Before and After: The Georgia Appalachian Trail Club’s section is cleared following Hurricane Irma.
Before and After: David Greene, Wilderness Ranger with ATC’s partner, the Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards.
There are 486,000 acres of federally designated wilderness in the state of Georgia. We work in 116,665 acres of wilderness in 10 areas that are managed by the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. Those areas include the Cohutta, Rich Mountain, Blood Mountain, Raven Cliffs, Mark Trail, Brasstown, Tray Mountain and parts of Ellicott Rock, Big Frog and Southern Nantahala Wildernesses.
We began working in Georgia on the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in 2011 with a wilderness ranger based in the Cohutta Wilderness. Since 2011, our work in Georgia has expanded to include more wilderness ranger and specialist work, field crews, trainings, volunteer work and disaster response.
We’ve had additional wilderness rangers stationed across the forest from 2012-2017 educating visitors, collecting field data, working on the Forest Service’s Wilderness Stewardship Performance program, and sharing wilderness education at community events including Hemlock Festival. Since 2018, we’ve had a nearly continuous Wilderness Specialist stationed on forest. This person has been conducting wilderness character monitoring work in multiple wildernesses, collecting recreation and biological data on-the-ground, and helping the Forest Service develop management plans for these areas.
Our field crew has worked annually in multiple wildernesses since 2012. These projects have included major trail relocations in the Cohutta Wilderness, annual vegetation and blowdown removal in multiple wildernesses, invasive species removal in the Cohutta, and major trail rehabilitation projects in multiple wildernesses.
We’ve also worked with our partners at ATC and the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club to increase capacity for wilderness stewardship by providing crosscut certifications to the club. The Georgia AT Club plays a critical role in maintaining the 76 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. Over 50 miles of the AT runs through 5 wilderness areas, making this training important for the club. In addition to that work, we’ve worked with multiple organizations including the Benton MacKaye Trail Association and Team Conasauga during volunteer stewardship events in Cohutta Wilderness.
Finally, we’ve participated in multiple disaster response and mitigation efforts – for example, in 2017, we helped the Forest Service, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the GATC with disaster response efforts in wildernesses on the Appalachian Trail after Hurricane Irma. Learn more here. In addition, we’ve sent multiple crews into the Cohutta Wilderness since 2016, when most of the wilderness burned during the drought that the southeast experienced. We’ll continue to provide prompt support for these efforts into future, ensuring that trails are reopened in a safe, timely manner that preserves wilderness character