Project Name: Hammond Gap Restoration
Location: Chattahoochee National Forest, GA
Number of Trees: 21,000
The West Coast has the Rockies and the Sierras. The East Coast has the Appalachians. But unlike the West’s mountains which are distinct ranges, the Appalachians actually refer to a network of individual mountain ranges, including the famous Great Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Blue Ridge Mountains run along the Appalachians’ eastern edge, from Pennsylvania into Georgia. Similar to the Smokies, whose name came from the natural fog that hangs over the mountain range, the Blue Ridge’s name is based on its appearance. From a distance, the mountains appear blue. What causes this blue appearance, though, is surprising: It’s trees.
According to A Naturalist's Blue Ridge Parkway by David Catlin, 'It can be legitimately claimed that trees put the ‘blue’ in Blue Ridge, for hydrocarbons released into the atmosphere by the forest contribute to the characteristic haze on these mountains and to their distinctive color.' So without their forests, the Blue Ridge Mountains wouldn’t be so blue. However, over the last few hundred years, the trees causing the blue have drastically changed.
In the 1600s, tens of millions of acres of America’s southeast forests were comprised of longleaf pine, including mountain longleaf pine along the mountain ridges. Now, longleaf pine composes a meager 2.5 million acres and mountain longleaf even less — approximately 50,000 acres. One of the few remaining places with mountain longleaf pine is Georgia’s Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
To help restore the area’s longleaf pine, American Forests is partnering with the National Wild Turkey Federation to plant more than 21,000 trees in Chattahoochee. Beyond helping to restore longleaf to its native range, the project will provide new habitat for wildlife like the prairie warbler, pine warbler, ovenbird, Northern bobwhite quail, wild turkey, white-tailed deer and black bear.
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