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Health of the Blue Ridge Mountains
About North Georgia

How healthy are the Blue Ridge Mountains?

A friend of mine, very critical of the Bush Administration's environmental record responded to a challenge from me to be specific. He sited deteriating conditions in the Blue Ridge Mt. area. IE reduced visibility especially in the summer, waters dead from acid rain, fish rare and inedible, no potable spring water, instead of "Blue" vistas, now brownish gray. Please help me out on this one and put this guy in his place.

Kevin H.

Kevin

While I can't speak to the entire mountain chain's health, I am happy to report that Georgia's Blue Ridge Mountains are in better environmental health than they were even 50 years ago. Once barren ridges are now tree-lined. Some secondary growth forests are approaching an old growth look. And groups like the Georgia ATC have rerouted trails to reduce the impact on overused areas.

This does not mean that the Blue Ridge Mountains don't face serious challenges. Haze from factories and cars means that only 25% of the days can be considered clear. Acid rain ranks nowhere near the "natural" problems of the gypsy moth and pine beetle. And I ate trout I caught in the Chattahoochee River within the past week. Potable spring water? Well, many springs are contaminated with giardia, but they have been since the Clinton administration and before.

This does not mean we can sit back and let things go. We have to continue to work for improvements in conservation: preserve more land, especially in the highly populated Eastern United States, better manage our preserved resources, and work for further reductions in the pollution that so affects our world. The first step would be to take the political element out of the battle. We should not approach this as Republicans or Democrats, but as conservationists and environmentalists. When political agendas enter into the fray, we split (and weaken) our stand.

Long-term solutions to our problems include sharing our technology with third-world countries, especially China, whose steel production facilities spew filth into the air. Work on things like the hybrid cars, combining electric power with internal combustion engines for incredible fuel efficiency. We might also want to re-examine steam as an alternate means of propulsion. But we need to put forth our ideas without attacking those we have elected, because the person standing next to you to protect the Blue Ridge Mountains might not share your political viewpoint.

Randy Golden

County: Fannin County
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