Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy
Protecting the World's Oldest Mountains

Protected Areas - Success Stories

Full stories on recent updates available on our Blog

SAHC has protected over 63,000 acres across the mountains of Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee. Below are just a few land protection success stories across our six geographic focus areas.

Highlands of Roan Focus Area

Yellow Mountain Gateway - 357 Acres

When we closed on the 357-acre Yellow Mountain Gateway tract in Avery County, we preserved more than unspoiled streams, wildlife habitat, and working lands. We opened a way for future generations to connect with the rich history of Avery County.

The Yellow Mountain Gateway is one of those rare treasured jewels — a large contiguous swath of mountain land handed down generation after generation. Rather than risk it being subdivided in the future, eight heirs of the Vance & Odom families came together to sell the tract to SAHC, ensuring that it will remain protected forever.

“The Vance and Odom families are pleased to know that with the sale of our family farm to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy that view will never change.  Ancestors of the family actually lived on the farm in the late 1800s, and subsequently our families have enjoyed decades of picnics and hikes on the farm.  The multiple creeks that run through the property provided a cool spot in the heat of the summer and lovely waterfalls of various heights as theyrun down to join the North Toe River,” said landowner Risa Larsen. Read More

Grassy Ridge - Success story 40 years in the making!

Grassy Ridge tractAt the very end of December 2012, SAHC purchased a 601-acre tract at Grassy Ridge in Avery County, NC, adjacent to the Pisgah National Forest and near the Appalachian Trail in the Highlands of Roan. This incredible tract borders one of the highest ridges of the Southern Appalachians, and has been one of SAHC’s top conservation priorities for four decades because of its size and location within a large network of high elevation protected lands. The property forms a high elevation corridor, linking National Forest lands on the north end with lands owned by the State of North Carolina in the Yellow Mounain State Natural Area to the south. This is truly a crown jewel of the Roan Highlands. Read more

260 acres at Justice Creek/Spear Tops Mountain — Visible from the Appalachian Trail and from the overlook at the Rhododendron Gardens on Roan Mountain, located in the middle of the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area. Read More

89 acres, known as the Whichard property, at the southern end of the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area in the Highlands of Roan.  Read More

225- acre Spear Tops tract in the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area, rising to 4,900 ft. at the summit. Read More

207-acre tract on Little Yellow Mountain in Mitchell and Avery counties, previously slated for development. Read More

199 acres at Burleson Bald in the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area Read More.


Appalachian Trail Countryside Focus Area

Lost Cove - Ghost Town in the Forest

In mid-December 2012, SAHC purchased a
95-acre portion of historic “Lost Cove” in the remote and rugged Nolichucky Gorge, an inholding in the Pisgah National Forest. Nestled near the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, the secluded Lost Cove is a ghost town with a colorful history of self-sufficient families, railroad crews, timber, and moonshine.

“ ‘Lost Cove’ is a phrase every Unicoi County kid hears pretty early in his/her life.  It has long fired our imaginations, made us curious about our mountain surroundings and our history and inspired many of us to dig deeper into - and ultimately care more about - our Appalachian heritage,” according to David Ramsey, SAHC trustee. “To me, this effort is one more example of the amazing and extremely important conservation work of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.” Read more

112 acre-conservation easmeent at The Plateau secures a critical gap between the Pisgah & Cherokee National Forests. Read More

14-acre buffer at Buck Mountain along the Appalachian Trail.  Read More

35-acre Wesser Bald adjacent to the Appalachian Trail in Macon County, NC; transferred to the US Forest Service. Read More

Black Mountains Focus Area

Continued protection at Hickory Nut Gap - 62 Acres

At the end of 2013, SAHC protected another tract at Hickory Nut Gap. This new conservation easement preserves 62 acres adjacent to the Florence Nature Preserve and close to the Drovers Road Scenic Byway.  The property will remain privately owned, with permanent protection against future developmen. Five tributaries of Ashworth Creek flow through the conservation easement property, three of which are headwater streams originating on its wooded slopes.  The southern portion of the property also lies within the Audubon Society Chimney Rock-Hickory Nut Gorge Important Bird Area and provides wildlife habitat. Read More

63-acre donated conservation easement at Moody Knob, in a quiet cove in Madison County, NC. Read More

120 acres at Blue Ridge Pastures in Fairview, NC. The tracts are adjacent to a network of protected land in Hickory Nut Gorge. Read More

173 acres along the Drover's Road Scenic Byway at Hickory Nut Gap. Read More

Fairview Bottomlands — 28 acres of prime farming bottom land for agricultural use. Read More

474-acre Little Pisgah Mountain conservation easement projects, protecting an iconic backdrop for the rural Fairview farming community. These new conservation easements combine with neighboring easements and other preserves to bring the total amount of land protected on Little Pisgah Mountain to more than 1,400 acres. Read More

192-acres at Elk Fork, rising to an elevation of 5,163 feet at the summit of High Knob, to help preserve unbroken views of conspicuous peaks in the Black Mountains. Read More

90 acres on Snowball Mountain, adjoining the publicly accessible Snowball Mountain Trail near the Craggy Gardens picnic area and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Read More

114-acre conservation easement at Jim's Branch in the Swannanoa Mountains, protecting unbroken views from the Blue Ridge Parkway and tributaries that flow into Christian Creek and the Swannanoa River. Read More

492 acres of land purchased at Laurel Ridge, adjacent to the Asheville watershed and just 19 miles outside the city of Asheville. Read More

French Broad River Focus Area

Preserving Prime Farmland - 88 Acres in Buncombe County

SAHC recently created conservation easements on two tracts of important, working agricultural lands in northwestern Buncombe County totaling 88 acres. The newly protected 52-acre Watalula Farm tract in Leicester and 36-acre portion of Duckett Farm in Sandy Mush each contain prime agricultural soils. These two new conservation easement projects embody a passionate support for farming from local landowners - including an established farm family with roots in the Southern Appalachians dating back to the Revolutionary War era as well as new and beginning farmers who are forging their way to carry farming traditions into the future.

The high occurrence of prime soils and the continued use and expansion of agricultural operations on these tracts made them priorities for conservation. Only 2% of the land mass in Western North Carolina consists of nationally recognized prime soils.  In most places, this land is also the most threatened by development, and it is vital that we preserve this natural resource to secure our food supply into the future. Read more

Preserving Bob Moog's Land - 105 acres at Big Briar Cove

In December 2013, the SAHC accepted a donated conservation easement on 105 acres of Bob Moog’s property in the South Turkey Creek community of Buncombe County. The quiet cove includes the former home and workshop of international music icon Bob Moog. His widow, Ileana Grams-Moog, donated the conservation easement to SAHC to protect forest habitat and clean water resources on the property.

“Bob would have been very happy about the conservation easement at Big Briar Cove,” said Grams-Moog. “People do not often think of him as an outdoorsman, but Bob was very passionate about the outdoors and the wilderness. I know that donating this conservation easement to protect the land for the future is something he wanted.” Read More

248 acres at Robinson Rough in the Sandy Mush Community, to protect headwaters of a major tributary of Sandy Mush Creek and safeguard the mountain from development. Read More

88-acre donated tract connects the Sandy Mush Game Lands on two different sides, bridging the gap between major portions of the state-owned game lands. Read More

864 acres protected at the Long Branch Environmental Education Center in Sandy Mush protected by conservation easement. Read More

Smoky Mountains Focus Area

Blackrock Mountain

In 2013, SAHC purchased the summit of Blackrock Mountain in the Plott Balsam Mountains of Jackson County, with more than 250 surrounding acres. We plan to hold the property and manage it as a nature preserve until it can eventually be transferred to public ownership as park lands.

The Blackrock Mountain summit is clearly visible from the Plott Balsam overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The entire property can be seen in the foreground view from the Plott Balsam overlook (mile post 458), the Waterrock Knob visitor center (mile post 451.2), and multiple locations along the parkway on the drive north from Waterrock Knob. Read more

Balsam Mountains Focus Area

Waynesville Watershed

In 2005, the Town of Waynesville in Haywood County, NC placed the majority of their 8,030 acre municipal watershed into conservation easements. The largest of these easements is jointly-held by SAHC and the Conservation Trust for North Carolina. The principal purpose of these easements is to maintain high quality water resources and ensure that high safety standards are met for the drinking water supply of Haywood County.

Scenic views of the watershed easement properties are visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway along an approximate 10-mile stretch, between mileposts 429.8 and 439.6.

Surface waters on the Waynesville Watershed are classified as High Quality Waters (HQW) by the NC Environmental Management Commission.  The Waynesville Watershed is contained within the Great Balsam Mountains/Pisgah Ridge Megasite, a nationally Significant Natural Heritage Area, as designated by the NC Natural Heritage Program. This area supports a high number of endemic species, northern disjunct species (populations of species that are typically found at far more northerly latitudes), and several species that are deemed globally rare.

More success stories:

  1. Bethel Community
  2. Gott Farm
  3. Roaring Creek Valley
  4. Claxton Farm
  5. Rocky Fork
  6. Hickory Nut Gap Farm
  7. Bee Branch
  8. Elk Hollow Branch
  9. Myrtle Duckett
  10. Jayne Family

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