On a warm, sunny Thursday at the end of summer, a varied crowd of approximately forty people, including fifteen speakers, as well as public servants, community members, students, and local experts gathered at the Montreat post office where beautiful, healthy examples of both of our native species of hemlocks, eastern and Carolina, are growing thanks to a combination of two integrated strategies: chemical and biological control of the hemlock woolly adelgid.
The Hemlock Restoration Initiative (HRI) of WNC Communities and the Montreat Land Care Committee were delighted to host NC Commissioner of Agriculture, Steve Troxler, Buncombe County Commissioner, David Gantt, and other HRI-affiliated agency representatives for an event that highlighted the collaborative nature of the HRI program and multi-agency partnerships as we enter into our third year of NCDA&CS funding and second year of USDA – FS Forest Health Protection and Buncombe County funding.
The event showcased Montreat’s integrated efforts in conserving their hemlocks; and provided a great opportunity for partners to mingle and learn about one another’s conservation projects. In his speech, Commissioner Troxler shared his personal connection with hemlocks and delighted the audience when he announced his commitment to ensuring the project will have funding beyond 2018. Commissioner Gantt identified the initiative as important because “every resident of Western North Carolina has a hemlock in their back yard,” and recognized Commissioner Brownie Newman for his groundwork in getting the county involved. Rusty Rhea of the USDA FS-FHP praised Troxler for starting the initiative and echoed the commissioners by promising ongoing support for the HRI program.
While many of the groups present have been engaged with hemlock conservation for many years, the creation of the HRI has brought renewed attention to the issue and has provided an opportunity for individual efforts to be assisted, prolonged, expanded, and integrated with each other, through the dedication of funds to conserving this important and imperiled natural resource. Projects represent a broad continuum from the private and local to public involvement and coordination, focusing on multiple and integrated management strategies, at a range of different scales (municipal, county, regional, state, and federal).
Over all, this event served to infuse the gathered crowd with optimism about the potential possibilities that exist for our communities and our hemlocks moving forward into the upcoming year.
Thank you to the following for coming out to share their hemlock conservation experiences and for showing their support of the Hemlock Restoration Initiative: Mayor Tim Helms, Town of Montreat; John Johnson, Montreat Land Care Committee; Lee Hensley, City of Asheville; John Odell, Warren Wilson College; Johnathan Hartsell, Blue Ridge Resource Conservation & Development Council; Michelle Puglisee, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy; David Lee, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy; Lynn Sprague, Southwestern NC Resource Conservation & Development Council; Matt Diskin, NCFS; Rita Larkin, Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation; Lee McMinn, Transylvania Natural Resource Council; Bart Renner, NCSU Cooperative Extension; Rusty Rhea, USDA-FS Forest Health Protection; and LT Ward, WNC Communities.
A few others who deserve to be recognized for their support of the HRI, but who were not able to attend the event include: Buncombe County Commissioners Belcher, Frost, Fryar, Jones and Moffitt; Rob Trickel, head of the NCFS Forest Health Branch; Josh Kelly, MountainTrue Public Lands Biologist; and Ryan Jacobs of the NC Wildlife Resource Commission.