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October 17, 2008

Towering hemlocks of Jocassee Gorges treated thanks to Duke Energy donation

A Duke Energy Foundation grant of $10,000 recently made possible the treatment of numerous giant hemlock trees for hemlock woolly adelgid at the Coon Branch Natural Area along the Whitewater River in northern Oconee County.
One of the hemlock trees treated along the Whitewater River is currently the largest known Eastern hemlock in South Carolina, in terms of wood volume.

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"These hemlocks are a priceless forest resource," said Jen Huff, Duke Energy representative. "It is very important that we move quickly to help protect and preserve these forest giants, which are succumbing to the hemlock woolly adelgid at an incredibly fast rate."
The Coon Branch Natural Area Trail, part of the Jocassee Gorges in Pickens and Oconee counties, is a spur trail of the Foothills Trail, a 76-mile trail between Oconee State Park and Table Rock State Park. Coon Branch Natural Area, accessed through Duke Energy’s Bad Creek Hydro Project, is owned by Duke Energy and is part of the Jocassee Gorges lands that Duke placed under conservation easement.
Will Blozan and Jason Childs of Appalachian Arborists in Asheville, N.C., completed the hemlock woolly adelgid treatments this fall. Two-hundred sixty-nine trees were treated by soil injection with insecticides that will be taken up by the trees’ vascular systems, hopefully killing the adelgids. Without the treatments, the hemlocks would likely die within the next two to four years.
According to Blozan, who is president of the Eastern Native Tree Society, one of the giant hemlocks along the Coon Branch Natural Area trail is currently the largest known hemlock in South Carolina. Standing over 130 feet high and four feet in diameter, measurements taken during a climb of the tree indicated a wood volume of 889 cubic feet. Taller and wider trees exist but wood volume is the only accurate determination of size and involves detailed measurements gathered during a climb. Data were gathered for a research project entitled the "Tsuga Search Project." The self-funded project aims to document and preserve the largest and tallest specimens of Eastern hemlock.

The Harry Hampton Memorial Wildlife Fund facilitated management and disbursement of funds from the grant given by the Duke Energy Foundation for the hemlock treatment. The Hampton Fund, headquartered in Columbia, receives private funds to assist in educational and other endeavors designed to contribute to the conservation and protection of the wildlife, marine and other natural resources of the State of South Carolina.

The Duke Energy Foundation is the entity that distributes Duke Energy’s charitable contributions. Through the Duke Energy Foundation, the company is able to exemplify its commitment to the communities it serves by providing funding to eligible organizations with programs that support education, community vitality and a competitive work force.            

DNR protects and manages South Carolina's natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state's natural resources and its people.

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