SAHC focuses land and water conservation efforts in six distinct geographic focus areas of the Southern Appalachians, covering ten counties in Western North Carolina and East Tennessee. Many areas in these mountains are not yet protected and are at risk of being lost forever. Because of the significance and fragility of these ecosystems, protecting them is SAHC's highest priority.
Click this Google Map link to browse a larger, interactive map of SAHC's focus areas.
SAHC's flagship project is protecting the Highlands of Roan in Mitchell and Avery Counties, North Carolina and in Carter County in Tennessee.
Soaring above 5,000 feet, the Roan Massif is a biological & recreation flagship of the southern Appalachians. This area is well-known for its grassy balds, rhododendron gardens, and rich spruce fir forests; these Roan ecosystems are home to an amazing number of imperiled species. Over time, we and our partners have systematically quilted together a protected landscape totaling over 19,000 acres – including a high elevation, 600-acre corridor at Grassy Ridge that connects US Forest Service land with state-owned conservation properties. Roughly one-third of the Highlands of Roan remain unprotected. We continue to raise funds to secure high-priority sites near public trails and the Yellow Mountain Natural Area.
Our conservation work helps preserve the wilderness experience for hikers along the internationally recognized Appalachian Trail (AT). The opportunity to hike along the AT attracts upwards of 3 million visitors annually and brings tourism dollars to local Appalachian communities. We have helped protect several special places near the AT, including the 10,000-acre Rocky Fork tract, Tennessee’s gateway to the Southern Appalachian Mountains.
These mountains have been a cornerstone of conservation efforts in NC since the days of Elisha Mitchell and Big Tom Wilson. We have protected tracts of land that have been transferred to the state for Mt. Mitchell State Park, sites along the Blue Ridge Parkway (including Snowball Mountain), headwaters of the South Toe & Catawba Rivers, thousands of acres in the Montreat Wilderness, the Woodfin watershed and land adjoining the Asheville watershed. We also hold a conservation easement on the 8,500-acre Big Tom Wilson Preserve, highly visible from Mt. Mitchell State Park.
This area protects land adjacent to the globally recognized Great Smoky Mountains National Park, buffering the eastern edge of the park, an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site that draws over 9 million visitors annually. We work here to expand the non-fragmented network of conservation land and create habitat corridors that link the Smokies to other significant networks of protected land. Our highlights in this focus area include Cataloochee Ranch, protected by SAHC’s first conservation easement, and Blackrock Ridge, a prominent peak near the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The French Broad River (the third oldest river in the world) is central to the region’s economy, tourism, agriculture, and way of life. This focus area includes a significant portion of the French Broad River Basin, as well as surrounding high grassy meadows along ridge tops, steep forested coves and slopes, and intact bottomland farms. SAHC has safeguarded over 8,000 acres in this area, including productive family farms, part of the publicly accessible Sandy Mush Game Lands, Sandy Mush Bald, and the Canton watershed, an 873-acre botanical wonderland.
This area features the Balsam and Plott Balsam Mountains, with pristine headwaters, high-biodiversity streams, mature forests, and high-altitude ridges. Approximately 42 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway pass through the area, attracting eco-tourists from around the world. Our highlights here include projects on Cold Mountain surrounded by the Shining Rock Wilderness, headwaters of the Tuckaseegee River, and the Waynesville watershed.