Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Rattlesnakes of Balsam Mountain Preserve

"The only green Chaffin/Light sees is the dollar sign...I made a mistake hiring them…they never listened and learned." (Former business associate John Bradley, commenting on the "environmental ethic" of the Balsam Mountain Preserve developers.)

Thanks to the hard work of vigilant citizens, Chaffin/Light eventually slithered away from their intended development on John Bradley’s land in New York State. Of course, opposition never mobilized against Chaffin/Light’s infestation of Jackson County, and now we pay the price for our inattention.

They say that if you don’t bother rattlesnakes, they won’t bother you. Good advice as far as it goes, but I don’t think it applies to the two-legged rattlesnakes. And the news this week would indicate that you can find specimens of both types at Balsam Mountain Preserve.

A story posted yesterday at Science Daily tells of scientists implanting radio transmitters in timber rattlesnakes and turning them loose at Balsam Mountain Preserve. Damn, I wish I’d thought of that. Not that I would have bothered with implanting radio transmitters.

I looked through the BMP amenity package again and couldn’t find any mention of timber rattlers. Just consider it a little unexpected bonus – "free with every $400,000 lot purchase – your very own den of snakes."

If I were you, though, I wouldn’t let ophidiophobia prevent me from moving up to Balsam Mountain Preserve. It’s like the professor said about the rattlesnakes (the legless ones, that is):

When we build homes on the mountainsides, we are encroaching upon their territory. When people and rattlesnakes share the same space, the snakes usually lose.

Well, that good news should be a comfort to all the residents of Balsam Mountain Preserve. But until victory over the rattlesnakes is declared, remember to "WATCH YOUR STEP!"

That was yesterday. Today, we picked up the Smoky Mountain News and learned more about the two-legged rattlesnakes of Balsam Mountain Preserve. You can distinguish them from the earth-bound snakes because they don’t rattle before they strike. They strike first and then make noises like:

We are putting forth a good effort.

We are just cooperating.

We regret this very unfortunate event.

The article alludes to various government inspectors overseeing the alleged cleanup of the mess resulting from the Balsam Mountain Preserve dam break:

The agencies have questioned why Balsam Mountain Preserve hasn’t devoted more manpower to removing drifts of sediment from Sugarloaf and Scotts Creeks. In addition to the sediment traps, sediment has been settling in mounds in wide, slow stretches of the creeks in side pools.

So why hasn’t Balsam Mountain Preserve devoted more manpower to the cleanup? For one thing, BMP may be too busy calling Raleigh so they can wriggle their way out of having to paying the $300,000 fine that Jackson County tried to assess.

That’s one explanation. But now that shirking the fine is a fait accompli, here’s one more explanation, straight from the Balsam Mountain Preserve public relations team:

Sometimes we create our own questions to further our knowledge and sometimes the questions ask themselves and we have to be there to take advantage of the opportunity.

One question that was posed to us recently was, "How long will it take for a Southern Appalachian stream to restore itself to a healthy biological system if it is struck by a naturally or anthropogenically induced event?"

We now have the opportunity to have that questions answered and are exploring the recovery rate of Sugar Loaf Creek after the failure of one of the golf course irrigation ponds.

The resulting amount of water that coursed its way down Sugar Loaf Creek carved out old stream beds and deposited sediments on the banks of the stream.

The company’s commitment to being both a good neighbor and a conservation community was put into practice to begin the restoration process in Sugar Loaf Creek.

How reassuring! That’s about what you’d expect from a two-legged rattlesnake. That’s about what you’d expect from Balsam Mountain Preserve. It makes you long for the days when the most dangerous snake in the mountains was the one described by Horace Kephart:

When a rattlesnake sees a man approaching, it generally lies quiet to escape observation, so long as it thinks itself concealed. It seldom strikes unless provoked. If alarmed when it is wide-awake, it nearly always springs its rattle before striking, the sound being very similar to that made by our common "locust" or cicada. If the reptile is trodden on when asleep, it strikes like lightening, and does its rattling afterward. Unfortunately for us, the poisonous snakes do their sleeping in the day time and hunt at night. They are prone to seek the warmth of bed-clothes, and sometimes will coil up alongside of a sleeping man....A snake is not obliged to coil before striking, but can strike from any position; it will coil first, however, unless attacked very suddenly or taken at a disadvantage. (Camping and Woodcraft, Volume 2, pages 439-440)

At least those good snakes, now sporting their own radio transmitters, are still alive and well at Balsam Mountain Preserve.

So, if you’re enjoying life in the gated wonderland called Balsam Mountain Preserve…be sure to WATCH YOUR STEP!

The rest of us are still trying to find the anti-venom for that deadly two-legged rattlesnake.


Anonymous said...


"Green reputation" and all that - I wonder how many pesticides from the eco-golf course polluted the rivers and streams when the dam at BMP broke two months' ago. I wonder about the chemicals used in the unnecessary hydroseeding along the bank, too.

I wonder why the regulatory agencies don't do their job and shut down BMP.

How curious it is that BMP calculated they have only 999 cubic yards of mud which spewed into the watershed. Can it be that 1,000 cubic yard is the magic number for another fine? It is even more curious that while they were able to do THIS calculation they couldn't manage to provide the agencies with the "engineering calculations for the volume of mud that washed downstream when the earthen dam collapsed, but have only a raw number and no calculation for how it was arrived at"?

The Nature Center at BMP is also BY APPOINTMENT only. That smacks of doing the least amount (hours) in order to comply for a Conservation Easement.

There was more than a dam breach that occured in early June at the BMP. There was a breach of public confidence. And, the breach continues to widen.

(Quotes were taken from Smoky Mountain News)

Chuck said...

The only good two-legged rattlesnake is a ...

Anonymous said...

Hey all you children of the sixties (who are now reaching or in their 60s) where is the protest for the environment? We have a rich heritage and need to protect it now! If we don't, these corporate monsters WILL destroy it further!

Where is the passion? Join an environmental group now! Ask what you can do to help! And, you will make some of the best friends you ever had while working TOGETHER!

Please Save Our Mountains!

The Salamander