The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Thomas Fraser


Go check out the ancient oaks in Maryville's new park

Jarvis Park is 1.5 miles southeast of downtown off South Court Street and includes nearly 10 acres owned by Maryville doctor Craig Jarvis that were protected under a conservation easement via Foothills Land Conservancy in 2018 and transferred to the city a year later.

Park highlights include two 250-year-old oak trees, a mile of walking trails and a creek near Duncan Spring. 

An additional 37 acres, consisting of two lots adjacent to the park, will be transferred for preservation to the city in the future, per current expansion plans, according to a conservancy digital newsletter. That acreage would adjoin the park.

"Jarvis Park ... is one of the few remaining intact woodlands in the area," according to the conservancy, which added it was "bordered by open farm fields, residential development, and a rock quarry operation." 

The park is one of 20 other such easements held by the conservancy that total more than 4,000 acres in the immediate Blount County area.

Published in News


Video documents success of ‘Smokies Hikes for Healing’ endeavor

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cassius Cash was as shaken as the rest of us this past spring and summer when a national reckoning of racism erupted across the country following the homicide of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.

Also like many of us, Cash, who is Black, wondered what he could do to help heal 400-year-old wounds.

He determined we needed to take a walk in the woods and talk about things.

“As an African American man and son of a police officer, I found myself overwhelmed with the challenges we faced in 2020 and the endless news cycle that focused on racial unrest,” Cash said in a press release distributed Feb. 26. 

“My medicine for dealing with this stress was a walk in the woods, and I felt called to share that experience with others. Following a summer hike in the park, I brought together our team to create an opportunity for people to come together for sharing, understanding, and healing.” 

Sixty people directly participated in Cash’s Smokies Hikes for Healing program, Smokies Hikes for Healing, which ran from August to December in the national park. Hundreds of people visited an accompanying website to learn more or acquire information on how to lead their own such hikes.

Cash, who credited the park team who helped him organize the innovative project, correctly determined there was no more appropriate place to honestly discuss racism and the importance of diversity than a hike in one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet.

David Lamfrom, Stephanie Kyriazis, and Marisol Jiménez, facilitated the hikes and created a “brave space for open conversations about diversity and racism,” according to the park release, which also announced the availability of the Smokies Hikes for Healing video produced by Great Smoky Mountains Association. 

Friends of the Smokies and New Belgium Brewing Company also contributed financial support to the effort.

Published in News
GRUNGE: The reason Dollywood doesn't have recycling containers

Dollywood works with the Sevier Solid Waste Composting facility to compost most of the garbage generated by visitors to her Pigeon Forge amusement park.

All waste is subject to a three-day composting process that ultimately separates the inorganic waste, which is then sorted for traditional recycling. The remaining compost is then used by East Tennessee farmers and distributed to the public. 

Another reason to love the Smoky Mountain sweetheart.

Published in Feedbag
WVLT: Public comment sought on fee increases

Bandy Creek, Blue Heron and Alum Ford campground fees would increase costs to between $15 and $140, depending on use. Comments will be accepted through March 22.

Published in Feedbag
Bloomberg: Most traditional fueling stations will adapt and survive as electricity replaces gasoline

Bloomberg Climate Newsletter has an interesting take on what may become of traditional gas stations — and their associated retail services and employees — as fuel sources transition from gasoline to electricity.

There's already a case in point: Norway, where gasoline use has peaked and the transportation economy is moving away from traditional fossil-fuel filling stations.

In short, there will still be demand and purpose for convenience stores in some areas, they'll just be selling a different type of fuel.

Published in Feedbag
NYT: Fossil-fuel defenders falsely blame renewable energy sources for crippling Texas electric grid collapse

Politicians and media personalities spread lies that cited frozen wind turbines as the reason millions lost power across the oil-rich state during an unprecedented intrusion of cold air in mid-February.

In reality, it was a failure of the natural gas supply chain caused by unusually low temperatures and rare snow and ice accumulations. Some turbines did fail because of ice accretion, but wind power provides only a small fraction of Texas electricity, which is distributed by a deregulated network independent from the rest of the national power grid.

Fossil-fuel allies also cited the unprecedented deep freeze and accompanying winter storms across much of the nation as evidence global warming doesn't exist.

In fact, climate change fueled largely by carbon emissions means more devastating climate-linked weather anomalies can be expected, both in winter and summer. In this particular event, Arctic disruptions in the jet stream allowed frigid polar air to descend much farther south than it typically does.

Published in Feedbag
Wednesday, 17 February 2021 15:08

Demand exploding for suburban Knoxville homes

KNOX NEWS: As city swells, huge demand for houses in Knoxville area may cue more urban sprawl

Demand is far outstripping supply in suburban areas of Knoxville such as Farragut, where bidding is fierce and apartment complexes are sprouting to meet housing needs.

According to the article: "While normally there would be 12,000–14,000 houses for sale in Knoxville, right now there’s only about 1,900. The demand is even higher in Farragut."

Don't expect the proliferation of far-flung apartment buildings and subdivisions — and their accompanying public infrastructure needs — to subside anytime soon, at least based on this article.

Published in Feedbag
Wednesday, 17 February 2021 14:18

Three bears rescued from cabin crawl space

The Daily Times: Three little bears rescued from Sevier County crawlspace

Tennessee Wildlife Resource officers responded and chased the adult bear off with an air horn. Three cubs were soon discovered under the house. 

The cubs were placed under the care of Appalachian Bear Rescue in Townsend. The center has adopted and rehabilitated hundreds of bears, most of which are eventually returned to the wild. TWRA said it would monitor whether the adult bear — originally surmised to be a male because of its size — returned to the cabin in search of the cubs.
UPDATE: Wildlife officers were eventually able to reunite the cubs with their mother.
Published in Feedbag
NOAA:  Earth's average temperature was 1.45 degrees (F) warmer than the 20th-century average in the first month of 2021.

Sea ice coverage also declined. The Southern Hemisphere recorded 10 tropical cyclones in January, just one shy of the previous record.

Africa recorded its warmest January ever, and there were a host of other climate anomalies, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Published in Feedbag

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Tina Brouwer, left, and Ranger Clare Dattilo look for birds Jan. 3 at Seven Islands State Birding Park.  Thomas Fraser/Hellbender Press

Dozens join annual avian survey at Seven Islands State Birding Park

Kodak, Tennessee — State park interpretive ranger Clare Dattilo led the group slowly but surely across the muddy winter landscape of Seven Islands State Birding Park, taking note of birdsong and investigating undulating flashes of quick color against the backdrop of green cedars and nude tree branches and grasses flattened by the weight of a recent snow.

Even in the dead of winter, woods and fields are filled with life.

The birding park hosted both trained ornithologists and casual birdwatchers to scope out species to include in the annual Audubon Society Christmas bird count. Dattilo was tallying her numbers with a couple of journalists and a long-time friend from college.

Bluff Mountain loomed to the east. The crest of the Smokies, in commanding view on clear days, was shrouded in freezing fog. Ring-billed seagulls flew high overhead while a couple of Carolina wrens chirped in the underbrush.

Bursts of bluebirds and cardinals yielded glimpses of color. Flycatchers and downy woodpeckers concentrated on their rhythmic work amidst the barren winter branches of the huge oaks, hickories and maples that spread across the ridges of the park and into its small hollows. White-tailed deer browsed silently, undeterred and seemingly and correctly unbothered by the birdwatchers.

“The Christmas Bird Count is important because it's a long-running bird census that helps scientists understand the changes in bird populations over time,” Dattilo explained. “This data alerts scientists to possible issues with the health of populations which leads to conservation efforts.” 

The national count has occurred every year since 1900, when conservationists offered a more peaceful alternative to traditional Christmas Day hunting. It has since been billed the longest-running citizen-scientist project in the country.

Published in Air