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den.wordpress.com). The branches of the hemlock provide wildlife and humans a dry spot to rest under as the branches are flexible and the feather like needles allow snow to sit, so branches will bow but not break under the weight of snow. The bark has been used to tan leather due to its high tannin content, and if you’ve ever stood under one and gazed upward at its impres- sive height and unique spindly branches, you know how special this tree is when encountered in the forest. Thankfully, there is hope for this gor-


geous species of tree (both Eastern and Carolina). Since 2017, the Hemlock Res- toration Initiative based in Western North Carolina has aggressively been working to save them from total decimation. Margot Wallston, Director of HRI/Save the Hem- locks, is spearheading the movement in conjunction with the North Carolina Re- sources Commission, Mountain True and the Mountain True Green Riverkeeper, American Whitewater, Dept. of Agricul- ture, NC Forest Service, North Carolina State Parks, AmeriCorps HRI Stewardship, and several paddling clubs which are par- ticipants with the Paddlers Hemlock Res- toration Initiative (P.H.H.A.T.). This pad- dlers Initiative has been a crucial aspect of treating more trees especially the larger


ones near the river banks of the Green River in Saluda, NC. These trees are in part on the Green River Gamelands and many of them are in extremely inaccessible areas by foot, but more accessible by highly skilled kayakers who maneuver in some stretches, through Class V+ rapids in order to reach these giants of the forests. The person behind the strategic and


“game changer” idea to involve paddlers came from Green River area local Alex Harvey who himself had hemlocks on his property and wanted to find out how to save them. He reached out to the HRI and the Green Riverkeeper and basically said “hey, we can get into the deepest parts of the gorge by boating in, train us paddlers to treat them hemlocks and let’s do this!” Since that conversation, paddlers have helped treat over 2,098 hemlocks over 17 volunteer kayaking days to date, so with the paddling in based treatment added to land based treatment, over 8,100 trees have been treated in the Green River area! There have been 142 paddling volunteers. Paddling into the Green River gorge especially the world famous “narrows” is no small feat. These paddlers have been paddling many years, they are highly skilled and willing to take huge risks should they make a mistake and anything goes


wrong. There are ways to limit their risks while in the gorge narrows section (some of the higher risk rapids may be portaged or walked around on treatment days to save energy and minimize the chances of a serious incident, after all, these paddlers are passionate about saving the beautiful hemlocks.) There are other reasons also, specifically for kayakers, if trees are dying and falling into the rivers this can cause catastrophic blockages (called strainers), so it’s a win win for everyone for every tree near the river bank to be saved. Once the trees are treated with a


chemical pesticide (great care and proto- cols are in place to avoid any contamina- tion of the water), the trees are then pro- tected for 5-10 years. The HRI has a “double punch” method of treating hem- locks, the Lari beetle has been introduced as a “new natural predator” of the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid so that when the chemical treatment finally wears off, the natural predator has established itself and is ready to eat the adelgids and help the hemlocks stay healthy.


According to the U.S. Forest Service


the hemlock is the largest, most common tree in our NC mountains, sometimes re- ferred to the “redwood of the East”. Since the infestation, there have been millions of


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