Smokies Park Gets Bugs, Species Funds
GATLINBURG, Tenn. Great Smoky Mountains National Park will receive an additional $1 million in its current budget, most of it for fighting a pest responsible for killing hemlock trees and for a program to catalog organisms found in the Smokies.
The park's 2005 budget will increase to $15.8 million, with $481,000 in new spending to fight the hemlock woolly adelgid and $200,000 for the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory.
Donations to Friends of the Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountains Association have previously provided the financing for those programs.
The adelgid, an Asian insect thought to have arrived on ornamental plants from Japan in the 1920s, has damaged hemlock forests from Maine to Georgia. The pests went largely unnoticed until their numbers increased, along with the damage to trees, in the 1980s.
Since the species-counting project began in 1998, scientists have identified 3,314 species and of those, 514 were previously unknown.
Park spokesman Bob Miller said the new appropriation is not expected to be a recurring feature of future budgets.
"Our hope is that these base increases will free up some of the donated money and allow us to expand hemlock woolly adelgid suppression and speed up the ATBI," Miller said.
The budget has an additional $374,600 to pay for operational cost increases but will not cover a 3.2 percent pay raise approved by Congress. It also will not allow park officials to fill 19 jobs vacant since last year.
"We were able to stay even, and given the state of the budget nationally, that's not too bad," Miller said. "The park service has been treated substantially better than most other nondefense agencies."
Source: Associated Press