What a banner year for land and water conservation across the Southern Appalachians! In 2019, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy successfully closed conservation projects across six counties in NC and TN, totaling over 1,800 MORE protected acres. These projects range across our conservation focus areas — from the Smoky Mountains to the Highlands of Roan, and many places in between.
The wide array of projects completed this year protect a variety of conservation priorities – sources for clean water, habitat for rare plants and animals, wildlife corridors, connectivity securing larger networks of protected lands, scenic views from the Appalachian Trail and other popular outdoor recreation areas, productive farmland, prime soils, and public land acquisition.
Thank you for helping to protect these important areas – and do so much more! Our stewardship, outings, Community Farm, and education programs continue to grow, ensuring that protected places will continue to be thoughtfully managed and provide places to connect people with nature for generations to come.
As we prepare to ring in the end of 2019, we are proud of these incredible accomplishments. Please join us in celebrating!
(Photographs by Travis Bordley)
SAHC Acquisitions, Assists, Conservation Easements in 2019
Highland of Roan (Mitchell and Avery Counties, NC and Carter County, TN):
42 acres in the scenic Roaring Creek area, with over 1,000 ft. of stream flowing into Roaring Creek near the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail
51 acres of high elevation habitat, on Haw Orchard Ridge including spruce-fir habitat for rare and threatened species
Doll Branch — 62 acres of forested habitat adjoining Cherokee National Forest less than a mile from the Appalachian Trail
Gutches Creek – 135 acres adjoining Pisgah National Forest, with sensitive ecological communities and at least 10 state-listed rare plant species
150 acres at Greene Creek, assisting the State of NC with securing land at Greene Creek in the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area
Yellow Mountain Connector – 456 acres connecting protected lands in the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area, with important clean water sources
Byrd Farm — Conservation easement on 127 acres of farmland with over a mile of frontage on Big Rock Creek
Black Mountains (McDowell County):
101 acres at High Rock Acres near the Town of Black Mountain, securing forested habitat and connectivity in a wildlife corridor, as well as water sources for the Catawba and Broad Rivers
French Broad River Valley (Buncombe and Haywood Counties):
112 acres in the Sandy Mush community of Buncombe County, protecting scenic views, streams, and wildlife habitat in an area facing development pressure
Agricultural conservation easements protecting a total of 206 acres in Buncombe County — Ridgeview Farm in the Alexander Community and Hogeye Bottomlands in Sandy Mush
Smoky Mountains Conservation (Haywood County):
187 acres for bear, deer, and elk habitat in an important wildlife corridor in the Pigeon River Gorge
- We continue to convene the multi-partner Roan Stewardship collaboration, managing sensitive ecosystems in the Highlands of Roan. This year’s Grassy Ridge Mow-Off consisted of productive work days and exciting adventures, with 22 volunteers managing 4.85 acres. Total partnership efforts in the Roan managed and/or restored 43 acres of grassy balds habitat, with the support of 237 volunteer hours from SAHC members and volunteers. Partners at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy provided grants to support grassy balds habitat management and sponsor the seasonal Roan Naturalist position in the Highlands of Roan. The Roan Naturalist, supervised by SAHC’s Roan Stewardship Director, educates visitors about sensitive ecological communities and Leave No Trace principles.
- The Cornell Lab of Ornithology Land Trust Initiative Small Grants Program awarded a grant to SAHC to restore conifer habitat.
- Volunteers have assisted with a wide variety of land management projects throughout the year — from our Community Farm work days just outside Asheville to trail maintenance and Golden-winged Warbler habitat management in the Highlands of Roan. We are particularly grateful to all the volunteers who helped complete the Everett J. Bowman Trail on SAHC’s Elk Hollow Preserve.
- SAHC is part of the Sandy Mush Coalition working to control invasive plant species and engage landowners in forest management in the Sandy Mush community.
- Our commitment to acting in response to climate change extends beyond protecting valuable soils, securing wildlife corridors, and stabilizing slopes and streams.
- Farmer Education Workshops at SAHC’s Community Farm continue to engage a variety of farmers and interested community members. Workshops share information about best management practices. This year’s diverse topics included fermentation, pasture management, food safety in our recently certified Value-Added Kitchen, and more.
- Solar panels were added to SAHC’s office roof, so our conservation work will be powered by renewable resources! We are extremely grateful to those who are helping make this commitment to climate action possible.
- Throughout the year, our outings program led hikes to SAHC-protected properties and organized a wide variety of opportunities to experience nature – from challenging trails to a bike ride with outdoor ambassador Daniel White (The Blackalachian), to awe-inspiring star-gazing at the Astronomy Club of Asheville’s Grassland Mountain Observatory.
- Our youth education initiative expanded dramatically, reaching almost 800 students with environmental education and outdoor experiences! We have strengthened partnerships with various community and YMCA afterschool groups around Asheville to offer on-site conservation education programs and facilitate field trips. In the Roan, groups from the Spruce Pine Montessori School and Crossnore School for Children enjoyed immersive outdoor experiences at Elk Hollow Preserve.
- Youth volunteer groups continue to connect with nature through extended partnerships with SAHC – including National Junior Honor Society volunteers from Charles T. Koontz Intermediate School, East Tennessee State University Service Learning Program volunteers, French Broad River Academy students, and more.