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Save Georgia's Hemlocks wants your help preserving a native tree
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Margaret Rasmussen, executive director of the Redbud Project, examines a hemlock tree branch at Linwood Nature Preserve in Gainesville on Thursday, July 18, 2019. Save Georgia’s Hemlocks will be hosting a class about preserving the endangered trees. - photo by Austin Steele

Save Georgia’s Hemlocks wants you in the fight.

The group dedicated to preserving hemlocks in the Peach State is taking its message of public with a training class 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, July 27, at the Hall of County Board of Education on Green Street.

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Margaret Rasmussen, executive director of the Redbud Project, examines a hemlock tree branch at Linwood Nature Preserve in Gainesville on Thursday, July 18, 2019. Save Georgia’s Hemlocks will be hosting a class about preserving the endangered trees. - photo by Austin Steele

The organization’s chairman, Donna Shearer, said she wants to educate people on the longstanding consequences of losing the hemlock tree, an endangered species of trees native to North Georgia.

“The hemlock is a keystone species, meaning many other parts of the environment depend on it and if it goes away, many dominoes will fall in the same manner that if a keystone were taken out of the arch the whole arch would fall,” Shearer said. “They have a lot of roles that are not filled by any other tree, or even any other evergreen.”

Shearer says the hemlock’s affect the habitats of migratory birds, fish and mammals who rely on them for denning — all facilitated by a small climate the trees create in its surrounding area. For the fishermen out there, the trees even have an effect on local trout stocks.
The class is geared to people of all knowledge levels and will specifically focus on the hemlock woolly adelgid, an invasive insect that has affected a majority of hemlock trees in the eastern U.S. 

Shearer’s goal with this session is to spread awareness of the infestation as well as how the general public can help with solutions. 

The public has several options to help combat the spread of the insects, including taking care of the plants in their own yards, knowing how to approach chemical treatments, and education on biological control, or using other animals in a controlled environment to hunt and eliminate pests. 
Several trees at the Linwood Nature Preserve were discovered to be infested by hemlock woolly adelgid earlier this month. Margaret Rasmussen, executive director at local nature preseveration organization the Redbud Project, has been working to plant new trees at the location, but they are threatened by the insect’s presence in the area.

“Save Georgia’s Hemlocks was wonderful to come out and do this when we found out we had a huge infestation,” Rasmussen said. “Since they’re small and they got treated we don’t expect any problem, but you have to stay on it.”

Shearer says that the spread of invasive insects can be contained by everyday citizens, but that knowledge is not widespread enough to see tangible results yet, which is why Save Georgia’s Hemlocks is hosting the class.
“I would encourage people to look around and become more aware of their natural surroundings,” Shearer said. “In North Georgia there are a lot of non resident or partial resident people who may not be aware of what’s going on with the trees, and to take more note of it and that there is something they can do and that there is a great deal of help available for them.”
For Shearer, spreading this knowledge with Save Georgia’s Hemlocks is more than just a public service —  it’s a responsibility that she says all citizens of the planet should feel a need to enact as well.

“Preserving our own nest, if you will,” she said. “It’s a way of giving back to nature and to other people. Just the blessings of where we live and what we have, we have not only a responsibility but a privilege to protect and preserve.”
Rasmussen echoed Shearer’s sentiment, saying anyone who has a hemlock tree on their property should be educated on the causes and solutions to the problem so they can identify and deal with it early.

“That tree that they first discovered it in, when they first discovered it was so bad I said ‘should we cut it down?’ They all said ‘no, no, no.’ The branches were so dead. So I think as a homeowner, anyone who has a hemlock should come the class.”
Anyone interested in attending the class will need to register ahead of time by calling Kim Wood at 706-455-2313 or emailing her at kimberlyraewood@gmail.com.

This story has been updated from its original version.

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A Hemlock tree stands at Linwood Nature Preserve in Gainesville on Thursday, July 18, 2019. Save Georgia’s Hemlocks will be hosting a class about preserving the endangered trees. - photo by Austin Steele
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