VI. Natural Resource Monitoring and Management

The Jocassee Gorges property maintains a tremendous diversity of plant and animal communities. The property is important in that it is a transition between piedmont and mountain habitats and contains gorge habitats unique in the southern Appalachians. Several endemic species are found within its boundaries. Additionally, important populations of sport fish and wildlife occur on the property. These wildlife and fish populations provide economically important recreational opportunities for South Carolina sportsmen.

Reflecting a long history of human occupation, the archaeological resources are also likely significant. Surveys to establish baseline conditions for 1) plant, fish, and wildlife communities and populations; 2) rare, threatened and endangered plant and animal communities and populations; and 3) significant archaeological resources will be a high priority.

A. Archaeological Resources and Surveys

The archaeological resources of the Jocassee Gorges are largely unknown, although a dozen or so archaeological sites are recorded in the boundaries of Jocassee Gorges property. SCDNR will continue to assist the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology (SCIAA) by digitizing archaeological site locations for the Jocassee Gorges. SCDNR will seek a cooperative agreement with SCIAA to share information for management planning purposes. SCDNR will also coordinate with the State Historic Preservation Office, South Carolina Department of Archives and History, to assure significant archaeological resources are protected. Confidentiality of archaeological sites will be important in their protection. Significant known archaeological resources will be protected when feasible. An archaeological survey of the entire Jocassee Gorges property would be appropriate. Possible funding sources may include federal funding through the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.

B. Biological Surveys and Monitoring

Plants and Nongame animals

Although most of the gorges have received considerable botanical attention, there are many smaller coves with outstanding potential for biodiversity that have not been fully surveyed by taxonomists. In one area, immediately adjacent to the Musterground tract, Gaddy (1990) states that "study of the small ravine has revealed it to be among the richest fern sites I have seen along the southern Blue Ridge Escarpment." This site, Glade Fern Ravine (Mill Creek Area), was deemed so important that Duke Power identified it as a significant natural area and as of 1990 proposed to limit construction and timber harvest activities. In addition, large areas along many of the major ridges and slopes have been commercially harvested. These drier, better-drained areas provide habitat for many important fern and flowering plant groups, such as members of the composite and grass families ( Hitchcock, 1950), particularly if underlain with mafic or calcareous substrates. The recent discovery of the federally endangered species mountain sweet pitcher-plant (Sarracenia jonesii) in the Jocassee area in 1996 underscores the importance of these drier sites. There are many sparingly surveyed and even unsurveyed sites between the Toxaway and Eastatoee drainages, as well as sites along road corridors that have not been extensively or intensively inventoried for rare and endangered species or for significant plant communities.

An initial objective will be to coordinate surveys of nongame wildlife and plant species, especially in areas where such surveys are lacking. The first stage of survey involves mapping areas that are known to have been surveyed by a qualified botanist, aquatic entomologist, herpetologist, etc. Mapping will involve a cooperative effort between SCDNR, other state and federal agencies and local universities. The maps will include known past work on terrestrial vertebrates, vascular plants (and their communities), nonvascular plants, invertebrates and fungi. The maps will allow managers to see gaps in surveys and pinpoint locations to be surveyed. This information should also reveal needs for repeated botanical surveys during different seasons, since some sites may have been surveyed in only one season, causing species to be missed.

Development of funding and cooperative agreements or other mechanisms to secure the necessary technical expertise will ultimately control the rate at which nonsurveyed areas can be sampled. In all cases, however, the starting point will be to compile data from past research, survey and monitoring efforts. Significant occurrences will be entered into the existing Heritage Trust database for future reference. SCDNR, DPC, and cooperating universities will cooperate in evaluating and/or compiling the data.

Additionally, the SCDNR will investigate the potential for securing aerial reconnaissance imagery of the Jocassee Gorges to produce vegetation maps that may predict locations of unique plant communities and rare plant species habitats.

These strategies will help facilitate the development of threatened and endangered element buffers and protection of significant archaeological sites. Appropriate land use plans will incorporate this information.

Future development (i.e. trails, wildlife food plots, parking areas, etc.) and forest management practices will be coordinated and evaluated to assure that known, unique communities or populations of species of concern are not adversely impacted. GIS mapping will allow managers to avoid or tailor management practices to protect sensitive resources. With maps of proposed activities, managers can systematically conduct site surveys and avoid management conflicts.

Monitoring Elements, Communities, Threatened and Endangered (T&E) Species

Monitoring of Heritage Trust elements, communities, and threatened and endangered species will employ a variety of tools, cooperators and strategies. The first step in development of monitoring plans will involve the creation of a network of regional experts, university cooperators and volunteers. Researchers or programs with expertise in specific fields will be contacted to establish monitoring plots for specific communities or species. An example would be to use experts at Clemson University to establish a monitoring program for rare or uncommon butterflies within the project area. The first phase of this would likely require some survey work.

Indicator species, those organisms sensitive to changes in their environment, will be designated. An example of a good potential indicator for terrestrial species is the wood frog (Rana sylvatica), which is found throughout the project area and is somewhat sensitive to changes in pH and water quality. Aquatic indicators will include caddisflies and certain fish species. Cooperative associations will be formed and an experimental design for monitoring will be established. This design will include species and communities to be monitored, monitoring sites, etc.

Midwinter surveys for bald eagles will continue every January on Lake Jocassee as specified in guidelines for standardized survey routes. Jumping Off Rock will be surveyed every spring for peregrine falcon activity.

Fish Population Monitoring

Fish population sampling and monitoring will follow the American Fisheries Society - Southern Division Trout Committee's "Guidelines for Sampling Wadeable Trout Streams" (Moore and Habera 1993). Under this sampling and monitoring approach, all fish species are quantified for a given sample area producing estimates of species composition, population densities, biomass, size distributions and other pertinent data. Under this monitoring program, standard representative monitoring sites are established. Data are collected for at least two years to established baseline conditions, and then periodic samples are taken on longer rotations to assess changes.

Historical sampling stations, where baseline data are available, will continue to be monitored periodically (for example, Eastatoee River drainage). In streams where data are unavailable or dated, attempts will be made to update available data and establish a current baseline condition (for example, Cane Creek).

Lake Jocassee is a 7,500-acre reservoir surrounded by Jocassee Gorges property. Its fishery is estimated to contribute approximately $750,000 annually to the local economy in direct angling expenditures alone (gas, food, bait, lodging). Fishery biologists will continue to monitor both the fish population in Lake Jocassee and the recreational fishery. Many fishery monitoring and management programs are already in place in cooperation with DPC scientists. Monitoring and management strategies include angler creel surveys, electrofishing surveys, hydroacoustic surveys (counts of bait fish), fish habitat surveys, water quality surveys, fish habitat maintenance agreements, netting surveys, trout stocking, etc.

In-Stream Habitat

Stream habitat will be monitored in conjunction with fish sampling. Habitat features such as substrate and pool to riffle ratios will periodically be evaluated. Areas of habitat deficiencies will also be identified.

A sampling program to monitor suspended sediment, perhaps using single-stage water bottle samplers, similar to Van Lear (1995), should be considered during the early phases of this project. This would help document the status of water quality and fish habitat. A repetitive sampling system of this nature will document a baseline of stream condition, and will provide an index for evaluating whether stream conditions are maintained or improved.

Thermal regimes of streams will be monitored using recording thermometers. Basic water chemistry will also be monitored on a periodic basis in conjunction with fish population sampling.

Wildlife (Game) Population Monitoring

Various wildlife population monitoring strategies are employed by SCDNR wildlife biologists. Black bear population levels on the property are monitored by bait station surveys. Bear activity or "hits" on bait stations provide a relative index of bear population abundance in the area or region. A listing of black bear bait station data is presented as (Appendix-Table 2). SCDNR biologists have also worked cooperatively with Clemson University, DPC, and CRI on research that established bear movement, habitat selection, and abundance on the property. Two theses, "Population Dynamics and Denning Ecology of Black Bears in the Mountains of South Carolina" by Richard D. Willey (August 1995) and "Home Range, Movements and Habitat utilization of Female Black bears in the Mountains of South Carolina" by Joseph Walter Butfiloski (May 1996), were written concerning black bears in the Jocassee Gorges. Sixty-three bears were trapped, data collected, and the animals released unharmed on the property. These studies determined abundance and habitat use of bears in the area and made suggestions on habitat improvements. Results of these studies will be used in developing detailed management activities that favor black bears. Black bears will be an "umbrella" game species on the area. Early and late successional habitat is important to black bears. Management for black bear habitat needs will benefit a broad range of wildlife species.

Another wildlife population monitoring tool involves a "scent tab" station survey of furbearing wildlife species (Roughton and Sweeney, 1982; Johnson and Pelton, 1981). The scent station provides biologists information to determine changes in abundance and distribution of furbearers. This monitoring program will be applied on the Jocassee Gorges property.

Eastern wild turkeys in the mountain region are monitored by late spring-summer brood surveys. SCDNR and other qualified observers participate in the survey. Counts of turkey poults and adults provide an index of annual turkey reproduction and population levels. Jocassee Gorges turkey surveys are included with the Mountain Hunt Unit to provide regional results. This is an ongoing monitoring project. Other wildlife species such as ruffed grouse, bobwhite quail, mourning doves, waterfowl and others may be monitored as deemed necessary.

Hard and soft mast surveys are conducted on the Jocassee property to assess wildlife food resources. Hard mast surveys provide an index of the relative abundance and diversity of the acorn crop each fall. The soft mast survey provides an index of the abundance of soft mast fruits such as blackberry, blueberry, muscadine and others. These data provide biologists information that can be correlated with health and dispersal of wildlife populations.

A summary of recent soft mast and bear scent station surveys for Jocassee Gorges area is included (Appendix A-6).

Monitoring Harvest and Health of Big Game Wildlife Species

Harvest of big game animals, such as black bears, white-tailed deer and wild turkeys, has historically been monitored in conjunction with the WMA Mountain Hunt Unit. This monitoring allows biologists to collect and/or analyze data such as numbers, sex, age and weight and to collect samples such as blood, tissue, parasites, etc. As a result of this monitoring biologists are able to assess population health and formulate hunting seasons and bag limits. Harvest of big game species on the property will continue to be monitored as deemed necessary by SCDNR. Special emphasis will be placed on documenting black bear population levels and harvests on the Jocassee property. Area wild turkey harvest will continue to be monitored either by check stations and/or surveys. Several check stations are located near the property to serve Jocassee Gorges big game hunters. White-tailed deer harvest in the region is now being monitored by a mail survey of license holders. Additional monitoring for other game species may be developed.

Research and Survey Permitting

A research permitting system will be devised by SCDNR to allow managers to accommodate work, prevent research conflicts, protect resources of special concern, and avoid unnecessary interference with research while conducting daily management. Permitting will require information on the project, a timeline, contact persons, any necessary state or federal permits (such permits are required for work with birds) and maps of the study area. A mandatory reporting process will be established to assure all scientific studies are available to assist SCDNR in the management decision process and are compatible with the overall management goals. A state-wide permitting process is already in place for freshwater fish collections.

C. Natural Resource Management

Nongame Management

Of the 87 "species of concern" known to occur within the project area, only three resident species are formally listed as endangered or threatened: the southern coal skink (Eumeces anthracinus pluvialis), Rafinesque's big-eared bat (Corynorhinus rafinesquii), and Eastern small-footed myotis (Myotis leibii). Non-resident species that utilize the project area for foraging include the federally threatened bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and the endangered peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus). Undoubtedly, many other species found here could become candidates for listing in the future, depending on the course of the Endangered Species Act and its administration.

Management of the Jocassee Gorges property will follow a proactive agenda to assure that threatened or endangered species and candidate species are maintained or their status improved. In many cases, this may simply include protection through establishment of buffers. An example will be establishing timber harvest buffers around threatened and endangered bat (Chiroptern) roosts and ensuring that roosts are not isolated from foraging areas. Other cases may involve active management, such as the application of prescribed fire, to improve habitat for a species. Scientifically based management approaches for significant species will be applied to protect or improve their populations on Jocassee Gorges. It is prudent and more cost effective to take steps to secure these species now rather than waiting until they are federally listed.

Fisheries Management

The protection, enhancement, and overall management of coldwater trout populations in Jocassee Gorges streams will be a high priority. The state-wide trout management plan, "The Future of Trout in South Carolina" (Geddings 1990), will serve as primary guidance for trout management on Jocassee Gorges property. Management and protection of Eastern brook trout (Salvelinus fontanalis) will be a priority. Potential brook trout restoration sites have generally been identified. Potential restoration efforts could be described as transplanting brook trout into available stream habitat devoid of fish, or removal of exotic and/or native fish followed by transplant stocking (Moore 1993). Renovation projects, if proposed, would first consider the most environmentally sensitive techniques to accomplish the goals (ex. electrofishing, natural waterfall barriers).

The majority of streams that maintain naturally reproducing trout populations on Jocassee Gorges hold rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Overall management in the streams on the property will primarily be directed toward the maintenance of high quality trout fisheries, because of their prescence as the major sportfish, their recreational and economic importance, and their importance as environmental indicators. Native fish species of concern will be identified and protected.

Trout Stocking

Fish management efforts on Jocassee Gorges streams date back at least to the 1930s when the Chief Game Warden managed trout stocking from state and federal hatcheries. A trout stocking program during this period was necessary to re-establish fisheries and provide fishing opportunities following stream habitat degredation.

In more recent years, the management of the trout stocking program has changed focus somewhat. With generally improved habitat conditions in most streams, many headwater fisheries have been revitalized by stocking efforts. Most headwater streams on the property currently maintain reproducing trout populations. The primary management emphasis now is to assure self-sustaining fisheries are maintained, and provide seasonal fisheries for stocked trout in the lower reaches of marginal trout streams where water temperatures or other habitat conditions prevent natural reproduction. These lower cool-to-cold water habitats are generally devoid of significant natural fisheries and are dominated by nongame fishes. Sections of these habitats are currently managed for "put-grow-and-take" and/or "put-and-take" trout fisheries.

The hatchery-supported trout management program has been shown to generate over 12 million dollars to the economy of South Carolina and to provide recreation to the state's 40,000-plus trout anglers (Duda, 1997). This program will continue on Jocassee Gorges property. Stocking rates, species, sizes and strains stocked will be determined by fisheries biologists with input from anglers.

Beaver Management

Due to the severe damage to coldwater stream resources caused by beavers (Barnes, 1994; Taylor, 1994), it will be necessary to manage beaver populations through various means to maintain viable coldwater trout habitat. Control methods will primarily involve land (forest) management practices to discourage beaver colonization of trout streams. This generally involves managing stream-side management zones, particularly in low gradient areas, in mature or old-growth timber (Burriss 1997). Beaver trapping may also be needed in some cases.

Development Activities

Management planning should allow for development of additional site(s) on the property for coldwater (trout) fish culture should future needs dictate.

The lower section of the Eastatoee River below Robinson Bottoms will be managed as an intensive trout management area. Angler and fish stocking access points will be provided in three locations, and angler trails developed, as needed, to provide effective access to Eastatoee River. SCDNR and DPC will work cooperatively to develop these access points, and to develop partnerships to help maintain these facilities.

Suitable sites for fishing access for the disabled are very limited because of the rugged terrain surrounding trout streams on the property. Nevertheless, options should be considered for development of accessible fishing areas on trout streams where safe and feasible. An initial, cooperative fishing area accessible to disabled anglers is planned for development (with DPC) at Dug Mountain Bridge on Eastatoee River.

Supplemental Feeding Projects

Feeding programs in the Southern Appalachians are conducted to improve growth and average size of trout in streams. Since streams in the area are rather infertile, supplemental feeding may be necessary in some areas to maintain fishable trout populations depending on the findings of current studies on the Middle Saluda River (Geddings and Rankin, 1996) and studies being conducted on N.C. trout streams (Borrawa 1995).

Instream Structure and Bank Stabilization

Instream structure habitat improvement projects may be needed in many streams because of habitat degredation. Habitat improvement projects involve placing logs in streams to alter the hydraulics of the stream (Seehorn, 1992). The most common goal is to improve the pool habitat for fish. In some cases, bank stabilization and riparian area re-establishment projects may be initiated. These habitat improvement projects may be used as educational demonstration projects. Examples of these types of projects are already in place on a few Jocassee Gorges streams and are the result of cooperation between SCDNR, Trout Unlimited, DPC and other partners.

Wildlife Habitat and Management

SCDNR wildlife biologists will routinely monitor wildlife habitat on the Jocassee Gorges property. Biologists will recommend management practices to improve and maintain favorable wildlife habitat conditions. These practices will include establishing wildlife food plots and linear wildlife strips, planting and/or favoring hard and soft mast-producing species, and using prescribed burning and forest management practices to improve wildlife habitat. Other wildlife management practices may be incorporated as techniques are developed and as deemed necessary by SCDNR biologists.

D. TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE SCDNR will collect and utilize detailed hydrology, geology, soils and climatology data and analyses as needed for planning and management functions. The department will develop a geographic information system (GIS) that will be used in making planning and management decisions for the property. Assimilation of data from natural resource surveys, monitoring, and research into GIS format will allow managers to consider all natural resources when making land management decisions. The GIS will initially utilize existing natural resources data as it is collected. The agency also has available or access to extensive maps, aerial photographs and remote sensing imagery that can be used as needed in making management decisions for the property.

The Department has the necessary expertise and facilities to develop specific management plan segments for river corridors and watersheds on the property. In order to address the natural resource impacts of human activities on the property, SCDNR will develop and employ appropriate stewardship practices to avoid or minimize resource damage and promote beneficial uses. As part of this effort, the agency will develop an overall storm-water management plan for the entire project and site specific storm-water management and sediment control plans for trails, roads, building construction, campsite development and other specific land disturbing activities.

Working through the Pickens Soil and Water Conservation District, erosion control equipment will be available such as a straw blower for mulching disturbed areas; a no-till drill for direct seeding access roads, wildlife food plots, linear wildlife strips, and dove fields; and a tree planter for reforestation. The district may provide other needed equipment to conduct management operations.

Utilizing remote sensing and other inventory methods, the department can identify unique natural resource features that would be of interest to visitors to the property.