“For Love of Beer and Mountains” partners care for Grassy Ridge

hike_crewOn a brisk fall morning in October, a boisterous group of SAHC and Highland Brewing Company staff (and guests) met at the corner of Roaring Creek Road and 19 East, eager and excited for the busy “For Love of Beer & Mountains” partnership work day ahead. The plan included removing invasive species and restoring habitat for Golden-winged Warblers (neo-tropical migratory songbirds that nest in the Highlands of Roan). Good company with cheery spirits, a gorgeous day on Grassy Ridge, and delicious food combined to create the recipe for a great workday! Read more

Grazing on Top of the World

fred-ted-and-jay-with-grazing-lease-and-spear-topsAccording to Ted Hoilman and his brothers, the Hoilman family has been grazing cattle atop Big Yellow Mountain for over 150 years.  “There was never a time we can remember when there weren’t Hoilmans up on the mountain,” says Ted Hoilman.  That grazing history has given conservation biologists a trove of species to study and made the Hoilmans invaluable partners for the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.

“We don’t make any money grazing cows,” explains Hoilman.  “But we were born cattle men.  We do it because it’s in our blood.  It’s our family history.”  These days that that history might be hanging by a thread, but keeping the Big Yellow herd intact and healthy is important for SAHC and our partners at The Nature Conservancy. Read more

June Jamboree 2014

img_7686Before we head full into cold weather, here’s a sunny memory to tide you over until next year. For the June Jamboree this past summer, a group of around 50 people joined together for a beautiful day of hiking and exploring in the Highlands of Roan, celebrating 40 years of conservation with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. In addition to the classic Carver’s Gap to Grassy Ridge hike, Yoga on the Mountain, Kids in the Creek, and Roll and Stroll in the Rhododendron Gardens, this year we also featured another strenuous challenge hike along a section of the Appalachian Trail. Our Former AmeriCorps Project Conserve PR & Outreach Associate, Anna Zanetti, helped co-lead the Challenge Hike, and here is her story… Read more

Big Rock Creek

bigrockrhodo.jpgFormerly operated as a camp and retreat, the Big Rock Creek tract adjoining the Pisgah National Forest in Mitchell County, NC has been imbued with love and memories for decades. We purchased the high elevation 58-acre parcel in the Highlands of Roan to permanently preserve this cherished place west of Hughes Gap, just a half mile south of the Appalachian Trail (AT).

Once occupied by TrailRidge Mountain Camp and later Camp Pleiades, the tract can be viewed from the AT south of Hughes Gap and from Roan High Bluff. Landowners Jacque Allen and Barbara Benisch, who operated Camp Pleiades for eight years, reached out to SAHC to preserve the land’s natural, recreational, and cultural  features. Read more

Honoring 40 Years of Service to the Roan — “For Love of Mountains”

judyandmargyclark.jpgWhen she came to Kingsport, TN in 1960, Judy Murray knew that she loved mountains. Two days after arriving, her first visit to the Highlands of Roan kindled a passion that became the driving force behind much of the preservation and habitat restoration work we and our partners have accomplished on the Roan.

This year Judy retired from her position as our Highlands of Roan Stewardship Director, and we give her a resounding and heartfelt ‘thank you’ for her dedicated service over the past forty years.

“It was the mountains that really drew me here,” says Judy. “Two days after I landed in Tennessee, I was on the Roan.” Read more

Yellow Mountain Gateway – 357 Acres Preserved!

yellowmthgatewaytract.jpgWhen we closed on the 357-acre Yellow Mountain Gateway tract in Avery County, we preserved more than unspoiled streams, wildlife habitat, and working lands. We opened a way for future generations to connect with the rich history of Avery County.

The Yellow Mountain Gateway is one of those rare treasured jewels — a large contiguous swath of mountain land handed down generation after generation. Rather than risk it being subdivided in the future, eight heirs of the Vance & Odom families came together to sell the tract to SAHC, ensuring that it will remain protected forever. Read more

Tales from the Bird House

leefarese_intern.jpgEarlier this year, we welcomed a series of interns and researchers to the cabin at our 601-acre Grassy Ridge tract in the Highlands of Roan, dubbed ‘the Bird House’ because of the ubiquitous winged wildlife in this rich upland habitat. Lee Farese, one of our first visitors to the cabin, spent several weeks observing and photographing the tract. He recently shared this account of his stay… Read more

AmeriCorps on Round Bald

2013-apc-round-bald-work-day-24.jpgSAHC was pleased to host a group of sixteen volunteers from AmeriCorps Project Conserve (APC) on Round Bald within the Highlands of Roan. For the last three years, SAHC has partnered with APC to get members out on the Roan’s grassy balds to complete a variety of habitat restoration projects.

This year, APC members used hand tools to cut back woody plants from the interior of the grassy bald on Round Bald. Without management, the small herbaceous plants, sedges and grasses that characterize grassy bald habitat will be eventually overgrown by woody plants. This is a natural process called “forest succession;” however in this case, it is important to keep succession in check because grassy balds are a globally imperiled habitat type. Grassy balds offer a home to rare endemic plants and high elevation grassland wildlife species – a home that will slowly be lost without the help of volunteers like those from APC. Read more

Nature Valley/NPCA/SAHC partner in Highlands of Roan

naturevalleygroup.jpg“All good things are wild and free”  – Henry David Thoreau

The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy began some forty years ago with a mission to protect the Highlands of Roan. We don’t have a lot of places left that make us feel “wild and free” anymore, at least not in the way Thoreau implied. While we have constructed ways and means to feel these ideals, arguably none of them are as effective, or human, as standing atop an undeveloped landscape. The Roan is certainly wild and free, but only because of the hard work and care that so many people have contributed. Unfortunately we aren’t done yet. As long as we still face threats to our wild places, good people will keep working. SAHC is lucky enough to count many of these willing people among our ranks.

On Saturday October 19th, SAHC hosted a volunteer work day on our Grassy Ridge property within the Highlands of Roan. The day was a culmination of work sponsored through a grant from National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), who has partnered with Nature Valley to fund projects that benefit National Parks around America. Nature Valley also partnered with National Geographic travel journalist Andrew Evans to help document the importance of our project. Read more

The Roany Boyz – 2013 Volunteers of the Year

volunteergroup.jpgThe Roany Boyz began as a group of friends who liked to hike and camp together.  One of the group — former SAHC president Carol Coffey — was involved with our annual Grassy Ridge Mow-off, in which volunteers spent the third weekend of July cutting back invasive plants to protect the quality of the Grassy Ridge Bald.  The Appalachian Trail in this area crosses Round Bald, Engine Gap, Jane Bald, and a shoulder of Grassy Ridge.  Hiking out to Grassy Ridge, Carol noticed that Engine Gap and the Southwest side of Jane Bald were rapidly being overgrown with blackberries.   Judy Murray, SAHC’s head of Stewardship for the Roan Highlands at the time, agreed to provide tools, primarily weed eaters, if Carol could form a volunteer group to work at Engine Gap. So, in 2001 the Roany Boyz began volunteering to manage grassy balds habitat at Engine Gap.  Read more