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

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GUEST POST: SAWS Helps Restore Trails in Linville Gorge

Guest Post by Brenna Irrer, Program Manager, Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards

The mountains of western North Carolina are full of exciting natural features, and can provide endless opportunities for education and entertainment. For most people, all they need to access these features is a suitable trail. While any sort of trail may do, a trail that is usable in a variety of conditions and will last for years can help people not only continue to enjoy these opportunities, but to help them show others in the future. Fortunately, trails can be modified over time, fixing a problem as it arises, or improving it to better serve its users.

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SAWS Trail Crew Member works to improve the Shortoff Trail

One such trail is the Shortoff trail in Linville Gorge. This trail also serves as a part of the Mountains to Sea trail. The Shortoff trail runs almost exclusively along ridges, down into gaps, and back up again, allowing for stunning views, changes in trailside ecology, and physical exercise. Because the trail runs along the ridge, portions of it are steep and prone to erosion from water runoff. Recently, Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS) spent nine days working along the trail to mitigate these problems. Working from Chimney Gap and heading south, drainage features were built into the trail to prevent water from staying on the trail, causing heavy erosion and increasing the potential for insurmountable damage. SAWS worked up to the top of Shortoff mountain, installing a variety of drainage features and also brushing spots that had made hiking difficult.

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Many areas along the Shortoff trail have been subject to wild fires in the last decade. While this allows for abundant new growth, in the short term erosion along the trail is accelerated without a tree canopy above it. While the canopy will eventually grow back, the trail must be stabilized in the meantime. The work that Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards has done along the Shortoff trail will help keep this trail serviceable for hikers now and in the future.