Hollybush Gap

Stream on Hollybush Gap propertySAHC recently purchased 17 acres at Hollybush Gap, a privately owned in-holding surrounded by Cherokee National Forest. SAHC will transfer this tract to the national forest in the next year or so, closing a notable gap within our public lands. Springs and tributaries on the property feed into Big Branch, a trout stream. We are grateful to our supporters for helping to conserve this land for all people to enjoy!

“Helping our partners in the public land agencies preserve land and reduce management boundaries is a win-win for conservation, people, and wildlife,” says Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. “Like putting together a puzzle, securing in-holdings within public lands helps complete the picture — improving our partners’ ability to manage land while creating more areas for public recreation.”

SAHC raised a portion of the purchase price from generous private donors, and borrowed funds from our internal revolving land acquisition loan fund for the rest of the cost of purchasing the land. The US Forest Service will eventually purchase the property from SAHC at a discounted price that will enable us to replenish the amount we borrowed from our internal revolving fund.

What’s wrong with this map?

Map of Hollybush Gap property surrounded by national forestDid you know that the large green shapes marked as “national forest” on many road or regional maps aren’t as solid as they appear? Federal legislation in the early 1900s established the U.S. Forest Service and authorized the creation of planning boundaries — which means that when privately owned tracts within those planning boundaries come up for sale (and funds are available), they can be purchased and added to the national forests.

These planning boundaries are often used on commercially produced maps to represent the national forests. But what you don’t see are the many small openings within the forest area which remain privately owned tracts. These inholdings — areas of private land surrounded by public land — can create difficulty in land management and confusion for people who are using  public forest land and accidentally cross into someone else’s property.

As a nonprofit organization with the ability to act quickly when these inholdings come up for sale, SAHC helps our public land partners by securing the tracts until the agency is able to work through their internal process to access funds and complete the transfer of property from us. This can even mean SAHC obtaining a loan when necessary to complete a high priority, time-sensitive acquisition. These transfers help ‘fill in’ the missing gaps on your map at home.

Dark Ridge Assist

This year, the Trust for Public Land purchased a 482-acre tract at Dark Ridge, located near the Appalachian Trail in Avery County, just north of the Roan Highlands. The property shares a long boundary with the Cherokee National Forest and Pisgah National Forest. SAHC identified the Dark Ridge tract in our 2018 conservation planning process as one of our Top Priorities in the AT Countryside. We are proud to have been able to assist our partners at the Trust for Public Land in this acquisition.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) will own the property in the short term, until the US Forest Service is able to purchase it from TPL and add the property to Pisgah National Forest. SAHC assisted in the transaction by securing $300,000 gift from Fred and Alice Stanback toward the purchase price, along with previous gifts that enabled TPL to hold the property under Option until it was read to close on the purchase. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is also a supporter and funding partner in this project.

“This is a major land-conservation achievement that SAHC has played an integral role in bringing about,” says Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “We’ve been working on the project since July 2017, and we are pleased we have been able to help our partners at TPL secure this large acreage tract.” Read more

Rocky Fork, by David Ramsey

Do you know the story of Rocky Fork, TN?

SAHC is proud to have been a leader in protecting the 10,000-acre Rocky Fork watershed. This stunning scenic watershed is a unique, fragile ecosystem with rare and endangered species. Former SAHC Trustee and nature photographer David Ramsey elaborates in his new book Rocky Fork: Hidden Jewel of the Blue Ridge Wild.

David will donate 20% of each copy pre-ordered through his website using promo code SAHCRF by Nov. 30.

He says, “In this book, I’ve aimed to capture in words and images, along with fellow photographer Jerry Greer, the remarkable story of this 10,000-acre region. It is the story of how thousands of people who love these ancient mountains, including hunters, hikers, mountain bikers, fishers, horsemen and many elected leaders of the region found common ground and worked hard to save this treasured place for the common good.”

Be sure to use code “SAHCRF” for SAHC to get a donation from your book purchase. **This code also gets you 10% off the cover price** Please disregard any other promo codes on the website.


Special Note from the author:

“Greetings SAHC Supporter and Friend,

I’m David Ramsey, former SAHC Trustee and long-time fellow supporter. First and foremost, I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to you for supporting SAHC. It is through your engagement and help that it has become one of the most effective and important mountain land protection organizations in America.
Since its organization in the early 1970s, SAHC has achieved some incredible conservation wins for the southern Appalachian Mountain region. One of the greatest of these victories was saving the 10,000-acre Rocky Fork Watershed from imminent destruction.
As a native resident of Unicoi County, TN, where Rocky Fork is located, I was very fortunate and proud to be part of that effort. In fact, when I first learned about the scope and seriousness of the threat to Rocky Fork in late 2005, I sounded an alarm to regional and national conservationists, the news media and the people of the region — and I’m proud to say the first call I made was to Carl Silverstein, SAHC Executive Director.
What happened next, in my view, is one of the great stories of the last half-century about the coming together of diverse people and groups to fight for the protection of a true Appalachian and American treasure. I hope you will choose to read my first-hand account of that story in my new book, Rocky Fork: Hidden Jewel of the Blue Ridge Wild.
The Holiday 2018 release of the book honors SAHC’s key role in saving Rocky Fork through the donation of 20% of sales made to visitors to my website who use the code: SAHCRF.
Please visit www.ramseyphotos.com to learn more about the book and/or to make a purchase. The deadline for taking advantage of this opportunity to further support SAHC’s vital work is November 30, 2018.
Thank you again for all you do!
Best regards, David Ramsey “

A Golden Opportunity — NCWRC Researches Golden Eagle Wintering Grounds

The camera-trapping stations were baited with meat for the eagles to scavenge, secured to the ground with steel rebar. Photo credit NCWRC

Recent research conducted by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) reveals that the Southern Appalachians may be an important wintering ground for Golden Eagles, once considered rare visitors to the mountains of NC and TN. As part of the Eastern Golden Eagle Working Group, NCWRC set up camera trap stations across Western NC through the winters of 2013, 2014 and 2015. They also captured and released five Golden Eagles fitted with GPS transmitters. Their research casts an intriguing new light on these magnificent birds. Read more

SAHC helps Rocky Fork State Park acquire tract for public access

RockyFork_triplefallsToday we celebrate Earth Day with the closing of an exciting new project which will enable more people to learn about and enjoy the incredible Rocky Fork region!

We worked with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to purchase a 1-acre tract to facilitate public access for Rocky Fork State Park.

“This 1-acre tract is a critical acquisition because it contains the only public access into Rocky Fork State Park,” said SAHC Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “We are proud to have been able to work with the State of Tennessee and other partners over the past decade to conserve the 10,000-acre Rocky Fork watershed. This recent acquisition is an integral part of these efforts, as it will afford public access for visitors to enjoy trails and trout streams in this stunning area.” Read more

Partnerships in Education & Stewardship – Tilson Homeplace Work Day

IMG_8180Conservation doesn’t end with recording a land protection document. Stewardship of protected lands extends in perpetuity, and sometimes requires remediation of past problems for a property. Dedicated East TN State Univ. students responded to our call for a “Service Saturday”, helping clean up debris from illicit dumping on a protected, historic TN property.

The benefits of working with these student volunteers extended far beyond the impressive mountains of trash pulled out of waterways and forests. Through our partnership, the students glimpsed some of the challenges of managing natural resources — in this case, hundreds of acres bordered by a public road. Read more

Ken and Lotta Murray: From DC to the AT, to the hills of TN

kenandlottaKen and Lotta Murray have transitioned from the hustle-and-bustle of Washington, DC, to the quiet coves of mountainous East Tennessee, carving out an idyllic home and garden on a tract where Ken’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 160 years ago. Introduced to SAHC while managing one of our conservation easement properties, they have become committed philanthropic leaders and engaged members, frequently exploring the Southern Appalachians through our guided group hikes.

Ken Murray became acquainted with SAHC when his mother, Katharine Tilson Murray, had the foresight to permanently protect the family homeplace with a conservation easement in 1999. Since retiring to the land in Unicoi County, where he often vacationed as child, Ken and his wife Lotta have become passionate supporters of SAHC, joining our Gray’s Lily Leadership Circle and frequently participating in guided outings on our other protected tracts. Read more

“For Love of Beer & Mountains” Lost Cove Excursion

IMG_2628Late this summer, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and Highland Brewing Company were joined by The Aloft Hotel, Altamont Environmental, Traveling Chic Boutique and USA Raft to explore Lost Cove, where SAHC protected a 95-acre tract in 2012. We hiked into the gorge and rafted the Nolichucky River while learning about the historical significance of the area. Read more

Rice Creek – Protecting the View from the Appalachian Trail

tipton_peopleviewing.jpgLocated barely 500’ from the Appalachian Trail (AT), the beautifully wooded Rice Creek tract has been a conservation priority for the US Forest Service (USFS) and Appalachian Trail Conservancy for over 15 years. We purchased the 77-acre property near Rocky Fork in Unicoi County with the intent to later transfer it to the Cherokee National Forest. Read more

Raft Out the Trash!

GroupwithTrashOnTractWhere would we be without our volunteers and amazing AmeriCorps Project Conserve members? Our “Raft Out the Trash” event  earlier this year reflects a stellar example of how these team members’ incredible initiative, drive and dedication help us achieve conservation success.

Since protecting the Lost Cove tract in 2012, we at SAHC have heard over and over how much this special place resonates with people. Unfortunately, however, years of illegal use had marred the beauty of the cove – and left literally tons of trash strewn about. When our AmeriCorps Outreach & PR Associate, Anna Zanetti, first scouted a hike into Lost Cove, she was appalled by what she found and commenced to plan an ambitious volunteer excursion to take care of it.

Read more