50,000 Acres — For You, Forever!

We had a phenomenal time at our member event last week at Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, NC! On Thursday May 17, we celebrated our 50,000 acre milestone with members, volunteers, sponsors, and guests.

The energetic April Fools Old Time Band (out of Moore County, NC) took the stage at 6:00 p.m., as the Tasting Room began to fill with celebrants.  Nona Mia Ritrovo provided an exceptional spread for dinner, and exciting raffle items filled the foyer of Highland Brewing Company’s Tasting Room.

During the evening program, Executive Director Carl Silverstein presented a brief recap of the 2011 projects which pushed us over the 50,000 acres protected milestone. He also addressed the question “What does it take to protect 50,000 acres?” The answer — Determined volunteers, members, staff, trustees, conservation partners, and supporters!

Carl and Jeanette Blazier, President of the Board of Trustees, presented the 2012 Stan Murray Volunteer of the Year Award to four Warren Wilson Forestry Students: Nick Biemiller, Kira Santulli,  Sarah Jamison, and Rhys Brydon-Williams.

Nick, Kira, Sarah, and Rhys provided extraordinary help to SAHC in our initiative to restore Golden-winged warbler habitat on Little Hump Mountain in the Highlands of Roan. This is a major restoration project of SAHC to increase early successional habitat on Little Hump, funded by a grant from the Wildlife Conservation Society.

studentsaward.jpgNick, Kira, Sarah, and Rhys hiked several miles with their own heavy equipment and offered their forestry skills to further our conservation efforts on the mountain. Their volunteer hours leveraged our paid grant work, allowing us to further increase the amount of early successional habitat on Little Hump mountain.

This project solidified an enduring partnership between SAHC and Warren Wilson Forestry department. The school naturally attracts dedicated individuals with an enthusiasm for environmental stewardship. SAHC hopes to continue this wonderful partnership for years to come.

Jeanette also recognized the inspiring achievements of outgoing trustee Jay Leutze and presented him with an engraved award for his service.

Jay grew up hiking, camping, and exploring the Southern Appalachians.  He deeply loves these mountains, and revels in their fragile wonder.  He is driven to ensure that their ecology will remain intact for the future.

In 2008, Jay helped pass state legislation authorizing the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area adjacent to the Highlands of Roan. Since then, he has led the protection of more than 1,500 acres of critically important high elevation habitat there, with a long-term goal is to protect 30,000 more acres. He also stopped the proposed Putnam Mine, which would have devastated views from the Appalachian Trail in the Highlands of Roan.

Jay played a crucial role in protecting the 10,000-acre Rocky Fork tract along the Appalachian Trail in East Tennessee. He worked tirelessly with SAHC’s partners to secure the property, and he has been a trusted advocate in Congress for funds to help pay for the tract being added to the Cherokee National Forest for present and future generations to visit and enjoy. As a constant and heroic advocate for conservation, Jay testified on Capitol Hill in support of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  His constant presence and vigilance in Washington, DC has advanced conservation locally as well as nationally.

closeupPatty Cunningham-Woolf and Greg Gregory were elected each to a first 3-year term on the Board of Trustees, and Leslie Casse and Florence Krupnick will return to each serve a second 3-year term with the Board.

Patty Cunningham-Woolf
Patty is a REALTOR with Keller Williams Professionals in Asheville. Her summers were spent backpacking and camping in the Smokies and surrounding mountains, where she developed her deep love of the area’s natural resources.  Patty is a long time member of SAHC, the Blue Ridge Society, and The American Chestnut Foundation. While a Director for the Asheville Board of REALTORS, Patty helped to create an Eco designation for area brokers, a first of its kind in the U.S. She is a 12-year resident of Asheville with her husband, Ben, son Joseph, and daughter Katie.

Lyman J. (“Greg”) Gregory, III
Greg is an attorney with the Asheville firm of Marshall, Roth, and Gregory. He is a native of Asheville and actively volunteers in numerous community activities, focusing in particular on land use planning and environmental law. He has served on the SAHC Land Management and Stewardship Committee for several years, and has advised SAHC on legal questions relating to conservation easements and other matters. Greg, his wife Michele and their son Gabriel enjoy hiking in North Carolina’s mountains.

Leslie Casse
Leslie has brought her broad professional background in public relations, marketing, journalism, law, and public policy to SAHC’s Membership Development and Communications programs. She has a longstanding love of Roan and other special places in the Southern Appalachians. She, her husband Daniel and their two children live in Asheville. Leslie’s father Charlie McCullough is a past President of the SAHC Board of Trustees.

Florence Krupnick
Florence is active on the SAHC Membership Committee and has hosted cultivation events on behalf of SAHC. She is active in a number of causes on behalf of outdoor recreation, the environment, and children. She, her husband Jack and their children live in Asheville. Florence has worked hard on behalf of the Blue Ridge Society, a philanthropic giving society that benefits SAHC and CTNC.

We had a wonderful celebratory party with our members & guests. Thank you for joining us! We also want to extend an enormous THANK YOU to all our event sponsors and raffle item donors!