Counting the bears: UTK conducts largest-ever black bear survey

Barbed wire and hundreds of pounds of donuts are the key ingredients in a University of Tennessee Knoxville effort to complete the largest-scale black bear population study ever attempted. 

The 16 million-acre study area covers portions of Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina, but by far the biggest chunk — about 8 million acres — includes portions of 24 WNC counties. Researchers collected data from the other three states last year but are spending the second and last year of the study focused solely on counting bears in North Carolina. 

Comprehending climate: Smokies seeks to understand impacts of shifts in seasonal patterns

According to the National Phenology Network, Punxsutawny Phil had it all wrong when he emerged from his hole this month to declare six more weeks of winter — across the Southeastern U.S, the NPN’s data shows, spring 2017 is arriving three weeks earlier than the 1981-2010 average. 

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is looking for volunteers to help gather the data that will bring such generalizations down to a more local level. Phenology — the ways that plants and animals respond to seasonal changes — has been the subject of increasing interest as discussions about climate change have heated up, and the park is now four years into a volunteer program to collect data for the larger NPN project.

Cherokee to consider marijuana legalization

fr marijuanaCherokee will take a look at legalizing marijuana on the Qualla Boundary, Tribal Council decided in a unanimous vote last week.

WNC shale gas study cancelled

Western North Carolina is no longer on State Geologist Ken Taylor’s schedule for this fall’s tour de hydrocarbons in North Carolina. Taylor had planned to come to WNC in September to collect rock samples from road rights-of-way to test their carbon content. That initial test would have determined whether there was any point in pursuing shale gas exploration in the region any further.

Help wanted: A better road map for WNC

coverAn ambitious yearlong exercise to create a collective economic vision for the mountains will decide whether a long-awaited $800 million highway through the rugged and remote far western end of the state is ever built. 

Carrying a consulting fee of $1.3 million, the visioning process is supposed to quantify the emotional and ancedotal arguments about the controversial highway known as Corridor K — and ultimately determine whether it lives or dies.

Research probes tourists’ interests, spending patterns

Men between the ages of 45 and 65 who visit the 25-county Blue Ridge National Heritage Area are most interested in outdoor recreation. Women, on the other hand, are more interested in craft activities.

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