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Group finishes first phase of tree rescue
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A non-profit organization that advocates for the protection of mountain trails and streams has just completed the first phase of a project aimed at saving 425 acres of hemlock trees in Dawson Forest.

Don Wells, President of the Mountain Stewards, announced this week that the organization had partnered with the Wildlife Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Georgia Forestry Commission and organizations from Big Canoe to complete the project’s initial phase.

Wells said from Canada to Georgia, the hemlock trees are dying because of the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid pest. In some forests, he said, 90 percent of the trees have been killed.

All of the partnering organizations came together with a plan to treat the hemlocks in this area. Money was raised to purchase the chemicals, and volunteers agreed to help the Mountain Stewards trail crew.

The first phase was from March through April 2011, which treated 9,701 trees.

Wells said the crew had to “punch more than 56,763 holes into the soil around the base of the trees and inject chemicals, which the tree absorbs.”

Wells said it cost about $75 per pound for the chemical, which treated about two acres of trees.

“This is a costly endeavor,” he said.

The current program will save about 425 acres of hemlocks in Dawson Forest.

The Wildcat Tract of the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area has one of the largest populations of hemlocks in the state.

The trees grow along mountain creeks, providing shade and habitat for animals and fish species.

According to Wells, the Adelgids are “almost microscopic in size.”

The insects “actively suck the life out of the hemlock” causing needles to fall off the trees. Wells said it can take about three to five years for an untreated hemlock to die in this manner.

Donations to the Mountain Stewards may be sent to P.O. Box 1525 , Jasper, GA 30143.

For more information, visit www.mountainstewards.org.

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