In forests near you, there are magnificent hemlock trees that are dying before their time. These long-lived evergreens provide dense shade that keeps forests and streams cool throughout much of eastern Tennessee. That cooling shade not only makes the parks pleasant to visit; it’s also important for many animals, especially fish and aquatic creatures.
Thirty of the 37 Tennessee counties with native hemlock are now infested with the non-native insect pest known as hemlock woolly adelgid. Many of these hemlocks have been growing for hundreds of years. Now they are being killed by adelgids in as little as three years.
To combat this deadly threat on the Cumberland Plateau, the Tennessee Hemlock Conservation Partnership has been formed. The group encompasses staff from Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry, the National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy. The group is also receiving technical assistance from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and the U.S. Forest Service. Together, the partners have identified “Hemlock Conservation Areas” where treatment to save hemlocks will take place over the next several years.
On March 15, the group will finalize the Hemlock Conservation Areas and its treatment plan in a meeting at Cumberland Mountain State Park in Crossville, Tennessee. The park has already been affected by adelgids.
“We may not be able to save all the hemlocks on the Cumberland Plateau, but our group is focused on saving the most important ones on public lands for people and nature. If we were to try to save all hemlocks in the Cumberland Plateau and Mountains it would cost millions of dollars, and we simply do not have that much money in state and federal budgets to combat this pest,” says Trish Johnson with The Nature Conservancy. “So we are working together to focus a very limited budget on saving hemlocks in key locations in our parks, such as scenic areas, the banks of rivers and streams, and other important areas.”
During the March 15 meeting, funding for treatment in these areas will be a main topic as the group will have to make the hard decisions to determine which hemlocks to treat and which to let die. The group has been actively researching sources of funding and reaching out to foundations and other non-governmental funding sources over the past six months.
One result for the funding research is a partnership that has been developed with Arborjet, Inc. to assist the Tennessee Hemlock Conservation Partnership with hemlock treatment at sensitive sites near streams. Arborjet will fund treatment chemicals and equipment. For its part, the hemlock group will monitor the treated trees and report success of the chemical treatments to the company. Eastman Chemical Company has also recently given a gift to the group to use towards treatments.
The Tennessee Hemlock Conservation Partnership is now accepting donations that will be used to treat the Hemlock Conservation Areas on state public lands at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation Webpage. www.twrf.net/Programs/conservation
For more information about the hemlock conservation areas, please contact Trish Johnson with The Nature Conservancy: 931-854-1552 or email@example.com. For more information about hemlock woolly adelgid and the fight against it, visit The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee's Web page: Hemlocks and How to Save Them.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
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