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Conservation is the act of preserving, guarding, or protecting; and includes the wise use of our natural environment.

The Mountain High Hikers Inc. club supports all conservation efforts and had adopted the following policy: You can see it  HERE

The MHH club participates in several conservation efforts to help preserve the trails and the natural ecosystem:

 If you are interested in information regarding volunteers, please contact the MHH Conservation Director, Kim  Blankenship  (

Mountain High Hikers Conservation Update   December 2017


1 -  Georgia Forest Watch is asking hikers to help eradicate an invasive species coming in after the recent fires in the Cohuttas.   Winter seems the best time to do this.  Please access more information below:

“Last fall's wildfires were a threat in many ways: they forced people to evacuate, killed patches of forest canopy, and smoked in towns. The biggest threat to our forests, though, may just now be getting started. The Rough Ridge Fire produced ideal conditions for non-native princess trees to reproduce and invade the Cohutta Wilderness. Native to Asia, princess tree's extraordinarily fast growth allows them to outcompete and choke out native species. Populations are beginning to explode in the Cohuttas. To help get this situation under control before the problem becomes too big to deal with, the first step is finding out exactly where the problem is.

We need volunteers to hike the trails in and around the Cohutta Wilderness and record where you see princess tree seedlings. Seedlings are easy to identify, and equipment, nothing more than a smartphone or GPS unit, can be provided if needed. If you haven't hiked in the Cohuttas since the fire, know that the area is as beautiful as ever.

Keeping the Cohuttas from turning into a grove of princess trees will be an ongoing process. Georgia ForestWatch will work with the Forest Service to document locations of princess trees and assist in their removal from the Cohuttas. For that to work, though, we need help to quickly assess the situation. Please contact Georgia ForestWatch at 706-867-0051 or email Jess Riddle ( if you would like to help.”

We need all of the trails in the fire area surveyed for princess trees, essentially all of the trails west of the Jacks River. Whenever you feel like hiking in that area, if you would just record and send to me the location of any princess trees you see, that would be great. GPS coordinates from a phone or GPS unit are best.  Putting an “X” on a topographic map works too. If you hike a trail and don’t see any, that’s helpful information too.  

I’m not sure how familiar you are with princess tree, so here are a few highlights of what to look for. 

In the winter the easiest thing to look for are the pods on mature trees.  Each pod is about the size of a golf ball and pointed at one end.  The pods come in branched clusters about a foot long.  The trees are also distinctive because they have big thick twigs, as wide as your finger or wider, with a very open branch structure (lots of space between twigs).  They’re a medium sized tree.  Right now, we only know of mature trees along the streams, where water occasionally washes the soil bare.

In spring, the leaves will make the seedlings stand out. The leaves are big and roughly heart shaped, kind of like a basswood or grape leaf.  You can tell them apart because they are often even bigger, sometimes dinner plate size or even larger, and hairy.  The leaves also come in pairs on the twigs.  Instead of taking turns going up the twig, you will have a pair of leaves opposite each other, then bare twig, then a pair of leaves….  The seedlings could be anywhere in the burned area, from the Jacks River west.

These sites have more info on the trees

And this site has good photos

Once we have a good grasp on where the princess trees are, we’ll coordinate with the Forest Service on some workdays and other programs to actually get rid of them.

Jess Riddle 



2 – Union County, GA, announced in October construction on the Byron Herbert Reece Connector Trail beginning soon.   The trail will connect the Byron Herbert Reece Farm and Heritage Center to the trails at Vogel State Park in GA.  


3 – The Fires Creek area has been purchased and trails in that area will be open and accessible for hikers.   The speaker who was scheduled for the Holiday Party which was snowed out Dec 8 was to fill us in on this topic. 

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Local Organizations

1.      Hiawassee River Water Coalition

Officially incorporated in 1995, the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to sustaining good water quality in streams, lakes and rivers that flow into the Hiwassee River.  Several members of MHH club volunteer for water monitoring.  If you are interested in volunteering, please see the above referenced web site.

2.      Georgia Mountain Research and Education Center


Located approximately 3 miles south of Blairsville.  The research center is home to the “Preservation Committee”.  The group of volunteers who have developed ethnobotanical gardens which provide a snapshot into the cultures long ago. 



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The below web sites provide information in regards to Georgia and North Carolina representatives who should be contacted as necessary regarding a particular conservation issue.


1.      GA US Senators and US Representatives

2.      GA Senators and Representatives

3.      North Carolina US Senators and US Representatives

4.      North Carolina Senators and Representatives