Posts from the ‘News’ category

Outer Banks Photography Workshop, March 2020

Sunset in motion at Cape Point, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC

I’m excited to announce that I will be co-leading for Joseph Rossbach Photography’s “Outer Banks Coastal Photography Workshop”, March 2020. Come join us!

The Outer Banks Photography Workshop
March 6-8, 2020 – $1,150.00
Buxton, NC

When viewed on a satellite map the Outer Banks stretch like ribbons of sand out into the Atlantic and form a natural barrier to the mainland of North Carolina from the wild and at times violent Atlantic Ocean. The outer Banks is home to five uniquely beautiful lighthouses standing testament to its often violent past that have shipwrecked many a vessel now lying below the unrelenting waves of the Atlantic. In addition to the lighthouses, piers and small fishing harbors of the Outer Banks, we will also be photographing pristine dunes, sandy beaches, crashing waves, waterfowl and still marshes that reflect the heavens above.

Join professional landscape photographers Joseph Rossbach and Jerry Greer for a weekend’s worth of exploration, learning discovery and inspiration on the Outer Banks in March of 2020 and come home with new understanding into the art and craft of nature photography, but also with amazing images from this unique coastal environment.

For more information & to register – Outer Banks Coastal Photography Workshop

Sunset surf and sea star, Cape Point

Jerry Greer Photography featured on the cover and inside – June 2012 Issue of WNC Magazine

I just received my advance copies of the June issue of WNC Magazine and I had a wonderful surprise! I was aware that they had chosen to use 5 of my photographs for a photo essay titled Calm of the Wild but I had no idea that they were going to use an image on the cover as well! It’s great to be back on the cover and on the inside pages of such a beautiful Magazine (and they did a great job with the images). Here’s the cover and the full bleed spreads. All of the inside images were printed  as  “full-bleed double-truck”, or  two page, full-bleed spreads. If you get a chance stop by any book retailer and pick up a copy!

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Wetlands Destruction at Laurel Run Park

On Thursday morning I received an email from a concerned citizen from Kingsport, Tennessee, informing me of an article the Kingsport Times News had ran that day. Its headline, Hawkins County intends to fill in a swampy section of Laurel Run Park near the entrance gate at the far west end of the park (written by Jeff Bobo),  got my attention and I wanted to know what exactly was going down in Hawkins County.  I immediately called the news room and asked if someone could email me the article so that I could better assess the situation. Within an hour I received the message with the attached article.

© Jerry D Greer / EnviroStock Media

In the article, Alderman Joe McLain, a member of the Hawkins County Commission who serves on the Parks Committee, explained to the Board of Mayor and Alderman Monday that the county intends to fill in a swampy section of Laurel Run Park near the entrance gate at the far west end of the park. Laurel Run Park is located along the south bank of the Holston River just outside the Church Hill city limits. “It gets worse every year, and if it gets too bad they will eventually declare it a (protected) wetland and you can’t ever do anything with it,” McLain said. “Right now the state has said we can fill it in with dirt. We have to leave the drains in it, but we can fill it in with dirt and reclaim that property basically because right now you can’t even mow it.” After reading the entire piece I felt that I needed to make a call to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). While waiting on a call back I did a little research. Here’s Tennessee’s definition and delineation of wetlands.

Wetlands definitions and delineation

The Tennessee Water Quality Control Act of 1977 defines “waters of the state” as:  any and all water, public or private, on or beneath the surface of the ground, which are contained within, flow through, or border upon Tennessee or any portion thereof except those bodies of water confined to and retained within the limits of private property in single ownership which do not combine or effect a junction with natural surface or underground waters. Wetlands are defined in the TDEC rules as “those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas.”Tennessee relies on the delineation criteria in the Corps’ 1987 Wetland Delineation Manual.

Wetland related statutes and regulations

The Tennessee Water Quality Control Act of 1977 and the corresponding Aquatic Resources Alteration Rule establish the state’s Aquatic Resources Alteration Permit (ARAP) program that regulates wetlands and wetland activities apart from those covered by individual §404 permits. Physical alterations to waters of the state that require either an ARAP or a §401 water quality certification include: dredging, excavation, channel widening, or straightening; bank sloping; stabilization; channel relocation; water diversions or withdrawals; dams, weirs, dykes, levees or other similar structures; flooding, excavating, draining and/or filling a wetland; road and utility crossings; and structural fill.

§401 certification program

Tennessee uses §401 certification to protect wetlands by approving, conditioning, or denying federal §404 permits. In 2000, rules for implementation of the state’s §401 certification and the ARAP programs were formally adopted. The rules specifically define wetlands as a category of waters of the state and establish a “no net loss of water resource value” standard for permitting. Section 401 certification is required for any §404 permit approved by the Corps. However, if the Corps issues a Nationwide Permit (NWP) for a project, or doesn’t have jurisdiction over the impacted wetland, then the applicant must obtain a state ARAP permit. TDEC issues approximately 400 to 500 wetland permits per year, split about equally between ARAPs and §401 certification. These qualitative factors are described in TDEC’s Aquatic Resource Alteration Rules in relation to assessing water resource values and in the Tennessee Antidegradation Standard.

TDEC’s wetland assessment methodology is still evolving. The division is incorporating Tennessee’s antidegredation rules and tier evaluations into the permit assessment process. TDEC reviews all applications to assess the proposed impacts and determine if a tier assessment must be conducted. The antidegradation guidelines, which apply to all waters of the state, are more stringent for impacts to Tier 2 and 3 wetlands than those for Tier 1 wetlands. A field review is conducted for projects impacting all three tiers of wetlands; these are coordinated with TWRA, the Corps, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and occasionally the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The department also has an EPA grant to develop a new assessment methodology for permitting purposes. TWRA reviews public notices for §401 certification and ARAP permits to ensure that the proposed impacts and mitigation comply with the Basic Minimum Compensatory Mitigation Requirements developed by TDEC, TWRA, EPA, Corps, and FWS. TWRA also ensures that permits follow the mitigation ratios laid out in the TDEC mitigation rules.

© Jerry D Greer / EnviroStock Media

Around 5:30 pm, the call came in from the TDEC field officer. I explained the situation and reviewed the article, and then emailed the entire article to the office so she could read it in its entirety. While on the call, she looked up Laurel Run Park in the TDEC database and found a 2009 permit issued for work on the east side of the Park, it was to help with water removal during flooding. It didn’t include any alteration to the documented wetlands. She also stated that they had not applied for any new permits for the wetland fill project that was mentioned in the article. Before we ended the call, I let the officer know that I would be visiting the Park the next morning to investigate and photograph the possible dredging of part of the protected wetlands.

Friday morning, I arrived at Laurel Run Park around 9am and found that someone had replaced the tile for the road that crossed the wetland and they had, in fact, started to dredge the west end of the wetland. I photographed the work that had been done, made a few notes, and decided that I had enough to make a report to the field officer. But before I could leave, the field officer pulled onto the road where I was parked. It was a great meeting, I was able to review the TDEC data and maps showing exactly where the documented wetlands are located, and we were able to confirm that the dredging was exactly where we suspected, right down the middle of the protected wetlands, on the west side of the property. At that moment, she confirmed that there were violations and that she was going to talk with the Park manager. I took a few more photos and made my way back to my office in Johnson City.

Late Friday evening, I received a followup email from the field officer detailing her meeting with the Park officials and how the violation would be handled.  She explained that the individual who had dredged the wetland and replaced the tile now understands that no one can place any fill material in the protected wetlands and how he would be restoring the wetlands with the material that had been removed while dredging.

I’m very happy to announce that currently, all is well and the Laurel Run Park wetlands are safe. We will be monitoring the situation by continued visits and also checking with TDEC to make certain that no new permits have been applied for. I am certain that this is not the end of the threat and at some point the county will apply for the ARAP permits. At that point we will do whatever it takes to insure that any permits to fill the wetlands be denied. So stay tuned!

The Blue Ridge Ancient and Majestic – Awarded the 2011 Reed Environmental Writing Award

On March 19, 2011, I traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia were Charles Maynard, the essayist for The Blue Ridge – Ancient and Majestic, was awarded the prestigious Phillip D. Reed Memorial Award for Outstanding Writing on the Southern Environment . It was an honor to be a part of this ceremony and to support Charles in this wondrous event for him and our book. Take a moment and read about the Reed Environmental Writers Award and watch the video that I produced of his presentation. Also, I would like to thank the Southern Environmental Law Center for all that they do to ensure the protection of the region that Charles and I both call “home”.

Information from the Southern Environmental Law Center:

In the long, proud tradition of southern literature, writers have often drawn on the region’s unique natural heritage for inspiration and insight – from the haunting cypress swamps of Georgia, to the tall mountains of western North Carolina, to the rolling fields of the Virginia piedmont. As the South grows and changes, southern writers are increasingly exploring the relationship between nature and man. SELC’s Reed Writing Award honors these story tellers who capture in words our landscapes and traditions in transition.

© Jerry Greer Photography / Mountain Trail Press

In the Book category, Charles W. Maynard won for The Blue Ridge Ancient and Majestic: A Celebration of the World’s Oldest Mountains, published by Mountain Trail Press. An ordained United Methodist minister, native Tennessean, storyteller, outdoorsman and activist, Maynard chronicles the life of the Blue Ridge Mountains, from geologic time up to present-day culture, literature and music with a knowing and loving touch.

About the Reed Award

SELC’s annual Reed Writing Award has two categories: Book, for non-fiction books (not self-published), and Journalism, for newspaper, magazine and online articles. Entries must be at least 3,000 words, published in the previous calendar year, and pertain to the environment in at least one of the six states in SELC’s region (Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia). Prizes of $1,000 are awarded to the winner in each category.  Our panel of judges include some of the top environmental writers, journalists and activists of our time, including Lee Smith, Bill McKibben, Nikki Giovanni, Janisse Ray, Jim Detjen and Don Webster.

 

Mission of the Award

SELC created the Phillip D. Reed Memorial Award for Outstanding Writing on the Southern Environment in 1994. Its purpose is to enhance public awareness of the value, and the vulnerability, of the South’s natural heritage. The award serves to recognize and encourage writers who most effectively tell the stories about the South’s environment. The award is named for SELC founding trustee Phil Reed, a talented attorney and committed environmental advocate who deeply believed in the power of writing to change hearts and minds.

Back on the Cover!

It’s been a few years since one of my photographs have been printed on the pages of WNC Magazine. For the first two years of their existence, as a new magazine release, my photographs were a regular fixture. Then the economy took a dive and the funding to pay for beautiful images from working photographers dried up. I still have the email sent to me explaining the reduction in funding and the elimination of the “Vistas” series. It was just another hit on a long list of photo budgets for working photographers trying to pay the bills and feed the family. Later that year I received an email that requested an image but they could only offer a credit due to the, still in effect, photo budget freeze. And as I always do, I refuse to allow the use of my images without proper payment. Credits just do not pay the bills and I’ve yet to find a bank that would accept those photo credits.

I commend the good people at WNC Magazine for deciding that it is important to offer payment to working photographers for the use of their images,  it shows that they truly care about those full-time photographers that strive to offer beautiful photographs. I’m so glad and encouraged to be working with WNC Magazine again. So, for all that are subscribers and for those in the region that buy off the shelf, check out the July 2011 issue, you’ll see my “Roan Highlands” photograph on the cover. Here’s a quick shot of my issue that I received in the mail today.

WNC Magazine_July 2011_Cover

The Southern Appalachian Beech Gap – Critically Imperiled!

At high elevations pure stands of American beech trees are know as beech gaps. Beech bark disease, a complex made up of the beech scale insect cryptococcus fagisuga and a closely associated fungus Nectria coccinea var. faginata poses a serious threat to this community. Most all of the beech gap communities in and around the Great Smokies have succumbed to the beech bark disease or a combination of the disease, pests and pollution.  This trend is being felt throughout the southern Appalachians, with the possible extinction of this forest community in the next few years. The beech gap community is assigned a Global Conservation Status Rank of G1. A G1 ranking translates to – Critically Imperiled—At very high risk of extinction due to extreme rarity (often 5 or fewer populations), very steep declines, or other factors.

During my Roan Highlands workshop this past weekend I found that one of my favorite locations to spend time studying and photographing in is sick, very sick. It looks to be a really tragic end to another huge beech gap. I’ve thought that this location was OK in terms of health with good leaf coverage and little tree kill. This year is drastically different. It looks like 70% to 80% of the beech trees have not leafed out and this is not good. It all happened in one years time. Not sure until the botanists get in to the location and study the trees. The way I see it is this, the trees will not survive if they do not leaf out and this was not a gradual die-off. It is real sad to see one of the largest beech gaps remaining in the southern Appalachians succumb to the disease. Over the next couple of years we will see this forest community make a dramatic shift and those beautiful flowing grasses will eventually die off as well. This was a very sad day for me and for those that have felt the same connection to such a unique ecosystem. I’ll be posting more images from this location over the coming months. My intent is to personally document, in stills and in motion, its transition, and to bring botanists, biologists, photographers and other scientists to this location as well. Maybe, just maybe, there is a slim chance that there could be a recovery but the cards are stacked against this notion.

At least I did have the chance to spend the past few years working and bringing friends and colleagues into this wondrous location. And I can say for certain, every person that witnessed this community first-hand came home with a strong connection with this unique and beautiful place.
Canon EOS 5DmkII w/ TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II

Fern in summer beech gap, Roan Highlands, TN & NC

North Carolina Coastal Landscapes and Wildlife Workshop – a great success!

This workshop started off with a loud BANG (or series of goose calls)! Richard, me, our participants, and about 200,000 snow geese, it was a truly humbling experience.

Here’s a few still images from the scouting days before the workshop. I’ll make another post with images taken during the workshop in a few days. Also, stop by http://www.mountaintrailphoto.com and see other images taken by me and co-instructor Richard Bernabe.

Richard and I will be offering this workshop again next year, so stay tuned! We will be posting the dates very soon!

Tundra swans in flight, Pungo Unit, Pocosin Lakes NWF, NC

Sunset and tundra swans on Pungo Lake, Pocosin Lakes NWR, NC

Tundra swans in flight, Pungo Unit, Pocosin Lakes NWR, NC

Snow geese taking flight, Pungo Unit, Pocosin Lakes NWR, NC

Snow geese taking flight, Pungo Unit, Pocosin Lakes NWR, NC

Snow geese taking flight, Pungo Unit, Pocosin Lakes NWR, NC

Roan Massif and the Race to Preserve it

 

Great Pyrenees tending to the flock, Baa-tany Goat Program, Roan Highlands 

The Roan Massif, which includes the longest continuous stretch of high-mountain grassy balds in the Southern Appalachians, sits along the borders of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina. Also Roan Massif contains in one of the most dense stands of coniferous forests in the southern Appalachians, and most notably, the world’s largest natural rhododendron garden. The combination of geology, topography and climate results in one of the most diverse displays of plant and animal species in the entire Southern Appalachian range. The Roan Massif is home to a host of threatened and endangered plants like the beautiful Gray’s lily, Roan Mountain bluet and spreading avens. Many other rare species, from the pygmy salamander, spruce-fir moss spider, and the northern saw-whet owl, add to its natural abundance. The Roan Massif is globally-rare, critically imperiled plant communities with a global rank of G1, the rarest ranking available. 

Angora wether, a castrated male sheep, Baa-tany Goat Program, restoring the Roan's western grassy bald corridors, Roan Highlands                             

 Over the past 100+ years the forests have been encroaching on the open grassy balds. Threatening to erase these wonderful sky islands from their very existence. Botanists like Jamey Donaldson, Project Coordinator and research botanist, believe that the decline of the balds is due to changes in soil and climate and the loss of large herbivores, all of these factors make them more welcoming to the woody plant incursions such as the main target, the Canada blackberry. Estimates suggest that more than 75% of Roan’s Grassy Balds have disappeared in less than 100 years with most of the loss occurring in the last 50 years.  

The Baa-tany Goat Project uses Angora goats as a surrogate for the absent herbivores and also offers the scientific study of the program. This experimental program is operating under a special use permit and volunteer agreement with the USDA Forest Service. Goats were chosen because they prefer to eat woody plants rather than the grasses. The goats are restoring a natural process that has been absent on the balds for decades. 

Angoras are a fiber goat (source of mohair) rather than a meat or dairy goat. More than half of the goats were donated by a northern Virginia woman who preferred giving her friends a retirement plan rather than sending them to market and ultimately being slaughter. Todd Eastin, a partner in this project, donated the remaining goats. All the goats that went up on the balds are guaranteed a retirement plan and will be taken care of for the rest of their lives. 

The success of this programs relies on good research and the funding to sustain the welfare of the main subjects, the Angoras. Oh, and we don’t want to forget the wonderful caretakers and security guards of the goats, brothers Ian and Baxter, the resident Great Pyrenees. Please feel free to visit the Angoras, Ian and Baxter, Todd and Jamey. Also, please visit www.friendsofroanmtn.org and adopt one or even more of the Angoras. Even though the program has sponsors and received grants it is not enough to ensure that the program will continue. The Baa-tany Goat Program needs your help so please visit the Friends of Roan website, download and fill out the adoption form, write a check and send it in. Lets insure the continuation of this great program to restore and maintain the wonderful Roan balds for generations to come.

 Angora kid on the job, Baa-tany Goat Program, restoring the Roan's western grassy bald corridors, Roan Highlands

You’re not going to believe this! TVA has done it (COAL SLUDGE RELEASE) for the third time in a month! What the HELL is their problem!!

This is a release sent to me by my friend Chris Joyell of Wild South:


Tennessee: State cites TVA for Ocoee sludge release at Olympic site

By: Ron Clayton
(Contact)

By: Pam Sohn
(Contact)
Included in this article
Audio      Video
TimesFreePress Audio
Jim Herrig
– Download MP3 –

OCOEE, Tenn. — A deliberate TVA sludge release last weekend on the Ocoee River killed fish and aquatic life in the once-dead but now-recuperating Ocoee River, prompting a state investigation that on Friday brought a citation and new cleanup order against the already embattled Tennessee Valley Authority.

Now state and Cherokee National Forest officials are awaiting lab results from sludge samples, fearing that the mud, piled for decades behind the dam that separated the Ocoee from copper mining residue, may contain toxins such as PCBs and heavy metals.

“It didn’t look like normal releases,” said Jim Herrig, a U.S. Forest Service biologist, adding that officials hope to get results on the samples next week.

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation spokeswoman Tisha Calabrese-Benton said state water regulators cited TVA with violations of the Tennessee Water Quality Control Act after bottom sediment from Ocoee Dam #3 was sluiced into the river.

The black and foul-smelling sludge “overwhelmed the river and the Olympic whitewater area of the Ocoee in some places more than three feet deep,” Ms. Calabrese-Benton said.

PDF: TDEC’s notice of volation to TVA

Article: Polk County: Fish swimming again in Ocoee

The Ocoee River, devoid of life for nearly 100 years because of copper mining pollution, had begun show life again in the past five years after mining was halted and a Superfund cleanup had begun.

“We were just now documenting a very significant comeback,” Mr. Herrig said. “I’m disappointed. I’ve spoken to other biologist with TVA and they are concerned also. I think TVA will be doing some investigating of their own.”

TVA spokesmen Jim Allen and Barbara Martocci said they did not know why water was released from the bottom of Ocoee Dam #3 rather than the top, as is customary. Nor did they know how much water and sediment was released.

Ms. Martocci said TVA was drawing down the water behind the dam in preparation for repair work on the downstream Ocoee Dam #2 and in case of heavy rains. She said the move was for the safety of the crews working on Dam #2 and to give the workers time to get their equipment out if heavy rain came.

“We didn’t realize how much sediment was in it,” she said. “Some of the sediment was pulled with the water through the sluice gate.”

In the notice of violation, TDEC’s Chattanooga water pollution control manager, Richard Urban, said the state had received no permit requests or even inquiries about the “special operations” of the Ocoee series of dams and powerhouses.

“Due to the magnitude of the Ocoee, which flows to the Hiwassee and then to the Tennessee rivers, it was selected as the site for the 1996 Olympic whitewater events,” he wrote. “Thousands of people travel to the region each year to run the Ocoee rapids and swim. The river flows out of Georgia, and there it is called the Toccoa.

“Fish were killed and washed downstream or killed and buried in the mud/sludge/ooze,” he wrote. “No live fish were seen.”

Mr. Allen said TVA did not need permits for general maintenance work.

Mr. Herrig said some of the walkways were covered by the sludge, but the heavy rains Wednesday had eventually swept the material downstream. By Friday, the lower Ocoee appeared muddy, but Mr. Herrig said that was normal after so much rain.

Because of the clearing rains, he said Forest Service officials had not posted or roped off any areas of the Ocoee.

Ms. Martocci said TVA officials will determine what happened “to make sure it does not happen again, and we’ll respond accordingly to the notice (of violation).”

TDEC is giving TVA until Jan. 22 to submit a plan for restoring the river.

http://timesfreepress.com/news/2009/jan/10/tennessee-state-cites-tva-ocoee-sludge-release-oly/?local


Christopher Joyell
Wild South, Strategy & Communications Director
16 Eagle St., Suite 200
Asheville, NC 28801
tel: 828.258.2667
email: chris@wildsouth.org
www.wildsouth.org

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