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Archive for GSM National Park

Park Receives Annual Poinsettia for Rescue 40 Years Ago

120314_Poinsettia_MediaForty years ago, on December 3, 1974, park rangers from Great Smoky Mountains National Park rescued 15-year old Eric Johnson and a companion who had been trapped deep in the park’s backcountry by a chest-deep snow storm. Today Eric’s mother traveled from Johnson City to park headquarters in Gatlinburg to thank the park rangers for saving her son’s life. A trip she has made every December 3rd since 1974.

Each December Mrs. Wanneta Johnson selects the biggest, finest poinsettia she can find in Johnson City and delivers it to park headquarters and thanks everyone she meets. This year Eric joined his mother as she met with Acting Superintendent Clayton Jordan and several members of the park staff including current members of the park’s search and rescue team, none of whom were working at the Smokies in 1974. Over the past four decades hundreds of park rangers have come and gone, but Mrs. Johnson treats each one as if he or she had a hand in saving Eric’s life.

When asked why Mrs. Johnson comes back to the park every year, she responded, “How could I not!” In 1974, several rangers spent hours attempting to search for the boys on foot and by ATV, but made little progress because of conditions. They were finally able to locate the boys at Tricorner Knob Shelter from a helicopter.

Once the boys were found, a larger U.S. Army helicopter was brought in to hoist the boys out of the backcountry. Eric Johnson and his friend, Randy Laws, had been held up at the backcountry shelter for three days without adequate food, water or equipment. Both young men suffered from dehydration and exposure and Eric had some frostbite, but otherwise they were in good condition.

Acting Superintendent Clayton Jordan, the seventh superintendent to accept Mrs. Johnson’s gift said, “It is humbling for us on the park staff to be honored every year by Mrs. Johnson’s visit back to the Smokies. Her recognition means a great deal to our rangers who are sometimes tasked with going out in rough weather to come to the aid of visitors like Eric and his family.”

Smokies Hosts Meetings on Firewood Pests

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are hosting public meetings to provide information about firewood pests and forest threats. Meetings will be held on Monday, December 8 from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center Administrative Building near Cherokee, NC and on Tuesday, December 9 from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Sugarlands Visitor Center Training Room near Gatlinburg, TN.

Non-native, tree-killing insects and diseases can unknowingly be introduced through firewood transported from infested areas. A variety of destructive pests lay eggs or stowaway in firewood. These insects from Asia and Europe have the potential to devastate over 30 species of hardwood trees native to the park. Movement of untreated firewood has been implicated in the spread of gypsy moth, Dutch elm disease, emerald ash borer, thousand canker disease, Asian longhorned beetle, Sirex woodwasp, golden spotted oak borer, and other native and non-native insect and disease complexes. New infestations threaten our forests with widespread tree mortality that could devastate wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and scenic views. The use of firewood that has been heat treated eliminates the threat posed by these pests through the movement and use of wood in campfires.

Park officials will present information at the meetings about forest pest threats, certified heat-treated wood availability, and how the park proposes to address the threat through a new firewood regulation change. The public will have an opportunity to visit staffed information stations, ask questions, and provide comments. Park rangers have been working over the past year with numerous partners representing federal and state agencies, conservation organizations, and universities to mitigate the risks associated with movement of firewood including a public education campaign. The working team developed an informational handout that was provided to all Smokies campers throughout the summer along with providing information through public programs and regionally placed billboards. The team also identified and mapped over 80 locations near the park that provide heat-treated firewood.

The park is proposing to reduce the threat of forest pests by changing park regulations to allow only heat-treated firewood to be brought into the park. If the proposal is adopted, beginning in March 2015, only firewood that is bundled and displays a certification stamp by the USDA or a state department of agriculture will be allowed for use in park campgrounds. Heat-treated wood will be available to purchase from concessioners in many of the campgrounds as well as from private businesses in the communities around the park. In addition, visitors may still collect dead and down wood in the park for campfires.

National parks throughout the Appalachian region have taken action to limit the spread of insect pests in firewood including, in many cases, the banning of imported firewood. For the past three years, the Smokies has prohibited the importation of firewood from areas quarantined by the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in accordance with federal law. Current park regulations prohibit the importation of wood and wood products from states (or specific counties in states) quarantined for insects such as emerald ash borer or tree diseases such as thousand canker disease.

A final decision on adopting the new regulation is expected by the end of the year. The public may continue to submit comments by: mail at 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738; e-mail at grsmcomments@nps.gov; or comment cards available at visitor centers and campgrounds.

For more information about firewood and forest and insect pests in the park, please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/firewood-alert.htm.

Search for Stolen Artifacts from Cataloochee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are offering a reward for information regarding the recent theft of artifacts from the Palmer House in Cataloochee. The missing artifacts, including a trowel, mill pick, and a coffee mill, were taken from locked display cases in the Palmer House where historical information and exhibits are provided for park visitors.

Park officials are offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individuals responsible for the theft. The unique, wall-mounted coffee mill was donated to the park in 1935 by a Cataloochee resident. The trowel and mill pick, which was used to cut and sharpen millstone grooves, were also part of the park’s permanent archival collection.

It is unlawful to disturb or deface historic resources within the park. Perpetrators may be sentenced up to 6 months in jail and or fined up to $5,000. Anyone with information as to the possible identity of the individuals responsible for the theft is encouraged to call the tip hotline (865) 436-1580.

New Book Chronicles History of GSMNP

As one of the largest and wildest national parks in the East and as America’s most visited national park, Great Smoky Mountains has a long history that is both dramatic and highly influential.

“Unlike most western parks, which were carved from vacant, public domain or national forest lands, this national park had to be purchased entirely from private landowners,” said Steve Kemp, interpretive products and services director at Great Smoky Mountains Association, publisher of “Mountains for the Masses: A History of Management Issues in Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” a new administrative history of this national park.

The park’s acquired area covers more than half a million acres. While logging companies owned 85 percent of this land, it also encompassed more than 1,000 family farms.

“Making a park and a wilderness from settled, logged-off lands had both political and environmental consequences,” said Kemp. “Throughout this history, the issues of preserving mountain culture, designating wilderness, protecting wildlife and biodiversity – all while managing roads, trails, campgrounds, and other facilities for millions of annual visitors – had to be reckoned with and resolved.”

Chapter topics within “Mountains for the Masses” cover important issues such as: wildlife management, the campaign to establish a park, the CCC era, preserving the mountain culture, Cades Cove, wilderness designation, entrance fees, Mission 66, fisheries management, and the legacy of dispossession.

A comprehensive index makes “Mountains for the Masses” an invaluable reference tool for libraries, agencies and citizens with an interest in how their public land is managed and protected.

“Park superintendents understandably eschew labeling parks as ‘crown jewel’ or ‘flagships,’ insisting that each unit in the National Park System deserves to be valued on its own merits,” author Theodore Catton said. “Still, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is by any measure one of the superlative national parks in the United States.

“Arno B. Cammerer, a key player in the campaign to establish the park in the 1920s, glimpsed its future greatness and popularity when he predicted that Great Smoky Mountains would become a haven for all ‘those from the congested centers of population, the workers of the machines in the lofts and mills, the clerks at the desks, and the average fellow of the small towns,’ who, with only a few days’ vacation at their disposal, would “get the recreation and inspiration that [their] more fortunate brothers now get out of a visit to the Yellowstone or Yosemite,” Catton continued.

Catton is also the author of “Inhabited Wilderness: Indians, Eskimos and National Parks in Alaska” and “National Park, City Playground: Mount Rainier in the Twentieth Century.” Proceeds from sales of the hardback edition at $40, including dozens of photographs of key park staff sites, support the preservation of this national park.

Since its inception in 1953, Great Smoky Mountains Association has given more than $32 million to support the ongoing educational, scientific and preservation efforts of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Support for the non-profit association is derived primarily from online and visitor center sales of educational products and membership dues. Those who wish to strengthen their Smokies experience are encouraged to join GSMA.

Since its inception in 1953, Great Smoky Mountains Association has given more than $32 million to support the ongoing educational, scientific and preservation efforts of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Support for the non-profit association is derived primarily from online and visitor center sales of educational products and membership dues. Those who wish to strengthen their Smokies experience are encouraged to join GSMA.

For more information about GSMA or how to order this new volume, visit www.SmokiesInformation.org; or call toll-free 888-898-9102.

Ribbon Cutting at Graveyard Fields

Middle Falls at Graveyard Fields

Middle Falls at Graveyard Fields

Graveyard Fields is one of the most popular spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway and on Aug. 4, you can join the National Park Service, U.S Forest Service and Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation to celebrate its official reopening after extensive trail improvements, construction of new restrooms and expanded parking area.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. at Graveyard Fields at Milepost 419 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The vision for this project started over five years ago with a partnership between the National Park Service, Forest Service and Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. Although the conversation and planning started with these three partners, the final result was only possible because of the dedication and contribution of many of the Foundation’s Community of Stewards members.

The Foundation secured a Scenic Byways grant of $261,000 and committed to raising over $65,000 in matching funds.  To date, The Foundation’s Community of Stewards has contributed over $25,000 to the project, leaving almost $40,000 still to raise. The project is supported by individual donors both large and small, local community groups such as the Fund for Haywood County and the Asheville BMW Riders and significant in-kind contributions from Bonesteel Films and the Steep Canyon Rangers who joined together to create a music video to raise awareness around the needs at Graveyard Fields.

 

 

Local Students and Teachers Learn Value in Park Service

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced the completion of two unique summer programs involving select high school students, college students, and teachers. Participants learned about park resources through on-site training that enabled them to perform ranger duties during their six-week, paid work experience and also to return to the classroom this fall with a wealth of knowledge and experience gained by working in a national park.
“These programs are mutually beneficial,” said Park Education Specialist Karen Ballentine. “The students and teachers get an in-depth study of resource education techniques, scientific methods, and field research to enhance their skills and talents, and, in turn, the park creates advocates through better understanding of and appreciation for the Smokies. Teachers will bring the knowledge into their classrooms and the interns will share their education and experience with the local community through their friends and family.”
Participants worked alongside park rangers in the field assisting with education programs and resource management activities gaining hands-on experience and exploring career opportunities in wildlife biology, fisheries science, botany, forest and stream ecology, geology, Cherokee history and culture, Appalachian history, and park management. When not in the field, teachers worked with park staff to develop elementary, middle, and high school park-based curriculum for the Parks as Classrooms program.
These successful programs were made possible through public and private funding sources. Grants were received from Alcoa, Friends of the Smokies license plate funds, and the federally-funded Youth Partnership Program (YPP). These funds supported five teachers, 25 high school students, and five college students. Additionally, the YPP grant supported four teacher-naturalist positions based out of Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont who assisted with summer camp and research projects.
Student interns will make presentations about their summer experience in North Carolina on Thursday, July 24 at 12:00 p.m. and in Tennessee on Friday, July 25 at 5:00 p.m. The events are open to the media. Please contact the park public affairs office for more information.
The following high school students were selected for the program:
In North Carolina: Aidan Galloway, Jackson County Early College; Alec Wells, Buncombe County Early College; Alex Treadway, Swain County High School; Annie McDarris, Cary Academy; Chace Morgan, Smoky Mountain High School; Holli Whittle, Robbinsville High School; Joshua Jimison, Pisgah High School; Kayla Humphrey, Buncombe County Early College; Orion Holmberg, Cherokee High School; Sydney Schulhofer, Tuscola High School; Todd Allred, Haywood Christian Academy, Ben Ogletree, Smoky Mountain High School; and Allie Dinwiddie, Tuscola High School.
In Tennessee:  Isaac Adams, Cosby High School;; Caleb Downey; Gatlinburg-Pittman High School; Daniel Hatcher, Pigeon Forge High School; Natasha Henderson, Cocke Co High School; Sarah Ottinger, Maryville High School; Zachary Parker, Seymour High School; Jared Rumple, Heritage High School; Sarah Stewart, Homeschool; Austin Valenzuela, Sevier County High School; Caden Watson, Walker Valley High School; Summer Wegwerth, Gatlinburg-Pittman High School; and Madeline Wimmer, Maryville High School.
The following teachers were selected for the program:
In North Carolina: Rich Harvey, Swain West Elementary and Cindy Bryon, School of Inquiry and Life Sciences at Asheville High School.
In Tennessee: Charles Slawson, Fulton High School; Amanda Hendricks, South Doyle Middle School; and Mark Andrews, Heritage High School.
The following college students were selected for the program:
Jarred Burcham, Western Carolina University; Lauren Bartl, State University of New York; Zach Copeland, University of Tennessee; Grant Fisher, Carson Newman; and Victoria Becerra, Oconlauftee Job Corps.
Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont Teacher-Naturalists:
Simon Carbone, Gretchen O’Henley, Wyatt Moore, and Amy Wilson.

 

Parks Economic Impact Far Reaching in Our Area

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that over  9 million visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2013 spent $734 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 10,734 jobs in the local area.

The 2013 economic benefit figures are slightly lower than the 2012 results which reported that visitors spent $741 million in local communities. The 16-day government shutdown in October 2013 accounted for most of the decline in park visitation and spending. The authors also cited inflation adjustments for differences between visitation and visitor spending, jobs supported, and overall effect on the U.S. economy.

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber and Lynne Koontz for the National Park Service.  The report shows $14.6 billion of direct spending by 273.6 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park.

This spending supported more than 237,000 jobs nationally, with more than 197,000 jobs found in these gateway communities, and had a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.5 billion.

According to the 2013 economic analysis, nationally most visitor spending was for lodging (30.3 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.3 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), admissions and fees (10.3 percent) and souvenirs and other expenses (10 percent). The largest jobs categories supported by visitor spending were restaurants and bars (50,000 jobs) and lodging (38,000 jobs).

The Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited national park in the nation.

 

 

“Play On” Paying Off Statewide

Raleigh, N.C. – Governor Pat McCrory announced Wednesday that the North Carolina tourism industry generated record visitor spending in 2013. The $20.2 billion in domestic visitor spending represents a 4.1 percent increase over 2012.

“The growth of our tourism industry gives us a lot to celebrate,”Governor McCrory said. “We attracted 52.5 million travelers from across the United States last year because of our great tourist destinations.The money they spent while visiting our mountains, beaches, cities and places in between directly supported nearly 200,000 jobs and more than 40,000 businesses. We can be proud that the quality of North Carolina’s travel experiences makes us the sixth most visited state in the nation.”

Governor McCrory, who proclaimed May 3-11, 2014, as Tourism Week in North Carolina, will discuss the new figures from the U.S. Travel Association at a news conference on Thursday, May 8 at the Outer Banks. Preliminary results from the study show that direct tourism employment grew 2.1 percent and that state tax receipts as a result of visitor spending rose 4 percent to top $1 billion. Visitors spent more than $55 million per day in North Carolina last year and contributed more than $4.4 million per day in state and local tax revenues as a result of that spending.

“Everyone in North Carolina can feel the benefits of the tourism industry’s success,” Secretary Decker said. “Tourism means jobs in all of the state’s 100 counties. In addition, each North Carolina household saves $435 annually in state and local taxes as a result of taxes generated by visitor expenditures.”

Tourism Week in North Carolina is part of National Travel & Tourism Week, which also runs May 3-11. The state’s nine Welcome Centers will host activities throughout the week.

Tourism Facts

Domestic travelers spent a record $20.2 billion in 2013, up from $19.4 billion in 2012. That’s an increase of 4.1 percent.
In 2013, total visitor volume was 52.5 million, up nearly 16 percent from 2012. North Carolina is the sixth most visited state for domestic travel.
North Carolina’s domestic market share increased from 4 percent to 4.3 percent.
For every $1 invested by the Division of Tourism in paid media advertising, North Carolina receives $191 in new visitor spending, $10.31 in new state taxes and $6.25 in new local taxes. This is nearly a 17-to-1 return on investment of tax dollars.
For every $1 invested by the Division of Tourism is paid media advertising, one trip is generated to the state.
More than 40,000 businesses in North Carolina directly provide products and services to travelers, with travelers directly contributing more than 25 percent to their total products and services.
Visitors to North Carolina generated more than $3 billion in federal, state and local taxes in 2013.
State tax receipts as a result of visitor spending passed the $1 billion mark in 2013. The figure represents 4 percent in growth over 2012’s $970 million.
Local tax receipts from visitor spending grew 3.1 percent to $597.3 million.
Direct tourism employment in North Carolina increased nearly 2.1 percent, to 197,700. The majority of the growth was in lodging, transportation, food service and retail employment.
Direct tourism payroll increased 3.8 percent to $4.6 billion.
Visitors spend more than $55 million per day in North Carolina. That spending adds more than $4.4 million per day to state and local tax revenues (about $2.8 million in state taxes and $1.6 million in local taxes).
Each North Carolina household saves $435 in state and local taxes as a direct result of visitor spending in the state.

– See more at: http://governor.nc.gov/newsroom/press-releases/20140507/governor-mccrory-celebrates-record-visitor-spending-and-impact#sthash.nBgrGXaE.dpuf

GSMA Receives 2.2 Million

Oconaluftee Visitor Center

Oconaluftee Visitor Center

Executive Director Terry Maddox with Great Smoky Mountains Association announced this past week that an anonymous donor has named the non-profit organization as the recipient of one of the largest cash donations given in support of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “I have unprecedented news to share with you,” Maddox wrote in an email to the GSMA board of directors. “I was approached recently by a long-time GSMA member who wished to make a designated gift to GSMA.  The total amount of the donation is $2,185,000.” According to a memorandum of understanding between GSMA and the donor, the funds are contingent on two stipulations.  First, the donation is to be applied to the existing Oconaluftee Visitor Center loan and a new loan secured by GSMA to assist in the construction of the Collections Preservation Center.  Secondly, Maddox said, the identity of the donor must not be disclosed to anyone other than GSMA’s executive director. “I agreed to these conditions without hesitation,” Maddox told board members.  The donation will be made in five annual installments between April 2014 and 2018. “GSMA can now dramatically accelerate the pay-down of our line of credit and begin building a previously-approved future projects fund,” he said. The motivation to make a charitable gift of any size is often rooted in the donor’s belief in and love of a cause or place with which he or she feels an emotional connection. That is certainly the case with this donor, Maddox said.“I am overwhelmed by gratitude to this selfless donor whose generosity reflects a deep and abiding love for the Great Smokies,” said William Hart, chairman of GSMA’s board of directors. “This donation will allow GSMA to redouble its efforts to carry out its mission and allow funds that would have formerly been directed to debt to be employed toward the broader aims of the organization. “In effect, this donor leaves a legacy that will positively benefit millions of future visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” he continued. Great Smoky Mountains Association and Friends of the Smokies jointly provided the $3.7 million required to construct the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, N.C., which opened to the public in April 2011.  The facility fulfilled the National Park Service wish to replace an old CCC structure that was intended only to be a ranger station and replace it with a state-of-the-art museum, visitor center and bookstore on the North Carolina side of the park. Just last month, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced that GSMA would once again be stepping up with Friends of the Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center to financially support construction of the new Collections Preservation Center in Townsend, Tenn., where the National Park Service will care for more than 144,000 artifacts, 220,000 archival records and 275 linear feet of library materials documenting the history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and four other NPS areas in East Tennessee. “This donation not only speaks to the genuine care people have for their Smoky Mountains, but also the trust and confidence we all have in our partners at GSMA to continue a 60-year tradition of supporting the park in meaningful ways well into the future,” said Pedro Ramos, acting superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. GSMA experienced one of its most financially trying years ever in 2013, when a major road washout closed U.S. 441/Newfound Gap Road for three months early in the year and a government shutdown prevented it from opening its national park stores for 15 days in October.  Even with a record membership recruitment year, these two factors caused the non-profit more than its share of angst. This contribution qualifies as a game changer, according to Lisa Duff, GSMA’s marketing and membership director. “We have always valued the contributions of our members and shared in their enthusiasm for this national park,” Duff said.  “While this single gift illustrates the extraordinary generosity of one of our members in rather a large fashion, all who contribute time and money to this national park should count themselves among its greatest supporters.” Since its inception in 1953, Great Smoky Mountains Association has given more than $31.5 million to support the ongoing educational, scientific and preservation efforts of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Support for the non-profit association is derived primarily from online and visitor center sales of educational products and membership dues. Those who wish to strengthen their Smokies experience are encouraged to join GSMA. For more information about GSMA, visit www.SmokiesInformation.org; or call toll-free 888.898.9102.

GSMA Releases Report

gsma_logo-14527_185x185Closing the books on one of the organization’s most vexing years in its 61-year history, Great Smoky Mountains Association officials released details this week of its contributions to Great Smoky Mountains National Park for 2013. “Aid-to-park for 2013 was $1,524,784, which represents another strong year of support, especially considering the circumstances,” said Executive Director Terry Maddox. He said they experienced a massive rain event that washed out a portion of the main park road in mid-January and kept that important transportation artery closed until April 15. Then, during their organization’s busiest month for sales by far, the federal government shutdown Oct. 1-16 that shuttered all our in-park retail operations.” While most visitors may not realize how often they interact with the many GSMA-supported projects ongoing in the park, Maddox said, visitors time in the park would be less fulfilling if the endeavors of GSMA were not pursued. Since its inception in 1953, Great Smoky Mountains Association has given nearly $32 million to support the ongoing educational, scientific and preservation efforts of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

U.S. Forest Service Next Phase

NC-Forest-LogoKristin Bail, forest supervisor of the U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina, today announced that the agency has begun the next phase of revising the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests Land and Resource Management Plan (the Forest Plan). “We’ve received a large number of comments from the public since the assessment for the Plan began in the fall of 2012, and we’re hoping that trend will continue as we move into the next phase of plan revision,” said Bail. “I encourage anyone interested in the two national forests to submit comments on the Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement by April 28, 2014.” The plan development phase officially began with publication of a Notice of Initiation, which was published in the Federal Register on Oct. 3, 2013. This next phase involves beginning the work on the Environmental Impact Statement that will accompany the development of the revised plan. The public has 45 days to comment on the Notice of Intent, the Preliminary Need for Change and the Proposed Action, which was published in the Federal Register on March 12, 2014. Comments or questions about plan revision can be sent by email to NCplanrevision@fs.fed.us. For those who prefer regular mail, written comments can be mailed to National Forests in North Carolina, Nantahala and Pisgah Plan Revision, 160 Zillicoa St. Suite A, Asheville, NC 28801. The Notice of Intent (NOI) states that the Forest Plan will be revised to address direction within the current management plan that is in need of change. The NOI includes a summary of these preliminarily identified needs for change; a more extensive Preliminary Need For Change document is available on the plan revision website. Comments submitted by the public over the past year helped the Forest Service identify these preliminary needs for change. Among many other topics, the Preliminary Need for Change recognizes the important role that the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests play in sustaining the forests of western North Carolina and supporting local economies. During this plan development phase, the Forest Service, with input from members of the public and representatives of other governmental and non-governmental organizations, will determine the management practices necessary to accomplish the desired goals, and the effects those practices may have on the land. The Forest Service will then draft the proposed revised Plan and draft Environmental Impact Statement. “We have seen stakeholders from all sides of the political spectrum come together over the past year-and-a-half to help with the assessment and identify what needs to be changed,” said Bail. “With the high level of involvement we’ve seen so far, I am optimistic that we will meet our goal of having a new Forest Plan in place by September 2016.” The Assessment Phase, the first phase of plan revision, began in Fall 2012. In 2013, the agency hosted 14 public meetings to solicit comments, opinions, data and ideas from members of the public as well as representatives of other governmental and non-governmental organizations. Approximately 800 people attended the meetings, and more than 1,000 written comments were received at these meetings, as well as by mail and email. Information gathered during the assessment phase is compiled in an Assessment Report and the need for change document. Once the Plan is completed, the monitoring phase will begin as the Plan is implemented and will continue until the next forest plan revision. Each national forest has a management plan that is updated about every 15 years. The 2012 Planning Rule guides the planning process. The rule includes protection for forests, water and wildlife, while supporting the economic vitality of rural communities. It requires the use of the best available scientific information to inform decisions. The 2012 rule strengthens the role of public involvement and dialogue throughout the planning process. More information about the plan revision process is available online at: www.fs.usda.gov/goto/nfsnc/nprevision.

Experience Your Smokies

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials, in conjunction with the Friends of the Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountain Association, are announcing an opportunity to immerse yourself in the national park. The program, Experience Your Smokies, is a unique opportunity to get to know the park and the employees in a whole new way. Experience Your Smokies is a program designed for local residents, business, community and educational leaders to get a behind the scenes look into the national park, while networking with others from western North Carolina. Participants will attend five full day sessions at a variety of locations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, accompanying park employees in activities that may include radio-tracking elk, participating in a fish survey, and assisting with trail restoration. This is a perfect way to get an insider’s look at park operations as we explore areas like Cataloochee Valley, Deep Creek, Oconaluftee, Clingmans Dome, and Purchase Knob. Experience Your Smokies will be on Tuesdays March 25th, April 8th, April 29th, May 6, and Saturday May 17th. Visit www.friendsofthesmokies.org For More Information.

Thick Smoke In Sylva

NC-Forest-LogoWRGC received numerous phone calls on Tuesday from citizens expressing concerns over the thickening smoke settling over Sylva and surrounding area. According to North Carolina Forest Service Spokesman Ron Hollifield, there were several sources of smoke including a controlled burn in the Big Laurel area of Swain County. Additionally, there were loose fires on the Qualla Boundary along with Controlled and Uncontrolled fires in Upstate South Carolina which fed additional smoke into our area. The Forest Service reminds everyone to exercise caution due to the rapidly drying conditions even after the rain.

Great Smokies Bridge Closure

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced the temporary closure of Ramsey Cascades Trail due to a damaged footbridge that has created an unsafe river crossing. Park trail crews expect to complete needed repairs by late April.  During recent high winds, a large hemlock tree fell and damaged the 60-foot long footbridge that crosses Ramsey Prong. The fallen tree destroyed the handrail that is necessary for safe crossing over the footbridge which lies approximately 12 feet above the river. The bridge was also cracked and separated from the foundation.

Collections Preservation Center Construction

Secretary Jewell and Senator Alexander

Secretary Jewell and Senator Alexander

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials were joined by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Senator Lamar Alexander on Monday, March 3, to celebrate the contributions that public-private partnerships have made to the national park to help honor and preserve America’s cultural heritage. Secretary Jewell announced a timeline for the construction of a 13,000 square-foot Collections Preservation Center in Townsend, TN with the solicitation process beginning immediately and construction expected to begin this summer. The new facility is expected to be completed in the fall 2015. Through the completion of this new regional center, the National Park Service (NPS) will be able to properly care for over 144,000 artifacts, 220,000 archival records, and 275 linear feet of library materials documenting the history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and four other NPS areas in East Tennessee including Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, and Obed Wild and Scenic River. Consolidating the collections materials will both ensure the protection for the heirlooms entrusted to the National Park Service and also allow for a single Museum Curator to oversee all the collections. “We are delighted to be a part of this incredible opportunity that now allows us to properly care and preserve these pieces of our past enabling us to continue to tell the stories of the Smokies,” said Acting Smokies Superintendent Pedro Ramos. “This opportunity would not have been possible without the generosity of our partners, Great Smoky Mountains Association and Friends of the Smokies, and the individuals that offered their support.” Nearly half of the estimated $ 4.3 million cost of the facility has been provided by our park partners along with the donation of the 1.6 acre parcel of land provided by the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center. “The Friends of the Smokies is privileged to partner with the Great Smoky Mountain Association to assist the NPS in the creation of such a lasting and meaningful resource for our area,” said President Jim Hart. The new facility centralizes irreplaceable materials in a conveniently located, secure, climate-controlled space in which they will be preserved, as well as office and lab space where they can be studied by NPS staff and visiting researchers. In addition to providing construction funds, our partner Great Smoky Mountains Association is also providing support for a librarian to help catalog and care for the items as well as assist park descendants, researchers, and visitors access materials for study. “Great Smoky Mountains Association is honored to be a part of this landmark project that pays tribute to the people who gave up their homes and communities for the creation of this national park. Of all the park projects GSMA has supported over the last 61 years, this is one of the very most important,” said Executive Director Terry Maddox. The historic artifacts include pre-historic projectile points, logging-era equipment, vintage weapons, clothing, farm implements, tools and other possessions that would have been found on the farmsteads of the Southern Appalachians in pre-park days such as everyday items including hair combs, butter churns, beds, looms, and spinning wheels, all handmade and all one-of-a-kind. The collection also includes documentary history through oral histories of Southern Appalachian speech, folklore, official documents, photographs and stories. Having these artifacts more accessible will also allow more opportunities for the NPS to share items with approved public museums for temporary display including the adjacent Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center. Park officials are honored by the dedication and perseverance of Senator Alexander and Department of Interior leaders who provided continued support leading to the construction of this facility which likewise honors the families whose legacy will be well preserved. As a part of the media event, leaders also had the unique opportunity to hear the stories of several descendants of families who gave their lands for the creation of the national park as we honor the contributions of their ancestors through this preservation effort.

New Numbers For National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 9,685,829 visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2012 spent $741 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 10,959 jobs in the local area. “Great Smoky Mountains National Park is proud to welcome visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Acting Superintendent Pedro Ramos. “We are delighted to share the story of this place and the experiences it provides for visitors. We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities.” National park tourism is a critical economic driver for gateway communities across the nation. Researchers estimate that for every $1 invested by American taxpayers, the National Park Service returns $10 to the U.S. economy. The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber along with Lynne Koontz for the National Park Service. The report shows $14.7 billion of direct spending by 283 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 243,000 jobs nationally, with 201,000 jobs found in these gateway communities, and had a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.75 billion. According to the report, most visitor spending supports jobs in restaurants, grocery and convenience stores (39 percent), hotels, motels and B&Bs (27 percent), and other amusement and recreation (20 percent). To download the report visit http://www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/economics.cfm The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.

 

Prescribed Burns

NC-Forest-LogoThe U.S. Forest Service plans to conduct a series of prescribed burns over the next 3 – 6 weeks on a total of about 3,500 acres of the Nantahala Ranger District in the Nantahala National Forest.

The prescribed burn will take place in the following areas:

  • Slip Off area, 190 acres, Swain County
  • Rattlesnake Knob area, 248 acres, Macon County
  • Alarka Laurel area, 697 acres, Swain County
  • Dirty John area, 830 acres, Macon County
  • Steeltrap Knob area, 872 acres, Macon County
  • Pine Mtn. area, 704 acres, Macon County

The dates for each burn will be announced as they are decided and weather permitting. The prescribed burns will reduce the amount of fuel on the forest floor, preventing catastrophic wildfire and reducing risks to nearby communities. Prescribed burning also helps improve forest health and wildlife habitat. Public safety is the highest priority during a prescribed burn.

Click here to learn more about restoring fire to the mountains.

Arson Suspected in Cherokee Fire

Cherokee Reservation Fire

Cherokee Reservation Fire

Arson is blamed for a wildfire that burned more than 120 acres in Swain County. The fire started yesterday on the Cherokee Reservation and made its way into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Bureau of Indian Affairs says it was clear that it was arson early on because the fire was actually set in four different locations. You could see the the fire from Downtown Cherokee. The fire was first reported just after noon and the wind pushed it quickly through tinder-dry woods. Flames came close to some homes on the secluded mountainside. Some of the firefighters were left to stand-watch at homes that had been threatened, making sure there were no flare-ups. Crews from both the reservation and national park sides coordinated efforts to surround the flames. That strategy paid-off. 100 percent containment has been achieved Tuesday night and no structures were damaged. No arrests have been made at this time.

More Deer For Cherokee

white-tailed-deer-great-smoky-mountainsA new tribal program is to thank for more deer roaming the Cherokee Reservation. Wildlife officals are moving deer from the Morrow Mountain State Park to the Reservation. The deer have spent a month in a protected habitat but were released into the wild on Monday. Chief Michell Hicks says “It definitely makes you feel proud to know that we are helping to improve the environment that we live in. Our goal is to monitor and hopefully watch them blossom.” Each deer has a tag and collar for radio tracking. The deer will be monitored closely. Cheif Hicks hopes that more deer will be released on the reservation in the near future.

 

Temporary Lane Closures

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Officials at Great Smoky Mountains National Park have approved a request from Sevier County Electric System (SCES) to replace six electric poles along the southbound Spur beginning Monday, February 24 through Thursday, March 6. The work will require weekday one-lane closures, Monday through Thursday, for short sections between Norton Creek and the Gatlinburg Welcome Center. Crews will replace the poles along the shoulder of the Spur and adjacent side roads. The temporary lane closures are necessary to provide for the safety of both workers and motorists. The one-lane closures will be in effect Monday through Thursday from 7:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. as needed. No lane closures will be allowed over the weekends to accommodate weekend traffic.   For more information about road conditions, please visit the Park’s website at www.nps.gov/grsm and or call the Park’s Road and Weather Information Line at 865-436-1200.