Jennifer Adams

Is there a secret scientist lurking inside of you?   Would you like to be involved in monitoring the fire damage and discovering what plants spring forth in the fire’s wake? WACHNG has the program for you! In March, a citizen science program will be launched in the Hickory Nut Gorge to monitor non-native invasive plant species in the areas burned during the Party Rock Wildfire in November. Non-native invasive plants are species growing outside of their native ranges that cause damage to the environment, human health, and the economy. The Hickory Nut Gorge’s tourism economy relies on the natural scenic beauty of the area and outdoor recreation activities. Managing non-native invasive plants is crucial, and monitoring is the first step. The citizen science program will provide the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors while also contributing to preserving the natural environment of the area. Citizen scientists will observe and report non-native invasive species sightings on their own properties, on public trails and parks, and in monitoring plots that WAC-HNG set up this winter. We need your assistance! Citizen scientists will help WAC-HNG monitor a larger area than they had previously been able to cover, and track how non-native invasive plants respond to the wildfire.

On January 31st, a panel of three environmental experts presented information on the environmental effects of the Party Rock Fire. The forum was hosted by The Weed Action Coalition of the Hickory Nut Gorge (WAC-HNG) and Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. Clint Calhoun with the Town of Lake Lure, Marshall Ellis with North Carolina State Parks, and Michael Cheek with the North Carolina Forest Service answered questions about wildfires, the environment, and what the community can do in the wake of the fire. The panel was the first of a four-part seminar series about how the Party Rock Fire will affect the environment. The February 22nd topic was the natural communities of the Hickory Nut Gorge and how the fire will affect them. Future panel topics will include non-native invasive species and the importance of native landscaping. The seminar series will introduce important topics to engage the community in environmental conservation issues in support of WAC-HNG’s aim to connect people to the nature on their properties and in their communities.

As Marshall Ellis stated at the January 31st panel, “One of the things we’ve found through hard luck in the fire business is that these kinds of fires, while they are universally positive for native species, they’re also universally positive for non-native species. The non-natives love a disturbance. As a community, this is an opportunity for everybody in the room and everybody around here to get involved, because we’ve fought this demon before, and it’s winnable, but it’s hard.” Stay tuned!