Hump Mtn Transfer to Cherokee Nat’l Forest

Close-up of fall leaves on the meadow on the Hump Mountain conservation property.

We have transferred 324 acres on the TN slopes of Hump Mountain to the Cherokee National Forest in the Highlands of Roan, the upper edge of the property extends just 500 ft from the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT). Nearby, the AT passes across the grassy balds atop Hump Mountain, affording hikers breathtaking 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape.

“This is an outstanding example of how federal, state and private partners can work together to achieve common goals,”said JaSal Morris, Forest Supervisor, Cherokee National Forest.  “The purchase is a great addition, not only to the Cherokee National Forest land base, but to the entire National Forest System. It will be managed for protection of its exceptional natural resources and the public’s enjoyment of its scenic beauty.”

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America’s Public Lands Are Critical Infrastructure

Congress Should Make Investments in Parks, Access and Outdoor Recreation Economy

[Statement from the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition spokesman and SAHC Board President Jay Leutze— January 30, 2018]

Jay Leutze, Board President of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and a spokesman for the LWCF Coalition, today reacted to the President’s infrastructure proposals outlined in the State of the Union address to Congress.

“America’s infrastructure encompasses more than just our roads, bridges, harbors and airports. Our national parks, public lands and protected greenspace are an equally important part of our nation’s critical infrastructure, and must not be overlooked as the Congress considers making substantial investments in transportation and public works projects.

“Access to our public lands is critical to the recreation economy. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is the premier program established to provide access to all Americans, no matter where they live or play. Investing in our public land infrastructure through LWCF supports parks, water and wildlife and must be part the solution. Read more

AmeriCorps Needs Our Help!

We need your help!

Please contact your Senator and Representative NOW, and ask them to oppose efforts to eliminate the AmeriCorps program (part of the Corporation for National and Community Service). This program is an important public/private partnership — in which non-profits like Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy match federal funds in order to accomplish meaningful land & water conservation and to create vibrant rural and urban communities. Read more

Blue Ridge Forever awarded $8 million for farmland

Local land trusts secure unprecedented $8 million dollars for farmland conservation in Western North Carolina

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture National Resource Conservation Service (USDA NRCS) recently announced 2017 funding allocations from the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which included an unprecedented $8 million awarded for farmland conservation in Western North Carolina. This award for the Blue Ridge Forever coalition’s project “Forever Farms; Easements at the Eminence” will be used to protect working agricultural land and clean water sources across the region.

“This funding allocation is unique because of its size, and because it is directed specifically for the protection of important soils as well as clean water sources for our regional watersheds,” said Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “We have successfully used federal funding to accomplish significant farmland conservation projects over the past decade, and this new allocation opens the door for us to work with willing landowners to protect some of the most crucial, large contiguous tracts of farmland remaining in the mountains. This is an incredible success, reflecting well on the perseverance and dedicated, collaborative efforts of the Blue Ridge Forever partners ” 

The partnering Blue Ridge Forever land trusts plan to use the federally allocated funding to protect mountain farms from a change in land use through voluntary agricultural conservation easements. Agricultural conservation easements protect farmland and rare prime soils for food security for future generations, while also protecting the cultural heritage, scenic vistas, and farm-to-table establishments that drive tourism to the region. However, the benefits of this new funding will reach much further than the mountains. The nine river basins emanating from the WNC region contain the headwater sources for drinking water for millions of people throughout the Southeastern United States.

“We are thrilled to bring this allocation to Western North Carolina to keep mountain farms farming, and gratified the region is receiving national recognition for its importance as a freshwater source for the Southeast,” said Jessica Laggis, Blue Ridge Forever’s director. “This funding represents the culmination of years of dedication in conservation planning and relationship building. WNC land trusts have been laying the foundation for this RCPP success for a long time.”

In the past, SAHC used the same federal funding source to successfully protect several farms, including the 320-acre Reeves Homeplace Farm in Madison County, the 90-acre Watalula Farm in Leicester, 116 acres of fertile bottomland in Sandy Mush, and 80 acres of bottomland in Fairview in Buncombe County.

“The ability to protect nationally significant prime soils and water quality with the same funding source is a dream come true,” said Farmland Program Director, William Hamilton. “This funding will have a permanent, positive impact on WNC, and will be a gift that keeps on giving for generations to come. It provides us with the opportunity to help preserve some of the biggest and best farms in the region. One of the victories of this funding is that it obligates $8 million to be used exclusively for purchase of agricultural conservation easements in western North Carolina.   In the past we were competing statewide for these same federal funds, and the federal allocation to the entire state of NC ranged between $500,000 – $3.5 million.  So, securing $8 million for western North Carolina changes things in a dramatic way for us.”

Mountain farms are increasingly vulnerable to a change in land use, due in part to extraordinary development pressure and rapidly rising land values. Large mountain farms are particularly scarce because they are prone to fragmentation and development as they pass from one generation to the next, yet they are critically important for clean water because they encompass significant water sources. SAHC hopes to use this funding to continue building on more than a decade of successful farmland conservation.

“NRCS has created a unique opportunity with RCPP that recognizes the power of partnership,” continued Laggis. “Farmland preservation is great cause everyone can get behind; it brings a diverse array of stakeholders together in a beautiful way. We especially want to thank Principal Chief Patrick Lambert of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Congressman Patrick McHenry, Senator Richard Burr, Governor Pat McCrory, Representative John Ager, Representative Joe Sam Queen, and the NC Department of Agriculture for supporting farmland preservation in Western North Carolina.”

 

About Blue Ridge Forever: 

Blue Ridge Forever is a coalition of the 10 land trusts in Western North Carolina, that have partnered for over a decade of conservation successes in the region. The partners include: Blue Ridge Conservancy, The Conservation Trust for North Carolina, New River Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust, Foothills Conservancy, Pacolet Area Conservancy, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, Mainspring Conservation Trust, the Trust for Public Land, Riverlink, and Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy.

Federal Legislation: Conservation Tax Incentives and the Land & Water Conservation Fund

dsc01316In December, the US Congress passed and the president signed into law legislation making the enhanced tax incentive for conservation easement donations permanent.

First enacted as a temporary provision in 2006 (which expired in 2014), the incentive grants certain tax benefits to landowners who sign a conservation easement. In a strong bipartisan action, the House voted 318-109 and the Senate voted 65-33 to pass the bills that included the tax incentive.

Also in December, Congress passed an omnibus spending bill that included temporary, 3-year reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which had expired in September.

“Looking forward we all need to make sure that Congress understands that short-term fixes are welcome, but that our threatened natural heritage calls for a permanent solution,” said SAHC Trustee Jay Leutze. “I’m really proud that several members of our region’s Congressional delegation stood up and let leadership in both houses know how important public land is here at home.”

SAHC’s Jay Leutze addresses NPCA Trustees

jaySAHC partner National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) held a board meeting for their national trustees in Asheville June 18-20th.  While in the area, the trustees visited the Blue Ridge Parkway, hiked into Shining Rock Wilderness,  and toured the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site.

They welcomed several guests, including Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Mark Woods, Acting Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cindy MacLeod, and Carl Sandburg National Historic Site Superintendent Tyrone Brandyburg, to a dinner featuring a talk from SAHC Trustee Jay Leutze. Jay recounted the role NPCA played in protecting the Appalachian Trail from impacts of the Putnam Mine, a story detailed in his book Stand Up That Mountain.

Several SAHC members and former trustees were in attendance, including Charlie and Shirley Ann McCollough, and former Blue Ridge Parkway superintendent Phil Francis. NPCA has been a wonderful partner in helping to preserve the rich vitality of our mountain landscape. Over the past few years, we have been fortunate to receive grant funding from NPCA and Nature Valley’s “Preserve Our Parks” program to support habitat restoration and stewardship in the Highlands of Roan and at Cataloochee Ranch adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

 

NC Land and Water Conservation Lobby Day

legislative-building.jpgWhat is “Lobby Day”? An opportunity for us to show our elected officials how important land and water conservation are to our state.

Land for Tomorrow, a partnership of concerned citizens, businesses, interest groups and local governments, organized the statewide lobbying efforts. This past Wednesday, March 27, SAHC staff members Pauline Moleski and Michelle Pugliese, and  former trustee Jay Leutze joined other representatives from North Carolina land trusts for NC Land and Water Conservation Lobby Day in Raleigh. Our elected officials heard from us on the importance of state conservation funding and why we need their support to increase funding to our four conservation trust funds. Read more