George and Jean Nilsen donated their 49-acre Little Cove Creek Farm in Carter County, TN to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) on December 19, 1984. Almost 40 years later, […]
“We are thrilled to announce the acquisition of a 124-acre conservation preserve on the northwestern flank of Crabtree Bald. SAHC’s purchase of the property in Split Pine Cove adds to […]
Ginger and Rich Lang knew that they wanted to protect their land, even before they owned it. When they began the search decades ago, the Langs purposefully sought out a tract with qualities which they wanted to help preserve for future generations. “We looked all over the United States,” says Ginger. “We looked for a place with green mountains, arable soil, streams, forests, and mild temperatures.”
The Langs describe themselves as country people, and after living in St. Louis for several years, they were ready to put down roots away from the city. They purchased their dream property in the Crabtree community of Haywood County in 1994 and spent a long time deciding on how to best protect the land for the future. Last year, the Langs donated a conservation easement on 102 acres of their property in Bald Creek Valley. Read more
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy has signed an option agreement to purchase an iconic ridgeline overlooking the city of Asheville and much of the French Broad River valley. The property was recently listed for sale for $9,995,000 under the subdivision name “The View of Asheville.”
SAHC Executive Director Carl Silverstein explains, “We have been talking about protecting the summit of Deaverview Mountain for years, but buying land for conservation in the expensive Asheville market is not easy. In this case a friendly ‘conservation buyer’ negotiated the purchase, bought the property, and will hold it temporarily to give SAHC an opportunity to work out a permanent conservation solution.” Read more
When Margaret Robbins and Thomas Schacht wanted to purchase a forested tract southeast of Johnson City years ago, they set out to do so in order to permanently protect the land. Last month, the couple completed the donation of the tract to Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC), fulfilling their goal to preserve the land.
“This place is very close to my heart, and I’m so glad to have it protected,” shares Margaret. “It became very clear to me early on that we were the temporary custodians of this place – and I’ve done everything I could do to keep the land healthy. We were so glad that we were able to connect with SAHC to make long-term conservation of the land possible. Working with SAHC’s Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese was a joy.”
Margaret and Tom own a farm bordering the Dry Creek tract on the northwest slope of Little Mountain in Carter County, TN, less than a mile from The Laurels Picnic Area. Twenty years ago, they saw that the forested slope behind the farm was on a path to be subdivided and developed, so their family purchased it with the long term vision to conserve the property. In the ensuing years, they have cared for the land and set out on mindful projects to improve stewardship of the forest and wildlife habitat. In November, they donated the 67-acre parcel to Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, with the intent that it would become part of Cherokee National Forest in the future.
“That was always our original purpose in acquiring the land, to protect it,” says Tom. “And now we’ve reached a point in life where we are downsizing and want to ensure that the land is protected going forward.”
The tract shares a boundary with Cherokee National Forest and can be seen by visitors going to The Laurels Picnic Area. An ephemeral spring leading to Dry Creek runs along one edge of the property.
“A lot of water flows down into the creek from the mountain, especially in spring,” says Margaret. “There is an understory of rhododendron and a canopy of maple, hemlock, some pine, and oak coming through. The land was logged about 60 years ago, and the forest has been regenerating since then. I was able to secure Lari beetles (Laricobius nigrinus) to help protect the hemlock trees on the mountain from the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid. We’ve seen a lot of wildlife getting pushed onto the tract as properties surrounding the area have been developed, so we set up wildlife cameras and have enjoyed watching the images of a mama bear with two cubs. We’ve also seen the usual wildlife – deer, skunks, raccoon, fox, and an occasional blue heron that comes through.”
Early Memories Foster Conservation Awareness
“I was raised in New Jersey, in an area that had lots of open space and a dairy farm located behind our house,” continues Margaret. “We loved finding all the interesting and spooky things in nature. Now, there are no longer any farms there. When we heard that this tract was up for sale about 20 years ago with the potential plans for subdivision and development, we wanted to preserve it. Having seen and experienced that loss of open space in my childhood home, I have a deep appreciation for the importance of undeveloped land and wanted to make sure it is available for future generations as well. We’ve seen what that loss looks like and didn’t want it to happen here.”
Tom also has a deep appreciation for nature and environmental care, stretching back to childhood.
“I grew up on 600 acres in Connecticut organically farmed by my father – before organic farming was even a thing,” shares Tom. “He had seven children and taught all of us to respect the land and respect nature. One of his favorite sayings was ‘I see God in every blade of grass.’ That’s one of the values I grew up with, and Margaret shares that value as well.”
“It is a property I have used as an escape,” adds Margaret. “I am so glad that it all came together and we were able to donate the land for it to remain protected.”
Conservation and Public Lands Partnerships
As Tom and Margaret began the process for permanent conservation of the land, they contacted Cherokee National Forest and Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy about the tract becoming part of the national forest. Because land transactions with our agency partners can take time, sometimes years to complete, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy has a long-established reputation of working with landowners and forest service partners to assist in the addition of public lands. As a non-profit organization, we are often able to move more quickly to complete initial transactions – which can be an important factor for landowners. SAHC plans to own and manage the property as a nature preserve, until it can be transferred to become part of Cherokee National Forest.
“With gently sloping topography at elevations ranging from 1,900 feet to 2,100 feet, these 67 acres could have been lost to development if it were not for the generosity and dedication of Margaret Robbins and Tom Schacht,” says Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. “We are grateful to Margaret and Tom for having the vision to preserve this property, and to our partners in the forest service for working with SAHC in order to add to public lands. We deeply appreciate the generous contributions made by SAHC supporters to cover transaction costs so that this project could be accomplished.”
This is a story still in development, as we continue to research the history of the land. Be sure to check back for updates and look for the Dry Creek article in our upcoming View from the Highlands newsletter!
Interested in similar stories about how Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy helps conserve public lands in Tennessee?
Earlier this year, SAHC transferred 150 acres at Sugar Hollow to become part of Roan Mountain State Park in the largest expansion of the state park since its creation, and in October SAHC transferred 15 acres at Hollybush Gap in Unicoi County to become part of Cherokee National Forest.
The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy recently closed on purchasing 139 acres for permanent conservation, adjoining the Pisgah National Forest Bent Creek Experimental Forest in Enka, south of Asheville. The property is known as Scott’s Ridge after its mile-long ridgeline bordering the national forest. SAHC will own and manage the property for the long term as a nature preserve.
“The property was being marketed for residential real estate development, and developers were making offers to buy the property,” explains Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “But thankfully, the seller Enka Land Development One LLC, sold the property to SAHC instead. With development continuing to intensify around Asheville, conserving these 139 acres is a major ‘win’ for wildlife habitat, water quality and scenic views.” Read more
New Strawberry Gap Hiking Trail
The newest section of the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trail System opened to the public in September, creating a connection to Blue Ridge Pastures and the Trombatore Trail from a gravel parking lot on Drover’s Road Scenic Byway (US 74) in Gerton.
This newly opened trail was made possible by partnership between Conserving Carolina, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, and generous conservation-minded landowners.
A small group of guests gathered for the trail dedication and ribbon cutting, honoring the many partners and supporters who have worked for years to bring this trail opening to fruition. The trail is dedicated to the memory of Susie Skinner Clarke Hamilton, who passed away in 2020.
This segment of trail stretches a strenuous 3 mile climb from the parking lot at Gerton to the top of Blue Ridge Pastures. Plan for a total of 6 miles if you’re looking to do an out-and-back, or link up with the Trombatore Trail at Blue Ridge Pastures and continue onward for a longer trek. The Strawberry Gap Trail climbs a total 1,200 ft. one way, 1,450 ft. round trip. You’ll want to take a pause about halfway up the trail (at 1.5 miles) to enjoy a scenic vantage point atop Ferguson Peak looking back towards Fairview, Asheville, and distant mountain ranges. Read more
The Sandy Mush community has played an important role in conserving productive farmland – for SAHC, Buncombe County, and Western North Carolina. Building trust with landowners in Sandy Mush has enabled us to protect rich bottomland soils designated as important for agriculture and productive farmland across varied terrain in this gem of an Appalachian community. This year, Jim Gibson generously donated his 50-acre farm in the heart of Sandy Mush to Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.
Jim has long been interested in farmland preservation and helping young farmers overcome obstacles, and it is fitting that his farm – now permanently protected by SAHC – anchors our conservation work in Sandy Mush. Read more
The mission of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy is to conserve the unique plant and animal habitat, clean water, farmland, scenic beauty, and places for all people to enjoy outdoor recreation in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, enduring for future generations. We achieve this through long-term conservation relationships with private landowners and public agencies and owning and managing land. We are committed to creating and supporting equitable, healthy and thriving communities for everyone in our region.
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Asheville, NC 28801