On December 19, we assisted the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) with the purchase of 82 acres at Sorrells Meadow, to be added to the Cold Mountain Game Lands in Haywood County. With a remarkable mix of high elevation open meadow, forest communities, and pristine water sources, the property provides excellent wildlife habitat as well as opportunities for public recreation. It adjoins existing Cold Mountain Game Lands to the north and the Shining Rock Wilderness of Pisgah National Forest at its southern tip, within a quarter mile of the Art Loeb National Recreational Trail.
“Sorrells Meadow will be a crown jewel for the Cold Mountain Game Lands,” said Farmland Program Director William Hamilton. “The open meadow atop this 82-acre addition to the public game lands is one-of-a-kind in this area. If it had been developed, you would have been looking down on houses or condos from popular public trails. Now, that won’t happen.”
The Sorrells Meadow tract was a high conservation priority for its namesake 10-acre, high-elevation successional meadow and adjacency to public lands. The meadow, above 4,000 feet in elevation, provides valuable habitat for various animals and migratory birds. Panoramic views of the Fork Mountain Ridge and the watershed of the West Fork of the Pigeon River are visible from this vantage point. Part of the property falls within the Audubon Society’s Great Balsam Mountains Important Bird Area.
“What made it really attractive to us is the meadow, because high elevation openings like that are few and far between on state property,” said David Stewart, Land Management Biologist with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. “That area offers great habitat for a wide range of species, and it was at high risk for development. It was an important piece of property to protect, and we’re looking forward to managing it for wildlife.”
The Sorrells Meadow property also contains headwater tributaries of Sorrell Creek, a direct tributary of the Little East Fork of the Pigeon River. The acquisition protects 3,318 ft. of stream corridor.
“This property is a key addition to the popular Cold Mountain Game Lands, and preventing its development will provide a major public benefit for generations to come,” said Executive Director Carl Silverstein. The tract adjoins a large network of existing public land in the Cold Mountain and Shining Rock Wilderness landscape, where SAHC has been active in land protection since 2001. We provided private philanthropic funds to match public funds, making the NCWRC purchase possible.
“We are very grateful to Brad and Shelli Stanback for their generous gift,” added Silverstein. “NCWRC’s purchase of the tract has the potential to connect the state-owned game lands with federal forest land. SAHC is extremely pleased that we can play a role in helping the State of NC acquire lands for public use, furthering our mission to protect habitat and places for outdoor recreation.”
Earlier this year, we helped the NCWRC acquire two additional tracts to add 224 more acres to the Cold Mountain Game Lands.
“We really appreciate the partnership with SAHC,” continued Stewart. “We have worked together to protect several tracts for the Cold Mountain and Sandy Mush game lands, and hope to continue to do more. Without this partnership, we wouldn’t be able to acquire these tracts for the public. The land is going away quickly, and these opportunities won’t always be available.”
The NCWRC plans to manage the property as a part of the Cold Mountain Game Lands, and it will be open to the public for hunting, hiking, and birdwatching.
“The feeling you get standing on top of this tract is breathtaking,” said Hamilton. “It gives you a great sense of appreciation for all the conservation work that has been accomplished in previous years in the creation of the Cold Mountain Game Lands and in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area. Find your way there!”