Organizations: Lumpkin Coalition
Remember the devastation of the boll weevil? Similarly, if the hemlock woolly adelgids are not stopped within the next 15 years, Georgia could lose all of its hemlock trees, which shelter wildlife, prevent soil erosion and affect water quality and biodiversity.
Hemlocks, which live up to 500 years in old-growth forests, sicken and die within a couple of years when attacked by these invasive, parasitic insects, which can be spread by human clothing. To address the problem, the Lumpkin Coalition, a Dah-lonega-based, sustainability-focused nonprofit, holds an annual three-day music extravaganza and educational event called HemlockFest, which has become a tie-dyed rite of autumn in north Georgia.
“When we started, the woolly adelgid was an obscure-sounding name for a threat to our Appalachian forests, so we’ve been trying to raise awareness and get the public informed and involved through music,” says Bob Quigley, a coalition board member and production manager for the festival, which usually draws around 2,000 people.
Since its inception in 2005, the benefit has raised more than $100,000 to help underwrite “beetle labs” that are developing biological controls and safe insecticides at North Georgia College and State Univers-ity, Young Harris College, the University of Georgia and Clemson.
The group also oversees the Private Landowners Assistance Team, or PLAT, to assist individuals in surveying and preventing damage to their trees, and a Hem-lock Hotline at 706.867.5157.
Among the musicians lending support is Col. Bruce Hampton, who has headlined the festival for six years. “I just love majestic hemlock trees,” he says. “They’re a cause worth fighting – and singing – for.”
HemlockFest runs November 2-4 at the Starbridge Sanctuary outside Dahlonega.