Agricultural Transformation of Southern Appalachia Ted L. Gragson

Agricultural Transformation of Southern Appalachia
Ted L. Gragson, Paul V. Bolstad, & Meredith Welch Devine
Humans impose patterns on the Earth through purposeful as well as inadvertent land-use, and
these patterns affect local, regional and global ecological processes. The effects ultimately
influence the sustainability of biophysical and cultural landscapes, as well as the quality of life.
The challenge is to understand biophysical and cultural landscapes as the result of integrated
socioeconomic and ecological dynamics playing out across potentially vast scales of space, time
and organizational complexity [Turner, 1990 #203;Vitousek, 1997 #52;Levin, 1999 #42]. Many
conceptualizations of the links between the socioeconomic and the biophysical realms derive
from a “general linear reality” view of how and why events occur in either realm [Abbott, 2001
#204;Agarwal, 2001 #33;Kinzig, 2000 #205;Liu, 2001 #43]. A caricature of this view is that
people behave monolithically with their land-use decisions governed exclusively by land rents,
demographic pressures and technological capabilities that collectively drive processes in nature
without any feedback to social processes.
Certainly the intrinsic temporal rhythms and spatial arrangement of ecological systems bear the
signature of human activities and institutions [Pyne, 1997 #47;Carpenter, 2001 #35;Scheffer,
2001 #48;Turner, 2002 #49]. However, temporal rhythms and spatial arrangements of human
activities and institutions are in turn shaped and influenced by the ecological systems in which
they are embedded [Cronon, 1983 #36;Diamond, 1997 #37;Dove, 1997 #38;Ostrom, 1999
#45;Berkes, 1998 #34]. The reciprocal “imprinting” between socioeconomic and biophysical
systems means that artificially separating landscapes into these two component systems will fail
to improve understanding of the sustainability of either type of landscape or the quality of life.
Our objective is to understand the agrarian transformation of southern Appalachia and
specifically what happens when humans impose their signature on ecological systems, how they
must then respond to the systems they helped create, and how the reciprocity between the two
realms gives rise to an iterative alteration of the dynamics of the coupled socioeconomicbiophysical system across space and time. The general outline of the approach is to examine
three stages of the agrarian-transformation cycle for southern Appalachia:
1. How human activities influence the spatial and temporal structure of agrarian
2. What are the the ecological and environmental consequences of this spatial and
temporal structure,
3. The human responses in the realm of conservation with a view to how these my direct
further changes in agrarian landscapes.
Our examination of southern Appalachia is different apart from previous investigations into
agricultural transformation, is that it is multi-scalar, historical and comparative. We adopt
narrative positivism because to build an empirically sound and methodologically rigorous
description or agricultural transformation; this helps build the theoretical generalizations we
ultimately strive for [Abbott, 2001 #204;Isaac, 1989 #21;Isaac, 1997 #22;Isaac, 1994 #23]. Our
approach is multi-scalar in that it spans temporal, spatial and organizational levels with the goal
of addressing not only the interlocking network of the elements proper to these levels, but the
hierarchical relations between them. The combination of network and hierarchy give rise to the
inertial properties of a system and create the possibility for its transformation from one state to
Our approach is historical, but the temporality is not merely a succession of events. The duration
of stages result in a coercive narrative in the sense of implying a certain result. Our narrative is
not a synonym for discours or the telling of a story, but an account of actual regularities in a
socioeconomic-biophysical process. We use the concept of legacy in this context to represent
the cumulative effect of human activities at moments in time that constrain the opportunities of
current and future generations – it therefore subsumes the trajectory implied by duration as well
as the turning point implied by narrative coercion. Turning points separate relatively smooth,
directional trajectories by relatively abrupt, diversionary moments.
In effect, our view treats agricultural transformation in southern Appalachia as discrete and
categorical rather than continuous and numerical, and this leads to the comparative nature of our
approach. By first taking a pattern-based approach we ultimately seek to understand general
processes and relationships. Our approach is to identify complex events through the clustering
of local cases with roughly the same values on many measures. This is different from a strict
variable-based approach where the purpose is to generalize immediately on the basis of the
variables treated as substantively independent of one another (correlated values are allowed in a
variable-based approach).
Because most things that could happen, don’t happen, we face a great challenge in understanding
biophysical and cultural landscapes as the result of integrated socioeconomic and ecological
dynamics across potentially vast scales of space, time and organizational complexity. It is
therefore better to first find local patterns before trying to define general regularities. We use the
concept of regime in this context as the unique configuration of agricultural factors that define
trajectories and turning points. We can ultimately manipulate these factors analytically to test
different explanations and construct alternative futures. This is where history meets application
and our approach and insights become practical to conservation and ecoregional planning
through scenarios and forecasting [Groves, 2002 #207;Wollenberg, 2000 #206;Nilsson, 2003
#63;Bennett, 2003 #62]. In this view, conservation includes not only the preservation of natural
patches and environmental quality across the landscape, but also the preservation of desirable
cultural qualities including those associated with production on “working landscapes.”
The introduction, spread, and abandonment of agriculture represents the most pervasive
alteration of the Earth’s environment during the past 10,000 years [Vitousek, 1986 #51;Matson,
1997 #44;Farina, 2000 #40]. While most places on the Earth bear the signature of agricultural
use, the last 100 years of US history have been characterized by the progressive transition of
agrarian landscapes and life ways to others uses. A significant portion of former agricultural
lands are in the process of being developed and incorporated to the urban-suburban sprawl
characteristic of the contemporary landscapes in the US. However, another significant portion is
used less intensely or is actively conserved for its habitat values [USDA, 2001 #50]. Beyond the
mere description of this change in land use, there is a growing need to understand the underlying
mechanisms for the transition and the legacies associated with prior states so that possible future
conditions can be anticipated.
By virtue of its geographic position, southern Appalachia can serve as a natural laboratory for
evaluating across diverse gradients the proportional contribution of socioeconomic and
biophysical processes to the structure and function of ecosystems. Physical environmental forces
exert strong influences on the organization of southern Appalachian ecosystems, and much
previous research on ecosystem responses to disturbance in southern Appalachia has focused on
a subset of important forces acting on large scales and/or short-time intervals. For example, the
pattern and magnitude of wind damage from Hurricane Opal was substantially controlled by
local physiography [Hunter, 1999 #208;Wright, 2002 #209]. However, direct human
disturbances such as farming, logging, mining and road construction have altered more than 98%
of the southern Appalachian landscape. Indirect actions such as the introduction of the Chestnut
blight (Cryphonectria parasitica) and the balsam wooly adelgid (Adelges piceae) have similarly
caused profound changes.
However, we still know relatively little about the diversity and magnitude of the human
contribution to southern Appalachia disturbance. For example, the shift from Native American
to Euro-American dominance in southern Appalachia entailed important changes well known to
historians in the ways both peoples organized their lives, but it also involved fundamental
reorganization of the plant and animal communities of the region. There has been little research
in southern Appalachia addressing the fundamental reorganization of biophysical systems in
response to social, political or economic forces. The more typical approach is to consider the
pressure exerted by external political and economic forces on the organization of southern
Appalachian society with the environment relegated to the role of scenery in the resulting
narratives [e.g., \Dunaway, 1996 #135]. The point is to build explanations of cause for the
patterned relationships observed in the agricultural transformation of southern Appalachia that
go beyond vague statements that disturbance is driven by technology, socioeconomic
organization, level of economic development or culture.
Although the vast majority of research on environmental change has been directed at global scale
processes, regional-scale estimates at the scale of kilometers or hectares are perhaps ultimately
more important. This is because estimates at this scale give recognition to the fact that
policymakers, resource managers, and the public at large make decisions in response to local and
regional conditions more so than to global conditions. For example, residents of the
southwestern United States are more likely to be concerned about changes in water availability
and fire frequency over the coming decades than residents of the southeastern United States, who
are more likely to be concerned about how changes in forest cover might affect their ability to
produce timber and recreational opportunities. Determining the regional-scale consequences of
environmental change rests on fundamental ecological understanding of how the population
dynamics of plants, animals and microbes are linked to biogeochemical processes. It also
depends on understanding how pressures such as urban expansion, gentrification and industrial
diversification shape ecosystems and landscapes.
Focusing on the agricultural transformation of southern Appalachia presents the opportunity to
address fundamental issues in the historical ecology of the region that can help bridge the
longstanding parochialism of southern history. This creates the potential for placing the region
at the forefront of efforts to make sense of human-environmental relations irrespective of place
[Kolchin, 2003 #64]. It also offers the potential of building the regional-scale estimates for
processes that will ultimately be of importance to decision-makers responding to local and
regional conditions. By understanding the reciprocal influences between socioeconomic and
biophysical systems we can address how the conjunction of events in both domains during
previous time periods both constrain and structure future environmental and societal
opportunities. Regions, in effect, constitute a multitude of distinctive, self-organized landscapes
for which the periodization of distinct regimes and the long-view of history move understanding
from the initial recognition of pattern to the determination of process. By this means we can
dispel popular and sometimes scholarly scenarios for southern Appalachia of early settlers
patiently chopping their way out of the dark woods into the sunlight or timber barons slashing
and burning their way across the landscape.
Critical to our analysis of the agricultural transformation of southern Appalachia is our
development of the concept of an agricultural regime. We define an agricultural regime as the
unique configuration of agricultural factors – crops, livestock, humans and management
technologies – applied to a landscape. In the present article we concentrate on pattern
recognition in the data on agricultural transformation. The term regime is used variously in the
physical and social sciences. Geomorphology uses "regime theory" to describe how streams
balance the making of part of their boundaries from the transported load they carry and making
part of their transported load from their boundaries. A regime stream, river or canal is one that
has achieved average equilibrium between deposition and scouring [Blench, 1957 #31;Poff, 1997
#30]. A fire regime refers to the natural fire equilibria on a landscape in the absence of human
mechanical intervention [Agee, 1993 #28;Brown, 1995 #29]. It is a function of the average
number of years between fires combined with the severity of the fire on the dominant overstory
vegetation. Political systems such as democracy or authoritarianism are referred to as political
regimes. These are differentiated by the types of rules and distribution of political resources
enabling actors to exercise authority over their constituents [Kitschelt, 1992 #32]. More
generally, a regime is often the term applied to the specific configuration of relations among
independent and dependent variables such as average tax rate, progressivity and coverage when
the goal is to understand their temporal or geographic distribution [Campbell, 2001 #25;Isaac,
1994 #24].
Agriculture, like other natural resource regimes, is a cultural practice that depends for its success
on individuals combining a series of common pool resources – soil, climate, technology and
labor [Agrawal, 2001 #27;Young, 1982 #26;Zimmerer, 1999 #61]. The minimum set of
attributes needed to define agricultural regimes in southern Appalachia includes:
Resources – this includes the spatial variability and temporal unpredictability of
biophysical factors as well as the adaptive dynamics and environmental tolerances of
crop types.
Groups – this includes size, levels of wealth and income, types of heterogeneity, and the
sociospatial incentives and disincentives affecting the capacity of individuals to
coordinate land use and create cohesion at the level of the landscape.
Relationships – these include the network and hierarchy relations between resource
systems and locally situated groups vis-à-vis circumstances beyond their immediate
control, including uneven development, governmental policy, consumer tastes as well as
extra-local or global-scale forces.
In the final analysis, an agricultural regime is a human artifact that has no existence or meaning
apart from the behavior of individuals within the regime [Young, 1982 #26]. This is because in
the context of common pool resource systems such as agriculture, participants (voluntarily)
adopt and interact in the confines of the regime so as to foster credible commitments and
facilitate recurrent transactions between themselves. The properties of the regime serve as
constraints to human interaction that in turn derive from shared understandings about
internalizing costs to forestall or attenuate conflict. From a qualitative standpoint, regimes
constitute the patterns of behavior around which expectations converge. For southern
Appalachia we briefly dissect the nature of data and previous approaches to behavior in order to
address them from the standpoint of regimes.
As of AD 2000, less than 2% of the population of the southern Appalachian study region listed
agriculture as their primary occupation and less than 3% of households were classed as ruralfarm. Both measures reflect the strong proximity effect of the major cities in and surrounding
the study region that structure its economy – Asheville, Atlanta, Birmingham, Roanoke,
Winston-Salem and Greenville. The current rates of agricultural dependence and the distribution
of the population are largely the consequence of social, political and economic forces over the
last 40 years. As such, present statistics tell us little about the overall transformation of southern
Appalachia as a consequence of agriculture that has a beginning going back nearly 5,000 years
and accelerates as a process at the end of the first millennium AD.
Confounding the problem of understanding agricultural transformation from contemporary
statistics is a long-standing “local color” narrative tradition in Appalachia [Anglin, 2002 #211].
Emerging at the turn of the 20th century, the tradition creates images of Appalachia by
characterizing the people as independent, religious fundamentalists with strong family ties living
in harmony with nature yet traditional and fatalistic in their outlook [Philliber, 1994 #212]. As
an example, a recent article on housing in The Atlanta Constitution, the largest daily newspaper
in the region, began “The ancient, misty mountains that surround the ‘hollers’ of southern
Appalachia remain a wall between the region’s proud, melancholy people and American
prosperity” (June 15, 1997: A1). The central difficulty with this narrative tradition is that
scholars focus on the characterization of southern Appalachia as “an island of distress in a sea of
affluence” [Moore, 1994 #213] and argue whether the situation is the result of long-term
geographic isolation or the product of outsiders plundering the region's natural and social
endowments [Eller, 1982 #214;Rothblatt, 1971 #215;Moore, 1994 #213;Caudill, 1963
#217;Salstrom, 1994 #168].
This study of the agricultural transformation of southern Appalachia is part of our Coweeta
LTER research and the study region defined in that project. Political definitions of Appalachia
abound, but we define southern Appalachia as extending across the Blue Ridge province of the
Southern Appalachian Highlands (FIGURE 1). Numerous authors converge in recognizing this
area as a distinct biophysical and cultural region of the Continental United States [Markusen,
1987 #225;Bailey, 1996 #226;Whittaker, 1966 #227]. The area is more or less coterminous with
that referred to in anthropology and archaeology as the Appalachian Summit, a cultural and
natural area first recognized by Kroeber [, 1953 #218] at a time when regional studies were more
central to the discipline than they are currently [Wetmore, 2002 #16].
Boundaries of the Appalachian Summit region correspond in part of the boundaries of the
Appalachia Geologic Province. This province extends from the Virginias to northern Georgia
and contains the Paleozoic mountains east of the stable central region of North America. The
Southern Appalachian Highlands are divided into the folded Ridge & Valley Province to the
northwest, and the more complexly deformed Blue Ridge and Crystalline Appalachians to the
southeast. The Coweeta LTER study area used to investigate agricultural transformation in
southern Appalachia is confined to the Blue Ridge of the southern Appalachian Region
consisting of the unfolded highlands from north Georgia through western Virginia. The original
Paleozoic land surface of the Appalachian region has been severely eroded and dissected by
numerous streams and rivers into a series of deep, steep-sided valleys separated by narrow
ridges. Most minor water courses follow the Hiawassee, French Broad or Little Tennessee River
westward to the Tennessee River. The Tennessee-North Carolina state line follows the ridgeline
of the Appalachian chain and containing the highest peaks in the entire province. Although not
part of the current analysis, we carry out intensive research in the Coweeta LTER as well as this
project on two river basins: the Little Tennessee and the French Broad. The Little Tennessee
River basin drains 2,225 km2 in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee to the Gulf of Mexico
via the Tennessee, Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The headwaters are located in Rabun County,
Georgia from where the river flows north into Macon County, North Carolina. Major tributaries
include the Nantahala, Cheoah, Oconaluftee, Tuckasegee, Cullasaja and Cartoogechaye. The
French Broad River drains 4,886 km2 in North Carolina and Tennessee to the Gulf of Mexico via
the Tennessee, Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The headwater is the 50-foot Court House Falls in
Transylvania County, North Carolina and major tributaries include the Pigeon, Nolichucky,
Mills, Davidson and Swannanoa Rivers.
This southern Appalachian region is distinct geologically, floristically, and culturally from
surrounding areas. The closest biological affinities are with the central Appalachian region to the
north and east, with similar native flora adapted to the cool winters, moderate summers, and
nearly uniform distribution of abundant rainfall. Regionally steep elevation gradients cause
concomittent gradients in temperature, and this drives substantially differences in flora and fauna
relative to adjacent lowlands. Unique biotic elements include the highest global concentration of
endemic salamander species and among the highest floral diversities observed in temperate
deciduous forests. Forests are taller, and denser, with flat areas restricted primarily to “coves”
near first through third order streams, and the floodplains of fourth order rivers and larger.
Because the southern Appalachians are generally steeper, cooler, and wetter than surrounding
lowlands, agriculture entered later and exited earlier than adjacent regions.
The surface structure of southern Appalachia interacts with the climatology of the greater
southeast to create a highly varied agroecological landscape (TABLE 1). Rainfall and
temperatures vary widely across the region as a result of differences in topography, elevation and
thermal belts. Temperatures decrease from low to high elevation and average summer
temperatures on the higher peaks are more similar to those in central New England 1400 km to
the north than they are to the lower Piedmont only 150 km to the southeast. Precipitation is
abundant averaging more than 1600 mm yr-1. Rainfall typically increases from low to high
elevation, but its distribution exhibits local mountain effects in the form of wet zones and
rainshadows. Microclimate and related soil properties vary considerably on short spatial scales
from ridge tops to streamside bottoms.
Temperate deciduous forests are the dominate vegetation of the region. Because southern
Appalachia is both cooler and wetter than the adjacent Ridge & Valley to the west or the
Piedmont Plateau to the east it is a refugium for “northern” taxa that reached the region during
the last glaciation [Braun, 1950 #219;Barnes, 1991 #220]. The intermixing of “northern” and
“southern” taxa results in one of the most biodiverse regions of North America. Despite the
contemporary vigor and beauty of the forest, research clearly demonstrates that visually intact
ecosystems in the region harbor the “ghost of land use past” [Harding, 1998 #65]. Use of the
land, albeit changing, is the constant across time. Forest clearing to convert land to agricultural
use in the 13-14th centuries AD (prior to European contact) and again in the 19-20th centuries led
to the direct removal of many native species from large portions of the landscape for extended
periods of time. The introduction of the Chestnut blight (Cryphonectria parasitica) early in the
20th century had a dramatic effect on the structural composition of the forest [TABLE 2;
\Diamond, 2000 #66].
Using data compiled from the network of 123 NOAA weather stations across the study region,
we estimated precipitation, heat days and frost-free days and generated a first-order
agroecological suitability index (FIGURE 2). This serves as the basis for an initial assessment of
the patterns of productivity across space and time. Precipitation is measured as total average mm
of rainfall per year for stations with record lengths of 30 or more years. Heat days represent the
forcing effect of temperature on vegetative growth between April 1 and October 30 where 10º
Celsius is the base temperature [see \Powers, 2000 #221]. This again is a long-term average
based on stations with a record length of at least 30 years. Frost-free days are the number of
days between the last spring and the first fall occurrence of a 0-degree Celsius day; since
relatively few stations have both first and last dates these values were derived for stations with a
minimum record length of three years. Surfaces for precipitation, heat days and frost-free days
were generated by kriging, then standardized and combined with equal weights using a multicriteria evaluation procedure [Gragson, 2002 #68;Burrough, 1998 #70;Goodchild, 1993 #56].
The index in Figure 2 is based on the median and interquartile range of the standardized scores
of the final image.
Time prior to European Contact is generally divided into nine major archaeological periods; after
contact it is divided into an additional eight periods (TABLE 3). The names for periods as well
as the boundaries between them vary between authors as a function of whether they are
archaeologically or historically derived. The year 1700 marks the practical boundary between
the availability of documentary evidence including maps, diaries, and reports from which to
discern disturbance, and the need to rely more heavily on physical evidence and analogy. Before
1700 we rely extensively on the work of others. After 1700, we draw on our own research into
the environmental footprint of the Colonial-era Cherokee (1685-1776) and the early settlement
history of western North Carolina after the Treaty of 1819. From 1850 forward, we incorporate
to our analysis information from the US Agricultural Census.
The Blue Ridge proper of southern Appalachia was settled by “plain folk,” free southern whites
living outside the plantation economy during the antebellum period, between 1750 and 1850
[Kretzschmar, 1993 #222;Otto, 1989 #162;Salstrom, 1994 #168;Owsley, 1949 #223]. The
region was effectively settled from two fronts: the North Carolina piedmont to the east, and the
Great Valley of Eastern Tennessee to the west. By the Revolutionary War of 1776, settlement of
the Great Valley and Piedmont was effectively complete and plain folk began spilling into the
intermediate Blue Ridge area. The northwest part of the Blue Ridge within Tennessee, West
Virginia and southwest Virginia were settled first by approximately 1780. The southwestern
portion in what is now North Carolina and north Georgia were settled last. Settlement began in
1820 with a large tract of land purchased from the Cherokee in the Treaty of 1819, accelerated
after the discovery of gold at Dahlonega Georgia in 1836 and culminated with the removal of the
Cherokee to Oklahoma in 1838.
However, humans have been a part of the southern Appalachian landscape since at least 8000
BC. Early human occupants were mobile, transient and dependent on the natural availability and
abundance of animal and plant food resources [Perkinson, 1973 #224;Ward, 1999 #78]. Larger,
more widely distributed settlements developed from 8000 BC to AD 800 in valleys, coves and
adjacent uplands. By AD 800, southern Appalachian societies had established active trade with
native populations to the north and the south. The first indications of patterns that lead
eventually to the Mississippian period, the most advanced pre-contact southeastern society,
appear by AD 900. The Mississippian period flourished between AD 1200 and 1450, and
lingered in some form through first contact with the De Soto Expedition early in the 16th century.
In line with the objectives of the AgTrans Project and our use of agricultural regimes, we
collapse time into four great periods: a pre-domestication period, a post-domestication period
that precedes European Contact; a transitional period spanning the proto-historic through
establishment of a functioning Federal Government (in reality approximately 1790, but for
convenience we set to the Revolutionary War in 1776); and a period of Nationhood. TABLE 4
lists significant events in the agricultural transformation of southern Appalachia to guide our
coverage of each of the four periods.
Pre-Manipulation Period
The earliest human presence in southern Appalachia probably dates to the late Paleo-Indian
period between 11,000 and 12,000 years ago [Anderson, 1996 #72;Walker, 2002 #71].
Evidence, as is true throughout most of the eastern United States, largely consists of widely
scattered, isolated surface finds of fluted Clovis- and Folsom-like spear points. Perkinson [,
1973 #224: 50] reports eight fluted points dating to the Early (9500 to 9000 BC) and Middle
(9000 to 8500 BC) sub-periods scattered from Cherokee County to Ashe County, North
Carolina. Finds from the late sub-period (8500 to 8000 BC) are equally rare. However, they
were manufactured from local raw material suggesting a more permanent human occupation than
the transient occupation of the preceding sub-periods [Purrington, 1983 #96].
During the early Holocene, the spruce-fir boreal forest interspersed with open parkland was
giving way to a continuous mesic oak-hickory hardwood forest. The vegetative transition was
complete by 9000 years ago, and the megafauna that grazed in the open parkland areas were
largely extinct by 10,800 years ago [Anderson, 1995 #76;Delcourt, 1983 #73;Delcourt, 1981
#74]. Because the Blue Ridge is higher and colder than surrounding areas it could have served
for a time as a refuge for remnant populations of Pleistocene fauna. However, the Kimmswick
site in eastern Missouri is the only site in the east where fluted points and megafauna (elephants
in this case) have been found in association [Ward, 1999 #78].
The ability of people to cope with changing environments including new prey species has led
archaeologists to speculate whether humans during the Paleoindian period followed a
generalized or a specific subsistence strategy [Meltzer, 1988 #75;Walker, 2002 #71]. The
general assumption about the forest-dominated landscape of the southeast is that a generalized
subsistence strategy would have been more productive. Dust Cave located just beyond the
southwestern extent of our study region at approximately 34º 46’ N, 85º 00’ W, is one of the few
stratified Paleoindian (or Archaic) sites in the southeast. The interpretation of the faunal remains
from this site suggests the human populations relied on a diverse array of aquatic and terrestrial
species rather than relying on a small number of large prey.
Subsistence strategies during the Early and Middle Archaic Period (8000-3000 BC) probably
changed little from those described for the late Paleoindian subperiod although the tool kits did
change [Davis, 1990 #77;Ward, 1999 #78]. Archaic period research in southern Appalachia is
extremely limited. The richest insights for the entire period derive from intensive yet spatially
restricted research on the Lower Tennessee River between 1967 and 1981 prior to the creation of
the Tellico Dam and its flooding by the Tellico Lake. The investigations recorded 624 aboriginal
sites and documented a 12,000-year occupation of a 34,444-acre study area at the juncture
between the Ridge and Valley and Blue Ridge physiographic provinces in southeastern
Tennessee [Davis, 1990 #77].
This research suggests a progressive increase in the intensity of occupation and use of the area
during the Early Archaic that declines during the Middle Archaic. The sharp decline in the
percentage of base camps and the absence of Middle Archaic components from stratified sites
suggests transient groups were using the Tellico study area. The more limited information from
the Blue Ridge suggests the same pattern. For example, more than 90% of the Archaic material
recovered in the survey of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was made from non-local
cherts from outcrops in eastern Tennessee [Ward, 1999 #78]. Toward the end of the Middle
Archaic, stone net-sinkers appear with other evidence suggesting an increase in the relative
importance of fish and aquatic environments in general. This marks a turning point in the
human-environmental relation in the southeast.
Many of the ideas about Paleoindian and Early Archaic adaptations in southern Appalachia are
little more than speculation. Most of the research has so far focused on developing and refining
chronologies rather than the reconstruction of ancient lifeways [Ward, 1999 #78]. The simple
yet ubiquitous tool assemblages from the Middle Archaic parallel those left by small, kin-based
foraging groups moving as a unit from place to place. The pattern suggests a response to the
drier and warmer Altithermal [~6000 BC to about 2000 BC; \ Wendland, 1974 #79;Ward, 1999
#78]. The Altithermal condition created a patchy and less predictable environment that required
flexible subsistence strategies. Regardless of the details, the evidence clearly indicates that
humans from their first entry to southern Appalachia 11-12,000 years ago to approximately 3000
BC practiced an extractive rather than a manipulative use of natural resources.
The Hearth of Eastern Domestication
Following the climate shift of the Altithermal, the Late Archaic through Mississippian periods
are characterized by dramatic increases in human population, the beginning of pottery-making
and the gradual shift toward sedentary villages. Later, the sharp differences in social rank
emerge and, most significantly, there is an increased reliance on cultivated plants and the
development of agricultural economies [Gremillion, 2002 #127]. As with the preceding periods,
most archaeologists rely on the extensive period research from southeastern Tennessee and the
well-established if sparse evidence for interaction and exchange between the Appalachian
Summit and nearby regions to infer the trajectory of change [Ward, 1999 #78].
The analysis of food remains early in the late Archaic period from sites in southeastern
Tennessee indicates upland hunting, the collection of large quantities of acorns and hickory nuts,
and a strong riverine focus involving extensive exploitation of aquatic resources [Davis, 1990
#77;Chapman, 1994 #82]. From a rock-filled fire pit at the Bacon Bend site dated to 2440 BC,
however, comes the most significant evidence: small charred fragments of squash rind
[Chapman, 1981 #80;Chapman, 1994 #82]. Squash remains with similar dates have been
recovered from sites in Illinois, Missouri and Kentucky [Conrad, 1984 #83;Smith, 1997
#84;Fritz, 2000 #85]. Changes in fishing technology seem to be instrumental to the spread of the
native eastern gourd (Curcurbita pepo spp. ovifera) first cultivated in the Central Mississippi
Valley possibly for use as net floats. The non-native bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) appears
in the mid-continent around 2000-2300 BC possibly through trade with groups along the Gulf
and Atlantic coasts [Fritz, 2000 #85].
The local native sumpweed (Iva annua var. macrocarpa) and sunflower (Helianthus annuus var.
macrocarpus), a close relative from the Southwest were cropped in Midwestern gardens by 2300
BC [Crites, 1993 #86;Fritz, 2000 #85]. No later than 1500 BC they were joined by a
domesticated version of chenopod or goosefoot (Chenopodium berlandieri ssp. jonesianum).
The wild-growing chenopod thrives in floodplain and disturbed upland settings across eastern
North America. The garden complex that eventually emerges comprised “starchy” (high
carbohydrate) species including chenopod, little barley (Hordeum pusillum), maygrass (Phalaris
caroliniana), and erect knotweed (Polygonum erectum), and “oily” (high lipid) varieties
including gourd/squash, sunflower, and sumpweed. Tobacco (Nicotiana quadrivalvis or
multivalvis) was introduced approximately AD 1 from the west coast, and maize (Zea mays)
about the same time via the Southwest rather than directly from Mexico [Anderson, 2002
#91;Fritz, 2000 #85;Chapman, 1981 #80;Yarnell, 1985 #81].
West-central Kentucky and eastern Tennessee yield the highest counts of native starchy and oily
seeds in the Southeast outside Illinois and Ohio; the lowest counts are for southeastern
Tennessee, west-central Alabama and the piedmont of North and South Carolina [Gremillion,
2002 #127]. Along with other evidence, the larger Central Mississippi Valley containing the
Ridge and Valley and the Blue Ridge proper, is the Hearth of Eastern Domestication. This is the
core area noted by Fritz [, 1993 #128] where locally and distantly domesticated species converge
to form a true garden complex denoting the transition from extraction to manipulation (FIGURE
4). However, there is little evidence to suggest populations in the lower southeast were much
committed to food production until the development of maize-based agriculture toward the end
of the first millennium AD.
Excavations at the Casino site in western North Carolina provide botanical evidence for
sumpweed and chenopodium cultivation in the Appalachian Summit from AD ~235 in addition
to the collection of the seeds of acorn, hazelnut, walnut, chestnut and honey locust. The other
period site from the Summit with reported remains is Warren Wilson and it provides evidence
for chenopod and knotweed [Yarnell, 1976 #90;Wetmore, 2002 #16;Purrington, 1983 #96].
There is still little archaeobotanical information from either the Appalachian Summit or the
adjacent Piedmont of North and South Carolina. However, it has been suggested that future
research in this area may be important in assessing the relationship between farming and
seasonal variability in length of growing season [Gremillion, 2002 #127].
For example, there is some evidence for farming developing in areas characterized by 60-100
days per year with temperatures below 0º Celsius [Gremillion, 2002 #127]. The suggestion is
that early gardening practices were a strategy for increasing storable produce by members of
sedentary or near-sedentary societies relative to the yearly fluctuation of such staples as acorns
and hickory nuts [Fritz, 2000 #85;Gremillion, 2002 #127]. As the human population increased,
the movement of local groups was restricted to smaller territories and their ability to compensate
for yearly variation in the supply of wild foods through movement was limited. Oily-seed
species with large seeds, thin-coats, and denser or non-shattering seed heads provided insurance
against want during winter and spring. In any event, the potential crop yield of the species in the
early garden complex was as high as 1000 kg/ha and comparable to those possible from maize
[Anderson, 2002 #91;Smith, 1992 #92].
In years of plenty surplus seed could be traded with neighboring groups, suggested by the
increased production of native grains in southeastern Tennessee and the Appalachian Summit
that coincides with participation in the Hopewell Exchange Network between 100 BC and AD
300-400 [Chapman, 1994 #82;Fritz, 2000 #85;Ward, 1999 #78;Davis, 1990 #77]. There is
additional circumstantial evidence for intensive cultivation from this time period. This comes
from the extent of land clearing, manufacture and use of hoes, the construction and use of storage
facilities, and the manufacture of specialized ceramic vessels for both cooking and storing crops
[Gremillion, 1993 #94;Smith, 1992 #92;Anderson, 2002 #91].
After AD 800, sites are larger, contain multiple features and structures covering several acres and
indicate an increased occupational intensity relative to the first half of the period [Chapman,
1994 #82;Keel, 1972 #97;Ward, 1999 #78;Davis, 1990 #77]. After AD 1000, there are villages
with several hundred inhabitants and massive ceremonial mound centers are built indicating the
emergence of highly stratified societies. Changes in village form are closely associated with a
shift in agricultural production. Maize was first introduced to the region about AD 1, but it was
not intensively cultivated until about AD 800. By AD 1000 it was a staple and all other native
crops with the exception of sunflower began to decrease in relative importance [Johannessen,
1993 #87].
The garden complex encountered by the de Soto Expedition of 1540, the first Europeans to reach
southern Appalachia, was completed by incorporating two additional domesticates. The cushaw
squash (Curcurbita argyrosperma ssp. argyrosperma) was adopted by AD 1000 from the
Southwest; the garden bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), probably also from the Southwest, was
adopted by AD 1200 [Fritz, 2000 #85;Ward, 1999 #78]. Acorns, hickory nuts, walnuts,
butternuts and a wide variety of fleshy fruits remained important, but agriculture was clearly the
subsistence foundation of pre-contact societies [Yarnell, 1976 #90;Gremillion, 1989 #93;Ward,
1999 #78]. A simplified, maize-dominated farming system was fully entrenched in the Central
Mississippian Valley by AD 1400 and associated with the formation of Mississippian chiefdoms.
Mississippian settlements vary widely in size from small farmsteads to fairly large nucleated
villages with platform mounds. Irrespective of size, these settlements are nearly always located
in floodplain environments, and non-riverine sites are exclusively small, temporary camps
[Dickens, 1978 #98;Purrington, 1983 #96;Davis, 1990 #77]. The form and structure of village
mounds clearly suggest a shift toward a hierarchical form of sociopolitical organization centered
on a class of hereditary elite rulers [Anderson, 1994 #99;DePratter, 1983 #100]. The size and
complexity of Mississippian polities in southern Appalachia varied from large centers with
multiple mounds and control of large territories to relatively small villages. The influence of
smaller villages that often lacked mounds did not go beyond the immediate vicinity of the site.
Some authors have suggested that high-ranking leaders made demands for surplus grains and
built granaries to be filled with maize [Rose, 1991 #88;Scarry, 1993 #89]. Certainly, farming
strategies were affected by the obvious increase in political integration. This might include the
allocation of fields and some of the surplus production could have been used as tribute.
The chiefdom-level Mississippian polities were notoriously unstable and few lasted more than
100 year [Hally, 1996 #101]. Individual polities rose and fell, and the centers of population
concentration and the buffer zones between them shifted through time. Some groups dispersed
up and down river valleys in farmsteads and small hamlets, while others were congregated in
fortified towns. As a consequence, no locality in the region was subject to continuous and
intensive human impact for more than a few centuries. Mississippian chiefdoms declined in
parts of the southeast by AD 1500 giving way to more egalitarian societies [Ward, 1999
#78;Chapman, 1994 #82]. Town houses from this subsequent period were sometimes built on
pre-existing Mississippian mounds as noted by William Bartram in his travels through Cherokee
territory in the 1770s [Doren, 1928 #102].
Many questions remain about the closing centuries of the Mississippian period in southern
Appalachia. For example, no archaeological material dating between AD 1100-1450 has been
recovered from the Tuckasegee drainage west to the North Carolina-Tennessee border [Ward,
1999 #78]. However, it seems unlikely that people simply abandoned the lower Little Tennessee
and Hiawassee River valleys for 350 years. Certainly there were sizable populations in the
adjacent portions of north Georgia and eastern Tennessee up through first contact. The greatest
question of all, however, is the origin of the Cherokee. By the late 17th century when European
observers were attuned to the ethnic differences across the southeast, the Cherokee appear to
exclusively control the southern Appalachian highlands. They are linguistically related to
Iroquoian-speaking groups of upstate New York from whom they split perhaps 4,000 years ago
[Mithun, 1984 #120;Snow, 1984 #121]. Their relation to the chiefdoms in the Appalachian
Summit remains ambiguous, however. Several Cherokee towns, for example, during the 18th
century bore Muskogean-derived names [Rodning, 2002 #109]. This fact along with other
evidence suggests a coalescence of native communities in southern Appalachia as a function of
European contact and the opportunities that came with the Columbian Revolution.
Columbian Revolution
Time of first contact varied widely across the southeast. In 1525 an expeditionary force led by
Pedro de Quejo sailed along the Atlantic coast from Andrews Sound in south Georgia to
Delaware Bay, making landfall at various places in between [Hoffman, 1994 #103]. The effect
on interior groups is unknown, but numerous authors have long-speculated on the biological
consequences of this and other early contacts [Thornton, 1992 #104]. Hernando de Soto was the
first to visit the interior, embarking from Florida in 1539 and reaching what is now west central
North Carolina in the spring of 1540. He traveled west over the Blue Ridge into Tennessee and
finally south into Georgia where he visited the paramount chiefdom of Coosa [Hudson, 1985
#106]. The explorers were impressed by the wealth and authority of the Coosa chief:
The Cacique came out to receive him at the distance of two crossbow shots from the
town, borne on a litter on the shoulders of his principal men, seated on a cushion, and
covered with a mantle of martinskins of the size and shape of a woman’s shawl; on his
head he wore a diadem of plumes, and he was surrounded by many attendants playing
upon flutes and singing [Elvas, 1968 (1557) #105: 81].
Juan Pardo retraced de Soto's route in two separate expeditions in 1566 and 1568 [Hudson, 1990
#108]. On the first expedition Pardo founded a small fort near present-day Marion in McDowell
County (North Carolina). He garrisoned the fort with 30 men under the command of Sergeant
Hernando Moyano de Morales who became involved in local politics and fought several battles
for his native allies. Moyano was probably active from late 1566 through mid 1567 when he was
rescued by Pardo after he and his troops fled the fort upon its imminent attack by a force of some
3,000 natives. There is nevertheless no significant evidence that 16th century Spanish
expeditions had a lasting impact on aboriginal groups in southern Appalachia.
The English settled Jamestown in 1607, but did not explore the back country until the mid 1600s.
By 1670 there was a steady stream of traders and packhorses making their way to the eastern
edge of the Blue Ridge bringing tools, weapons, ornaments and disease. Needham and Arthur
were the first known to record their observations about the Cherokee when they traveled from
Virginia through the Blue Ridge in 1673. After probably descending the Watauga river, passing
near present-day Johnson City, going down the Nolachucky then the French Broad River, they
eventually reached the major Cherokee town of Chota on the Little Tennessee River. They
described it as follows:
This town is seated on ye river side, having ye clefts of ye river on ye one side being very
high for its defence, the other three sides trees of two foot over, pitched on end, twelve
foot high, and on ye topps scafolds place with parrapits to defend the walls and offend
theire enemies which men stand on to fight…This forte is foure square; 300: paces over
and ye houses sett in streets…[Williams, 1928 #111: 27-8]
By 1690, the Cherokee were the principal aboriginal group occupying southern Appalachia when
sustained contact with English traders from Charles Town was established. The Cherokee had
the largest population of the many groups in the southern Appalachian region with a population
of approximately 12,000. They also claimed some 322,600 km2 (125,000 mi2) of southern
Appalachia including most of the present states of Kentucky and Tennessee, and large sections
of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia [Mooney, 1995
#125;Royce, 1975 #126]. The area thus served as a buffer between France, England and Spain
in their three-way struggle for ultimate control of the southeast that lasted nearly to 1776 and the
American Revolution [Dunaway, 1996 #135;Gearing, 1974 #122]. The Cherokee where also
strategically placed for the British to purpose trade with the interior Indian nations in the
Mississippi and Ohio Valleys [Johnson, 1719 #123;Corkran, 1962 #124].
Deerskins were the most important commodity and the principal means for the Cherokee to
obtain the European trade goods that diffused rapidly into Cherokee society. The most sought
after items – firearms, hatchets, knives, traps, brass kettles, and beads – in most cases provided
more efficient alternatives to existing Cherokee equivalents [Newman, 1979 #115;Wilms, 1973
#114]. However, the Cherokee also adopted European-introduced plants and animals (TABLE
5) including watermelon (Citrullus vulgaris), peaches (Prunus persica), apples (Malus pumila),
horses, pigs and chickens [Goodwin, 1977 #112]. Other crops were added during the late 18th or
early 19th century partly because they were best cultivated by using the plow that the Cherokee
adopted late relative to other groups. Obtaining export-oriented commodities removed men from
towns for up to four months during the hunting season [Goodwin, 1977 #112;Hawkins, 1848
#116], and this had a direct effect on the behavior of the women and children left in the villages.
For example, the Cherokee adopted pigs because women and children could easily keep them in
small pens, provisioning them from the surrounding forests and thus provide themselves with
meat during the extended absences of the men [Adair, 1974 #117;Goodwin, 1977 #112].
Cattle were the last European production element adopted by the Cherokee. Martin Schneider
noted during his travels in Cherokee country in 1783-84 that “…every family has its own
field…they have not fences about their fields, on which account no cattle are kept except by
traders” [Williams, 1928 #111: 261]. The acceptance of cattle marked the Cherokee conversion
from a mixed agriculture and hunting subsistence to full-time farming. The Federal Indian
policy of directed culture change [Newman, 1979 #115] further encouraged and accelerated the
transformation in land-use practices and culture. By the early 19th century according to Wilms [,
1991 #119: 1] the Cherokee “…transformed their aboriginal landscape into a new cultural
landscape that resembled and perhaps sometimes surpassed their white frontier neighbors.”
NATIONHOOD: 1776-1950
Up through 1750 the Carolina Piedmont and Appalachian Summit were the home of Indian
traders, hunters and cowpen-workers. The cowpen workers tended large herds of cattle and hogs
that ranged free in the unfenced forests and supplied meat to the major Atlantic sea port for the
region, Charles Town South Carolina [Otto, 1989 #162;Sirmans, 1966 #182]. The British Crown
assumed control of the Carolina colony by buying out seven of the eight proprietors; the heir of
the eighth, Lord Granville, refused to sell and received in 1744 the northern half of North
Carolina as his share. By offering lands in return for modest rents, Lord Granville attracted
settlers from the northern colonies and particularly Pennsylvania Germans. The early
Pennsylvania settlers were joined after 1761 by Scotch-Irish and German immigrants from
Europe who were encouraged by South Carolina’s offer of bounties to white settlers
[Bridenbaugh, 1971 #184;Merriwether, 1940 #183;Fischer, 1989 #185]. By 1775 the Southern
Appalachian “Backcountry” was exporting an array of transportable commodities including flax
seed, wheat, indigo, livestock and peltry [Otto, 1989 #162].
The Backcountry frontier was different than other period frontiers including the Chesapeake and
coastal Carolina. The Backcountry frontier lacked a major cash-crop, there were relatively few
slaves, and the majority of white inhabitants were from Northern England, Scotland and Ireland
(i.e., Scotch-Irish) rather than (southern) English-American [Fischer, 1989 #185;Otto, 1989
#162;Bridenbaugh, 1971 #184]. By ca. 1790, northern English and Scotch-Irish comprised
between 51-53% of whites in the North and South Carolina Backcountry [Fischer, 1989 #185].
The difference played out in a pivotal event in the early settlement of eastern Tennessee, the socalled “Regulation” rebellion. This was a response to a comprehensive political reform agenda
(with social and racial overtones) suppressed at the battle of Alamance, North Carolina in 1771
[Hatley, 1993 #186;Otto, 1989 #162]. Diehard “Regulators” fled to frontier lands beyond the
crest of the Appalachian Mountains marking the Proclamation Line of 1763 that separated
Native American from American Colonial lands. Many of the Regulators arrived at the Watauga
settlements in what is now eastern Tennessee, established by Virginians in approximately 1769
[Hatley, 1993 #186;Dixon, 1976 #189;Summers, 1903 #188;Arthur, 1914 #187].
By 1819 the political boundaries of the United States stretched to the Pacific seaboard, but before
the interior lands could be opened to agricultural settlement the federal government had to
extinguish Indian claims. In southern Appalachia the process involved numerous quit-claim
treaties between the United States and the Cherokee. A progressive series of treaties were signed
from 1785 to the Treaty of New Echota proclaimed May 23, 1836, in which the Cherokee Nation
ceded to the United States all its claims to lands east of the Mississippi River [Royce, 1975
#126;Otto, 1989 #162]. The availability of cheap public lands made possible by these treaties
attracted thousands of agriculturalists from the southern seaboard. They first settled the
piedmont areas of North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama, and gradually converged
on the interior highlands. The Little Tennessee and French Broad River basins offered attractive
farming opportunities [Inscoe, 1989 #151], and between 1790 and 1850 the population of the
entire study region grew at the average annualized rate of 3.4% peaking at 7.6% between 1790
and 1800 (FIGURE 5).
One final pattern carrying through from Colonial times to Nationhood in southern Appalachia is
that of land distribution – a few large absentee owners, a small class of yeomanry, and many
landless families [Fischer, 1989 #185;Dunaway, 1996 #135;Salstrom, 1994 #168]. Inequality
was greater in the backcountry and the southern highlands than in any other rural region of the
United States. By the last decade of the 18th century (TABLE 6), Gini ratios for total wealth in
four Tennessee counties in the upper northwest corner of the study area ranged from 64 to 75.
The top decile of wealthholders owned between 47-73% of land and slaves, while between 2839% of the population had neither. The situation appears to get worse through 1850 in this
portion of Tennessee, and by implication the region at large. Based on results from Cocke
county (Gini = 62) and Johnson county (Gini = 71) the situation does not change much into the
20th century either [Winters, 1987 #190;Fischer, 1989 #185;Geisler, 1983 #191].
Over the course of the 19th century, the population of Appalachia became enmeshed in the
emerging global system. This was a consequence of the plantation economy of the lower south
and the commodity chains that spread outward from the Atlantic Rim to the Caribbean and the
urban European centers [Dunaway, 1996 #135;Salstrom, 1994 #168]. The economic ties to the
lower south in particular led to a shift of production priorities in southern Appalachia.
Production shifted from subsistence and shelter that prevailed during the frontier era to
marketing agricultural surpluses. The singular focus of coastal plain plantations on cash crops
such as cotton or rice limited their capacity to produce the foodstuffs necessary to sustain the
enslaved agricultural labor, and southern Appalachia met this need. The exported subsistence
commodities were produced on small and medium family-operated farms [Groover, 2003 #145].
Meeting this need was not insignificant. Slaves represented on average 46% of the population in
the seven Deep South states (South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Georgia
and Texas) that seceded from the Union by March 1861 prior to the battle of Fort Sumter (April
12-14, 1861) – the beginning of the Civil War [Kolchin, 2003 #64]. Slaves made up 57.2% of
the population of South Carolina, and this was the largest of any state in the Union. It also stood
out in marked contrast to the 18 northern states with no slaves at all. The distribution of slaves
throughout mountain counties in Appalachia was more variable and ranged from 2-25% [Inscoe,
1989 #151]. After the Civil War, Appalachia continued to supply subsistence products to the
lower south where cotton farming and the tenancy system undermined rural sufficiency and
diversified farming [Fite, 1984 #197;Wright, 1986 #198;Groover, 2003 #145].
The need for transporting commodities also influenced the building of an improved
transportation network. In 1850 the southern states only had 2,000 miles of railroad, largely
confined to the Atlantic seaboard states. The agricultural prosperity that began in the 1850s,
however, stimulated construction of both interstate and local lines in the interior [Cotterill, 1924
#193;Stover, 1978 #194]. By 1860 the Southern states had about 10,000 miles of railroad tracks.
This helped reorient settlement away from waterways in some areas most agriculturalists in the
more rugged highlands continued depending on canoes, large flatboats or keelboats (e.g., Little
Tennessee and French Broad) and wagons for transportation [Black, 1952 #196;Stover, 1978
#194;Taylor, 1951 #195;Groover, 2003 #145].
There is some support for the cyclical expansion and contraction of the rural economy of
Appalachia during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries with a 50-year periodicity conforming to a socalled Kondratieff wave [Kondratieff, 1979 #199]. Economic stagnation provides the impetus to
frontier expansion and colonialism, and the resulting capture of new resources revives the
stagnating economy [Salstrom, 1994 #168;Dunaway, 1996 #135;Groover, 2003 #145]. The
take-off for the first cycle in southern Appalachia occurs in approximately 1820. Returns were
favorable through the 1830s with cheap transportation and favorable prices, but a banking crisis
in 1837 shook the American economy and commodity prices fell [North, 1961 #192;Otto, 1989
#162]. Prices soon recovered and per farm production peaked during the 1850-1860 decade.
The 1850 decade not only marks a watershed of agricultural production for Appalachia, it also
reflects the onset of a comprehensive political reform agenda by the United States. The
Regulator Rebellion in the third quarter of the 18th century was the reaction to a regional reform
agenda. The Federal government began implanting reforms in banking, land ownership and
agriculture starting in the 1840s. These reforms combined with the central government’s
increasing effectiveness at ensuring policy compliance eventually resulted in a dramatic shift in
the agricultural regime of the United States. The year 1850 furthermore marks the beginning of
the regular collection of national Agricultural Census information (and other types of
information), reflecting a State strategy to increase legibility [Scott, 1998 #200]. It also provides
the means to identify spatial and temporal transformation signatures beyond what is possible
with the earlier records. We use data sets for three pivotal dates to characterize the distribution
of production across the study region spatially and temporally as a function of farm area,
commodity classes, and agroecology. The three pivotal dates are 1850, 1900 and 1950. These
respectively represent a) the peak of antebellum agricultural production, b) the point of recovery
after Reconstruction yet prior to the radical expansion of the timber industry, and c) the end of
agriculture as way of life in Appalachia.
The average farm size in the study region in 1850 was 131 has (323 acres; TABLE 7). Based on
a limited sample size from another study [Otto, 1982 #161], the ratio of improved to unimproved
land was 1:5 in the mountains. Land-clearing was reportedly carried out annually by the vast
majority of mountain farmers since only the wealthiest could afford to purchase fertilizers that
would allow them to plant the same area every year [Otto, 1982 #161]. By one estimate, it cost
more to lime one acre of land than to buy three acres in the western U.S. [Lebergott, 1985 #155].
The general cropping procedure was to girdle trees, burn the area to kill pests and further clear
the land, then plant corn between the remaining stumps [Otto, 1989 #162;Otto, 1982 #161].
Slash and burn was the general practice through the early part of the 20th century. As for
production, there were shifts over time in the relative importance of different commodity classes
(TABLE 8). Grains and forage account for 94% of total production in 1850; grain, forage and
fruit account for 93% of total production in 1900; and forage, fiber and grain account for 97% of
production in 1950.
The principal grain across time is corn at 60%, 45% and 13% of total production respectively in
1850, 1900, and 1949. Corn was used to feed livestock, but was also converted to grain alcohol
for storage, transportation and sale as “moonshine” [Otto, 1989 #162;Davis, 2000 #132]. The
agroecology of the region (FIGURE 2) limits the production of crops such as cotton and tobacco
to the warmer and lower areas. Fruits requiring an extended cold season to set fruit such as
apples and peaches are concentrated in the cooler and higher areas. While highest production in
1850, 1900 and 1950 corresponds roughly with the area of median to maximum agroecological
suitability there are other forces at work that ultimately determine county-level production.
Probably the most significant was access to transportation: the counties in eastern Tennessee and
southwestern Virginia in the study area were linked to Atlanta, Charleston and the eastern
seaboard via the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad as of 1855; much of western North
Carolina and north Georgia, however, had only limited roadways until after WW II [Cotterill,
1924 #193;Black, 1952 #196;Otto, 1989 #162;Groover, 2003 #145]. Building transportation
routes was identified by the Appalachian Regional Commission in the early 1960s as the first
step needed to open the region the opportunity for economic development (see below).
Southern Appalachia in the 19th century is said to have been one of the most self-sufficient
regions in the country [Salstrom, 1994 #168] with farmers growing a wide variety of fiber,
forage, fruit, grain and other products (TABLE 10). The claim is not without challenge when
subsistence is defined as the level at which the farm as a production unit is able to reproduce
itself. We still lack the necessary data to make such an evaluation, but evidence from Beech
Creek is suggestive. Beech Creek is a neighborhood in the hills of eastern Kentucky in Central
Appalachia. In 1880, up to 35% of households may have been producing below the subsistence
level in Beech Creek [Weingartner, 1989 #181]. Family and kin relationships probably made
possible the reproduction of marginal and below-subsistence farms through inter-household
strategies of survival [Halperin, 1990 #264].
Total farm area increased 19% between 1850 and 1900 while the number of farms increased
275% and the average farm area decreased by 66%, and the reproductive rate was the highest of
any region in America [DeJong, 1968 #133]. Between 1900 and 1950 total farm area decreased
by 25%, the number of farms increased by 14% and the average farm area decreased by 36%.
Population growth and the practice of partible inheritance triggered the transition from frontier
expansion to infilling during the second half of the 19th century [Salstrom, 1994 #168]. The
ever-decreasing farm size meant more land needed to be cleared each year, which made slash
and burn less and less viable as a production strategy. This undermined the viability of southern
Appalachia farms. Phosphate mining and the expansion of the rail system made fertilizer more
widely available, but its cost was still prohibitive for most mountain farmers [Otto, 1982 #161].
After the Civil War there was a movement toward the marketing of surplus grains and livestock
[Weingartner, 1989 #181;Salstrom, 1994 #168]. Cattle and other livestock were always critical
components of the overall production system in southern Appalachia; hogs were fed on mast and
cattle were allowed to wild-forage on unfenced lands [Inscoe, 1989 #151;Otto, 1989 #162;Davis,
2000 #132]. The widespread introduction of fencing after the Civil War and the subsequent rise
of the timber industry, however, meant that farmers with small holdings could no longer forage
hogs and cattle on common lands. Furthermore, cattle and hog holdings were increasing in
tandem with the human population during the later half of the 19th century and more animals per
unit area resulted in more soil compaction. Compaction affected the capacity of the soil to retain
moisture and increased runoff and erosion. In addition, cattle grazed on saplings and this slowed
the rate of reforestation [Otto, 1982 #161]. By the end of the 19th century, the overall viability of
the small farm was in jeopardy. Many full-time farmers had to seek part-time wage employment
in mining and timbering to ensure family s urvival [Salstrom, 1994 #168;Otto, 1989
#162;Dunaway, 1996 #135;Groover, 2003 #145]. By 1920 erosion was resulting in serious soil
loss [Salstrom, 1994 #168].
The 1880-1950 period marks the rise and consolidation of the state and federal institutional
framework regulating agriculture (TABLE 9). For example, the Hatch Act of 1887 created a
national network of agricultural experiment stations, while the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 created
the U. S. Cooperative Extension Service. The most far reaching was the Agricultural
Adjustment Act. Its initial effect in southern Appalachia was to reduce the production of corn
and hogs, the region’s biggest outputs. Many mountain families did not participate in the
program because it meant they would then need to spend money they no longer had to buy the
corn and pork they no longer produced. The acreage cutbacks had little effect on large
landholders. They could increase productivity per acre by using pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides
and mechanization that were collectively cost-prohibitive for small producers [Salstrom, 1994
#168]. Modifications to the Agricultural Adjustment program after 1930 allowed for regional
and farm-to-farm differences and began to make a difference to small-scale farmers. In addition,
the Federal Government began distributing phosphate freely and encouraging its use to promote
legume ground cover. The result was increased groundcover and decreased erosion [Salstrom,
1994 #168]. Nevertheless, by 1940 and in spite of these programs Southern Appalachia was a
distressed region and between 1940 and 1960 there was a net out-migration of 1.8 million people
[Salstrom, 1994 #168;DeJong, 1968 #133]. The event is referred to as the “Great Out
Migration” and it conditions the subsequent history of the region.
New South: 1950 to Present
By the early 1960s Appalachia was described as “an island of distress in a sea of affluence”
[Moore, 1994 #213]. Some authors noted that living conditions in the southern mountains were
analogous to those found in many Third World countries [Falk, 1988 #258]. This situation led to
the creation in the early 1960s of the Appalachian Regional Commission with the aim of
resolving the economic disparity between Appalachia and the rest of the United States. The
strategy of the Commission was to build highways between population centers to facilitate
economic development and so improve local access to educational, health, recreational,
commercial and industrial facilities. Changes were dramatic. Between 1970 and 1991, certain
economic sectors – particularly tourism and service – grew as much as 600% in the 13 states
comprising “political” Appalachia. By reference to a matched control group of counties
elsewhere in the United States, the fast-growing Appalachian counties showed superior
economic, social, and public health gains [Isserman, 1995 #210].
Southern Appalachian traditions changed substantially during and after the integration of the
region into the larger national economy. As transportation networks developed, many
Appalachian families abandoned a difficult, meager and uncertain agricultural livelihood and
moved to the rural areas surrounding regional cities. In doing this they took their cultural
traditions with them [Halperin, 1990 #264]. For example, the strong resistance to zoning and
other land use restrictions in southern Appalachia has been related to the strong tradition of
individual and family independence [Cho, 2003 #239;Falk, 1988 #258]. At the same time, large
numbers of individual from other parts of the country began migrating to southern Appalachia
reversing the effects of the Great Out Migration. The situation was set for the transformation of
the Old South into the New South. The transformation of Appalachia over the last 30 years is
just as salient, if less well studies, than the more recent transformation of the “Wild” West into
the “New” West [Hansen, 2002 #202].
Southern Appalachian settlement through the 1960s was concentrated in low lying areas on large
flats or near the confluence of rivers. The contemporary trend is for individual dwellings
dispersed in loose clusters across the landscape particularly on steep slopes and upland ridges
[Wear, 1998 #322]. The new inhabitants rather than striving for the proximity of kin, are
seeking the relative isolation and amenity of distant views afforded by houses built high on
forested slopes. Previously farmed land near streams is now reverting to forest as agricultural
production is supplanted by service and recreation activities. In short, an aging local population
is not being replaced reproductively or economically by descent and area subdividing former
agroforestry lands into recreational properties for sale to in-migrants. The result is a
gentrification of Appalachia.
Newcomers to southern Appalachia are on average wealthier, more highly educated, and have
more urban interests than traditional southern Appalachian inhabitants [Gragson, nd #262;Falk,
1988 #258]. They are also older. Most future changes in land use will be based on the need to
house and serve this older, wealthier population. There is presently little evidence, however, of
state-level initiatives to respond either to the future needs of this population or to the
consequences of this shift in age structure and values [Cho, 2003 #239].
In different locations around the world and for various reasons, land once dedicated to
agriculture has been abandoned and forest and woody vegetation has expanded. Southern
Appalachia is undergoing this very change since the demise of agriculture as a way of life. Our
understanding of what this means for regional environments is still limited since we have yet to
systematically link the underlying mechanisms to their various long-term ecological
consequences. Much of our Coweeta LTER research has been directed at reducing the similar
lack of understanding of the cumulative temporal and spatial effects of multiple land uses and
land-use change on water quantity, quality and biota. The current failure to link the biophysical
and socioeconomic realms seriously constrains efforts to forecast future ecosystem responses or
to execute management strategies that anticipate the most likely outcomes of change trajectories.
As a first step in correcting this situation, the following section summarizes what we have
learned from Coweeta LTER research on the general regional consequences of agricultural land
use on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
We preface this discussion by emphasizing the concentrated nature of agricultural transitions to
near-stream regions. Flat or gently sloping land comprises less than 5% of the southern
Appalachians. Near-stream flat lands are among the most desirable for agriculture, because of
the proximity to water and hence potential habitation, easier cultivation at low slopes, and
increased fertility and moisture in the colluvial deposits and downslope locations. Near stream
areas were the first farmed, had the longest tenure, and the most intense manipulations. Early
surveys and aerial photographs show the highest valued and most intensively cultivated row
crops, such as tobacco, near streams. Grazing, farming, and living were more common and in
these near areas, and resultant modification of riparian vegetation and changes in flow and
sediment regimes have cascaded down through the embedded aquatic environments.
These near-stream areas bear the heaviest human footprint that continues today. Early
transporation networks were easiest to place in the gently sloping near-stream areas, and also
served the concentration of agriculture there. Cherokee village sites served by footpaths have
given way to farm villages and county centers connected by narrow roads, which in turn have
been replaced by local economic centers connecting urban refugees and retirees. With a few
notable exceptions, the current settlement patterns and impacts are driven by the history of
agricultural land use.
Terrestrial Ecosystems
In the mesic forests of southern Appalachia, past agricultural land use is associated with a
decrease in herbaceous species richness and total herbaceous cover. Where past land use was
intense, the cover of liliaceous, old-growth and mesophytic forest herbs is reduced and that of
weedy species increased (FIGURE 7). However, life-history characteristics interact strongly
with landscape pattern to determine final species distribution in disturbed forests [Pearson, 1998
#294]. Native mesophytic species are less abundant in small patches as they lacked adaptations
for long-range dispersal by wind or animals; native species with adaptations for long-range
dispersal are equally abundant in small and large patches. Modeling studies based on long-term
seed dispersal data demonstrate large differences among tree species in the rates at which they
colonize abandoned agricultural land [Clark, 1998 #242]. Even in closed stands only a subset of
species predictably disperse seed to open sites. Dispersal limitations appear to be a major
obstacle to the rate of spread. Species producing large quantities of well-dispersed seed
including Betula, Acer, and Liriodendron, have the advantage [Clark, 1999 #243].
There were undoubtedly indirect effects of agricultural transformation on ecosystems, and
converse indirect effects of ecosystems on agricultural transformation. Some of these effects are
well-supported while others await investigation. For example, a number of studies have
documented an increase in the brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater ), a nest parasite of many
forest birds, due to increased agriculture (Brittingham and Temple, 1996; Ortega, 1998).
Cowbirds forage primarily in open areas, often on invertebrates disturbed by the movements of
cattle, and more frequently parasitize birds nesting near forest edges. Increases in agricultural
edges and livestock have resulted in substantial declines in many forest bird species, although
impacts from the pre-contact period through the Columbian revolution are speculative.
Agricultural transitions also affected large herbivore populations. White-tailed deer (Odocoileus
virginianus) and eastern elk (Cervus elaphus canadensis) are often the most common species in
paleoindian middens (McMichael, 1963; Guilday and Tanner, 1965), and a primary food source
prior to agriculture. Both species thrive in a forest/open mosaic, and early journals note extensive
habitat manipulation by native Americans to improve deer habitat, (McCabe and McCabe, 1984),
although the area, frequency and intensity of deliberate burning is in dispute (Pyne, 2001).
Ungulate populations were undoubtedly affected by agricultural expansion and contraction
during the Missippian period, but in an unknown and probably unknowable way. Hunting
pressures may have decreased due to a shift toward agricultural expansion, or increased due to a
net human population increase.
Journal entries and economic records provide some estimate of human impacts on these large
game species during the second agricultural expansion that took place 1700s and early 1800s, a
period straddling the Columbian revolution and early Nationhood periods. Subsistence
requirements prior to contact drove deer and elk harvest, and needs for leather may have driven
harvest rates more than protein or caloric requirements (Driver, 1969; McCabe and McCabe,
1982). Early contact harvests are generally estimated to be between three and ten deer and a
fraction of an elk per person annually, rates that are substantially below levels that would control
ungulate populations. Harvest rates increased substantially because hides were the primary
commodity through which native Americans could obtain axes, hoes, pots, and other desired
manufactured goods. Woodland harvest reached unsustainable proportions during the early
nation building period; agricultural development in the coastal region supported a local
Euroamerican population, the development of trading centers, and overharvest in as yet
uncolonized interior regions. As agriculture and colonization advanced toward the uplands, hide
and market hunting increased by both natives and Euroamericans, and continued after native
removal to the extirpation of eastern elk, and substantial reduction of eastern deer populations.
Agricultural transitions also affect mass, energy, and elemental cycling through ecosystems. As
forests were converted to agricultural fields, carbon stored in standing wood and forest floor
biomass was lost – live biomass and necromass contain a majority of the labile carbon in
southern Appalachian forests. Agricultural production prior to the introduction of commercial
mineral fertilizers in the early 1900s [Davidson, 1993 #249] measured as annual dry biomass
accumulation is only a small fraction of forest production. Aboveground net primary production
in southern Appalachian cove and lowland forest sites typically ranges from 10 to 12 Mg
biomass ha-1 year-1 while non-fertilized agricultural plots typically produce less than 2 Mg
biomass ha-1 year-1. Productivity on fertilized agricultural sites is higher, but rarely reaches
50% of that observed on forested sites (FIGURE 8).
Valley and cove forests potentially have the highest aboveground carbon pools in southern
Appalachia. Cove forests, in particular, carry up to 230 Mg C ha-1 [Whittaker, 1966 #227].
However, valley and cove forest sites are also the most impacted by human land use across all
time periods save perhaps the last 30 years [Bolstad, 1998 #231;Wear, 1998 #322]. Comparative
measurements on such sites in southern Appalachia indicate that aboveground carbon pools on
row-crop and pasture sites average approximately 2 Mg C ha-1, which is only a tiny fraction of
the 151 Mg C ha-1 found on comparable sites with mature, once-harvested forests [Bolstad, 2001
Belowground soil carbon loss depends on many factors and across southern Appalachia ranges
from low [Kalisz, 1986 #276] to substantial [Bolstad, 2001 #232]. Most of the belowground
carbon pool on forest sites is contained in total coarse root and stump carbon [Harris, 1977
#267]. The majority of this pool is lost in the first few decades after such sites are converted to
agricultural use. On agricultural sites, carbon losses often increase relative to carbon inputs due
to the increase in soil temperature, reduced soil carbon inputs, and the addition of nitrogen
fertilizers [Davidson, 1993 #249]. When agricultural use of a site ends and forest is allowed to
regrow, much of the aboveground live biomass recovers within the first century.
Aboveground necromass recovers more slowly than biomass, but soil carbon recovers even more
slowly. It can take from several decades to several centuries to return soil carbon to pre-forest
clearing levels [Schlesinger, 1990 #308]. In general, regional carbon stocks decreased in
southern Appalachia in concert with increases in agricultural land use from AD 800 to the early
1900s [Delcourt, 1980 #253]. Since 1900, carbon stocks have increased as farms were
abandoned, fires were suppressed, and regional manufacturing and service economies replaced
agriculture. Soil carbon changes due to changes in land use also affect the habitat quality for
understory forest herbs. The result is to lower forest herb diversity and abundance [Pearson,
1998 #294]. The change in soil quality is a consequence of the increased organic matter with
greater water-retention capacity, improved aeration and tilth, and enhanced supplies of plant
nutrients [Coleman, 1996 #245]. In summary, land use changes have been most complete,
intense, and persistent in floodplain and cove sites. This creates numerous potential pathways
for impacts to occur on aquatic ecosystems. For example, conversion of forest to agriculture
removes trees that both shade and deliver substantial quantities of matter and energy (as leaves
and woody litterfall) to streams [Wallace, 1999 #320].
Aquatic Ecosystems
The aquatic ecosystems of the southern Appalachians are among the World’s most diverse, due
to a number of reasons. The mountains encompass a broad range of elevation and hence
climactic regimes, providing both cool, shaded uplands and warmer reaches that border the
Piedmont. Higher elevations are geographically isolated, particularly for cool-adapted species, as
thermal barriers downstream often prevent or reduce inter-basin migration. The region has never
been glaciated and many of the river systems drain to the south, allowing a range shift to
southern refugia during preceding glaciation. Fish diversity is high, and mussel diversity among
the highest in the World, and particularly imperiled. Damage is due primarily to the twin factors
of increased sediment due to farming and development, changes in a suite of characteristics due
to dam building, and the introduction of exotic organisms.
Places like southern Appalachia where substantial portions of the landscape were in agriculture
for decades then abandoned and reforested raise important questions about how much stream
ecosystems reflect past vs. current land use. A series of recent Coweeta LTER studies have
focused specifically on the legacy of past land use evident in contemporary aquatic systems
[Harding, 1998 #65;Jones, 1999 #275]. Forest streams generally have higher diversity and
abundance of clean-water benthic macroinvertebrates than streams in agricultural land.
However, forest also have lower fish diversity and abundance, largely consisting of introduced
rainbow or brown trout that presumably ate or displaced most other species. Agricultural
streams do not contain trout, but rather a mixture of native and introduced species that tolerate
high levels of fine sediment and higher water temperatures. The best indicator of 1990s stream
biodiversity in southern Appalachia is land use in 1950 and certain measures of current stream
water quality [Groves, 2002 #207;Scott, 2001 #309]. Most streams on land forested in 1950 had
higher biodiversity than streams on agricultural land in 1950 irrespective of land use in 1990.
The widespread abandonment of farms across the region means that much of the landscape that
is currently forested was farmed in 1950. However, land use change has been largely
unidirectional. Many farms were converted to forests, but relatively few new farms were
established in forest-covered land [Scott, 2001 #309]. Nevertheless, multivariate analyses of
stream faunal communities was used to distinguish sites linked to land in agriculture in 1950, and
sites linked to land in forest in 1950 [Harding, 1998 #65], and these groupings cut across current
land use. Streams on currently forested land that was farmed within the past 50 years have fish
and invertebrate communities comparable to streams on land currently in agricultural use. They
are not comparable to streams on forested land that was not cleared within the last 50 years.
Despite their appearance, currently forested sites harbor the “ghost of land use past” [Harding,
1998 #65]. The critical determinant is stream substrate important at many life history stages for
vertebrate and invertebrate organisms. Therefore, the quality of stream substrate is most strongly
related to past not present land use [Scott, 2001 #309, FIGURE 9].
Riparian corridor width has long been considered the most important determinant of the impact
of land use on streams. Recent Coweeta LTER research, however, indicates that riparian
corridor length may be as important as corridor width [Jones, 1999 #275]. Fish diversity and
abundance in sampled streams was most strongly related to the length of unbroken forest
immediately upstream from the sampling location. Invasive and sediment-tolerant species were
most common where agricultural clearing extended more than one kilometer upstream from the
sampling location. They were least common on stream reaches where forest cover prevailed.
Linear agricultural patches paralleling streams are associated with higher inputs of stream
sediments. As the area and length of upstream agricultural patches increases, fish species that
nest on the bottom and do not clean sediment from their nests decreased in abundance while
species that keep their nests free of silt increased in abundance. In summary, our findings
suggest that nearly 50 years of forest regrowth fail to return southern Appalachian stream biota
to that characteristic of forested streams.
While agricultural practices and transitions have substantially affected the biotic integrity of
aquatic ecosystems, these impacts do little to further to directly constrain or affect land use and
human actions. While fish were a mainstay of native diets during long intervals in the pre-contact
periods, few material goods were harvested from aquatic ecosystems during the post-European
periods. The biotic consequences of agricultural transitions after colonization are in some senses
uni-directional, in that the activities have directly changed the functioning of aquatic biota,
feedbacks on human action are light, and indirect. The largest impacts are within a context of a
cultural appreciation of biodiversity and wild spaces, and attempts to manage public and private
land to maintain aquatic biodiversity.
While agricultural impacts on the aquatic biota are great but appear largely unidirectional,
impacts on physical resources derived from aquatic ecosystems are pervasive and profound.
Agriculture altered stream physiography, structure, and transport capacity. Stream bottoms are
finer textured, banks more incised, and floodplains expanded due to past farming practices.
Floods are higher, more frequent, and occur more quickly than in times past, thereby suggesting
more stringent limits to building in floodplains and other flood-prone areas.
The gentrification of southern Appalachia in combination with the legacy of past land use
practices on contemporary terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems has important implications for
regional conservation. Are they reactive or anticipatory? Do they focus on integrative systems,
or on rescuing biophysical systems to the exclusion of socioeconomic systems? To begin
answering these questions we concentrate in this section on characterizing the nature of
contemporary conservation efforts in southern Appalachia. We do this based largely on an
assessment of web information presented by the 81 conservation organization currently active in
southern Appalachia.
The 81 identified organizations range from national in scope, with and without local chapters,
through site-based organizations: National 19 (7.1%), Regional 14 (5.2%), State 15 (5.6%),
Local 30 (11.2%), and Site 3 (1.1%). In total, they target some 267 conservation-related issues,
but these can be classified into 15 overarching classes. When the dominant scope of the
organization (National to Site) is related to issue classes (TABLE 9) clear priorities emerge.
Growth is somewhat of an exception (i.e., urban sprawl, development, etc.) since it is addressed
by organizations of both national and local scope.
Local groups often serve as watchdog organizations targeting disturbance activities such as
asphalt plants, chipmills, powerlines, solid waste incinerators and landfills. They may also
advocate improved planning of forests, wilderness and recreation areas. Most are isolated from
any regional or national umbrella organization and are typically run by unpaid volunteers. Once
the issue that galvanized the formation of the group is resolved they may cease to operate by
decision or lack of interest. This means a high turnover through time in presence and activity of
local groups. In some cases, local groups may build a lasting organization by reflecting regional
visions and fomenting public involvement. Such organizational transformation is evident in
watershed organizations such as the Chattooga Conservancy and the New River Community
Partners. While local in scope, they were nevertheless able to continue their activities once they
achieved the Wild or Heritage River designation they sought by putting forth a vision for the
future of their target watersheds. They did this by prioritizing their efforts to fend off
incompatible land uses and taking concrete steps toward achieving the vision. In a similar
manner, smaller watershed organizations such as RiverLink and Friends of the Clinch and Broad
Rivers moved from activism to community service by redefining their objectives as public
education, and organizing cleanup days and citizen water quality monitoring. Such activities
also help these organizations receive government and corporate funding further contributing to
their transformation from activism to service.
Local groups, usually with little or no paid staff, do most of their work through volunteer
community action. Selected national organizations with state chapters such as the Sierra Club
try to maintain the grassroots approach. This is also true of state-level organizations that grew
out of local organizations such as the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project and the
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association that support farmers wanting to grow food sustainably.
Other state-level organizations are more professionally organized and fill an advocacy role
through legislative lobbying and calls for action. However, they do not necessarily organize
people to take the action advocated. For example, the Georgia Conservancy's website has a
section on its “About Us” page entitled “How you can help” that includes “Join us” by becoming
a paid member and “Support us” by giving greater financial support. Coalitions of local and
national organizations often promote state legislation and politics as autonomous units such as
the League of Conservation Voters.
Regional organizations tend to fall into one of three categories: forest issue groups, climate
change and air quality groups, and support service groups. Forestry issue groups are wellorganized, active and interconnected. They include organizations such as the Southern
Appalachian Biodiversity Project, the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition, and the Dogwood
Alliance. These three organizations work together closely using grassroots strategies. They
monitor timber sales, the designation of wilderness areas, the listing of endangered species and
forest product marketing campaigns. Appalachian Voices is a membership organization focused
on many of the same issues, but is also the most visible group in the Blue Ridge fighting
mountaintop removal. Katuah Earth First! is a regional network of activists. Its largest presence
is in Tennessee where members focus on forest and nuclear issues using highly visible and often
illegal tactics.
The current Bush administration's changes to the Clean Air Act have recently focused
conservation efforts on air quality issues in southern Appalachia. The New Source Review
(NSR) regulations of the Clean Air Act require power companies and other industrial facilities to
install advanced emission controls when undertaking major modifications that would
significantly increase their emissions. The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the Canary
Coalition are regional groups focused on “green power” legislation and coal-fired power plants
at the state level, and New Source Review and climate change at the federal level. The
effectiveness of such organizations and their proposals on air quality are highly variable. This is
a function of the inherent uncertainty of the issues, the ambiguity of the regulations themselves,
and the internal or external scientific expertise these organizations can draw on.
Regional-scale organizations are also notable for providing conservation support services to
other organizations. WildLaw and the Southern Environmental Law Center provide staff-based
legal support for many of the issues worked on by other groups particularly those focused on
endangered species and national forest timber sales. The Project for Appalachian Community
and Environment is a staff-based group offering GIS and imagery support for environmental
groups in southern Appalachia. SouthWings is an organization of volunteer pilots offering a
wide range of piloting services to environmental organizations in the region.
National organizations active in southern Appalachia tend to be those with local chapters or local
affiliates working with grassroots volunteers. The Sierra Club is the paradigm for such a group
as it straddles the boundary between a local grassroots and a large national organization. The
same is true of The National Forest Protection Alliance. Both organizations work on forestry, air
quality and education issues. Staff-based national advocacy organizations are much less active
in the region. While their websites may place southern Appalachia within an ecoregional
panorama, local participation is generally limited to supporters sending money. Exceptions are
organizations focused on national parks such as the National Parks Conservation Association
working in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
There are two types of site-based organization operating in the region. These are eco-villages
and land trusts. Eco-villages are intentional communities of conservation-minded people living a
sustainable lifestyle, e.g., Earthaven Eco-Village, and Narrow Ridge Earth Literacy Center.
Only a minute percentage of the population of the region live in eco-villages, but the approach of
such groups is notable. Instead of activism, residents of these centers seek to build a sustainable
village that others might join or mimic. They also offer educational programs in permaculture,
sustainable design and folk arts.
Land trusts are supported by a different clientele than other conservation organizations, but are
united in their strategy of conservation through preservation of real property. Land trusts need
money, and people like to see and live near where their money is used. For example, the greatest
concentration of land trust organizations in the region is in and around Highlands, NC. This is
an historically wealthy pocket in southern Appalachia. Nevertheless, there is a strong support
network for land trusts in southern Appalachia and there are local-, state-, regional- and nationallevel organizations. The Conservation Trust for North Carolina is a service organization helping
to form and operate local land trusts.
Forestry is the most significant concern for conservation organizations in southern Appalachia.
The origin of this interest is the move within the last 15 years of the forest industry from the
Pacific Northwest to the Southeast. The identified conservation issues revolve around fighting
chipmills, invasive species, timber sales on public lands, logging, road building, the Bush
administration's “Healthy Forest Initiative,” and Revised Statute 2477 (i.e., a loophole allowing
counties to claim nearly anything as an abandoned right-of-way where a road can be built).
Some organizations focus on positive mechanisms. They concentrate on designating wilderness
areas, protecting roadless areas, promoting sustainable private forestry, designating critical
habitats for endangered species, reforming the US Forest Service, and developing national
recreation areas. All these issues coalesce in the 114-page document drafted by the Southern
Appalachian Forest Coalition entitled “Return the Great Forest.” This document advocates
establishing an interconnected network of wildlands covering 2.8 million acres in southern
Appalachia. The plan is endorsed by more than 200 stakeholders and identifies concrete steps to
be taken by funders, legislators and the public.
There is a notable absence of organizations in southern Appalachia concerned with issues related
to urban sprawl and smart growth. Some groups have organized to stop roads, such as the North
Shore Road in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Such activities have been primarily
carried out in the context of a focused effort at combating forest fragmentation. Virginians for
Appropriate Roads (a chapter of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League) concentrates its
efforts on stopping two proposed highways in southwestern Virginia. Local groups of the Sierra
Club have included land-use and transportation in their efforts, but these are tangential to their
other activities and also typically restricted in their area of influence. In general, there is a true
lack of attention to the systematic problem of sprawling development now occurring throughout
the region and taking place not only adjacent to cities, but also in what are officially “rural”
areas. Smart Growth Partners of Western North Carolina is one of the few organizations with a
specific urban outlook, although it is restricted to the Asheville area.
This overview of the agricultural transformation of southern Appalachia clearly reveals how
humans have insinuated themselves into regional biophysical systems at all levels. The spatial
and temporal patterns of ecological systems bear the signature of human activities and
institutions; however, it is also true that human activities and institutions have been shaped by
the ecological systems in which they are embedded. This reciprocal imprinting means that the
artificial separation of the two components will fail to improve sustainability of either the
landscape of the quality of life. The general linear reality view of how and why events occur in
either realm continues to underpin regional historiography, environmental studies and
conservation efforts.
Our multiscalar, historical and comparative approach to the agricultural transformation of
southern Appalachia is the beginning of a reconciliation of the socioeconomic and biophysical
realms. This pattern-based assessment within the framework of narrative positivism is the first
step toward developing knowledge of general processes and relationships. Our next step is more
analytical and will focus on the network and hierarchy of specific commodity classes at finer
temporal and spatial scales. The objective of this subsequent study is to establish the trajectory
and turning points between AD 1850 and 2000 that we can use to identify transformation
signatures. From this basis it will then be possible to formulate high probability forecasts of
future ecosystem and socioeconomic responses. Decision-makers will then be in the position of
defining and executing management decisions that truly anticipate the most likely outcomes of
New references by bolstad
Brittingham, M.C. and S.A. Temple. 1996. Vegetation around Parasitized and Non-Parasitized Nests Within
Deciduous Forest. J. of Field Ornithology, 67(3): 406-413.
Driver, H.E., 1969. Indians of North America. University of Chicago Press, 632 p.
Guilday, J.E., and D.P. Tanner. 1965. Vertebrate remains from the Mount Carbon Site (46 Fa 7), Fayette County,
West Virginia. West Virginia Archeology, 18:1-14.
McMichael, E.V., 1963. 1963 excavations at the Buffalo Site, 46 PU 31, West Virginia Archeology, 16:12-23.
Ortega, C.P. 1998. Cowbirds and Other Brood Parasites. University of Arizona Press.
Pyne, S.J., 2001. Fire, a brief history, University of Washington Press, 224 p.
Citations on Tables/Figures: [Shulman, 1999 #338;Bogue, 1976 #337;Cridlebaugh, 1984
#339;Davis, 2000 #132;Otto, 1989 #162;Salstrom, 1994 #168;Ward, 1999 #78;Newman, 1979
#115;Goodwin, 1977 #112;Fischer, 1989 #185;Winters, 1987 #190;Nelson, 1955 #335;Keever,
1953 #336;Foster, 1908 #334]