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

Grassy Ridge – Success 40 years in the making!

grassyridge.jpgAt the end of 2012, we succeeded in purchasing an incredible property that had topped our conservation priority ‘wish list’ for the past four decades — the 601-acre Grassy Ridge tract, crown jewel of the Roan Highlands. Thanks to tenacious landowner outreach, good timing, extraordinary support from private philanthropists, and critical conservation partnerships, we were able to ring in the New Year with a triumph truly worth celebrating. The Grassy Ridge tract forms a breathtaking corridor that connects public lands along one of the highest elevation ridges in the Southern Appalachians.

“Since SAHC’s beginning, the protection of the Grassy Ridge Tract has been a top priority.  There is still much more to be done, but we can all rejoice that this important tract is now protected forever,” said Carol Coffey, former president of the Board of Trustees. “The purchase of the Grassy Ridge tract is a milestone in SAHC’s efforts to protect the Southern Appalachian Highlands.” Read more

Justice Creek – Protecting 260 Acres Visible from the Appalachian Trail

justicecreek_labelledpic.jpgWe recently purchased 260 acres visible from the Appalachian Trail and from the overlook at the Rhododendron Gardens on Roan Mountain.  Located in the middle of the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area, the parcel adjoins the 225-acre Spear Top Mountain property that we acquired in December 2011. Together, these adjoining conservation projects protect the summit and three sides of the mountain!

“This area is so special and precious, with beautiful waterfalls and many rare plants and mushrooms. It just needs to stay natural,” said landowner Laura Mitchell, who sold the property to SAHC in early December. “I wanted to make sure it will always be protected, and working with SAHC, I knew it would be.” Read more

Southern Gateway to Yellow Mountain State Natural Area Protected

whichard-pic_net.jpgIn mid-November, SAHC purchased 89 acres at the southern end of the designated Yellow Mountain State Natural Area in Avery County, NC. This new land protection project in the stunning Highlands of Roan adjoins and nearly adjoins other, larger tracts of the Yellow Mountain State Natural area that we had previously protected.

“Gaining a gateway to the other lands we have protected at Burleson Bald has been a priority for SAHC.” said Jay Leutze, former SAHC trustee, conservation consultant and author of Stand Up That Mountain.  “We are thrilled to add this tract to the other lands we have protected.” Read more

Partners Continue Service Project Successes

2012-go-round-bald_-28_blog.jpgThis fall, SAHC continued two great volunteer management partnerships on the Roan. Asheville Green Opportunities and AmeriCorps Project conserve came out for two separate management days, restoring grassy bald habitat on the western slope of Round Bald. It is always rewarding to bring young volunteers to a beautiful place they have not been before, especially when their work can build a sense of connection to the land. It affords us the chance to look at the Roan and its vistas with new eyes and underlines the importance of SAHC’s protection efforts. Read more