Gabby Lynch, Director of Land Protection with The
Nature Conservancy, is moving her office out of
Shady Valley in Johnson County, TN and will now be
located at Zionville, NC near Mountain City.
The move will probably eliminate much driving from
Zionville to Shady Valley a few times each week. She
has been very busy working with The Nature
Conservancy's purchase of 8,600 acres of Doe Mountain
property in Johnson County, TN in what has been
reported as a project to develop a multi-use tourist
attraction for all-terrain vehicles, biking, horseback
riding and hiking.
The Nature Conservancy fronted $8,800,000 for the state
to buy the property.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said the Doe Mountain
venture could have a similar economic impact as
Southwest Virginia's 34-mile Virginia Creeper Trail, which is
open to hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.
Gabby has been busy working with the State of
Tennessee, local officials and TNC in helping make the
project the success it is planned to be. It probably
takes most of her working hours
The Tennessee Nature Conservancy significantly raised its
profile in Shady Valley, and had restructured its operations
there in 2008 when she moved from the Nashville area to
manage TNC's land holdings, wetlands restoration, bogs
and other conservation activities as East Tennessee
Conservation Manager. She moved into the TNC office
and became the manager of Shady properties.
She had served as the Director of Protection for the state and
Conservation Projects Manager for the state chapter.
for 15 years. She had been the non-profit group's
point person for all kinds of initiatives, projects and lobbying,
both at the state and national levels before moving to Shady
TNC's area staffing duties have been in flux for several years and
it is not always clear what the conservation focus is in Shady
In 2008, Charles McQueen, who for years had been the
Shady Valley Preserve Manager, was given the title Southern
Blue Ridge Program Manager. His wife, Helen McQueen,
was named the Southern Blue Ridge Secretary for that
office. More recently, Charles' title has been returned to
Shady Valley Preserves Manager and Helen's position
reverted to Shady Valley Secretary. Kenneth McQueen,
a retired school teacher, who is Charles' and Helen's son,
has joined the staff as Shady Valley Preserves Assistant.
The passing of herpetologist Bern Tryon of the Knoxville
Zoo in 2011 has been one of the major impacts as has
The Nature Conservancy's drying up of mitigation monies
which were partly spent on the Shady Valley preservers
and turtle program.
Tryon left two large endowments upon his death and one went to
the Knoxville Zoo and the other to The Nature Conservancy for
habitat management for the Shady Valley bog turtle population. The
annual income from the endowment investments is about $8,000 each
year to the zoo and the same amount to TNC.
TNC has spent their $8,000 (or more) each year on fencing at Quarry
Bog and this year at Orchard Bog. The intent is to graze cattle in the
areas in order to try and defeat or control Reed Canary Grass which is
a major threat to natural wetlands and causes serious problems
for the Bog Turtle. It appears that TNC has long fought a losing battle
with this environmental problem and the grazing of cattle from the
Tryon endowment earnings has become a no-win effort.
The noticeable weathering and deterioration of the main signs at each
preserve is mute evidence that TNC either does not value their image
in the valley, or it is not a priority or they can't afford to fix the signs
because it is not in TNC's budget. TNC is the world's riches conservation
Some lands are still being acquired for the turtle habitat but they are
being purchased by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. One is
the Jenkins area on Orchard Road and another the Quarry Bog land with
the pond on Quarry Road. The sites are about 6 to 8 acres each.
Scott Dykes, the Region IV Wildlife Diversity Coordinator who took
Pete Wyatt's position when he retired from the Morristown staff, is
now the main turtle man for the state in Shady Valley.
Knoxville Zoo continues to do most of the studies of the turtles but they
have little money available. Michael Ogle, the zoo's staff herpetologist,
leads the zoo's efforts in Shady Valley along with two staffers - Steven
Nelson and Brad Moxley.
Meanwhile, Cassie Dresser, who is a Ph.D. graduate researcher in
Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution at the University of Tennessee - Knoxville,
is working on conservation genetics in Shady. She is assessing population
genetic issues raised by captive breeding, head-starting, and reintroduction
conservation strategies using next-generation sequencing. She is working
with the federally threatened Bog Turtle in Shady Valley but there is no
apparent application of this DNA science to managing the turtle population.
The efforts and future of Shady Valley and its bogs and turtles is not
so well focused and understood.
It is still one of the region's most significant and important birding