Grandfather Project Highlighted in USDA Report

On Tuesday, USDA released a Forest Service report that documents the significant efforts to increase the pace and scale of restoration on the landscape to create resilience within forests and natural resources. The report highlights the extensive work the Forest Service has undertaken over the last few years to confront serious challenges facing forests and grasslands.

The first initiative that is highlighted is the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, with a spotlight on the Grandfather Restoration Project. Out of 20+ projects across the country, the fact that we were chosen as the highlight in this high-impact report says a lot about the hard work and great collaboration here on the Grandfather!

USDAreportGrandfather Restoration Project North Carolina: The Grandfather Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Project brings together diverse partners to restore the forest health and resilience of a unique section of the southern Blue Ridge Mountains. The project is reducing fire risk, removing invasive species, improving wildlife habitat, and increasing recreation opportunities. One of the project’s many successes is the work across ownerships to remove Japanese knotweed from the Wilson Creek Wild and Scenic River Corridor. This invasive plant species takes over riparian areas, competing with native vegetation and reducing the quality of trout habitat in the waters of Wilson Creek. Successful treatment of Japanese knotweed requires removing the plant from both the National Forest System and privately owned land in the river corridor. The Forest Service, North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission, and the partner group Friends of Wilson Creek are working on National Forest System lands and with private property owners to remove Japanese knotweed, with plans to eradicate Japanese knotweed from the area by 2017.

Check out the full report here: From Accelerating Restoration To Creating and Maintaining Resilient Landscapes and Communities Across the Nation

 

Advertisements

Fiscal Year 2015 Accomplishments

Its hard to believe its almost 2016! For those of us in the federal government, it is already fiscal year 2016 – the new fiscal year (FY) began on October 1st. This time of year is when we work on reporting all the great work we have done over the past FY and plan for the new FY. FY2015 was a great year for the Grandfather Restoration Project! We were able to exceed our targets in almost every area. The accomplishments below are in addition to the great work our partners and volunteers completed across the district.

Habitat Restoration: 1 acre of lake habitat restored, 5,780 acres of terrestrial habitat enhanced

Boone Fork pond restorationLake habitat was restored at Boone Fork Pond, controlling erosion and adding fish habitat structures.

Terrestrial habitat was restored through a variety of management, including maintenance of wildlife openings, mechanical restoration of the Lost Cove orchard, prescribed fire, timber stand improvement, and shortleaf pine restoration harvest activities.

Invasive Species Treatments: 306 acres of nonnative invasive plant treatments, 45 acres of hemlock wooly adelgid treatments

IMG_5450Invasive species were treated with herbicide in the Catawba River Floodplain, along Wilson Creek, along Back Irish Creek Rd, and outside the Wilderness around Table Rock. Paulownia was hand pulled inside the Wilderness in partnership with WildSouth.

Hemlock wooly adelgid treatments were continued for Carolina and eastern hemlock across the district. 22 acres were treated for the first time along the Catawba Falls trail.

 

Watershed Restoration: 1 aquatic organism passage installed, 10.5 miles of non-system roads decommissioned

20150413_164819 (3)A large aquatic organism passage was installed along Simpson Creek, allowing for safe fish passage and maintenance of the natural stream channel.

Law enforcement identified 10.5 miles of non-system roads and multiple trails that were decommissioned by placing boulders at entry points, reducing erosion into sensitive watersheds.

Trail Restoration: 1.3 miles of trails improved, 60 miles of trails maintained

IMG_3443The China Creek trail near Blowing Rock was relocated to follow a historical route.

Through USFS labor and contracts 60 miles of trails were maintained. This work included 15+ miles of work completed by SAWS in Linville Gorge. This is in addition to the great work the volunteer trail community is doing across the Grandfather Ranger District.

Prescribed Fire: 7,497 acres of fuels treated

IMG_1489Prescribed burns were conducted at the Lake James unit, the Woodruff Ridge unit, the Wilson Creek unit, and the Rockhouse unit.

Site preparation burns were conducted as part of the Roses Creek timber sale.

The Blue Gravel Fire, the Bald Knob Fire, and the Wolf Creek Fire were managed through a “confine and contain” strategy.

Timber and Silviculture: 151 acres of forest vegetation established, 737 acres of forest vegetation improved, 1,205 CCF of timber harvested

Newly-planted 2yr shortleaf pine seedling at Miller Mountain

Through the Roses Creek project, over 150 acres of shortleaf pine forest was established following the harvest of the remaining stands of timber.

Timber harvest and vegetation improvement focused on removing white pine, tulip poplar and red maple and retaining oaks and yellow pines.

 

Monitoring: 2 new monitoring contracts

The Grandfather Ranger District entered into 2 multi-year contracts: one with Western Carolina University to monitor prescribed fire effects on vegetation, and one with MountainTrue to monitor invasive species occurrence and treatment

Fire and Invasives: The Paulownia Problem

It is well understood that wildfires can promote invasive species — where wildfires burn with high intensities, fire removes the duff and litter layer, allowing invasive species that thrive on bare soil to germinate. One of the biggest invasive culprits in this area is Paulownia tomentosa (princess tree). One Paulownia tree is capable of producing twenty million seeds per year, which are easily carried by wind and water. Once the seeds establish in bare soil, the seedlings can grow to a height of 10-ft in a single season.

With the Table Rock Wildfire that burned in the Linville Gorge last fall, monitoring and treating invasive species (including Paulownia) was identified as the top priority in the Forest Service’s response post-fire. As part of the Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) for the Table Rock Fire resource values impacted by the fire were identified, and emergency funds were requested to treat invasive plant species. BAER is an emergency risk management tool that allows the Forest Service to respond to post-wildfire conditions that would destabilize or degrade the burned lands. Using BAER authority, the Forest Services and its partners have been monitoring Paulownia, treating infestations outside the wilderness boundary, and hand-pulling along trails within the wilderness.

Paulownia seedlings carpet the forest in areas where the Table Rock fire burned with high intensity near Chimney Gap

Paulownia seedlings carpet the forest in areas where the Table Rock fire burned with high intensity near Chimney Gap (photo by Kayah Gaydish)

Starting in August, our partners tasked with monitoring and treating Paulownia noted that there was an explosion of seedlings both inside and outside the wilderness boundary. Ben Prater and Kayah Gaydish of WildSouth, who have been leading the treatment efforts in partnership with the Forest Service, invited me out last week to see this firsthand (and put me to work to help treat the seedlings). I was amazed by the sheer number of seedlings coming up — in areas the forest is carpeted with young Paulownia. In inspecting the infestation, we could see that Paulownia occurs in large numbers only where the fire burned with high intensities. The Forest Service has mapped these areas, and luckily they only cover 8-acres (about 1/2 of a percent of the total fire area). In these areas, total canopy loss and the removal of all duff and litter provides the perfect environment for Paulownia — and thus these areas are the priority areas for treatment.

Ben Prater, Director of Conservation at Wild South, treats Paulownia seedlings with herbicide outside the wilderness near Chimney Gap

Ben Prater, Director of Conservation at Wild South, treats Paulownia seedlings with herbicide outside the wilderness near Chimney Gap

While there are some areas that burned with high-intensity outside the wilderness, much of this area lies within the wilderness boundary. Although we can treat those Paulownia seedlings that are outside the wilderness with herbicide, there is no authority to use herbicide within the wilderness. In fact, there is not even authority to hand-pull Paulownia. Without any methods to remove Paulownia from the wilderness, this invasive species would threaten native plant communities and degrade wilderness character.

In response to the infestation, the Forest Service is pursuing additional funding through BAER and authority to hand-pull Paulownia within the wilderness boundary through an Minimum Requirements Decision Guide (MRDG) and use of a Categorical Exclusion under NEPA. The MRDG, which was signed today, is a tool to assist wilderness managers in making appropriate decisions in wilderness. National Forest staff are currently gathering information to prepare a Categorical Exclusion to consider a timely and effective route to control the spread of the infestation. Once the Categorical Exclusion is signed, we will be organizing a broad-scale volunteer effort to get those Paulownia seedlings out before the leaves fall off and the sprouts become hard to identify.

So, as partners I ask you to stay tuned, because we could use all the help we can get in this time-sensitive effort! This will be a great opportunity to work together to help save the Linville Gorge, which holds a special place in all our hearts, from this aggressive invasive species.

Japanese weed a growing problem at Wilson Creek

The Grandfather Restoration Project has been highlighted in the news once again! A story detailing the invasive species work being done at Wilson Creek was featured on the front page of the Sunday edition of the Lenior, NC Newspaper, The Lenior News Topic.

g2582580000000000004eddca2126314084f1ea7e9fa3984986c26a82cd

“In the 1920s, Bill Crump ordered a packet of seeds from a Sears Roebuck catalog to help him stave erosion after a flood washed through his woodworking mill in Cary’s Flat, near the headwaters of Wilson Creek.

In the 70 years since then, the plant that grew from those seeds, Japanese knotweed, has multiplied exponentially, migrated down the creek and taken up residence along uninhabited stream banks.

Today, what was supposed to be a fix has become a big problem for the ecology in the Wilson Creek area.”

The story brings attention to the Japanese knotweed overtaking the Wilson Creek Corridor, and highlights both the work of the NC Wildlife Resource Commission and the US Forest Service.

Read the full article on the newspaper’s website here: Japanese Weed a Growing Problem at Wilson Creek

Japanese Knotweed: Wilson Creek’s Most Unwanted Invasive Species

The Wilson Creek Wild and Scenic River corridor in Caldwell County is a priority area for non-native invasive species treatments under the Grandfather Restoration Project. One of the most prevalent and destructive invasive species along the river is Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica), which takes over riparian areas, competing with native vegetation and reducing the quality of trout habitat in the waters of Wilson Creek. First planted on private property in the early 1900’s for erosion control, the Japanese Knotweed can now be found throughout the Wilson Creek area.

Volunteers work to remove Japanese Knotweed from riparian areas along Wilson Creek

Volunteers work to remove Japanese Knotweed from riparian areas along Wilson Creek

Wilson Creek has mixed ownership, with Forest Service lands in the headwaters and downstream. Treating Japanese knotweed only on Forest Service property would not accomplish the objectives of the Grandfather Restoration Project, as plants would continue to wash downstream from private property. In order to fully eradicate Japanese knotweed from the river corridor, it is critical that individual property owners work with the Forest Service to properly treat infestations on their portion of the river.

In order to educate both private property owners and the visiting public about Japanese knotweed, the Grandfather Restoration Project has posted flyers throughout the area that highlight the species as Wilson Creek’s Most Unwanted Invasive Species. Already, several property owners, including the Wilson Creek Visitors Center run by the non-profit organization “Friends of Wilson Creek”, have expressed interest in controlling the species on their riverfront properties. With the help of these private landowners, as well as the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, the Grandfather Restoration Project hopes to eradicate Japanese knotweed from the area by 2017.