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PNS Daily Newscast - October 22, 2018 


The Trump administration moves to narrow the definition of sexual identity. Also on the Monday rundown: is climate change causing a shift eastward for Tornado Alley? Plus Election Day should find more polling places on Nevada Tribal Lands.

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Rock and a Hard Place: Experts Urge Care When Exploring NC Waterways

Rock piles, also known as cairns, are becoming popular things to build for hikers, but stacking rocks can damage the habitat for native animals and plants. (bulbocode909/flickr)
Rock piles, also known as cairns, are becoming popular things to build for hikers, but stacking rocks can damage the habitat for native animals and plants. (bulbocode909/flickr)
June 14, 2018

FRANKLIN, N.C. – There's no shortage of creeks and streams in North Carolina to enjoy this weekend, but while exploring, experts advise outdoor enthusiasts to take care before moving rocks and changing habitat.

The rocks and area surrounding them provide natural homes for insects, frogs and salamanders, and Jason Meader, aquatics program manager with Mainspring Conservation Trust, says innocent disturbances from curious explorers have an impact.

"When you move those rocks, when you disturb those to a large extent, you dislodge the insects, they drift downstream and, over time, with enough impact, you could probably notice a degradation in that area," he explains.

Meader says child's play – moving smaller rocks and wading in the water – is less of a concern. He adds that the exploration by our youngest generations is important to cultivate an appreciation for the outdoors.

In most national parks, moving or disturbing rocks is against the rules and rangers are encouraged to knock down rock piles.

Recent heavy rain and flooding have changed the water flow in many of the state's waterways, but Renee Fortner, watershed resources manager with the environmental nonprofit Riverlink, says Mother Nature is prepared for natural changes in the landscape.

"The flooding, it certainly has an impact on the aquatic wildlife, but they're also adapted to it,” she explains. “It's part of the ecosystem that they live in and they certainly adjust to those changes and the impacts of flooding a lot better than humans do."

Meader says a good rule of thumb is to avoid moving extremely large rocks or disturbing wildlife in an area with heavy visitor traffic.

"The kids, when they get out in just ankle or knee deep water and they pick up a few rocks, it's not the end of the world,” he allows. “If you have adults that are capable that are lifting much larger and heavier rocks, you're altering the stream system."

North Carolina's hellbender salamander is among the species impacted when rocks are moved. The animal is on the endangered species list for North Carolina and the federal list of species of concern.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC