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North Carolina

North Carolina

Atlantic White Cedar Salvage and Restoration

Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge - May 2005

A logging contractor continues to salvage hurricane-damaged Atlantic white cedar at Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, which straddles North Carolina and Virginia.

By the end of June 2005 more than 30 acres were salvaged in the North Carolina portion of the refuge, and 142,000 board feet of Atlantic white cedar was transported to a mill in Gates County, North Carolina. That salvage also removed 325 tons of fuel from the refuge, reducing the probability of catastrophic wildfires. Additional harvesting equipment began arriving in early July, so the rate of salvage will increase in the next month.

With a full month of harvesting behind them, representatives of Carson Helicopter are planning for the arrival of helicopters to help transport cedar from remote locations on the refuge. A helicopter is scheduled to remove cedar that has been stockpiled. The company also will send one or two helicopters to the refuge in September or October to work through the fall.

Hurricane Isabel destroyed about 3,000 acres of mature Atlantic white cedar forests on the refuge in September 2003. The cedar forests are considered globally rare, since an estimated 98 percent of the world's cedar forests have been eliminated by development, logging, and general lack of stewardship over the past two centuries. Some cedar specialists believe that the Great Dismal Swamp refuge incorporated the largest remaining stands of Atlantic white cedar forests on the planet prior to the hurricane.

The damaged forests on the refuge have elevated the potential of catastrophic wildfire. The refuge endured its first fire in May 2003 when lightning ignited a fire on the adjacent Dismal Swamp State Park that later spread onto the refuge. Refuge personnel and a firefighting team supplied by the North Carolina Forest Service battled the fire for nearly a month.

The removal of the hurricane-damaged Atlantic white cedar trees represents the first essential phase of restoring these rare forests. Removing the damaged and dead trees will expose the soil to sunlight, promoting the germination of cedar seeds retained in the swamp's organic soils. Approximately 70 acres were salvaged in 2004 from one of the more easily accessible areas of the refuge. The logged areas will be monitored over the next three to five years to assess seedling survival and growth. Some areas may require supplemental planting or treatment with herbicides to reduce competition from other trees and shrubs. Refuge personnel have already seen considerable seedling germination in the areas that were logged in 2004 and 2005.

Studies have shown that several species of neotropical migratory birds favor nesting in the Atlantic white cedar forests, and some species of rare butterflies and moths thrive there as well.

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