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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2018 Roan Naturalist Travis Bordley

Former AmeriCorps service member Travis Bordley stepped into our Roan Naturalist boots this summer.  Travis spent the majority of his time from May to August on the Appalachian Trail between Carvers Gap and 19 E, recording data, educating hikers, and helping manage negative impacts to the Roan’s fragile, globally important ecosystems.

In total, he observed over 12,600 hikers in the Roan, and had interpretive, educational discussions with more than 4,000 people.

“There were days where I couldn’t believe my eyes at the steady stream of people pouring onto the trail,” says Travis. “These moments made me fear for the sensitive habitat in the area. There were also slow days when visitor usage was low, and I was able to genuinely connect with people.” Read more

Tech Update for the Roan

Grassy Balds Management gets a Tech Update

Ilan Bubb interned with us this summer through the Duke University Stanback Intern program. He is earning his Masters of Environmental Management at the Nicholas School of the Environment.

Ilan did a “needs assessment” and GIS modeling project to assist with an update to the Environmental Assessment for grassy balds management in the Highlands of Roan. The Environmental Assessment is a plan which has helped guide stewardship efforts in the Roan for decades. He ground-truthed both restoration and maintenance targets in this plan. He visited GPS-referenced points within the Roan landscape and photographed each area so we can evaluate the effectiveness of stewardship efforts.

In addition, Ilan assisted with volunteer workdays, including our annual Grassy Ridge Mow-Off, to help manage the Roan’s precious ecosystems.

Roan Stewardship 2018

In the Highlands of Roan, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy convenes a multi-partner effort to manage the world’s largest stretch of Appalachian grassy balds. These unique ecosystems contain a variety of rare plants.

SAHC volunteers and our partners with the NC BRIDGE program contributed more than 1,900 hours to manage habitat on Roan’s grassy balds this summer. Altogether, Roan stewardship partners managed a record 32 acres. Volunteers and BRIDGE partners hand-mowed more than 17 acres from Round Bald to Grassy Ridge, cutting back blackberry and shrubs across the balds. The US Forest Service mechanically mowed 15 acres on Hump Mountain.

The BRIDGE crew are hardworking stewardship partners. A program of the NC Division of Prisons the NC Division of Forest Resources to train young, non-violent offenders with firefighting and forestry skills, BRIDGE stands for “BUILDING, REHABILITATING, INSTRUCTING, DEVELOPING, GROWING, EMPLOYING.

Our Roan stewardship work is supported by grants from the National Forest Foundation, McLendon Family Foundation and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Thank you to all the volunteers, partners, and supporters who make this work possible!

Yellow Spot – 234 Acres Protected

This summer we purchased 234 acres in the Highlands of Roan, securing high elevation wildlife habitat and permanently protecting a corridor linking our Tompkins Preserve with Pisgah National Forest in Mitchell County. This acquisition at Yellow Spot protects rare plant and animal habitat, wildlife corridors, scenic views, and sources of clean water along an important high elevation ridgeline.

“This property contains a remarkable combination of features that have made it a conservation priority for decades,” explains Marquette Crockett, SAHC’s Roan Stewardship Director. “We conserve some properties to preserve exceptional water quality and native trout habitat and we protect others because they contain rare, high elevation open areas or exceptional forest habitat – but Yellow Spot has everything. It’s a microcosm of the Roan Highlands. SAHC’s acquisition of this tract secures a perfect puzzle piece, surrounded by National Forest and protecting the main spine of the Roan Massif.” Read more

Help prevent lily leaf spot disease

Healthy Gray’s Lily

If you’re out traipsing high elevation mountains and meadows across WNC this July, you might spy the stunning red-orange trumpet of a Gray’s lily (Lilium grayi) bloom. Please look but don’t touch! This rare native flower has been suffering from a fungal disease that may be spread by contact. The Lily Leaf Spot Disease kills juveniles and reduces reproduction in adults, creating a grim forecast for the future of these beautiful blooms.

First identified by famous American botanist Asa Gray in the Highlands of Roan in 1840, Gray’s lily occurs at high elevations in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, on grassy balds and in moist forests and wet meadows. They bloom in June and July, creating brilliant displays beloved by nature photographers and naturalists. Already listed as Threatened in NC, Gray’s lily populations have been suffering from the wide spread of disease caused by the fungal phytopathogen Pseudocercosporella inconspicua. Indications of the disease occur as tan spots on the leaves, stems, and reproductive portions of the lily. SAHC, in partnership with the US Forest Service and Appalachian Trail Conservancy, recently posted educational signs along the Appalachian Trail in the Highlands of Roan to raise awareness about the Gray’s lily and try to slow spread of the disease. impacts other native lilies, including Canada and Turk’s Cap lily, but Gray’s lily seems to be most susceptible.

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Big Rock Creek Volunteer Work Day

On April 28, 2018, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and Nature Valley partnered with us for a volunteer work day at our Big Rock Creek Preserve, surrounded by national forest land and public recreation hotspots in the Highlands of Roan. In addition to the area’s rare habitats and unique species, SAHC’s Big Rock Creek Preserve – once the home of TrailRidge Mountain Camp — provides a great space for people to connect with protected conservation lands.  A total of 35 volunteers showed up for the work day and tackled a variety of tasks around the preserve to help better connect people with nature. The crew of volunteers represented programs from across the region, including Western Carolina University, East Tennessee State University, AmeriCorps Project Conserve, Conservation Trust for North Carolina, and Asheville Women Outdoors.

The volunteers broke into smaller groups to work on tasks, which included building a quarter mile loop trail, deconstructing an old camping platform, transplanting rhododendron, and seeding an open area with native grasses.  

Jeff Hunter of NPCA led one of the trail crews to clear and grade the first segment of the trail. Jeff has extensive experience in building trails and volunteers learned a lot by working with him.  

Building the trail was an eye opening experience, I have hiked on trails for years and years, but had no idea the amount of work and love that goes into making and maintaining them. Now, when I am looking at a trail I can identify the mineral soil, what is a good slope, and where water may end up pooling; all things I never would have noticed prior to the Big Rock Creek Workday.  It was definitely a Saturday well spent!” -Emily Adler

The trail crew also built two sets of steps and cleared fallen trees. By the end of the day, all major obstacles had been cleared from the trail, creating a strolling path for SAHC’s educational programs and guests to use to explore the property.

On another portion of the preserve, volunteers worked in the open area surrounding our new camping platform.  Volunteers cleared the area around the platform, then spread seeds and transplanted rhododendron along the border. We hope to see this area sprouting native grasses and wildflowers in the next few weeks.

In only 5 hours, all of the tasks were completed and everyone took a walk on the newly built trail together.  We shared stories about what led us to volunteer and reflected on the importance of environmental stewardship.  Thank you to everyone who participated or supported this work day. We couldn’t do it without you!

Leave No Trace

Think about times you have been in the outdoors; it sometimes feels like you are the first person to experience your pristine surroundings, the first person to soak in the beauty of the trees and hear the flowing creek.   Then think about other times, where you hiked in miles to a remote destination, only to find garbage and destruction.  Obviously, the first experience is preferable; this is why SAHC decided to teach a Leave No Trace Trainer Course this spring!  We were able to do so with help from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.  The ATC sponsors a grant annually using funds from the Appalachian Trail specialty license plates.

Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace is a set of outdoor ethics that promote conservation and help to minimize recreation-related impacts in the outdoors.  There are seven principles that are used to educate and guide recreationists in sustainable minimum impact practices that mitigate or eliminate human impacts in the outdoors.

The Seven Principles

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Leave No Trace Trainer Course

The Leave No Trace Trainer Course was a free, two day certification course.  The participants on the course learned how to be effective LNT trainers, so that they can continue to educate others on best practices!  The course was taught at SAHC’s Elk Hollow Property.  Participants arrived on Thursday morning and had a day full of education.  The instructors, Michelle and Emily, taught lessons on LNT History, teaching techniques, and the Plan Ahead and Prepare ethic.

Then it was time for students to break up into pairs.  Each pair picked out two ethics that they would like to teach, and we’re given the resources that they needed to teach them.  Throughout the rest of the course, it was up to the students to teach the other 6 ethics.  This led to some awesome group discussions, fun games, and overall great information!

On Thursday the group brought teaching to the trail, they woke up at 4:30am and hiked up to Little Hump to catch the sunrise and eat breakfast. After breakfast the group continued on the AT to the summit of Hump Mountain. Along the way we stopped to teach LNT lessons and to discuss different LNT observations made along the trail.  By seeing and experiencing impacts on trail the group was able to make connections that may not have been possible in a classroom.

The participants are all avid users of the outdoors, but still felt they learned new ways to reduce their impacts.  Some realized that they need to walk further from streams to use the bathroom; while others we’re shocked about the amount of time it actually takes for an orange peel to fully break down (up to two years).   Thank you again to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for providing this opportunity!  These participants will continue to be good stewards of the outdoors and the AT, by passing on the knowledge they gained from this course!

Outreach Event

The second part of the grant we we’re given was to conduct Leave No Trace outreach on the Appalachian Trail at a popular junction! On Friday a group went up to Carver’s Gap to table, and talk to hikers about potential impacts and specific Appalachian Trail LNT practices.  Over the course of the day we talked to over 60 people about Leave No Trace on the Appalachian Trail.  A big topic that came up was the shortcuts between Carver’s Gap and Grassy Ridge.  Many people did not know that using those shortcuts can cause major degradation on the balds including erosion and damaging sensitive habitats.  After that conversation with many hikers, many decided they would no longer use these shortcuts.  Although this outreach event only lasted one day, we hope the hikers we reached will continue to share this knowledge and start the conversation with others to help us preserve these special places!

 

Big Cove Creek

Appreciating the beauty and ecological importance of the Highlands of Roan, Ben and Leah Sherman recently donated 15 acres in Carter County, TN to SAHC for us to protect forever from development. The property adjoins Cherokee National Forest and can be seen from the Appalachian Trail. Located a scant quarter mile from our Little Cove Creek Preserve, the new preserve borders national forest land at the foot of Wolf Ridge, a high elevation ridgeline that descends from Roan High Knob.

“In 2001, we fell in love with the property adjacent to Cherokee National Forest, at the base of Wolf Ridge on the north side of Roan High Knob,” shared the former landowners Ben and Leah Sherman. “For more than 10 years we raised our young boys among the rocks and creeks and the cozy shadows of The Roan.”

“When we had to relocate, we knew we wanted to conserve as much of the land as possible. We were aware of SAHC before buying the land and increasingly learned of the good work SAHC does protecting so many beautiful areas. We are so happy SAHC will protect this property for future generations.”

Although small in acreage, the property contains significant habitat and water resources. More than half of the property is covered by open areas and early successional forest, which could potentially serve as habitat for rare species such as the Golden-winged Warbler. Nearly 1,000 feet of streams flow through it, including a portion of Big Cove Creek, one of the headwater tributaries of the Doe River.  The Doe River watershed is popular for trout fishing.

Near the new preserve in every direction there are public lands popular for recreation — Roan Mountain State Park to the north, Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area to the east, and the Appalachian Trail and national forests to the west and south.

We are very grateful to Ben and Leah Sherman for donating this land for permanent conservation, and to Brad and Shelli Stanback for donating funds for transaction costs and long-term stewardship of the property.

Hunter Outreach Chili Dinner

Highlands of RoanThe Roan Highlands are commonly referred to as the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy’s flagship conservation focus area. Along with their stunning views and unique habitats, the Roan Highlands are home to a rich mountain culture spanning generations with a deep connection to the land. The relationship between these communities and the mountain has been the foundation of stewardship in the Roan for hundreds of years. Historic uses like hunting and fishing have played a significant role in that relationship. Hunting for subsistence has always been a way of life and has fostered relationships with nature based on intrinsic values and respect.

SAHC honors the relationship between Roan communities and the land by allowing a limited number of hunting licenses to be issued for our protected properties. These licenses are typically issued to prior landowners, neighbors, or relatives to hunt deer and turkey. Read more