Planning to hike some trails or build a camp fire this weekend? If it's on TVA land designated for public use, odds are it's been inspected and cleaned up for you. Land condition assessments have been done for years, but since 2010 the process has become better managed and more standardized.
Jack Muncy, a 42-year veteran of TVA, is one of about a dozen natural resource specialists at the agency. They check undeveloped properties which could be improved for public use or designated for conservation. Something Muncy's loved since childhood.
"I grew up on a farm in rural east Tennessee near Cumberland Gap. I've always had a passion and appreciation for the land," says Muncy.
On Friday he went to an area called "Friendship Forest" off Highway 58 in Hamilton County, not far from Harrison Bay. He looks for clues about the condition of the land.
"Insects and disease. Natural storm damage," says Muncy. "How the property is being used. Misuses and abuses. Nuisance animals."
He looks for wildlife in the area, or at least signs of what kinds have been there.
"This actually is where a buck deer has taken his antlers and rubbed this eastern red cedar and kind of established his domain," explains Muncy as he points to the tree.
He also looks for invasive plants, like Chinese Privet, which attacks native species. He comes up with a plan to get rid of it.
He looks at tree trunks for signs of illegal shooting. He saw one Friday that had large holes where shotgun shells had been fired into it. Not all TVA properties allow hunting or target practice.
He also clears litter, anything from beer cans to tires. He checks property boundaries and installs new signs where needed.
In 2010 Muncy developed a streamlined, uniform process for assessing these TVA sites that receive the most public use and have the most ecological value. He goes through a checklist and scores each property. All the information is entered into a data base.
"By that standardization it gives us uniformity in our management approach," says Muncy.
He and the other natural resource specialists have covered 110,000 of the 180,000 acres. It'll take five to seven years to finish. Then they'll go through the cycle multiple times. It'll be an ongoing process through future generations.
"Land use is dynamic. Plant communities are dynamic," adds Muncy. "So we need to be dynamic in our processes."