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Outdoors

Logging long stretches in the backcountry of the Cataloochee Valley area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Western Carolina University biology graduate student Elizabeth Hillard is performing research that will help park personnel manage resources in regard to the park’s growing population of elk.

Hillard’s research project has taken place over approximately 50 square miles of park land as part of an ambitious project to improve understanding of how the animals use park resources, including what they eat and their preferred shelter.

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Dear EarthTalk: What is the purpose of National Wildlife Week, which I understand will take place in March 2013? — Melissa P., Burlington, NJ

National Wildlife Week is a program of the non-profit National Wildlife Federation (NWF) that is designed around teaching and connecting kids to the wonders of wildlife. Each year, the group picks a theme and provides fun and informative educational materials, curriculum and activities for educators and caregivers to use with their kids.

This coming March 18-24 (2013), the theme of National Wildlife Week is “Branching Out for Wildlife” with a focus on trees. Participating kids will learn about the parts of a tree, the role of trees and how wildlife depend on trees for survival. They can also participate in environmental service projects addressing climate change, healthy habitats, reforestation and connecting with the environment.

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The January League of Women Voters meeting hosted an instructive program on recycling. Entitled “Down With The Waste Basket,” Macon Pride members Shirley Ches and Debby Boots demonstrated how to separate and recycle what is normally considered “trash” into a money-making resource for taxpayers. Using the new recycling brochure from Macon County Solid Waste Department, they outlined how easy it is to throw items into a recycling basket or box, accenting the good news that all paper products can be recycled as can all plastic containers except styrofoam, plastic egg cartons and rigid, all plastic bags.

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While enjoying a visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, backpackers like to keep a respectable distance from black bears. With help from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and the Friends of the Smokies, they can continue to do so in some of the most backpacker friendly hiking in the Southern Appalachians. The ATC has provided $800 from its specialty license plate funds to help reduce black bear access to backpacker food along the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), a national park unit within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP).

Using the grant funds from the ATC, Park staff and volunteers have installed cables that backpackers and trail improvement crews use to store food out of the reach of black bears. Cabling systems were renovated at the Derrick Knob shelter along the A.T. and installed at the new base camp of the Rocky Top Trail crew.

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published: 10/18/2013
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