Archives for: May 2011
The '60s are long gone, man. The guys growing ganga out in the woods are gangsters not hippies, the National Forest Service warns in a news release.
While only a fraction of National Forest System lands are affected by illegal marijuana cultivation, the Forest Service says the safety risks are real. As soon as you become aware that you have come upon a cultivation site, back out immediately. Never engage the growers, as these are extremely dangerous people, the release says.
In addition to the danger to people who find marijuana patches in the woods, the pot plots themselves cause extensive and long-term damage to the forests and to supplies of public drinking water for hundreds of miles. Growers damage the land when they clear it for planting and then spoil it with herbicides and other chemicals, and they often dam creeks and siphon water for irrigation.
National Forests in North Carolina conserve more than 1.2 million acres for recreation and forestry research in four forests (below): the Nantahala and Pisgah in the mountains, the Uwharrie in the state's Piedmont, and the Croatan at the coast. Another 43,000 acres in the state are set aside in Bladen Lakes and DuPont State Forests, in seven Educational State Forests and in eight research forests operated by N.C. State University.
In the year ending October 30, the Forest Service found more than 38,200 marijuana plants in national forests here, including a large seizure in the Pisgah National Forest near Hot Springs, Forest Service spokesman Stevin Westcott told The News & Observer. They found 3,010 plants the year before.
The release provides these clues that you may have come across a marijuana cultivation site:
* Sometimes marijuana smells like a skunk on hot days.
* Hoses or drip lines located in unusual or unexpected places.
* A well-used trail where there shouldn’t be one.
* People standing along roads without vehicles present, or in areas where loitering appears unusual.
* Camps containing cooking and sleeping areas with food, fertilizer, weapons, garbage, rat poison and/or dead animals.
* Small propane bottles, used to avoid the detection of wood smoke.
* Individuals armed with rifles out of hunting season.
So, stay safe in the woods. If you stumble upon a pot patch, leave the way you came in, the Forest Service says, making as little noise as possible. Report as much information as you can to local law enforcement or any uniformed member of the Forest Service.
With a series of guided hikes that start next Sunday, the Nature Conservancy in North Carolina opens three of its preserves to the public for guided hikes this summer and fall.
The first of the hikes are available May 29 at Bat Cave Preserve in Rutherford County's Hickory Nut Gorge and at Bluff Mountain Preserve in Ashe County.
Bat Cave Preserve, which includes Bat Cave and Little Bat Cave, below, is the site of the longest augen gneiss fissure cave in the world and forests that harbor a number of threatened or endangered plants, such as broadleaf coreopsis and Carey’s saxifrage.
In recent years, the caves have been closed to avoid spreading white-nose syndrome, a disease that has killed a half million bats in the northeast and as far south as Virginia, but there's plenty more to see.
Hikes at Bat Cave Preserve are set for May 29, June 26, July 31, August 28, September 25 and October 23. The hike is two miles, with parts that are fairly steep and strenuous. The hike takes approximately two to two and a half hours. Make a reservation or ask questions at email@example.com or 828-290-9217.
Bluff Mountain Preserve is one of the most ecologically significant natural areas in the Southeast, according to the Conservancy. It includes a broad, high plateau containing a one-of-a-kind wetland, a southern Appalachian fen, an old-growth Carolina hemlock forest and a rare flat-rock plant community.
Bluff Mountain Preserve hikes are set for May 29, June 24, July 3, September 3 and October 14. The cost is $10 per person. Get more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or (336) 497-1972.
Big Yellow Mountain hikes take you through hardwood forests to the mountain's open, grassy 5,540-foot peak in the Roan Highlands.
Big Yellow hikes are set for June 4, July 23 and September 10. For more information or to make reservations, drop a line to email@example.com.
Supporters and users of DuPont State Forest are concerned that the budget passed last week by the N.C. House of Representatives could change the primary orientation of the forest from recreation to timber production. They want the forest to be given a designation of its own that retains its recreational mandate (.pdf).
The budget proposal transfers the Division of Forest Services, including DuPont and Bladen Lakes state forests and seven Educational State Forests, from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources — which includes the Division of Parks and Recreation — to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Treating DuPont State Forest as a source of agricultural products could hurt recreation at the 10,400-acre forest in Transylvania and Henderson counties, Fred Roane, a board member of Friends of DuPont Forest, told Nanci Bompey of the Asheville Citizen-Times.
Supporters think the move will mean less of a focus on hiking, biking and horseback riding in the forest, and a move instead toward more logging.
"With the transfer of Forest Resources to Agriculture ... we now have a Division of Forest Resources with no recreational budget or mandate reporting to a department with no recreation budget or mandate," the four past presidents of Friends of DuPont Forest wrote in an op-ed appearing in the Henderson Times-News. "Did you know that Agriculture does not even report to the governor, but to the elected agriculture commissioner?
"The only other state forest in North Carolina is Bladen Lakes, which is run as a self-sustaining commercial tree farm with no discernible recreation system. There is discussion of closing some educational state forests. How will recreation at DuPont fare under the new management in times of severe budget cuts? Or in several years when our current dedicated supervisor retires?"
The four Friends leaders call for keeping the current hunting and fishing policies at DuPont as "a core mission of the property," and, where possible, maintaining multiple trail use, including mountain biking and equestrian use, and say they support "responsible timber management on the property outside of the current nature preserves."
Leaders of various user groups began meeting about two weeks ago as news of the potential transfer circulated, and chose Roane to lead the fledgling DuPont Recreational Working Group. They call for supporters to contact their state representatives.
"All of the persons who have begun meeting support the current recreational and land management practices, and we want to prevent any changes that would threaten the current management priorities," Roane said in a news release from the group. "We are researching whether DuPont should be something other than a 'state forest.' Perhaps some other legal recognition is necessary — like a 'state recreational forest' or a 'state recreational area' would be a better designation.”
DuPont State Forest Supervisor David Brown told the Citizen-Times he wouldn't expect management of the forest to change drastically if the transfer went through, and that some timber harvesting is likely anyway.
"I don't think it will have a significant impact on visitation, and of course, we're not going to be clear-cutting around the waterfalls," he said. "We would protect areas where we have the highest concentration of visitors."
Update: The North Carolina Division of Forest Resources said Sunday is has determined that a lightning strike caused the fire on the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Earlier speculation focused on arson.
The fire, which started May 5, has consumed some 25,000 acres, but firefighters had it 75 percent contained Sunday night.
Look for updates on the Pains Bay fire here.
A wildfire burning since Thursday has engulfed nearly 21,000 acres of the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge while wind, low humidity and state budget cuts hamper efforts to fight the blaze.
The state-owned CL 215 "Super Scooper," which has the capability to scoop up 1,621-3,000 gallons of water and drop it on fires, is not available to firefighters. It has been grounded to save money, Tom Crews, fire management officer for the refuge and incident commander on this fire, told the press Monday according to the Outer Banks Sentinel.
A Type 1 helicopter, which carries about a third of what the CL 215 can scoop up, was being used to fight the fire from the air Sunday.
The fire began in wetlands between Pains Bay and Parched Corn Bays on the south side of U.S. Highway 264 just south of Stumpy Point, a tiny fishing village on Dare County mainland, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. By Tuesday morning it had burned 20,954 acres.
A 10-mile section of U.S. 264 between Stumpy Point and Engelhard was closed Tuesday morning. A temporary flight restriction is in effect in the airspace above the fire.
On Monday the fire was approaching Stumpy Point, according to the Virginian Pilot, and it was possible that the 220 or so residents would be evacuated.
Crews told The Associated Press that arson and human carelessness may have caused the fire. "From the air, there were three fires spotted in one location, and that is suspicious," he said.
Put a ranger in your pocket with the new free North Carolina State Parks app for iPods, iPhones and Android smartphones.
The downloadable Pocket Ranger Mobile Tour Guide was created by ParksByNature Network, a developer of mobile, interactive networks, for the state Division of Parks and Recreation and Friends of State Parks, a news release says.
It provides details about park locations, trails, facilities, reservations, events and special news alerts. A "pro" version for iPod and iPhone offers GPS-aided navigation of state parks, storage of detailed topographic maps and enhanced interactive features for $3.99 (an Android version is in the works).
Each version also has social networking tools.
Park and campground maps plus details on natural features, activities, fees and regulations are also part of the app, and are available regardless of cell phone capability once the app is downloaded.
The Pocket Ranger Mobile Tour Guide can be downloaded from the iTunes Store and Android’s Market – by searching "NC State Parks" or "NC Pocket Ranger" – or directly at http://stateparkapps.com/nc/apps.php.
ParksByNature has a tutorial at http://www.youtube.com/user/PocketRangerApp.
Buses will leave the parking area approximately every 40 minutes from 9 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday to visit Triple Falls, High Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Lake Julia.
Because the buses run continuously, visitors can get off and explore each area. The Friends of DuPont State Forest, the tour sponsors, estimate three hours of more to complete the circuit.
The tour starts at the parking lot at 1300 Staton Road (N35E.11.356', W082E.37.425') in Cedar Mountain, which is just up the road from the High Falls access area. DuPont State Forest straddles the border of Henderson and Transylvania counties in southwestern North Carolina.
Bring your own food and water; the 10,400-acre forest has no facilities. Light refreshments will be available in the rustic lodge overlooking Lake Julia, which is the last stop on the tour.
The tour is free, but a $10 donation is requested.
Donations to the nonprofit Friends of DuPont Forest "are used to finance construction projects such as the shelters and picnic tables at High and Triple Falls, to maintain the 90 miles of trails, and to support research and educational projects focused on historical and natural resources with DuPont State Forest," the group says.