Wiles Creek

Wiles Creek close-upImagine a verdant forest with lush ferns growing underneath full, mature canopies. The slushing rush of stream waters echoes all around, lulling you into a state of calm relaxation. Nearby, wildflowers in meadow openings flush with sunlight set the stage for busy activity from pollinators (and their predators), hinting at the array of wildlife which call these places home. Damp earth and plentiful rocks harbor a healthy population of salamanders. Fortunately this stunning oasis in the Highlands of Roan – SAHC’s new Wiles Creek Preserve – is now permanently protected. We are grateful to the committed conservation-minded folks – including SAHC members, a former landowner, Brad and Shelli Stanback, and the Carolina Bird Club – who made protection of this beautiful sanctuary possible.

Wiles Creek mapSAHC recently purchased 166 acres in Mitchell County, NC adjoining Pisgah National Forest, within the Audubon Society’s Roan Mountain Important Bird Area. The undeveloped tract is highly visible from the public overlook at Roan High Knob. Part of a landscape of protected lands with other SAHC-conserved properties, the Wiles Creek Preserve will be owned by SAHC in the long term as a nature preserve and will be managed for priority bird habitats, water quality, and other natural features. Read more

Big Creek – 110 Acres

Big CreekSAHC recently purchased 110 acres in Macon County to protect a headwater source of the nationally significant Chattooga National Wild and Scenic River. The property is just north of the North Carolina/Georgia border, surrounded by the Nantahala and Chattahoochee National Forests, and will be added to the Nantahala National Forest for the public to enjoy.

“Big Creek is an important tributary of the Chattooga River, a beloved river where people enjoy outdoor recreation like whitewater rafting, kayaking and fishing,” says Carl Silverstein, SAHC’s executive director. “Conserving this property permanently protects critical water resources and habitat.”

A long-time priority for protection, SAHC plans to own the Big Creek tract for several years and then transfer it to the U.S. Forest Service to become part of the surrounding Nantahala National Forest. Partner land trust Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust (HCLT), which works in this geographic area, will help steward the property during SAHC’s ownership of the tract. Read more

Tanasee Ridge

Hiking at Tanasee Ridge

Working with trusted conservation partners, we recently protected 109 acres at Tanasee Ridge, adjoining Nantahala National Forest. The property could potentially provide an alternate gateway to popular outdoor recreation areas in Panthertown Valley. Thank you for helping to make this project possible!

“This tract has long been a priority for conservation,” says Conservation Director Hanni Muerdter.  “Permanent protection of the Tanasee Ridge property will enhance the public experience of using the forest.” Read more

Sandy Hollar Farms

row crops at Sandy Hollar FarmsIn June, you helped purchase a conservation easement on 49 more acres of productive farmland in the lovely Sandy Mush community of northwestern Buncombe County.  Sandy Hollar Farms is a Buncombe County attraction, with seasonal events like pick-your-own Christmas trees, pumpkins, and berries.

This idyllic slice of farmland is primarily used for row crops, fruits and berries, and Christmas tree production. According to landowner Curtis Hawkins, Sandy Hollar Farms is one of the biggest producers of blackberries in the county. They also grow squash, green beans, pumpkins, and other fresh produce, which goes to small retailers and farmers’ markets. There is a small herd of sheep and goats on the farm, along with llamas as pets, and landowner June Hawkins periodically gives natural dye and spinning demonstrations. Read more

Bowditch Bottoms – 87 Acres

Bowditch Bottoms with Celo Mtn in background

Bowditch Bottoms with Celo Knob in the background, photo by Catherine Pawlik, Carolinas’ Nature Photographers (CNPA)

The Bowditch Bottoms project has been a long time in the process – beginning in 2014 – and we are thrilled that it successfully closed in June! This 87-acre property in Yancey County contains important soils, farmland, undeveloped forested and non-forested habitat for wildlife, headwaters to the South Toe River, and intact wetland and riparian corridors. It is visible from the Mount Mitchell Scenic Byway and several higher-elevation vantage points in the Black Mountains and the Highlands of the Roan. Read more

Young Pisgah Mountain

Map of Young Pisgah MountainThe Young Pisgah Mountain property adjoins Pisgah National Forest just a mile north of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Upper Hominy Creek Valley of southwest Buncombe County. This 102-acre conservation easement conserves habitat in an important wildlife corridor, in a network of other protected areas such as Chestnut Mountain and the tracts being secured for the new Pisgah View State Park.

“The tract at Young Pisgah Mountain is connected to a large block of protected land in the Balsam Mountains including Mount Pisgah and the Shining Rock Wilderness, which contain many biologically significant destinations,” says Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. “It has been a long-term project and we are grateful for the landowners’ commitment in protecting this special place. They first approached SAHC in 2010 about potentially conserving the land, and we are thrilled to have purchased the conservation easement this summer.” Read more

Chestnut Mountain

 

Chestnut Mountain is close to highway accessUnique habitat and clean water conservation project paired with exciting potential for outdoor recreation! We have purchased 448 acres at Chestnut Mountain near the Town of Canton, permanently protecting sources of clean water and forested habitat in an important wildlife corridor. SAHC plans to give the conserved property to the Town of Canton, after we finish raising funds that are needed to re-pay a bridge loan we took out to buy the property. This will create the possibility for easily accessible outdoor recreation just off US Hwy 19/23 and Interstate 40.

Animal track“This property is dynamic, with a mosaic of habitat types – which is really good for wildlife – and different settings for people to enjoy various types of experiences on the land,” says Conservation Director Hanni Muerdter. “The property starts at 2,360 feet elevation at Hwy 19/23 and then rises to 3,400 feet at the peak of Chestnut Mountain.  At the higher elevations, forested ridgelines and coves situated in an important wildlife corridor provide exceptional habitat for plants and animals. It contains pockets of gentle mature hardwood forest with laurel and rhododendron, forested slopes facing a variety of directions, and an open field and early successional edge area beneficial for birds. The amount of wildlife activity on the tract is truly impressive!” Read more

Tiger Creek

lower meadow at Tiger CreekThanks to supporters like you, in May 2020 we purchased 54 acres surrounded by Cherokee National Forest in the Highlands of Roan, within 2,000 feet of the Appalachian Trail. SAHC will own and manage the property to protect habitat and water resources until it can be added to Cherokee National Forest.

The Tiger Creek property rises in elevation from 3,400 feet to nearly 4,400 feet, just a short distance from the Clyde Smith Shelter on the Appalachian Trail. This stunning tract features an open field and early successional habitat for songbirds, beautiful tributary stream of Tiger Creek, and large, high elevation rock outcrop. Read more

Roaring Creek Valley

Roaring Creek conservation mapTwo new acquisitions in Roaring Creek join our network of protected land in the Highlands of Roan. These two tracts adjoin other SAHC preserves on the slopes of Big Yellow Mountain, together protecting hundreds of acres of northern hardwood and high elevation red oak forests, rising up to the boundary of the Big Yellow Mountain Preserve, co-managed by SAHC with our partners at The Nature Conservancy.

Most of these properties are within the Big Yellow Mountain Natural Area and are part of the Audubon Society’s Roan Mountain Important Bird Area. They contain thousands of linear feet of tributary streams and headwater seeps, feeding into Roaring Creek. The North Toe River and Roaring Creek have been identified as critical to protecting water quality in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, and the watershed supports a host of rare species, including the Federally Endangered Appalachian Elktoe mussel. Read more

Byrd Farm – Mitchell County

Charolais cattle on Byrd farmByrd Charolais Farm – Mitchell County (Highlands of Roan Area)

The Highlands of Roan are known for rare and fragile ecological communities as well as magnificent, panoramic views studded with scenic mountain farms. At the end of 2019, SAHC permanently protected 127 acres of beautiful family farmland in Mitchell County, preserving bucolic views along NC Hwy 226. The Byrd Charolais* Farm is an agricultural gem, with water conservation practices in place and a long heritage of mountain farming. One of just a few farm preservation projects SAHC has completed in the Highlands of Roan, the property is now permanently protected for future generations.

* Charolais are a breed of cattle which originated in France in the historic Charolais region. Read more