WNC Communities announced three awards totaling $75,000 to help to restore North Carolina’s hemlock trees to long-term health. The awards program is a part of the new Hemlock Restoration Initiative, a cooperative effort launched by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and the NCDA&CS through a grant to WNC Communities.
Hemlocks across Western North Carolina are being decimated by the hemlock woolly adelgid, an insect that sucks the sap of young twigs, which leads to tree death. Dead hemlocks can negatively affect nesting songbirds, trout populations, plant nurseries and landscapers, homeowners and tourism. The goal of the Hemlock Restoration Initiative is to work with and through current restoration initiatives to ensure that Eastern and Carolina hemlocks can resist the deadly hemlock woolly adelgid and survive to maturity on North Carolina’s public and private lands by 2025.
An advisory committee recommended three projects for funding. Together, these projects advance three complementary treatment and restoration methods: chemical treatment to stabilize hemlock trees until more lasting solutions are available, predator beetles to provide long-term adelgid control, and the search for native resistance or tolerance. The recipients are:
- Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, to expand chemical treatment of hemlock stands along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina;
- Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and Development Council, to train community groups and land trusts to release predator beetles;
- Southwestern N.C. Resource Conservation and Development Council, to create a facility to screen hemlocks for adelgid resistance or tolerance.
The three projects provide opportunities for hemlock restoration across all 17 Western North Carolina counties eligible for the award funds, and each project will also include efforts to educate the general public on how they can help support these restoration efforts.
These projects will each receive $25,000 in award funds, thanks to $50,000 allocated from the NCDA&CS Hemlock Restoration Initiative grant to WNC Communities, and $25,000 donated to WNC Communities by Brad Stanback, a Haywood County landowner and member of the advisory committee.
“We are very grateful to Commissioner Troxler, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, and Mr. Stanback for making these funds available,” said Linda Lamp, executive director of WNC Communities. “We also sincerely appreciate the recipients, the other award applicants, the rest of the advisory committee, and countless other individuals, groups, and agencies who are offering help and hope for restoring our hemlocks to long-term health.”
“Hemlocks are important to fish, wildlife, homeowners, businesses and tourism,” Troxler said. “It’s going to take a team effort to protect and restore these trees, and we’re happy to support the search for potential solutions.”
The Hemlock Restoration Initiative Advisory Committee includes representatives of the U.S. Forest Service, N.C. Forest Service, NCDA&CS, the Alliance for Saving Threatened Forests, WNC Communities, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership. Each agency and group has provided considerable time and financial support for hemlock restoration activities throughout Western North Carolina.
-Information from WNC Communities