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Scout leads effort to save hemlocks
tree WEB
Project leader John Touchstone, left, works with, from left, Paul Cromer, Zachary Frederick and Kell Berliner to apply a treatment to a hemlock tree. - photo by For the Forsyth County News

On the Net

• For more information about Save Georgia’s Hemlocks, visit

• For more about the Foxfire Museum and Heritage Center, visit

A group of hemlock trees has been saved thanks to the efforts of a local Boy Scout.

John Touchstone, a member of Troop 62 in Cumming, recently completed a leadership project at Foxfire Museum and Heritage Center in Mountain City.

Located in Rabun County in extreme northeast Georgia, the center is home to numerous hemlock trees that are infested with an invasive insect called the hemlock woolly adelgid.

The parasites can lead to death of the trees. Signs of infestation include small, white wooly egg sacs on the underside branches, a gray-green color to the tree, and a thinning of needles.

Touchstone took on the task of saving the trees as one of the requirements to become an Eagle Scout.

A large-scale community service project is one of the requirements to earn the highest scouting rank.

He said he chose the tree project after his family had problems with the woolly adelgid.

“About a year or so before, we had to treat the trees at our lake house in that area,” Touchstone said. “That’s how we got in touch with the people at Save Georgia’s Hemlocks.

“They were already planning treatment for the trees at [the Foxfire Center], so I just took it over.”

The group is a 100-percent volunteer, nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and restoring endangered hemlocks through education and charitable service.

With training and support from the organization, Touchstone led a group of 18 Scouts and seven adult volunteers to treat more than 500 hemlocks in the historic village area.

A product containing Imidacloprid, a mild but highly effective treatment material, was applied by soil injection at the base of each tree.

The treatment, which was provided by the hemlock organization, is expected to provide residual protection for about five years.

In total, the project took several months to plan and complete.

“The planning of it took about three months and the execution took about seven hours,” Touchstone said.

“It seemed like a great way to demonstrate my leadership skills while protecting the trees for future generations.”