Continued Hickory Nut Gap Protection – 62 acres

turtleon-hngbyway.jpgIn mid-December, SAHC protected another tract at Hickory Nut Gap. This new conservation easement preserves 62 acres adjacent to the Florence Nature Preserve and close to the Drovers Road Scenic Byway.  The property will remain privately owned, with permanent protection against future development.

“You may recall SAHC reporting on the three properties we protected at Hickory Nut Gap in December 2013, which totaled 173 acres spanning both sides of the Drovers Road Scenic Byway,” said Michelle Pugliese, SAHC’s Land Protection Director. “This year we were able to expand the protection in the Gap by ensuring that the headwaters and tributaries of Ashworth Creek, and the intact forested views from the Drovers Road Scenic Byway, will remain pristine forever.”

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Clear Skies for ‘Shroom Hunters!

group-getting-instructions-best.jpgIn the Southeast, we’ve been breaking all kinds of records for abundant rainfall through the summer – which you’d think would be great for growing mushrooms, right? Fun fact: There is such a thing as too much rain for ‘shrooms! Luckily, however, we were still able to collect a bountiful and varied assortment for our mushroom identification hike on August 14. And, we were fortunate enough to enjoy a beautiful sunny sky and clear views of the Black Mountains as a bonus.

Led by amateur mycologist Charlotte Caplan – who has spent the past 35 years learning about mushrooms – our group started out in a high mountain meadow with Mt. Mitchell and the stunning Black Mountains clearly visible in the background. Read more

Moody Knob – Quiet Cove with Devoted Stewards

moodyknob_salamander2.jpgThis lovely 63-acre cove is located in Madison County, on the ridgeline that is the border with Buncombe County. It lies near other properties that we have protected in a relatively unfragmented corridor between the Black Mountains and the Tennessee line.

The tract is a north-facing rich cove with large hardwood trees, a diverse herbaceous layer, and multiple seeps and springs. Headwaters originating on the property flow into Terry Fork, a tributary of Ivy Creek that meets the French Broad River just south of Marshall.  An botanist’s inventory conducted noted 158 plant species, and the property is one ridge over from the Black and Craggy Audubon Important Bird Area.

Owning a special property heightens your personal connection with the land. This intense connection led landowners Hershella Smith and Jay Gleason to donate a conservation easement on their beloved Moody Knob property. With a true sense of commitment to stewardship, the landowners generously donated the entire value of this conservation easement and all transaction costs to make this project possible. Read more

Blue Ridge Pastures in Fairview, NC


There is something invigorating about sunshine on early spring pastures in the mountains.  With the sun shining brightly down, and the ridgelines of the Hickory Nut Gorge looming above, you might just feel inclined to twirl and sing a little “Sound of Music,” or plant down your feet to do some yoga. This past December, SAHC completed bargain sale conservation easements on two adjoining tracts at Blue Ridge Pastures, totaling 120 acres. The property is situated on the Eastern Continental Divide, adjacent to Strawberry Gap and Ferguson Knob, with an upper elevation of 3,740 feet.

The tracts are adjacent to a network of protected land in Hickory Nut Gorge, including SAHC’s Hickory Nut Gap Forest conservation easement and the Florence Preserve.  The Blue Ridge Pastures project also adjoins property protected by another SAHC conservation easement project completed in December – the Hickory Nut Gap Scenic Byways project. Read more

Protecting Scenic Views, Historic Lands, and Clean Water at Hickory Nut Gap

viewfromparcela.jpgWe love the tranquil drive through Fairview along the Drover’s Road Scenic Byway. At the crest of Hickory Nut Gap, the sight of Sherrill’s Inn overlooking this scenic route recalls the 1800s, when the Flying Cloud stagecoach carried mail and passengers from Rutherfordton to Asheville, and herd drovers stopped here to rest before journeying on through the gorge.

Recognizing the historic and natural treasures of this area, we were thrilled to protect 173 acres along the Drovers Road Scenic Byway (US 74A) this past December, through conservation easements on three adjoining parcels. These conservation easements ensure that the land will be preserved forever, securing important views, habitat, and water resources right on the Eastern Continental Divide.

The three adjoining parcels are located on the Hickory Nut Gap section of the Drovers Road Scenic Byway (Highway 74A) in Fairview and are visible in the distance from the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The parcels also share a long boundary with our Hickory Nut Gap Forest conservation easement, and are close to and visible from the publicly accessible Florence Preserve and Bearwallow Mountain. Read more

Fairview Bottom Lands – Local Farmland for Local Farms

fairview3.jpgIn early December, we closed on three adjoining projects in the lush Fairview valley, securing 28 acres of prime farming bottom land for agricultural use in the future. The parcels lie alongside the Drovers’ Road Scenic Byway, below a twisting ascent up the Hickory Nut Gap. Together, these projects help ensure the protection of the scenic quality of this rural landscape, as well as the availability of rare prime soils for present and future farmers.

“It was important to us to ensure the agricultural future of this land and scenic value of the valley,” said Annie Louise Perkinson of Flying Cloud Farm. “Protecting the land means it will continue to be available to provide fresh vegetables and flowers to local communities in the future.“ Read more

SAHC Continues Preservation of Little Pisgah Mountain

little-pisgah-mountain.jpgConservation is a process – A step-at-a-time, often complicated process. Like a snowflake, each conservation project is truly unique. As we endeavor to fulfill our mission to secure the region’s most conservation-worthy tracts for future generations, we carefully navigate this complex process with landowners. Quilting together various pieces for a contiguous protected landscape requires patience and diligence, as recently demonstrated in the Little Pisgah Mountain region along the continental divide at the Buncombe/Henderson County line.

On Monday, July 23, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy accepted donation of a 15-acre conservation easement in Fairview, NC. The tract is part of an assemblage of protected properties that together preserve the summit and north face of Little Pisgah Mountain. These tracts join with neighboring conservation easements and other preserves to protect over 1,400 acres of land around Little Pisgah. Read more

Inspired by Salamanders on Jim’s Branch

p_teyahalee.jpgNarrative and photos courtesy of Tom Ward
“As a child I first came to appreciate the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains on hikes up the family property with my Grandpa. My grandparents would often let me go out on my own and hike up Jim’s Branch turning over river rocks or flipping decaying logs looking for salamanders & snakes. I could find a Dusky (Desmognathus fuscus), Black-bellied (Desmognathus quadramaculatus), Two-lined (Eurycea wilderae) or other species of salamander under almost every other rock, though catching the big ones long enough to identify them was quite a challenge.

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192 Acres Protected in Yancey County

dsc_01461.jpgSouthern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) established another conservation easement in Yancey County, NC. The 192 acres rise to an elevation of 5,163 feet at the summit of High Knob.  The property holds spectacular northerly views over the Black Mountains and sits close to several other prominent conservation easements, including the Big Tom Wilson Preserve, public tracts of land such as Pisgah National Forest, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Mount Mitchell State Park. The property is also within several miles of another SAHC easement.

“The Elk Fork property epitomizes what land conservation trusts try to do on a daily basis–protect pieces of land that hold aesthetic, practical, and intrinsic value.” States SAHC Executive Director, Carl Silverstein. “It is pivotal that we continue to protect properties that are highly visible to the public eye.” Elk Fork is definitely that. On clear days, Elk Fork can be seen from Mt. Mitchell and along the Cane River. Read more

Landmark Protection on Little Pisgah Mountain

little-pisgah-052.jpgOn December 22, 2011, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy recorded conservation easements protecting 474 acres in southern Buncombe County. This project combines with neighboring conservation easements and other preserves to bring the total amount of land protected on Little Pisgah Mountain to more than 1,400 acres.

“The Little Pisgah project is a major step in preservation of mountaintops in an important focus area of the Buncombe County land conservation plan,” according to Albert Sneed, chairman of the Buncombe County Conservation Advisory Board. The property contains 100 acres of high elevation pasture, rock outcrops and cliffs, and 374 acres of forested land, rising to an elevation of 4,400 feet on the top of Little Pisgah Mountain. Read more