Conservation & Environment

Cradle of Forestry Invites Nature Enthusiasts to Pink Beds Bioblitz

Posted by on May 16, 2017 @ 11:31 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Cradle of Forestry Invites Nature Enthusiasts to Pink Beds Bioblitz

The Cradle of Forestry in America invites nature enthusiasts of all ages and knowledge levels to the first spring Pink Beds Bioblitz on Saturday, May 20, 2017. Join naturalists and scientists to discover the diversity of life in this special part of Pisgah National Forest, and add to knowledge gained about the area during last fall’s Bioblitz.

Those who would like to participate should register that morning at the Pink Beds Picnic Area from 9:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. There, they will split into planned zones along the Pink Beds Trail and take photos of all species they find along the way. A zone has been established on the Cradle of Forestry’s Forest Festival Trail, which is wheelchair and stroller accessible, and friendly to our youngest observers. Registration is free as is entrance to the Cradle of Forestry for registered Bioblitz participants that day.

After exploring, groups will gather at the Forest Discovery Center and upload observations to the iNaturalist app. This citizen science tool aids in identification and data collection. You can download this app at home on a smartphone or at the Cradle of Forestry. Bring your smartphone or regular camera with a laptop to upload photographs.

Participants should wear closed-toe shoes and pants for extra protection, bring along water, and prepare for the weather. Magnifying glasses and binoculars are fun and useful exploring tools. Pack a lunch or enjoy a meal at the Café at the Cradle, open from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Spring Pink Beds Bioblitz Schedule is:

7:00 a.m. – Meet at the Pink Beds Picnic Area for a guided bird walk with naturalist Vicky Burke

9:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Register at Pink Beds Picnic Area and pick your Bioblitz zone

10:00 a.m. – Meet your zone leader; Bioblitz kickoff

12:15 p.m. – Electrofishing near Pink Beds Picnic Area

12:30-3:00 p.m. – Meet back at Forest Discovery Center for refreshments, uploading photos, and raffle

10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. – Learn about conservation projects happening in western North Carolina from local organizations at the Cradle’s Forest Discovery Center

7:30 p.m. – Guided Reptile and Amphibian walk on portion of Pink Beds loop trail

The Pink Beds Picnic Area is located on U.S. Highway 276 in the Pisgah National Forest along the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway, on the right just north of the Cradle of Forestry entrance, about six miles north of Looking Glass Falls and four miles south of the Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 412. The Cradle of Forestry is open daily from 9:00 to 5:00 and offers restrooms, a gift shop, exhibits, trails, and the Café at the Cradle to enjoy.


Freshwater’s Macro Microplastic Problem

Posted by on May 16, 2017 @ 6:38 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Freshwater’s Macro Microplastic Problem

In the winter of 2014, Sherri “Sam” Mason, a chemist at the State University of New York at Fredonia, sent two of her undergraduate students out to the shore of Lake Erie near campus to volunteer to fillet the fish that sport fisherman caught. The deal: the students could keep the guts. They took the fish innards back to campus and painstakingly sorted through the contents. They were hunting for tiny particles of plastic that Mason and other researchers have shown are abundant in the waters of the Great Lakes.

They didn’t have to look hard. Her team found plastic in the majority of the fish they tested, including popular fare like brown trout and perch. Some of them were broken-down fragments; others were tiny pellets manufactured by the plastic industry that get melted down and molded into products.

But the biggest source they found were miniscule plastic fibers, the kind that are spun into synthetic clothing. One day, Mason grabbed one of the intestines, smeared it against a glass plate, and brought it under a microscope. “You could actually see the fibers enmeshed in the gastrointestinal tract,” she says. Rather than passing through the fishes’ guts, the fibers seemed to be woven into them.

Plastic pollution is not just a problem of the oceans, and a wave of research is showing just how widespread it is. In sampling expeditions, Mason and her colleagues have counted tens to hundreds of thousands of pieces of plastic per square mile of surface water in the Great Lakes, the world’s largest freshwater system.

Like in the oceans, the bulk of the pollution in rivers and lakes is not in the form of plastic bottles and other large pieces, but tiny pieces called microplastics that would be hard to spot. Microfibers represent up to 85% of the plastic pollution found on shorelines around the world.

Read full story…


The Case for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Posted by on May 12, 2017 @ 7:32 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The Case for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

President Donald Trump’s national monuments executive order is an attack on American national parks, public lands, and oceans. One of its specific targets is the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Although some Utah politicians argue that this monument has had a negative impact on the surrounding area, the reality on the ground is quite different: By a margin of better than 2 to 1, Utahns believe that the monument’s designation was good for their state. Even the Utah Office of Tourism cites the monument as one of its “most visited parks” and boasts about its vast size and “phenomenal” allure.

The truth is that Grand Staircase-Escalante is valuable. It deserves its status as a national monument for a multitude of reasons and should not be targeted by Trump’s misguided attempts to sell out U.S. public lands.

Rural Western counties with more protected public lands, including national monuments, have faster-growing populations, employment rates, and personal incomes than those with less protected land.

In fact, since Grand Staircase-Escalante’s designation in 1996, per capita incomes have risen 28 percent and employment has risen 40 percent in the communities adjacent to the national monument. While such statistics do not prove causation, they do disprove the idea that the national monument prevented economic growth.

The monument’s scientific, natural, and cultural value, as well as its more than 20,000 archeological sites, deserved protection when the monument was designated—and still do today.

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Zinke says monument designations have been an ‘effective tool,’ Hatch is confused

Posted by on May 11, 2017 @ 1:36 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Zinke says monument designations have been an ‘effective tool,’ Hatch is confused

As he embarked on a tour of Utah to review two national monuments, Ryan Zinke said he sees no evidence Native American proponents of Bears Ears National Monument were exploited by special interest groups, as state leaders have suggested.

“I think they’re smart, capable, passionate, and have a deep sense of tie to their culture and want to preserve it,” the secretary of the Interior said after a meeting with the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, which requested the monument on behalf of five tribes, at Salt Lake City’s Bureau of Land Management office.

Minutes later, while standing with Zinke, Sen. Orrin Hatch said Native Americans are “manipulated sometimes by people” and that the “far left” has further designs on the 1.35 million acres in southeastern Utah protected by President Barack Obama on Dec. 28, 2016.

“The Indians, they don’t fully understand that a lot of the things that they currently take for granted on those lands, they won’t be able to do if it’s made clearly into a monument or a wilderness,” Hatch said.

Asked to describe which activities Obama’s designation would prevent Native Americans from doing, Hatch said, “That’d take too much time right now.”

Pressed further for one example, Hatch said: “Once you put a monument there, you do restrict a lot of things that could be done, and that includes use of the land … Just take my word for it.”

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Trail photographers provide an eye into Oregon’s wilderness

Posted by on May 10, 2017 @ 7:56 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Trail photographers provide an eye into Oregon’s wilderness

Ever wonder what nature looks like when you aren’t watching it? If a critter scurries through the forest and there’s no one there to see it, is it still adorable?

The answer is yes. We know this through the efforts of trail photographers who operate remote trail cameras that capture nature as it looks when no humans are there to disturb it.

There is a part of Oregon that no one will ever see with their own eyes. It is filled with wolves, foxes, bears and other creatures undisturbed by human activity. In fact, it is the very absence of humans that defines this unseen world.

Fortunately, there is a window into untamed Oregon provided by dedicated folks who take to the wilderness looking to capture images with remote cameras. There are two types of people who set up “camera traps”: those looking to survey species, like the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and those looking to create intimate portraits of wild animals.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife also uses camera traps to track certain species and get population estimates for endangered animals, like the gray wolf.

See some of the photos they have captured…


Vermont’s Green Mountain Club looks to the future

Posted by on May 9, 2017 @ 8:07 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Vermont’s Green Mountain Club looks to the future

The Green Mountain Club, based in Waterbury, Vermont, is a membership based nonprofit organization that is responsible for the maintenance of the Long Trail system, including the 272-mile footpath through the wilderness, 185 miles of side trails and 70 backcountry campsites. The GMC also participates in maintenance and protection of Vermont’s 100-mile portion of the Appalachian Trail, a long-distance national scenic trail that extends from Georgia to Maine.

The mission of the Green Mountain Club is to make the Vermont mountains play a larger part in the life of the people by protecting and maintaining the Long Trail system and fostering, through education, the stewardship of Vermont’s hiking trails and mountains. The GMC is headed by executive director Michael DeBonis, who has been with the organization for three years.

Over the years, as use of the Long Trail system has risen and development pressures have increased, the GMC has evolved from being focused on purely trail building and maintenance to a more comprehensive program focused on protecting natural resources from overuse, protecting the trail from development, safeguarding special natural areas, backcountry sanitation and waste disposal, educating hikers and publishing guidebooks and maps.

In short, the GMC is managing how people relate to and interact with our hiking trails, campsites and their surrounding land. DeBonis put it this way: “We’re providing a wild experience. We manage the resource to provide that.”

A stewardship program at GMC manages land conservation and easements. As a maintainer and protector of the Long Trail, the GMC works in partnership with the Green Mountain National Forest, state of Vermont, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and private land owners.

Learn more here…


Copenhagen’s Forgotten Giants

Posted by on May 6, 2017 @ 12:23 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Copenhagen’s Forgotten Giants

Hiding giants is a tall order, but Thomas Dambo has managed to hide six in the area around Copenhagen, Denmark.

Dambo is an artist who specializes in reclaimed and recycled materials, and the Forgotten Giants are no exception to this method, created from scrap wood collected from old, demolished buildings and felled trees. The sculptures were deliberately placed off the beaten track, and each is accompanied by a poem engraved on a nearby stone that gives hints about where it is hidden.

There is also a “treasure map” of the area on which an “X” marks the spot where each giant can be found. Part of the point of the public artwork is to get people out and exploring, especially to beautiful places they don’t normally go. Dambo also hopes his scrap wood giants will encourage people to recycle.

Each giant is named after one of the volunteers who helped build it, and every one has an extra function. Sleeping Louis, named after one of Dambo’s former assistants, references homeless people found sleeping in the area where Louis now lies. Louis provides shelter for the homeless; the giant structure can be entered through his gaping mouth.

A map showing the locations of all the giants can be found on Thomas Dambo’s website.



There are diseases hidden in ice, and they are waking up

Posted by on May 6, 2017 @ 6:49 am in Conservation | 0 comments

There are diseases hidden in ice, and they are waking up

Throughout history, humans have existed side-by-side with bacteria and viruses. From the bubonic plague to smallpox, we have evolved to resist them, and in response they have developed new ways of infecting us.

We have had antibiotics for almost a century, ever since Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. In response, bacteria have responded by evolving antibiotic resistance. The battle is endless: because we spend so much time with pathogens, we sometimes develop a kind of natural stalemate.

However, what would happen if we were suddenly exposed to deadly bacteria and viruses that have been absent for thousands of years, or that we have never met before?

We may be about to find out. Climate change is melting permafrost soils that have been frozen for thousands of years, and as the soils melt they are releasing ancient viruses and bacteria that, having lain dormant, are springing back to life.

In August 2016, in a remote corner of Siberian tundra called the Yamal Peninsula in the Arctic Circle, a 12-year-old boy died and at least twenty people were hospitalized after being infected by anthrax.

The theory is that, over 75 years ago, a reindeer infected with anthrax died and its frozen carcass became trapped under a layer of frozen soil, known as permafrost. There it stayed until a heatwave in the summer of 2016, when the permafrost thawed.

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Human noise pollution is everywhere, even in the national parks

Posted by on May 5, 2017 @ 11:55 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Human noise pollution is everywhere, even in the national parks

In wintertime, the sounds of nature are so subtle they’re almost imperceptible: The whistling of the wind though craggy mountaintops, the whispering branches of the trees; the soft, delicate patter of an unseen animal’s paws across snowy ground.

“It’s a really quiet experience,” said Rachel Buxton, recalling a recent winter hike in southwest Colorado’s La Garita Wilderness. “You’re almost hearing your own heartbeat.”

But every 30 minutes, a jet flew overhead, shattering the fragile calm. “It’s shocking, right?” she said. “You’re in the middle of nowhere, yet you still can’t escape the sounds of humans.”

That’s the trouble with noise pollution, continued Buxton, an acoustic ecologist at Colorado State University: “It really doesn’t have any boundaries. There’s no way of holding it in.”

This problem pervades wilderness areas across the United States. Using a model based on sound measurements taken by the National Park Service, they found that human noises at least double the background sound levels at the majority of protected areas in the country. This noise pollution doesn’t just disrupt hikers; it can also frighten, distract or harm animals that inhabit the wilderness, setting off changes that cascade through the entire ecosystem.

“When we think about wilderness, we think about dark skies, going to see outstanding scenery,” said Megan McKenna, a scientist with the National Park Service’s Natural Sounds and Night Skies division and a co-author on the report. “We really should think about soundscapes, too.”

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NCWF Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards

Posted by on May 1, 2017 @ 12:07 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

NCWF Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards

The North Carolina Wildlife Federation is accepting nominations for its annual Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards. The awards honor individuals, businesses, organizations and groups who have exhibited an unwavering commitment to conservation efforts in North Carolina, and are the highest natural-resource honors given in the state.

Nominees should demonstrate outstanding achievement in and dedication to conservation. Candidates are not required to hold professional positions related to conservation. Awards are given for contributions, whether volunteer or professional. Nominations may be submitted by individuals, businesses or organizations.

These prestigious awards honor those individuals, governmental bodies, associations and others who have exhibited an unwavering commitment to conservation in North Carolina. These are the highest honors given in the state.

By recognizing, publicizing and honoring these conservation leaders – be they professionals, volunteers, young conservationists or lifelong conservation heroes – the North Carolina Wildlife Federation hopes to inspire all North Carolinians to take a more active role in protecting the natural resources of our state.

Learn more here…


Dreams by Cliff Williams of Argyle Multimedia

Posted by on May 1, 2017 @ 8:58 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Dreams by Cliff Williams of Argyle Multimedia

On a recent visit to Little Bradley Falls, I happened to meet and chat with Cliff Williams of the local video production company Argyle Multimedia. As Cliff demonstrated to me that day, he is quite adept at operating camera drones, just one more means of achieving priceless photography of the great outdoors.

Cliff just put together a compilation video that includes some of his drone footage, as well as timelapse and still photographs. It has a marvelous soundtrack by local musician Sharon Gerber. I asked Cliff if he would mind me sharing his new video with you, and he graciously accepted. So with no further ado, here is Dreams:



National park plans to connect two major redwood groves

Posted by on Apr 30, 2017 @ 8:35 am in Conservation | 0 comments

National park plans to connect two major redwood groves

Two of the largest and most ancient redwood groves in Redwood National Park — Lady Bird Johnson and Lost Man Creek — will be connected through the acquisition of the Berry Glen Trail property near the Prairie Creek Scenic Corridor.

According to the Save the Redwoods League chief program officer, the corridor, which is 5.9 acres, will provide access to the groves directly from U.S. Highway 101.

“It gives access to an entrance trail that would run up the hill and connect one side of the park to the other side across the highway,” he said.

He said the League often buys properties and holds them until they can transfer them to national parks. According to the League, the property was purchased from a private landowner in 2015 thanks to strong donor support.

“Connecting the two areas is the key highlight for this property,” Ringgold said. “We previously had to address several distressed erosion issues to threatening the highway. It will [now] add to the scenic value of this corridor.”

The Berry Glen Trail was part of an ongoing effort for both the League and Redwood National Park to fully protect the Prairie Creek Scenic Corridor and further restore the area for its long-term ecological and recreational benefits.

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Court Lifts Injunction Blocking Mexican Gray Wolf Releases

Posted by on Apr 27, 2017 @ 11:32 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Court Lifts Injunction Blocking Mexican Gray Wolf Releases

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to lift a preliminary injunction blocking further releases of highly endangered Mexican gray wolves into the wild within New Mexico. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) can now resume wolf releases within the state.

Mexican gray wolves, or lobos, are the most endangered gray wolf subspecies in the world. Lobos are facing low numbers and a genetic crisis in the wild. Limited genetic diversity in the wild can result in smaller litters and lower pup survival – a recipe for extinction. Releases of captive wolves are critical to increase lobo genetic diversity in the wild.

Scientists conclude that lobos require at least three linked populations in suitable habitat. Habitat capable of supporting two additional populations exists in the Grand Canyon ecoregion and in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.

In May 2016, the state of New Mexico filed suit against FWS after the agency released two pups that they cross-fostered with a family in the wild. New Mexico also requested a preliminary injunction to halt all Mexican gray wolf releases into the wild within the state until the merits of its case were heard. In June 2016, a federal court granted New Mexico the preliminary injunction, halting all Mexican gray wolf releases within the state. That injunction has now been overturned.



In 4 days, a river that had flowed for millennia disappeared

Posted by on Apr 27, 2017 @ 7:01 am in Conservation | 0 comments

In 4 days, a river that had flowed for millennia disappeared

The latest consequence of climate change is rivers “pirating” each other’s water.

Nearly a year ago, scientists noticed that the water level of the Slims River in British Columbia was extremely low. So they hopped into a helicopter and flew upstream to investigate. What they found startled them: A second, more powerful river, the Kaskawulsh, had stolen the Slims River’s water for itself. Three days later, the Slims was gone entirely.

For centuries, meltwater from the Kaskawulsh Glacier had fed both the Slims and Kaskawulsh rivers. But in the past 100 years, the glacier has retreated as a result of climate change. And in early 2016, the glacier receded so much that the Kaskawulsh River, with a gradient nearly five times steeper than the Slims, was perfectly poised to catch and divert the Slims.

In a recent paper, scientists say this was most aggressive instance of “river piracy” — one river capturing and diverting the flow of another — on record. It’s also a troubling example of how swiftly climate change is affecting rivers and other bodies of water.

“Most people think of climate change as gradual and its consequences as gradual, but one of the things we were able to show here is you can produce some rather dramatic changes, suddenly,” said John Clague at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, one of the authors of the paper. “And these unforeseen, sudden changes are much harder to deal with than ones that play out slowly.” In particular, researchers like Clague are worried about sudden changes to the chemistry and nutrient supply of a lake once fed by the Slims.

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Fact-checking Trump’s Antiquities Act order

Posted by on Apr 26, 2017 @ 3:08 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Fact-checking Trump’s Antiquities Act order

“San Juan County is now the epicenter of a brutal battle over public lands,” Orrin Hatch, the senior senator from Utah, said as he stood before the Senate on April 24, 2017 and railed against former President Barack Obama’s end-of-term designation of the Bears Ears National Monument.

Hatch spoke in anticipation of President Donald Trump’s order to “review” all national monuments designated since 1996, announced on April 26, starting with Bears Ears, located in rural San Juan County, Utah. The review will also include dozens of other monuments established over the last 21 years. As he signed the executive order, Trump praised the Utah senator and parroted some of Hatch’s points.

Hatch’s own speech was peppered with the type of Sagebrush Rebellion rhetoric that Utah politicians have spouted since Cal Black, the late San Juan County commissioner, threatened three decades ago to blow up ruins, bridges and trucks to retaliate against purported overreach by federal land managers. But in making his argument for abolishing the new monument, Hatch and Trump also relied on outright falsehoods or, in the nomenclature of the current administration, “alternative facts.”

For example, Trump said, “The previous administration bypassed the states to place over 265 million acres of land and water under federal control through the abuse of the monuments designation.”

Fact check: Nope. All of the land was already managed by federal land agencies. No private, state or other land was “seized” or “grabbed” in Bears Ears or other monuments. Nor did the locals lose any control over the land in question. In fact, in the case of Bears Ears, local tribes (meaning those with deep ancestral ties to the land in question) gained more control as high-level advisors to the monument manager. While this was a lesser role than the co-management one the tribes hoped for, they do have a louder voice now than they had without a monument.

Here is fact-checking of the main arguments made by opponents of the monuments, including Trump and Hatch…


Smokies Park Recruits Volunteers for Cataloochee Valley

Posted by on Apr 26, 2017 @ 9:45 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Smokies Park Recruits Volunteers for Cataloochee Valley

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is seeking volunteers to assist rangers with managing traffic and establishing safe wildlife viewing areas within the Cataloochee Valley region. Volunteers will receive information and training in wildlife behavior, safe viewing practices, and cultural history.

Cataloochee is a remote mountain valley on the eastern edge of the park where remnants of early settlements are preserved. Surrounded by mountain peaks, the isolated valley is a popular, year-round destination. In 2001, elk were reintroduced into the area after a 200-year absence. The elk population is now flourishing and serves as a major attractant to the culturally rich area.

Volunteers will assist Park Rangers in keeping visitors safe through education about elk and the cultural and natural resources of Cataloochee Valley. Volunteers will also provide information to visitors about park regulations, general information about the area, and directions to other destinations. When elk are present in the fields, volunteers will focus on traffic management to provide for visitor and wildlife safety as well as educating visitors about the elk.

Individuals and couples are especially needed for Sunday afternoons, Monday evenings, Wednesday evenings, Thursday evenings, Saturday afternoons and Saturday evenings. Each volunteer is asked to work at least one four-hour shift per week starting May and continuing through mid-November. This target period is during the peak visitation periods, from late spring during the elk calving season through the end of fall color and the elk mating season.

Volunteers will spend time roving the valley in a government all-terrain vehicle, by bicycle, or by foot. Volunteers who choose to drive the government vehicle must have a valid driver’s license and pass an online defensive driving course. Volunteers who prefer to rove by bicycle are required to bring their own bicycle and protective riding gear. The road through Cataloochee Valley is mostly flat with very little change in elevation. The surface of the road is a mix of chip-and-seal and dirt sections. Volunteer uniforms will be provided.

All interested volunteers are required to attend a training session prior to starting. A training session will be determined based on interest. CPR and First Aid training may also be available to those interested. To register for training or for more information, please contact Park Ranger Karl Danforth at [email protected]


Conservation Partners Add 1,058 Acres Near Fiery Gizzard Trail To Tennessee’s South Cumberland State Park

Posted by on Apr 25, 2017 @ 6:54 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Conservation Partners Add 1,058 Acres Near Fiery Gizzard Trail To Tennessee’s South Cumberland State Park

The Conservation Fund and The Land Trust for Tennessee, in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and the Open Space Institute (OSI), announced the addition of 1,058 acres to South Cumberland State Park in Marion County. The acquisition connects more than 7,000 acres of protected public and private land, conserves forestland and cove habitat from future development, and protects scenic views from the Fiery Gizzard trail.

The newly acquired land is adjacent to the Fiery Gizzard trail, which has been ranked as one of the top 25 backpacking trails in the United States by Backpacker Magazine. Approximately 600,000 visitors enjoy South Cumberland State Park annually, with many attracted to the 12-mile Fiery Gizzard Trail. However many large sections of the trail and surrounding bluffs remain in private ownership. TDEC plans to relocate a nearby portion of the trail that is on private land to the newly acquired land.

The acquisition also builds upon the State’s recent efforts to conserve land in the region. In March 2017, South Cumberland State Park celebrated the dedication of Denny Cove, a 685-acre climbing destination just a quarter mile from the newly acquired 1,058 acres. In 2010, The Conservation Fund, The Land Trust for Tennessee and the State of Tennessee partnered to purchase 6,182 acres on the Fiery Gizzard from a private timber company. At that time, 2,900 acres went into public ownership as part of South Cumberland State Park, and 3,282 went into private ownership with a conservation easement held by The Land Trust for Tennessee.

Read full story…