History of Piedmont NWR
Piedmont NWR was established in 1939 as a "combination wildlife and game-manangement demonstration area" to demonstrate that wildlife could be restored on worn out, eroded lands. Ira Gabrielson, Chief of the Bureau of Biological Survey, predecessor agency of the US Fish & Wildlife Service, selected Piedmont from a list of Resettlement Projects. He stated that if the Bureau could take a piece of completely worn out and useless land, like Piedmont was at the time, and make it into a productive wildlife area, then he would know that any kind of land could be managed for wildlife.
How Did It Get This Way?
The vast forest which reigned supreme for eons had been cleared by European settlers in the early 1800's. Cotton became king and farming robbed the soil of its natural fertility. The loss of forest, with its soil stabliziling root system, led to massive erosion probems. The Civil War, the boll weevil and the Great Depression combined to cause large scale abandonment during the Dust Bowl Era. Few wildlife species and sparce timber remained in the early 1900's.
Today, through the efforts of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the 35,000 acre wildlife refuge is once again a forest. It hosts loblolly pines on the ridges with hardwoods found along creek bottoms an in scattered upland coves. Clear streams and beaver ponds provide ideal wetlands for migrating waterfowl. Wildlife populations have been restored, many in greater numbers than when settlers first arrived. Piedmont National Wildilfe Refuge now serves as a model forest ecosystem management for wildfife. There are many reminders of the homes and settlers that once were scattered throughout the area on the Refuge.
Evidence of Homesteads Remain
Spring is the time of year the old homesites are most visible. Wisteria is in full bloom, and daffodils, lilies and flowers that were once planted in flowerbeds and next to walkways now have crept into the woods. Other non-native species such as Chinaberry, Nepalese Browntop, Mimosa, Chinese and Japanese privet will remain long after the last visible remains of the foundations disappear, and have slowly been invading the surrounding forest. Many homesites typically have large, open-grown oaks as well as hackberry in the vicinity. And in addition to the homesites, there are over 30 cemeteries. To learn more about the cemeteries on the Refuge, please continue to the cemeteries webpage.