Great Smokies in National Geographic

Great Smoky Mountains National Park : Scott Basford PhotoI enjoy my subscription to National Geographic Magazine. Over the years, I have found the magazine gives special attention to our National Parks, and this month is no exception. As readers we are treated to an article and a nice series of photographs taken in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The author covers a bit of the park's history that I was not familiar with. Unlike Yosemite and Yellowstone out west, a majority of the land within the Smokies has been reclaimed -- land once owned by 19th century farmers bought back by the government and converted to parkland. Because of these special circumstances, the Smokies can demonstrate for us something that few other parks can, the amazing ability of the land to regenerate its wilderness after man made disturbance. That the transformation has happened in less that 100 years is due in large part to the lush growing conditions of the southern Appalachian Mountains.

But even though the Great Smokies are protected as a park, the article does make clear that growing conditions near the ridge tops are compromised by human interference. Smog from coal fired power plants does pollute the air, and to a degree, affects the long term health of these trees. The author, Adam Goodheart, concludes his article:
As I stood looking at the ... green expanse beyond, it occurred to me that even more than other national parks, Great Smoky is not just a natural phenomenon but also a human, political one. The wilderness below me was, in a very real sense, mad-made. And perhaps, in a crowded world, a place like this can offer hopeful clues to how we can continue coexisting with nature -- or early warning signs of what we stand to lose.
A small piece of the article is available online, as are some of the photos found in the magazine. A nice feature of the National Geographic site is the ability to download some of these photos as background photos for your computer desktop.