Hey everyone! I know that it’s been a long time but that’s about to change and this blog is coming back to life! This will be more than just an ordinary photography blog. It will be about my trips, equipment (bikes and photography), and also projects that I am working on. Those of you that personally know me have witnessed first hand, I’ve gone back to my roots. Back in the mid 90’s I was mountain bike racing as well as working as a team director for Team Schwinn/Grand West Outfitters and while doing that I started documenting those races on film. I cut my teeth in the photography business taking photographs of mountain bike racing throughout Colorado. After a move back to the southeast a few years later, I drifted away from the bike and directly into nature and landscape photography and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 17 years. After that lengthy absence from mountain biking I have jumped back in with both feet and having a blast! My next project will be a return to my roots and I look forward to bringing you along with me. Please follow along, spring is now here…renewal is in the air!
Jerry D Greer
Stop by for a look! www.jerrygreerphotography.com
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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!