New conservation projects protect 267 acres in the Newfound Mountains

newfoundmtnsmapWe recently protected 267 acres in two separate conservation projects in the Newfound Mountains, near the area where Buncombe, Haywood and Madison counties converge. We purchased 31 acres at Doubleside Knob in Haywood County, and placed 236 acres into conservation easement at Haywood Gap, permanently protecting clean water sources, healthy forest communities, habitat, and wildlife corridors.

“These projects continue our decades-long commitment to conservation efforts in the Sandy Mush community,” says Executive Director Carl Silverstein. Over the past two decades, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy has protected over 10,000 acres in this area. Read more

“Human Health and Connection to Nature” – OM Sanctuary

trailhead_bestOshun Mountain (OM) Sanctuary in Asheville, NC, founded in 2012, is a non-profit holistic education and nature-sensitive retreat center that offers overnight stays, classes, lectures, trainings and other programs.

After three years of dedicated effort, OM Sanctuary’s 42-acre urban forest was recently protected by a conservation easement with SAHC. Overlooking the French Broad River, Interstate 26, and Riverside drive, the easement protects a bluff containing cove forest, oak forest, and low montane pine forest with mixed hardwoods. The tract also contains pools in the river floodplain that provide likely habitat for wildlife like salamanders, amphibians and reptiles. Read more

Volunteers Clean Up Sandy Mush Game Lands

p1000074Sometimes you have to look beneath the surface to see the beauty in a conservation tract. Once such example is SAHC’s Sandy Mush Game Lands tract, which we acquired in 2011.

The 88-acre tract is important for conservation because it forms a critical linking bridge and wildlife corridor between non-contiguous portions of the state-owned game lands. Unfortunately, open public access to an old roadbed and the presence of hidden, steep slopes led to illegal dumping in the decades prior to our acquisition.

Dealing with the hundreds of illegally dumped items on the property has been a high priority goal for our Land Management and Stewardship team, and we were grateful to have some volunteer help to make headway. Read more

Preserving Farms – And “A Way of Life”

Anne1Over the past few years, the terms ‘local food’ and ‘farm to table’ have gained greater and greater prominence in our daily conversations. What you may not hear as frequently, however, are some of the underlying concerns for farmland conservation – namely, that local food production requires both local farmland and successful farmers, and that not all farmland is created equal. These concerns are an integral part of the story behind two recent farmland conservation projects completed by the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC).

SAHC recently created conservation easements on two tracts of important, working agricultural lands in northwestern Buncombe County totaling 88 acres. The newly protected 52-acre Watalula Farm tract in Leicester and 36-acre portion of Duckett Farm in Sandy Mush each contain prime agricultural soils. Read more

Music in the Forest – Protecting Bob Moog’s Big Briar Cove

briarcove.jpgMusicians around the world know the name Bob Moog and respect his groundbreaking innovations in electronic instruments. However, what they may not know is that a quiet cove outside Asheville, NC provided a setting of respite and inspiration to nourish his uncanny genius.

In December, we accepted a donated conservation easement on 105 acres of Bob Moog’s property in the South Turkey Creek community of Buncombe County. The quiet cove includes the former home and workshop of local music icon Bob Moog. His widow, Ileana Grams-Moog, donated the conservation easement to SAHC to protect forest habitat and clean water resources on the property. Read more

Youth volunteers tackle stuborn invaders

groupwithrich.jpgThis fall, 6th and 7th grade boys from the French Broad River Academy (FBRA) volunteered to help heal a 45-acre conservation tract in the Sandy Mush area. They spent three days identifying invasive species and learning how to properly eradicate them without disturbing indigenous plants nearby.

Each morning, the boys arrived promptly at 9:30 am, ready to work hard weeding out the invasive plants. Kids and supervising adults split into three groups, and each group received a pair of loppers, hand clippers, rubber gloves, leather gloves, protective eye wear, a trash bag and a little bottle of herbicide that only adults could apply. Read more

Reflecting on Spring and Stewardship at SAHC

035.jpgby Margot Wallston, SAHC AmeriCorps Stewardship Associate — July 2013

One of my favorite things about working in land conservation during the spring is being able to take note of the persistent emergence of botanical life after winter’s long repose. Hiking off-trail to monitor remote pieces of land affords the opportunity to witness the first signs of spring: new stems pushing up through the ground, swelling leaf buds, the first hints of color as flower petals begin to open.  It’s fun to guess what identity each new plant will take on: Will a red, clenched hand atop a fuzzy stem become false goats beard? Will a blue-purple fan of soft baby leaves become blue cohosh?

I’m not alone in relishing in this annual event.  Many people look forward to spring’s arrival as the best time to watch the forest reawaken after winter as wildflowers gradually begin to bloom.  But spring also stirs to life a host of invasive, non-native plants which compete with our native wildflowers and trees for essential resources.  One of the first invasive plants to pop up amidst our native spring ephemerals is garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata). Read more

Trail Building on SAHC’s Community Farm

smallgroup1.jpgOn a chilly mid-March day, SAHC’s Anderson Farm was host for an AmeriCorps service day. Fourteen AmeriCorps Project Conserve members, currently serving at host sites throughout Western North Carolina, came together on SAHC’s Community Farm to lend their hands in building a trail on the 100 acre property.

The SAHC Community Farm property lies just 15 minutes to the north and west of Asheville within the Newfound Creek watershed, an impaired waterway as identified by NC Division of Water Quality. Years of timbering and intensive cattle grazing have impacted the pastures, forests, and waterways of this property. Since acquiring the farm, we have begun the process of revitalizing the agricultural and conservation assets on the property. Read more

Hiking in the Rough Creek Watershed: A respite from winter’s cabin fever.

sumac-on-ridge.jpgPersonal Perspective from SAHC AmeriCorps Stewardship Associate Margot Wallston

“After several weeks of desk time at the office, followed by several days experiencing the worst that this year’s flu season had to offer, cabin fever prompted this SAHC AmeriCorps steward to take advantage of a free Sunday to pay a visit to one of our protected properties in Haywood County, only 30 minutes west of Asheville: the Rough Creek Watershed.

Rough Creek Watershed is an 870-acre conservation easement held by the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, co-managed with  the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, and owned by the Town of Canton. SAHC was instrumental in the protection of this Smoky Mountain jewel. The watershed, which drains into Beaverdam Creek, and then into the Pigeon River, used to serve as the primary water source for Canton, but now it primarily functions as a nature preserve and public pie slice of undisturbed open space.  One of the cool things about this particular conservation easement is that it is accessible to the public. The watershed contains approximately 10 miles of well-maintained trails open for conservation-conscious hikers and bikers to explore. Read more

Volunteer crew transforms exotic invasives into hand-wrought works of art

p5050015.jpgOn May 5, 2012, SAHC stewardship staff teamed up with a dedicated group of volunteers to remove exotic-invasive species from a beautiful mountain farmstead. The crew worked for a majority of the day cutting humongous invasive oriental bittersweet vines on SAHC’s newly-acquired Robinson Rough
property.

Robinson Rough is a 248-acre property near the Sandy Mush Township in northwestern Buncombe County, NC. 216 of these acres consist of steep, craggy forestland that continues all the way up to a high-elevation ridge that is visible from downtown Asheville. The lower 32 acres contain a series of rustic cabins and scenic open pastures. SAHC was able to purchase the Robinson Rough property in late-2011 with the help of an eager seller. Read more