Published Nov 12, 2013
Dahlonega (pronounced "dahlonega") is my favorite Appalachian Trail Community. Each spring folks in town help northbound thru-hikers hit the Trail with hope, encouragement and the best trail gear available anywhere ... and they extend warm welcomes to southbounders finishing the Trail in autumn.
Dahlonega is famous for its Bear on the Square Festival and for Gold Rush Days, but there's more going in town than you might know, especially when it comes to conservation efforts.
The National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) Conservation Medal was given to Dahlonega's Forest Hilyer for his distinguished conservation efforts. The presentation was made during HemlockFest in Dahlonega on November 2, 2013.
Conservation Chairman of the Atlanta Chapter of NSDAR Lisa Simpson was on hand to present the prestigious award. Hilyer's award is one of only a few bestowed nationally each year.
"Forest Hilyer is a quiet but energetic warrior for the preservation and maintenance of our mountain forest," Simpson said. "He has his hands on so many projects it's hard to count them. His strength of character, his tireless efforts and his dedication to preserve forests, specifically the hemlock trees, certainly make him deserving of the DAR Conservation Medal."
NSDAR is a worldwide service organization with nearly 3,000 chapters devoted to promoting historic preservation, education and patriotism.
Mr. Hilyer's remarkable conservation efforts span the past decade and have focused on preserving forests and watersheds in North Georgia. He cofounded Lumpkin Coalition in 2003 and continues to chair the all-volunteer organization. Through Lumpkin Coalition, Hilyer spearheads HemlockFest, a benefit music festival that raises awareness and funds to minimize the impact of the non-native hemlock woolly adelgid parasite, which is devastating the hemlock trees of North Georgia at an alarming rate.
In its ninth year, HemlockFest has raised more than $100,000 to support predator beetle rearing labs at area colleges and universities. This effort to introduce predator beetles -- which feed on hemlock woolly adelgids and are a safe and effective biological control -- are helping to save native forests and preserve quality-of-life.
Forest's proactive approach to protecting hemlock trees also included bringing together members of the scientific community from Georgia and surrounding states to collaborate early on. His efforts were cited in the award as contributing to North Georgia's enhanced ability to preserve hemlock stands on public and private lands compared with other affected states. Predatory beetle rearing labs have been established at the University of Georgia, University of North Georgia and Young Harris College.
In addition, Hilyer is a naturalist and educator who works to teach others, especially youth, an appreciation of the natural world. He contributes heavily to volunteer efforts to conserve greenspace for future generations, maintain mountain trails, and conduct annual clean-ups of the Chestatee and Etowah Rivers in Lumpkin County.
He also works as a river guide and educator with Appalachian Outfitters, and is developing his own mushroom cultivating business, raising medicinal and edible mushrooms for commercial use. He is an apprentice of Mark Warren through Medicine Bow Wilderness School. Hilyer graduated magna cum laude from University of North Georgia in 2006.
The Lumpkin Coalition is a 100% volunteer non-profit 501(c)3 charitable organization formed to facilitate projects that benefit North Georgia, Lumpkin County, its residents and visitors. The Lumpkin Coalition is dedicated to preserving quality of life for all those who share it. To this end, it supports the preservation of a clean and healthy environment, responsible living, and responsible growth. For more information, visit www.LumpkinCoalition.org.
Tags: Events, Tourism, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Community, News, and Festivals
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