Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) established another conservation easement in Yancey County, NC. The 192 acres rise to an elevation of 5,163 feet at the summit of High Knob. The property holds spectacular northerly views over the Black Mountains and sits close to several other prominent conservation easements, including the Big Tom Wilson Preserve, public tracts of land such as Pisgah National Forest, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Mount Mitchell State Park. The property is also within several miles of another SAHC easement.
“The Elk Fork property epitomizes what land conservation trusts try to do on a daily basis–protect pieces of land that hold aesthetic, practical, and intrinsic value.” States SAHC Executive Director, Carl Silverstein. “It is pivotal that we continue to protect properties that are highly visible to the public eye.” Elk Fork is definitely that. On clear days, Elk Fork can be seen from Mt. Mitchell and along the Cane River.
The size of the property, complemented by its close proximity to several other protected properties, makes Elk Fork biologically significant. Elk Fork is made up of primarily Oak and Cove hardwoods that range from 20-60 years old and potentially older trees at higher elevations. NC wildlife biologists have found Allegheny Woodrats (State Special Concern Species) and Least Weasels (State Significantly Rare Species) in the rock habitats on the property.
“Our family has long shared a dream of protecting natural areas for the future. This easement ensures that our property will continue to support a small part of the incomparable biological diversity of the Appalachian Mountains,” said Russ Oates, landowner of the Elk Fork tract.
The conservation easement costs were made possible by a complete donation by the landowners and from the generous assistance of Fred Stanback. “It is reassuring to know that remarkable pieces of land can still be protected today thanks to the ecological awareness and economic generosity of others.” Says, SAHC’s Land Protection Director, Michelle Pugliese.
Elk Fork is within the French Broad River Watershed and includes tributary streams of Elk Fork Creek which flow into the Cane River.
“Conservation of the property helps protect tributary streams of the French Broad Watershed from sources of sedimentation and other types of pollution,” says SAHC Stewardship Director, Hanni Muerdter.