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

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.” Read more

114-acre Property Protected in the Swannanoa Mountains

forest.jpgAt the end of October, we closed on a 114-acre conservation easement in the beautiful Swannanoa Mountains, along Jim’s Branch, that will protect important tributaries that flow into Christian Creek and is within 6,600 linear feet of the French Broad river basin.

Jim’s Branch is approximately two and a half miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway and practically adjacent to two other properties held by SAHC.  While there is no direct landscape connectivity between Jim’s Branch and the Blue Ridge Parkway or other conservation lands, the conservation easement is connected to neighboring forested land, other SAHC conservation easements, and natural corridors that allow for species movement. Jim’s Branch close proximity to other protected land greatly increases the conservation value of the property and the viewshed from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Read more

492 Acres Protected around Asheville Watershed

p1270005-1.jpgWe recently purchased 492 acres of land adjacent to the Asheville watershed, permanently protecting stunning vistas and watershed headwaters just 19 miles outside the city of Asheville. Preserving this Laurel Ridge property from potential future development also keeps intact a major portion of views from the Blue Ridge Parkway and Craggy Gardens Visitor Center.

“This acquisition is particularly exciting because the size and location of the property strengthens the protected landscape between the Asheville and Bee Tree watersheds,” says Carl Silverstein, Executive Director for SAHC. “This provides a positive impact on water quality as well as keen advantage in protecting wildlife habitat, forest quality, and other conservation values.”

Approximately 4 miles of streams exist on the property, including Laurel Branch, a significant tributary of the Swannanoa River. From the Asheville Watershed to Mount Mitchell, the Laurel Ridge property connects to an expansive network of protected land in the Black and Craggy Mountains. The property rises to 4800 feet in elevation, and contains hundreds of acres of high quality hardwood forest and several rare natural communities. Read more

Key Tract Off Parkway Protected in the Craggy Mountains – 37 acres adjacent to Asheville Watershed, Pisgah National Forest, and the Blue Ridge Parkway

chauncysconeflower_carson2.jpgWe worked with Joe Carson, a generous landowner in Buncombe County, who donated a conservation easement on his 37- acre property in Swannanoa. Conservation of this land is crucial because of its location. It is less than a mile from the Blue Ridge Parkway and is adjacent to the protected Asheville Watershed and Pisgah National Forest. It is also close to SAHC held conservation easements that total over 2,500 acres. This easement contributes to the network of protected lands within the Craggy Mountains and protects the scenic integrity of views from the Blue Ridge Parkway and other public roads. Read more

SAHC and Navitat Partner to Protect Water Quality

Hard at work!During the first week of May, staff from Navitat Canopy Adventures in Asheville volunteered with SAHC to install water bars on trails on a conservation easement.  The property, a 231-acre conservation easement protected by SAHC, is located within the Craggy Mountains in Barnardsville and  was protected in two phases. The first phase protected 197 acres and was completed in 2003. The second phase was completed in 2008 and protected 34 acres. Conservation of this property helps protect streams of the French Broad watershed from sedimentation and other pollutants. Read more

Montreat Hike: East Ridge Loop

Some of the group at the end of the hikeOn November 17th, 2010,  members and friends learned about Montreat history and SAHC’s 2,460-acre Montreat conservation easement as they enjoyed a  hike on the East Ridge Loop in the Montreat Wilderness. Joe Stadaert, co-author of an Arcadia press book on Montreat history, led the hike along with Claire Hobbs, SAHC’s PR & Outreach Associate.

Prime Farmland Soils Producing Local Food Preserved Forever

Prime Farmland, Fairview, NCSAHC has advanced its conservation work in the Fairview farming community by protecting 28 more acres that include productive farmland used by Hickory Nut Gap Meats and Flying Cloud Farm, two popular local farming operations. These enterprises provide local food to 4 tailgate markets, Greenlife Grocery and Earth Fare Supermarkets, and over 100 families through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares.

The land adjoins the 290-acre Hickory Nut Gap Farm conservation easement, which SAHC closed in December 2008. The new easement furthers SAHC’s vision of protecting agricultural soils and working farms to secure our region’s local food production for the future. Since 2005, SAHC has protected over 3,000 acres of working farmland through its Farmland Preservation Program. Read more