Volunteer & Stewardship Activities

A Bird House Workday

volunteergroupFor college students during the exam season, late November and early December can be riddled with stress, anxiety and wary nerves. Many students find that breaking from long hours in the library to spend time outside, for a breath of fresh air and a pause from the stress,  can actually boost effectiveness when they do return to their books.

The Environmental Science majors who came out to volunteer with us this month believed in this strategy. In the midst of stressful finals, ten students went up to our Bird House cabin at Grassy Ridge in the Highlands of Roan for a volunteer workday. Lead by Travis Bordley, our new AmeriCorps Roan Highlands Outreach and Volunteer Member, the group worked to improve Golden-winged Warbler habitat.

volunteerwork2Golden-winged Warblers (GWWA) are a neo-tropical, migratory songbirds that overwinter in Central and South America. In the summer months, these birds return to the highest peaks of the Appalachian Mountains; they particularly enjoy our land at Grassy Ridge. GWWA prefer young shrubby habitat or regenerating forest edges. They also move quickly to mature forest after fledging, so the high elevation open areas of this property – surrounded by hundreds of acres of conserved forest – provide perfect habitat. GWWA have suffered an extreme decline in population over the past half a century. They have one of the smallest populations amongst species not on the endangered species list. We strive to preserve habitat for this and other species in our landscape.

 

volunteer2Our ten generous volunteers  worked with weed eaters and clippers to knock back overgrown black berries bushes that surrounded our Bird House cabin, and then collect and pile the cut branches into three large brush piles. Such brush piles provide optimal areas for GWWA to breed and forage. The work was also effective in distracting the volunteers from stressful circumstances.

 

“With everything going on in the world lately, I  really enjoyed being able to volunteer with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy,” said Iyana Quinn-Cuffie. “A sense of helplessness is a common feeling I get these days. So, having the ability to go out and have such an immediate impact on something like the Golden-winged Warbler and its habitat gave me a deep joy.”

 

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Jay Leutze, President of our Board of Trustees, couldn’t stay out of the fun when he heard about the workday. Jay was deeply moved and impressed by the effective volunteers, stating, “You hear a lot of cynical talk about the “millennial” generation. You can throw all of that out the window when you see a group of young people giving up their weekend to improve habitat for a species some of them had never heard of before the workday.”

 

volunteer1Jay spent time around the fire with the group after the work was done, further explaining the importance of conservation, thanking the group for their hard work, and wishing them luck on their impending exams.
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Mind Over Matter = Volunteer Work Day

dsc08841The phrase, “Mind over matter”, was put to the test when the UNC-Asheville Mindfulness club volunteered for a day with SAHC. Travis Bordley, our new Americorps Roan Outreach Associate, hosted 4 members of club and volunteers Saylor Fox and Bettye Boone for a trash clean-up day on a conservation property in the Highlands of Roan. The tract is located in just below Carver’s Gap on the North Carolina side of the ridge, and people pulling off to the side of Highway 261 have thrown empty bottles, trash bags, and tires onto it. Travis and his brave volunteer group came in to remedy the situation.
On Saturday, November 19th the mid-day temperature reached just 20 degrees and winds were blowing gusts up to 50 mph. This was no deterrent for the trash clean-up crew, who removed bags of garbage to protect important stream headwaters. Our guests from UNC-Asheville were delighted to spend time in the Roan and our longtime volunteers, Saylor and Bettye, offered up their home to allow everyone to eat lunch protected from the brutally cold wind.
dsc08850After lunch the crew decided to carry on with the days itinerary and go for a hike up Round Bald. Starting from about 1,000 below the summit, the mountain was consumed in a cloud of blowing ice. The view looked like the inside of a ping pong ball. The group struggled to maintain footing against the wind, fueled by the wonder of the Roan. Everyone was amazed by the arctic conditions that existed only at this elevation. At the top the group took its time rolling in the snow and taking pictures of the ice caked landscape. The Mindfulness Club, Saylor, Bettye, and Travis all took turns doing solo-hikes down from the summit.
We are very proud of our volunteers for facing an early winter and taking care of our natural resources!
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Rising Conservation Leader

hanni2016 NC Land Trust Assembly Rising Conservation Leader of the Year: Hanni Muerdter

At the 2016 Land Trust Assembly in Raleigh in May, North Carolina’s 24 local land trusts announced annual awards for five conservation leaders, including our Stewardship and Conservation Planning Director, Hanni Muerdter!

Hanni started her career as a Project Conserve AmeriCorps Member in western North Carolina and continued her career by joining the staff at SAHC. She has made an impact in her current position by strengthening our land and easement stewardship program through the creation of modern policies and procedures that will ensure our easements will last.


Hanni is chair of the Blue Ridge Forever Conservation Committee; she has served in this role since 2010.  She leads development of meeting agendas and facilitates knowledge-sharing among land protection and stewardship staff of 10 land trusts in WNC, which in turn enhances the capacity of these organizations to respond to an ever-changing conservation landscape.  As Committee Chair she led the development of Blue Ridge Forever’s region-wide conservation vision with discreet
focus areas, and is currently updating that tool as the coalition moves into its second decade.  

hannimonitoringHanni’s dedication and approach to conservation are inspiring.  She regularly takes on responsibilities well beyond expectations, manages her ever-more-complex workload with calm focus, and approaches every interaction with empathy.  Inspiring, understanding, hard-working, and forward-thinking – these are all characteristics of a good leader, and Hanni embodies each,” said Jessica Laggis, Director of Blue Ridge Forever.  

Hanni is an active member in the Asheville community. She is the past Chair of the Board of Directors of Jubilee Community Church. Under her leadership and organizational skills the church was able to create a more formal framework, which will guide the church into the future. She is also an accomplished actress in the local theater.

Congratulations, Hanni!

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Partnerships in Education & Stewardship – Tilson Homeplace Work Day

TilsonFarmworkdayConservation doesn’t end with recording a land protection document. Stewardship of protected lands extends in perpetuity, and sometimes requires remediation of past problems for a property. Dedicated East TN State Univ. students responded to our call for a “Service Saturday”, helping clean up debris from illicit dumping on a protected, historic TN property.

The benefits of working with these student volunteers extended far beyond the impressive mountains of trash pulled out of waterways and forests. Through our partnership, the students glimpsed some of the challenges of managing natural resources — in this case, hundreds of acres bordered by a public road.

During the workday, volunteers tackled heaps of trash and debris that for decades had been dumped from cars on the public route encircling the 377-acre cove. Illegally-dumped debris had accumulated in gullies and on hillsides of this secluded corner in Unicoi County, which features the historic homestead of US House Representative and majority leader John Q. Tilson.

Landowners and caretakers Ken and Lotta Murray have been steadily reducing these debris piles for years, but the situation required a concerted effort to make a big impact.

By the end of the day, our trash-removal efforts overflowed a dumpster-trailer, a second trailer bed, and a truck bed. Our team of ten removed a total of 1,300 pounds of assorted trash and debris from the conservation easement property, along with a number of tires — including one from a Model-T Ford.

Impressed by their impact, the students began talking about organizing other cleanups on campus and in the region. It is empowering to tackle a problem with such a visible result, and that empowerment is contagious!

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Round Bald Kiosk Installation

Volunteers prepare the kiosk site.

Volunteers prepare the kiosk site.

The Highlands of Roan are home to some of the most unique and globally rare ecosystems in the world, including montane grassy balds and spruce-fir communities. The Highlands are also one of the richest repositories of biodiversity in the southern Appalachians and support many rare plant and animal populations, including both state and federally-listed species. SAHC and our partners recognize that as recreational uses in the Roan increase, so does the importance of educating users about environmentally conscientious hiking and camping practices. Last summer, SAHC and our partners took a step toward doing just that by building an educational kiosk at the entrance to the Trail on Round Bald, near the popular Carvers Gap access.

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Inserting the educational posters.

The construction of this kiosk was made possible by the cooperation of many partners. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Tennessee license plate grant program provided SAHC with funds for purchasing the bulk of building materials. The US Forest Service, Pisgah National Forest constructed the kiosks, and the Cherokee National Forest created the posters. Eastman Chemical Company donated Spectar© UV-resistant plastic to cover the posters. The final installation and gravel work was completed by volunteers from SAHC and Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club.

We hope the kiosk will be a helpful educational resource and we look forward to working with all of our partners on future educational projects in the Roan!

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Feral Hogs in the Roan — Update

Hog damage on Big Yellow. Feral hogs destroy fragile habitats and threaten the health of native species and ecosystems in the Roan.

Hog damage on Big Yellow. Feral hogs destroy fragile habitats and threaten the health of native species and ecosystems in the Highlands of Roan.

SAHC and our Roan Stewardship partners met in summer 2014 to discuss the growing threat posed by the invasion of feral hogs into our mountain landscapes and how to combat their spread. These non-native animals threaten the health of our ecosystems including impacting rare species, destroying fragile habitats, and contaminating water sources. Since then, we and our partners have made important strides in addressing the issue of feral hogs in the Roan.

“Working with our partners, including USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – Wildlife Services (APHIS), we began initial monitoring and trapping efforts on the Roan in winter 2014,” said Crockett. Those efforts were quite successful — hogs were documented, trapped, tested for disease, and removed from both Mitchell and Avery counties. A number of trapped hogs tested positive for either Swine brucellosis or Pseudorabies.

Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett investigates feral hog damage.

Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett investigates feral hog damage.

“Feral hogs can spread disease to humans, our pets, and livestock,” added Crockett.

About the same time that SAHC and our partners began coordinating efforts in the Roan, the problems caused by feral hogs gained national attention. In 2015, APHIS received federal funding to implement a collaborative, national feral swine management program in all 39 states where there is a recognized feral swine population.  The overarching goal of this APHIS National Feral Swine Damage Management Program is to protect agricultural and natural resources, property, animal health, and human health and safety by reducing feral swine populations in the United States.

“APHIS will reduce problems by suppressing populations in states where feral swine populations are large and widely distributed,” explained Crockett. “In States where feral swine are emerging or populations are low, APHIS will cooperate with local partners to implement strategies to eliminate them.  SAHC’s existing, multi-agency partnerships in the Roan qualified us to submit the Roan Highlands project for consideration under the new APHIS program.”

SAHC is working with a variety of partners in the regional Roan Feral Hog Working Group, to monitor and address feral hog impact in the Highlands of Roan.

SAHC is working with a variety of partners in the regional Roan Feral Hog Working Group, to monitor and address feral hog impact in the Highlands of Roan.

Our submission was approved for 2015-2016, and the Roan Highlands project is now up and running.  We have more than 12 agencies and organizations (and several private individuals) actively contributing to trapping, monitoring, and research efforts on the Roan — including USDA APHIS (North Carolina), USDA APHIS (Tennessee), Pisgah National Forest, Cherokee National Forest, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, North Carolina State Parks, Tennessee State Parks, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (natural areas), Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the Nature Conservancy, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and Virginia Tech.

In 2016, SAHC will continue to coordinate the Roan Feral Hog Working Group and support trapping and monitoring work. We hired Kaitlin Shannon, an intern from UNC Asheville, to install and check wildlife cameras for hog activity, and we are partnering with students from Virginia Tech and other universities to study hog diet and movement on the Roan.  This year, we will also work with our partners to focus on educating landowners, farmers, hunters, and recreationists about the dangers and impacts posed by feral hogs.

“By using a large-scale, multi-agency approach, we hope to eradicate this destructive species from our mountains,” concluded Crockett.

Want to Learn More?

Educational Program: “Feral Hogs in the Roan Highlands — Impacts, Ecology, and Eradication Efforts

SAHC will host a free, public presentation on feral hogs in the Roan on  Wednesday March 9 from noon – 1:30 pm at the Kingsport Renaissance Center (Room 228), 1200 East Center Street, Kingsport, TN 37660.

Join us as Marquette Crockett, SAHC Roan Stewardship Director covers the history, basic biology, and environmental impacts of invasive feral hogs at the regional and local level. Joined by Scott Dykes of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, she will also discuss how SAHC, along with our state and federal partners, are using a large-scale, multi-agency approach to eradicate this destructive species from the Highlands of Roan.

This educational program is free and open to the public. Reservations are encouraged. Please respond to Pauline at pauline@appalachian.org or 828.253.0095 ext. 216 if you plan to attend. Bringing your lunch is encouraged. 

 

Perspective – On the Roan with Roan Stewardship Intern Kaitlin Shannon

Kaitlin Shannon experiments with natural camouflage as she helps install and monitor wildlife cameras to track feral hog activity.

Kaitlin Shannon experiments with natural camouflage as she helps install and monitor wildlife cameras to track feral hog activity.

“As a current student at UNC Asheville, it has been my pleasure to serve an internship with SAHC. In May I will complete my B.S. in Environmental Studies, with a concentration in Ecology and Field Biology. For me, this internship has been a segway from the classroom into the hands-on approach of conservation field work. I worked in conjunction with graduate students of Virginia Tech and members of APHIS to design a study to monitor feral hog populations in and around the Roan Highl

ands. It’s been my job to hike to the specified locations and set up wildlife cameras to detect the presence of hogs — which is important because once we have noted where the majority of the hog populations are located, we can more effectively plan to remove them.

I’ve gained experience with so much more than simply helping to design a study. Most importantly I’ve been able to surround myself with the land that SAHC works so diligently to protect. It’s clear as you ascend to the peak of Big Yellow that you’re standing in a very special, sacred place. The damage caused by these hogs cannot go unnoticed, and I am honored to be apart of a team working to mend such an important place.

SAHC is such a unique land trust and I encourage anyone who is curious about the work that they do to take the time to volunteer.”

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Hampton Creek Cove, A Hidden Gem in Tennessee

Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area

Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area

The 693-acre Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area (HCC SNA) is a breathtaking haven for wildlife with ample opportunity for outdoor recreation. Time spent visiting the pastoral cove, trekking the miles of hiking trails, or fishing cold trout streams will be well spent. Check out these recent updates from the cove!

Golden-winged Warbler Habitat Restoration

Golden-winged Warbler, a neotropical migratory songbird.

Golden-winged Warbler, a neotropical migratory songbird.

Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area is one of only three state natural areas in the Blue Ridge province of Tennessee and is home to one of the largest breeding populations of Golden-winged Warblers (GWWA) in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The Golden-winged Warbler is a species in need of additional conservation management, and is undergoing review by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for potential listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. Because HCC is so important to this warbler, the National Audubon Society designated it an “Important Bird Area” in 2005. The Golden-winged Warbler, along with many other important game and non-game bird species, relies on early successional, scrubby habitats for breeding and nesting. Past efforts to restore early successional habitat in Hampton Creek Cove SNA have focused on shrub management, tree thinning, and native grass restoration.

In 2015, SAHC and our partners at North Carolina Audubon and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation received a generous grant from the Tennessee State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, which enabled us to manage seven acres of early successional habitat in HCC.  The newly managed area is adjacent to a field that was previously restored by mowing and native grass restoration. It also adjoins habitat known to occupied by GWWA. We believe our recent work in this area will provide immediate benefits to the species.

Installation of Hiker Stiles

Multiple publicly-accessible hiking trails cross through the cove.

Multiple publicly-accessible hiking trails cross through the cove.

Several trails traverse Hampton Creek Cove SNA. The Birchfield Trail and the Shell Hollow Trail are popular birding spots, due to the variety of habitats found along their routes.  The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail — the historic route of the Overmountain Men in their march to the Revolutionary War’s 1780 Battle of King’s Mountain — also runs through the cove. Because the trails at Hampton Creek Cove traverse agricultural areas, hikers must pass through a series of farm gates. These gates can be difficult to open and can be left open, allowing livestock to enter areas where they should not be, and potentially injuring themselves or causing damage to sensitive wildlife species.

The hiker stiles in HCC were designed and built by Paul Cremer of Carolina Trailbuilders, from Weaverville, NC.

The hiker stiles in HCC were designed and built by Paul Cremer of Carolina Trailbuilders, from Weaverville, NC.

We installed three hiker stiles on the busiest sections of trail in HCC. The stiles are based on a design that has been used successfully along the Appalachian Trail in Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area, VA. This design does not require hikers to climb over fencing (a safety hazard) and is built to ensure that the gate will swing closed even if a hiker forgets to latch it behind him or her. Our work was sponsored by a grant from the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation “connections” grant program which funds greenway or trail projects connecting nearby communities to Tennessee’s beautiful State Parks and Natural Areas. Since 1999, the Tennessee State Park Connections program has awarded over 193 grants statewide totaling over $300,000.

Small Game Hunting

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Wild Turkey. Photo courtesy of Witt Langstaff, Jr.

In fall 2015, the State of TN reopened Hampton Creek Cove SNA for hunting on a limited basis. Hunters are allowed to take wild turkey, grouse, rabbits, squirrel and other small game. Deer hunting (archery only) has also been authorized for the site. No dogs, ATVs, or other motorized vehicles are allowed in the natural area and hunting must be conducted in accordance with current State of Tennessee Hunting Seasons and Regulations.

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Beetles Battle the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid on hemlock branch.  Photo courtesy Robert L. Anderson, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org.

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid on hemlock branch.
Photo courtesy Robert L. Anderson, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org.

Dubbed the “Redwood of the East”, eastern hemlock is a long-lived and slowing growing giant that can reportedly live up to 800 years-old and reach heights of more than 150 feet. The species is considered to be the most shade tolerant tree in the Eastern US and is an ecologically important component of Southern Appalachian forests. The dense shade cast by the evergreen tree’s canopy creates critical wildlife habitat, stabilizes stream banks, and keeps mountain forests and streams cool.

Many forest and aquatic species depend on the presence of hemlocks, whose numbers have declined significantly in the past 10 years due to the introduction and spread of the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA). In fact, by 2010 all NC counties within the historic range of hemlocks were infested. This tiny aphid-like insect has wreaked havoc on both eastern and Carolina hemlocks by literally sucking the trees dry and injecting saliva that distorts plant growth. Under high infestation rates, HWA can cause tree death in as little as four to seven years.

Close-up of HWA. Photo courtesy of Michael Montgomery, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Close-up of HWA. Photo courtesy of Michael Montgomery, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

In 2014 the Hemlock Restoration Initiative, a cooperative effort launched by the NC Dept of Agriculture & Consumer Services to restore the long-term health of NC hemlocks, provided $75,000 in grant funds to WNC Communities, which in turn funded several projects to address treatment and restoration options for North Carolina’s hemlock trees.

One of the award recipients, the Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and Development Council (Blue Ridge RC&D), provides educational workshops on biological control of HWA for individuals and organizations like SAHC who steward lands impacted by HWA.  The goal of the workshops is to provide information on the benefits and use of predator beetles for HWA control. Specifically, Blue Ridge RC&D’s project intends to train workshop participants on methods for collecting and releasing predator beetles such as Laricobius nigrinus (also known as Lari beetles) that feed on HWA. The program hopes this will facilitate the spread of predatory beetles. HWA is native to Asia and the Pacific Northwest, where it also feeds on hemlocks. However, HWA is not considered to be a pest in the western US because natural enemies like Lari beetles keep HWA populations under control.

A Laricobius larva eats hemlock woolly adelgid eggs. Right: An adult Laricobius beetle. Photo by US National Park Service.

A Laricobius larva eats hemlock woolly adelgid eggs. Right: An adult Laricobius beetle. Photo by US National Park Service.

Lari beetles are effective winter predators and feed exclusively on adelgids from October to May. Each Lari larva can consume 200 to 250 adelgid eggs or crawlers before they pupate in June. In fact, research shows that the beetles can eat more than 90 percent of HWA in areas where the beetles have been released. Once established, Lari beetles can advance up to 2 miles per year.

Lari beetles have been released throughout Western North Carolina on private, federal and state lands. Recently, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) released 50 Lari beetles on the Sandy Mush Game Lands located in Madison and Buncombe counties. SAHC is working with the WRC on a future release of Lari beetles on an SAHC-owned tract that bridges the gap between non-contiguous sections of the state-owned Sandy Mush Game Land. This property is home to numerous Canada hemlocks. Our hope is to facilitate the establishment of Lari beetles  on this property so they can be collected and redistributed to other areas affected by HWA.

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Volunteers Clean Up Sandy Mush Game Lands

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Volunteers removed 232 partially buried tires from the tract!

Sometimes you have to look beneath the surface to see the beauty in a conservation tract. Once such example is SAHC’s Sandy Mush Game Lands tract, which we acquired in 2011.

The 88-acre tract is important for conservation because it forms a critical linking bridge and wildlife corridor between non-contiguous portions of the state-owned game lands. Unfortunately, open public access to an old roadbed and the presence of hidden, steep slopes led to illegal dumping in the decades prior to our acquisition.

Dealing with the hundreds of illegally dumped items on the property has been a high priority goal for our Land Management and Stewardship team, and we were grateful to have some volunteer help to make headway this Spring.

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SAHC Stewardship Associate Sarah Sheeran helps get out the trash.

When SAHC Stewardship staff and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) officers walked through the property, they saw dozens of tires embedded in the soil slopes leading down to Sandy Mush Creek.  Not only illegal and unsightly, the debris in some cases had reached the creek and posed a potential threat to water quality.  Cleaning this up was no small task, so our Stewardship team mobilized a group of enthusiastic volunteers in March to tackle this issue.

Thank you to all who helped.

Thank you to all who helped!

A group of 16 volunteers from North and South Carolina gathered after a rain storm on a cloudy Saturday morning to get to work.  SAHC Stewardship Associate Sarah Sheeran, who monitors the property annually on behalf of SAHC, provided an overview and Chris Henline of NCWRC spoke with the group about long-term land management goals on the property.  The tract bridges two sections of Sandy Mush Game Lands owned by the State of NC.  The partnership between SAHC and NCWRC means that this property is eligible for state resources and management for wildlife habitat in exchange for the property being part of the game land system.

The tract’s early successional habitat and natural resources already make it ideal small game and bird habitat. Prescriptive burns and biological control treatment for Eastern hemlocks in the future will greatly enhance the value of the land for native plant and animal communities.

With the conservation values of the property in mind, the volunteers were ready for action.  Armed with shovels, rope, and trash bags, they dropped downslope of the roadbed and worked their way up, dragging tires and hauling out loads of assorted glass and metal debris.

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46 full contractor-size bags of debris were removed.

Assorted piles of metal debris and car parts had been illegally dumped as well.

Assorted piles of metal debris and car parts had been illegally dumped as well.

The accumulation of wet weather in Sandy Mush during the week prior meant it was not glamorous work, but these dedicated volunteers were undeterred by mud and gnats.  The work was best suited for pairs and small teams. By lunchtime, the group was dirty but proud as they shared snacks with and joked about unionizing.

By early afternoon, the debris totaled:  232 tires, 46 contractor bags of glass and other household trash, 15 bag-sized piles of metal debris, and many more odd relics, including a convertible in its many parts.  This debris was piled neatly for pickup by NCWRC later.

It was satisfying work, knowing how much debris was removed and that new gates, signage, and permanent protection will deter future dumping on the property.  We are very grateful to all who volunteered. Stay tuned for another workday opportunity to tackle the rest!

About Sandy Mush Game Lands

Contextual map of Norco property

West of the French Broad River, the Sandy Mush Game Lands provide excellent wildlife habitat. (Orange: 88-acre SAHC-owned portion, Green: Sandy Mush Game Lands owned by the State of NC).

The Sandy Mush Game Lands consist of 2,765 acres of land in Buncombe and Madison Counties, managed by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission  and owned by the State of NC (2,677 acres) and SAHC (88 acres). Sandymush Creek and Turkey Creek flow through it. In 2004, SAHC assisted the State of NC in the acquisition of the land, once owned by CP&L/Progress Energy, for conservation and public ownership.

The Sandy Mush Game Lands are open to the public for hiking, biking, fishing, hunting, and birding.

One of 105 sites on the NC Birding Trail, the Game Lands are actively managed with prescribed fire to restore native warm season grasses and forbs to benefit wildlife habitat.  Turkey Creek and Sandy Mush Creek gorges offer opportunity to view various warblers, Wood Thrush and Acadian Flycatcher.

For more details about public use, game animals, and bird species, visit ncwildlife.org.

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Calling Volunteers! Garlic Mustard Pull in the Roan

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Garlic Mustard, photo courtesy US Fish & Wildlife Service

Spring is a time of awakening for the wildflowers we love to observe. Black-eyed susans, asters, and yarrow add splashes of color to roadsides as we meander through the mountainous terrain. Observing long stretches of wildflowers along highways is just as eye-pleasing as the views we glimpse through the trees. Other species also grow and bloom this time of year, including non-native, invasive species. One such invasive species is the infamous garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), so named for its garlicky flavor. Garlic mustard is native to Europe, but can now be found throughout much of the U.S. Originally cultivated for its culinary uses, the plant quickly escaped captivity and established a widespread presence across a multitude of landscapes.

Having no predators, garlic mustard is a major threat to ecosystem integrity by reducing biodiversity and outcompeting native plants by monopolizing resources such as sunlight and water. Wildlife species that depend on native plants for foliage, pollen, nectar, fruits, seeds and roots, are deprived of these essential food sources when garlic mustard replaces them. Herbivores dislike its garlicky taste. They leave it to flourish; preferring to nibble on other plants and inadvertently disperse the seeds which stick to their coats, further compromising native plant populations.

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Please sign up to volunteer with us!

Seeds are viable in the soil for up to five years. A single plant can produce approximately 1,000 seeds, which scatter up to several meters away from the parent plant. In addition to wildlife, seeds are also dispersed by shoes, clothing, and even car tires. Removing garlic mustard from thoroughfares such as Roan Mountain State Park and public roadsides is crucial to controlling the establishment and spread of this invasive species. Eradicating garlic mustard is easy, but it takes time and persistence.

This year, SAHC is partnering with Roan Mountain State Park, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and AmeriCorps Project Conserve to remove garlic mustard from the park, heavily trafficked highways around Carver’s Gap, and SAHC properties such as Big Rock Creek. Come join us!

Where: Meet at Roan Mountain State Park at 9:30am. Volunteers will be briefed, divided into groups, and dispersed across the Park and along public roadsides.

IMG_2219When: April 18, 2015 beginning at 9:30am. We will work from 9:30am-12:00pm. Lunch is from 12:00-1:00pm. Garlic mustard pesto with bread/crackers is provided as an appetizer. After 1:00pm, there are two options to chose from for the afternoon.

Afternoon Option 1:  Intrepid volunteers continue to work from 1:00-2:30pm.
Afternoon Option 2: From 1-1:30pm join an AmeriCorps educational opportunity regarding agriculture. From 1:30-3:30pm is a moderately paced hike up to and along the Appalachian Trail. Anticipated distance is 3-4 miles.

Contact: To join us as a volunteer, please RSVP to Andrea Thompson, AmeriCorps Stewardship Associate, andrea@appalachian.org, (828) 253-0095 ext 212. We can use all the hands we can get!

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