Service is currently accepting written comments postmarked through April 7, 2006 relating to the proposed North Shore Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
There are five final study alternatives that are being considered. American Hiking Society along with many of our affiliate organizations supports the $52 Million cash settlement with Swain County, North Carolina. This option includes no new road construction in the park. Letters postmarked by April 7, 2006 can be sent to the National Park Service at the following address;
North Shore Road Project
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
P.O. Box 30185 Raleigh , NC 27622
E-mail Comments by April 7, 2006 to the National Park Service at:
North Shore Road Project
Here are some additional links for more information about this project:
Thank you for taking the time to protect your National Park.
Posted by Jeffrey Hunter at 6:12 PM