Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy purchases 90 acres adjacent to public trails and the Woodfin watershed in Buncombe County

img_7434On Friday, December 16, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) purchased 90 acres on Snowball Mountain in Buncombe County, permanently preserving scenic views for recreational visitors, clean water sources for area residents, and habitat for native species. Nestled in the publicly treasured Craggy Mountains, this tract is highly visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway and national forest land, and it adjoins the publicly accessible Snowball Mountain Trail and Camp Sequoyah Trail.

“Protecting part of Snowball Mountain is a beautiful example of what we try to do here at SAHC,” says SAHC’s Land Protection Director, Michelle Pugliese. “Snowball Mountain holds immense conservation value as it will protect viewsheds, threatened wildlife habitat, high water quality, biodiversity, and pockets of quality high elevation northern hardwood forest. We are thankful to work with such generous landowners and conservationists on this project.”

This 90-acre purchase will particularly help preserve the wilderness experience for hikers along the Snowball Mountain Trail, accessible to the public off the Blue Ridge Parkway below Craggy Gardens.

dsc_0073Additionally, the property is adjacent to the Woodfin Watershed and contains the headwaters of Reems Creek. Permanently protecting Snowball Mountain from development will secure these headwater streams from sedimentation and other sources of pollution while preserving drinking water resources.

This is the second land protection project that SAHC has accomplished this year adjacent to Buncombe County watersheds. In October, SAHC purchased 225 acres on Laurel Ridge between the Bee Tree and Burnett reservoirs, adjacent to the Asheville watershed. SAHC protects the high-elevation properties near these watersheds to help ensure a clean water supply for residents of the region.

dsc_0407The Snowball Mountain tract joins a significant swath of state and federal protected land, contributing another piece to a vast network of over 125,000 acres of contiguous protected forestlands.  SAHC’s Snowball Mountain acquisition will safeguard wildlife corridors, habitat for native species, and diverse plant communities adjacent to the Pisgah National Forest. With development spreading towards the Black Mountains, many large areas of biological habitat, old-growth forests, and Blue Ridge Parkway viewsheds remain at risk. The Snowball Mountain purchase helps further insulate these protected areas from encroaching developments.

Protecting noteworthy, high elevation viewsheds has always been a priority for SAHC. Since Snowball Mountain is the 76th highest peak in the southern Appalachians and now one of many high elevation properties protected by SAHC, this acquisition is truly worthy of celebration, according to Peter Barr author of Hiking North Carolina’s Lookout Towers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlthough acquiring Snowball Mountain was important to SAHC, finding the funding to purchase such a significant property was a difficult process in this tough economic climate.  Fortunately, due to the generosity of the property landowners and a donation from Fred and Alice Stanback, SAHC was able to buy the land below appraised value through a bargain sale. SAHC’s executive director, Carl Silverstein points out, “Because Snowball Mountain is an intrinsically important property from a conservation standpoint, we are thrilled to protect such a beautiful peace of land at such reasonable price.”