Many hikers are amazed by the balds that dot the Southern Appalachian landscape along the Appalachian Trail. Walking out of a tunnel of rhododendrons onto an open meadow where the views go on forever can be an exhilarating experience.
But what if Big Bald was no longer bald and the beloved Max Patch became a maze of bushes, brambles, and vines?
This year, the $35,000 to manage the balds in North Carolina and Tennessee national forests was eliminated from the National Park Service budget. But that’s not the end of the story.
The funding for the bald maintenance is part of a complicated financial arrangement. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, a National Park Service unit that is under the Department of the Interior, provides the money to keep the balds clear. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, a non-profit that manages and supports the trail, prioritizes which balds need the most work each year.
The money to do the mowing and maintenance is transferred from the Park Service to the U.S. Forest Service, which is part of the Department of Agriculture. The Forest Service does the actual work of keeping the balds clear. This system is used for Roan Highlands, Max Patch, Big Bald, and Beauty Spot, which are located in Pisgah and Cherokee national forests.
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