The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Thomas Fraser

6-minute video about what to do if you see a black bear

Smokies officials say euthanized bear was overweight and seeking human food

GATLINBURG Great Smoky Mountains National Park wildlife biologists and park rangers responded to Elkmont Campground on Sunday (June 12) after a peculiarly large black bear injured a toddler and her mother sleeping in a tent.

Wildlife biologists captured the responsible bear, and it was euthanized Monday, June 13, according to a news release from the park service.

“The bear weighed approximately 350 pounds, which is not standard for this time of year, suggesting the bear had previous and likely consistent access to non-natural food sources,” said Lisa McInnis, resource management chief.

Published in News

Editorial cartoon depicting Charles Darwin as an ape 1871

WBIR: UT got good bones

KNOXVILLE The University of Tennessee boasts an incredible collection of animal skeletons — from hummingbirds to bison, according to a story from WBIR. It’s among the largest such assemblages in the country. (There are also skeletons at the Body Farm, but that’s a different story).

The skeletons are part of the UT Anthropology Department’s Vertebrate Osteology Collection.

“We have over 12,000 vertebrate specimens in our collections. So that’s 12,000 skeletons of individual animals,” Dr. Anneke Janzen, an assistant professor in UT’s Anthropology Department, told WBIR.

The collection includes skulls and skeletons ranging in size from small bats to bison. It also includes skulls of dolphins, ostriches and alligators.

“Beyond just being able to identify bones and identify different species based on tiny bone fragments, I think students have a much greater appreciation for, you know, the diversity of animal life out there and much greater appreciation for animals in our backyards as well,” Janzen told WBIR.

The collection is available for analysis by professional researchers, and parts can be seen by the public during the annual Darwin Day at the university. 

Published in Feedbag

KNOXVILLE Knox County and the Water Quality Forum will host the ​fifth-annual Cheers to Clean Water Celebration and Clean-Up on Saturday (June 11) at Suttree Landing Park across the river from downtown.

The event, which includes a water race for kayaks and paddle boarders, kicks off at 11:30 a.m. and registration is open until 10:30 a.m. the day of the event. ​Following the race there will be a celebration that includes local vendors and booths, kids’ activities, kayaks for rental, blue grass music, food trucks, rain barrels, and prizes. The celebration and cleanup are free and open to the public. The race costs $15. Local breweries ​have donated beer for purchase.

“This event is a fun way to promote the importance of keeping our rivers and streams clean,” said Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs.

For a full list of prices and to register for the event click here.

The Water Quality Forum is a coalition of diverse partners including local governments, non-profits, utility companies and businesses that work together to keep East Tennessee waters clean. The Knox County stormwater office is working with the forum to host the event.

-Knox County government

Advance Knox State of the Cunty

KNOXVILLE The Advance Knox State of the County Report outlining the conditions and trends that are currently impacting the lives, work, and travel of Knox County residents has been completed and is available on the project website.

The report provides a detailed overview of the county’s geography, demographics, economic well being, and infrastructure. The result is a thorough summary of population, land utilization, development potential, economic growth, employment, housing, and infrastructure data.

“This report is a baseline, a starting point, the first step in creating a new comprehensive land use and transportation plan for Knox County,” said Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs. “It shows us where we are and will help us determine the most responsible ways to manage future development and infrastructure.”

Now that this report is complete, the project team is working on scenario planning by analyzing data to help illustrate possible strategies for guiding the county’s future growth. This work will be presented at public meetings in the fall.

Advance Knox is a unique opportunity to align land use and transportation goals and create a fiscally responsible blueprint to help guide decisions about where and how future growth and infrastructure investments will occur.

-Knox County Government

Published in Feedbag

CADES COVE Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Thursday plans to officially reopen Parson Branch Road, first cut through the ridges around Cades Cove 180 years ago.

The narrow, 8-mile one-way mountain road out of Cades Cove to U.S. 129 has been closed since 2016 following washouts that were compounded by a steady diet of collapsing diseased and dead hemlocks. A ceremony is set for Thursday morning at the beginning of the road in Caves Cove.

The road was closed because of the tree hazards and damage to the road surface. The hemlocks succumbed to the hemlock woolly adelgid, an exotic insect that has wreaked havoc on hemlock stands and their accompanying ecosystems.

The road passes several trailheads, and is used by emergency vehicles as needed. The park initially identified some 1,700 trees that posed a hazard to the adjacent roadway, but that number has naturally declined by about half over the past six years.

Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park provided $100,000 for the hazard-mitigation project. That was matched with $50,000 from the federal government.

Attendees of Thursday’s event will include former Cades Cove resident Larry Sparks, whose great-great-grandfather, Russell Gregory, was assigned to oversee construction of Parson Branch Road in 1838, according to the park service.

Published in Earth

Opposition still stands against Dry Hollow housing proposal on Knox commish agenda

KNOXVILLE Compass reported that Knox County Commission voted 8-3 Monday night to approve a new housing development in South Knox County, “despite fierce opposition from surrounding residents.

“Local residents haven’t stopped a development, but they forced some changes,” Compass reported.

“But the conditions imposed by Commission limit the subdivision in the Dry Hollow area to 180 homes on the flattest, most developable part of the property — down from 255 that the Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commission had approved.”

Read the entire Compass story here.

Previously:

The Knox County Commission plans to consider the controversial Dry Hollow rezoning proposal in far South Knox County at 7 p.m. tonight (Monday, May 23)  in the Main Assembly Room of the City-County Building at 400 Main St.

Knox County Commission was originally set to decide Jan. 24 about a controversial South Knox County rezoning that would allow for the construction of 255 homes on previously agricultural land. The decision on both Thunder Mountain Properties LLC requests were twice deferred to a later meeting.

Opponents cite the need to preserve the vanishing farms and natural areas of Knox County and say inadequate civic infrastructure exists in the area.

Hellbender Press has reported extensively on the Dry Hollow suburban housing project planned in a rural area near the border with Sevier County.

If detractors or supporters cannot make it to the meeting they can call and/or write their neighborhood’s representative and the two at-large commissioners, Larsen Jay and Justin Biggs. Contact information is on the Commissioners page.

If you are uncertain about your area’s representative on the County Commission, it’s easy to look up:
— go to KGIS maps
— enter your home address
— tap the search button
— tap on the correct Search Result in the column at left
— tap the red “i" button in the tool bar above the map to activate the identification tool
— tap your building on the map
— tap the rightmost little icon at the bottom right corner of the Parcel Info pop-up label that shows up
— scroll to the bottom of the results column at left to see who’s supposed to represent you on the County Commission
— tapping a name will get you to that commissioner’s personal page.

Published in News
How and why did things go wrong at the EMWMFImage from a 2018 memorandum authored by experts including former Department of Energy employees in Oak Ridge. EMWMF is the present landfill that has a history of failures and is reaching capacity. Ecologists say, after a decade DOE still is not adequately addressing waste acceptance criteria and feasible alternatives.

 

Public can comment in person Tuesday night in Oak Ridge on proposed DOE waste dump

OAK RIDGE The Southern Environmental Law Center blistered the Department of Energy in a letter ahead of a May 17 hearing on construction of a toxic-waste landfill that opponents said poses contamination threats to portions of the Clinch River watershed and downstream TVA reservoirs.

The hearing is set for 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, May 17 at the Pollard Technology Conference Center, 210 Badger Ave. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. will be accepted through June 7.

The Department of Energy wants to bury contaminated debris from demolition of Manhattan Project-era complexes and associated legacy toxins from the Oak Ridge Reservation. The drawn-out debate about how best to safely store the materials now focuses on the transparency of the decision process and the health of the Bear Creek watershed and downstream pollution threats to the Clinch River. 

KNOXVILLE Hellbender Press took home two awards from the 2021 Golden Press Card contest sponsored by the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists.

Hellbender Press was recognized with two first-place awards for East Tennessee digital journalism: The Hal DeSelm Papers and Requiem for the Lord God Bird

The Hal DeSelm story chronicled his decades-long effort to document terrestrial biomes in all but one Tennessee county, and subsequent work by the University of Tennessee to craft his datasets into an accessible database.

The other award was for reporting on the extinction of the ivory-billed woodpecker relying heavily on the work of Ijams Nature Center naturalist Stephen Lyn Bales.

Judging was conducted by the SPJ chapter in Cincinnati.

“We are incredibly grateful to our editorial board, readers and others who helped with this great win,” said Hellbender Press editor Thomas Fraser. “Our stories are only as good as the sources.”

Published in Feedbag

TOWNSEND Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers responded to a report of a body in Little River about a mile west of Metcalf Bottoms at 1:30 p.m. May 9. Rangers and Gatlinburg EMS/Fire discovered the body of Charles Queen, age 72 of Bybee, Tennessee, partially submerged in the middle of the river.

A technical swift water rescue team recovered the body, which was released to the Sevier County Medical Examiner’s office. A vehicle registered to Queen was found in a pullout 600 feet upriver along a steep embankment. 

No witnesses were immediately found; there are no signs of foul play, according to the park service, but officials plan an autopsy.

Published in Feedbag

1650898862011Proposed electric-vehicle infrastructure corridors in Tennessee. TDOT

Inside of Knoxville: State seeks input on charging stations, EV corridors

The Tennessee Department of Transportation’s traveling and electrifying road show made an appearance in Knoxville this week. The intent of the meeting, as others scheduled around the state, was to collect public feedback on proposed charging station networks and other components of EV infrastructure.

Tennessee will receive a significant chunk of change toward developing its own share of National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure, provided as part of the infrastructure bill passed by Congress last year. The state will receive $88 million over five years, and has begun drafting some options.

“The initial push nationally is for travel corridors to have charging stations at least every fifty miles,” according to Knoxville blogger Alan Sims. “They must have at least four chargers and they must be within one mile of the travel corridor. Most travel corridors are identified as Interstates, though Tennessee, for example, has also included U.S. Highway 64. Once those corridors are built out, any remaining funds may be directed elsewhere. The cost of each station is approximately $1 million, which is largely infrastructure cost.”

Clean-air and EV advocates are encouraging public input. Here’s an action alert from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy:

“The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) are currently seeking public feedback to inform the state’s National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program Plan.

“The NEVI program represents a $5 billion investment from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to provide a network of 500,000 ultra-fast EV charging stations along the nation’s travel corridors to help make cross-country electric travel accessible to all Americans. The charging stations will be along designated Alternative Fuel Corridors designated by the Federal Highway Administration.”

Tennessee must develop and submit an EV infrastructure deployment plan by Aug. 1 to receive the federal funds.

SACE encourages citizens to take this survey to express preferences for EV infrastructure development.

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