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

A Golden Opportunity — NCWRC Researches Golden Eagle Wintering Grounds

The camera-trapping stations were baited with meat for the eagles to scavenge, secured to the ground with steel rebar. Photo credit NCWRC

Recent research conducted by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) reveals that the Southern Appalachians may be an important wintering ground for Golden Eagles, once considered rare visitors to the mountains of NC and TN. As part of the Eastern Golden Eagle Working Group, NCWRC set up camera trap stations across Western NC through the winters of 2013, 2014 and 2015. They also captured and released five Golden Eagles fitted with GPS transmitters. Their research casts an intriguing new light on these magnificent birds. Read more

Big Rock Creek Preserve – New Addition!

We purchased 21 wooded acres in the Highlands of Roan just south of the TN border in Mitchell County, securing a gateway to connect our existing Big Rock Creek conservation properties with Pisgah National Forest.

“This is another Roan success story that protects habitat for birds and native trout – with the added benefit of providing access and educational opportunities for connecting people with land,” says Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett. Read more

Upper Roaring Creek Valley

“It is simply magical,” says Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett, referring Roaring Creek in the Highlands of Roan. “If I were a Hellbender, this is the stream I would want to live in.”

SAHC recently acquired 142 acres at Upper Roaring Creek Valley in the Roan, to protect clean mountain streams and habitat for native trout and other wildlife. The contiguous tracts in Avery County contain a portion of Roaring Creek and its tributaries as well as undeveloped, forested land that adjoins Pisgah National Forest.

“This is one of the most incredible stretches of mountain stream,” explains Crockett. “From a biological standpoint, Roaring Creek is one of the most productive native trout streams in the state. It feeds into the North Toe River, which is home to endangered species like the Appalachian Elktoe mussel.” Read more

Roan Highlands Story Map

Straddling the border of Tennessee’s Carter County and North Carolina’s Mitchell and Avery Counties, the Roan Mountain massif rises above the farms and villages of the valley below. Known as the Highlands of Roan, these mountain peaks and ridges, for the most part above 4,000 feet in elevation, are renowned for their exceptional biological diversity and magnificent beauty.

The Roan Highlands are home to grassy balds, rhododendron gardens, high-elevation rock outcrops, and rich spruce-fir forests. The Roan’s ecosystem is one of the richest repositories of temperate zone biodiversity on earth, including more federally listed plant species than the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Roan Highlands are home to more than 800 plant species and over 188 bird species.

This summer, Stanback Intern Sarah Sanford from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment created a Story Map of Grassy Balds management, using GIS data to catalog three decades of habitat management in the Highlands of Roan. Enjoy a virtual journey to the Roan through historic photos, scenic images, and interactive maps below — or feel free to visit and share the Story Map with this link. 

Roan Balds Management 2017

It takes a village to care for our mountains, and SAHC, our partners, and volunteers certainly made that happen this summer.  In less than four days of work, more than 25 volunteers cut blackberry from about seven acres of grassy and shrub bald habitat during our annual Grassy Ridge Mow-Off and Roany Boyz stewardship events. A big thank you to all the folks who came out to mow, to rake, to cook, and to photograph these events. They simply wouldn’t happen without you!

“After expecting rainy weather the weekend of the mow off, it was a pleasant surprise to have sunny skies and great views for much of the Grassy Ridge Mow-Off,” said Sarah Sanford, Duke Stanback Intern. “I really enjoyed meeting and working with such a wide variety of people, from folks who were there for the very first Grassy Ridge Mow-Off to brand new SAHC members. My favorite part was the views from our campsite on Grassy Ridge. Being part of the Grassy Ridge Mow-Off gave me a better perspective on the large scope of work that SAHC and its volunteers do to maintain the Roan Highlands.”

We would like to give a special thanks to the NC BRIDGE crew this year. In addition to hauling equipment to Grassy Ridge and Engine Gap for our volunteer events, they cleared 3.5 acres of grassy bald habitat and maintained 1.76 acres of early successional habitat on our Roan Mountain Gateway preserve. The BRIDGE (Building, Rehabilitating, Instructing, Developing, Growing, Employing) Program is a cooperative effort between the NC Forest Service and the NC Division of Prisons based out of Western Youth Institution in Morganton, NC. The primary goal of the program is to provide well-trained and equipped forest fire fighting crews ready at a moment’s notice. A secondary, but important, goal is to develop a strong work ethic and work skills so inmates will be able to secure a job when they are released.  For more than 20 years, BRIDGE has been crucial to our habitat management work. Every year, we are always privileged to witness the hard work, dedication, and professionalism exhibited by this crew.

Thank you all!

Poem below contributed by Bill Ryan, Roany Boyz Volunteer 2015-2017

The Roany Boyz  2001-

once a year
in one gap on the AT
in high summer
they gather

to work
to eat
to talk
to lay down ever wearier bodies to camp

some poetry
some stargazing
no campfire out of respect for the land

drinks just cool enough from the spring
work measured in tanks
dream images of blackberry and alder leaves interlacing

coming back to the same places
still trying to figure out why the balds were bald before them
eating a few early blueberries and seeking the elusive Gray’s lily

Conservation Leadership Corps on the Roan

On Tuesday, June 21, we were invited to assist the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Conservation Leadership Corps and Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club (TEHCC) with trail improvements leading to Jane Bald in the Highlands of Roan. Our Roan AmeriCorps member Travis Bordley and CTNC Diversity in Conservation intern Tamia Dame had a lively work day with eager interns from widespread home locations, including New Orleans, Dallas, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Carl Fritz, representing TEHCC, explained how recent rain has eroded gravel from sections of the Appalachian Trail, causing large puddles to form along some stretches. This has led hikers to form a secondary path to the right of the Trail. The mission on this workday was to restore the designated trail and discourage off-trail hiking by barricading the secondary path. Read more

324 Acres on TN slopes of Hump Mountain — Now Protected!

northern slopes of Hump Mtn

324 acres on the northern, TN slopes of Hump Mountain – Now Protected!

On May 19, we purchased 324 acres in the Highlands of Roan — permanently protecting the northern slopes of Hump Mountain just 500 ft. from the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT)! The property, adjoining Cherokee National Forest and Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area, has been a conservation priority for SAHC and our partners at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and the US Forest Service for decades.

“Our purchasing this tract ensures that future generations of hikers will be able to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the AT on Hump Mountain,” said Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “This property has been one of our top conservation priorities since the founding of our organization, and we are deeply proud of having worked with the landowners and our partners to acquire it.” Read more

Mars Hill University students manage habitat in the Roan

Near the end of their Spring semester, a group of dedicated Mars Hill University (MHU) students spent a Saturday volunteering for “the good of a bird that can fit in the palm of your hand,” according to workday organizer Travis Bordley, SAHC’s Roan AmeriCorps member.

Led by Professor Laura Boggess, the thirteen student volunteers helped manage habitat for Golden-winged Warblers (GWWA) along the Appalachian Trail in the Highlands of Roan. The workday was supported with a license plate grant from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC).

“With the support from Laura and the ATC, the volunteer engagement for this workday was at an all time high,” said Travis. “Now THAT is the kind of hustle we like to see from the future leaders of conservation in our landscape.” Read more

Crossnore Boy Scout Troop 814 Volunteer Workday

Ellis Ayers, the Committee Chair for Boy Scout Troop 814 out of Crossnore, NC, heard about our conservation work ‘through the grapevine’ and recognized a great opportunity for his scouts to do local land stewardship.

“I never had the pleasure of being a Boy Scout growing up,” said Travis Bordley, SAHC’s Roan AmeriCorps members. “That explains some odd holes in my outdoor education and training — and was one of many reasons why I was delighted to team up with Boy Scout Troop 814 out of Crossnore NC on behalf of Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.” Read more