Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Center for the State of the Parks: Park Assessments

Published April 2004


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Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in 1934 to protect some of the last remaining old growth forests in the eastern United States from intense logging and to ensure the survival of the thousands of species that take refuge in these forested mountains. More than 10,000 species have been documented so far, but scientists estimate that as many as 100,000 may actually live in the park. The park is also known for its 19th and early 20th century log houses, mills, churches, and archaeological sites that tell the story of earlier residents.
The Great Smoky Mountains' proximity to major population centers makes it a popular recreation destination-more than nine million visitors enter the park each year to hike, camp, fish, and learn about the park's history and enjoy its cultural landscapes. What these visitors may not realize is that the park is under assault from a host of threats. These threats include:

  • Non-native pests and diseases damaging many tree species
  • Pollution from coal-fired power plants and other sources degrading air quality at the park-
  • Small particle pollution forms an unnatural haze obscuring popular scenic vistas, decreasing visibility 60 to 80 percent.
  • Deteriorating historic structures due to insufficient maintenance.
  • Inadequate funding and staffing.

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