Salamanders!

Desmognathus-monticola - salamander close-up

Desmognathus monticola, photo credit Tom Ward.

You may have heard that the Southern Appalachian or Blue Ridge Mountains are the “salamander capital of the world.” These brightly colored little living gems capture the interest and imagination of young and old alike. Their prevalence among some of the world’s oldest mountains highlights the remarkable biodiversity of the region and the importance of protecting critical land and water resources — before they are lost forever.

Join us for a look at salamanders – from youth education programs to citizen-science observations recorded and reported by a conservation landowner. The stories, videos, and photos below present a snapshot of the importance of salamanders, tips for safely searching for them, and a look at the diverse species you may find in the mountains of NC and TN.

Learn a little, record your own observations, and join us in engaging with these fascinating amphibians! Read more

SAHC to Accept Donation of 7,500 Acres in Roan Highlands

Press Release – April 22, 2021

 

SOUTHERN APPALACHIAN HIGHLANDS CONSERVANCY SIGNS LETTER TO ACCEPT DONATION OF 7,500 ACRES IN THE ROAN HIGHLANDS

Conservation of the globally-significant mountain adds to extensive land trust and public agency efforts in the region

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) announced today that they have signed a letter of intent to accept the donation of approximately 7,500 acres of land in the Roan Highlands landscape from a conservation philanthropist. The tract lies within the southern end of the planning boundary of the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area, a special conservation area designated by the NC General Assembly in 2008 to protect the exceptional nat­ural features found there. Read more

Roan Mountain Gateway

View of open areas on Roan Mountain Gateway

Roan Mountain Gateway, photo credit Dan Belanger, USDA Forest Service

Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy recently transferred 91 acres to the USDA Forest Service, adding to public lands just south of the popular Carvers Gap area on the North Carolina and Tennessee border. Collectively known as the Roan Mountain Gateway, these 91 acres encompass the last privately-owned land on NC Hwy 261 before reaching Carvers Gap.

The Roan Mountain Gateway is prominent in views from Round Bald and Jane Bald, iconic locations along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in the Highlands of Roan. The land contains high elevation habitat, including restored habitat for neo-tropical migratory Golden-winged Warblers and other species, as well as headwater tributaries that flow into local trout streams. Read more

Mathes Farm

Stewardship AmeriCorps member on site visit to propertyThanks to conservation supporters like you, 45 more acres of farmland and forest in Avery County in the Highlands of Roan have been permanently protected.

Mathes farm map with location in Highlands of Roan“Visitors and residents of the Roan enjoy stunning scenic views,which include portions of the Mathes Farm in Beech Bottom,” says Farmland Program Director Jess Laggis. “Development of this tract could have devastated views of Yellow Mountain from 19E and from Yellow Mountain, and from the motor route of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail. Now, these stunning views are protected, and the land can continue to be used for farming for future generations.”

The property owned by Rickie and Shannonrae Mathes hosts a Boer goat operation called “Sh-Nanny-Gans.” Shannonrae says that Boer goats are a particularly excellent, large breed of goats. Read more

Pyatt Creek

SAHC accepted transfer of 36 acres of conserved land, located at the headwaters of Pyatt Creek in the Highlands of Roan, from the North American Land Trust (NALT). This Pyatt Creek preserve is located in a network of land SAHC has protected in the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area.

The Pyatt Creek property in the Yellow Mountain State Natural area reaches 4,080 ft. in elevation and contains exemplary native habitat and pristine headwater sources, including a headwater tributary and portion of the main branch of Pyatt Creek.

map of Pyatt Creek tract and surrounding area“SAHC’s acquisition of this property continues our ongoing work in the Yellow Mountain State Natural area, securing high elevation habitat and water sources in a network of conserved land,” says Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. “This tract is about a mile south of our Yellow Mountain Connector project, in which SAHC protected a  conglomerate of small, high elevation parcels in 2019. Land protection often reminds me of putting together a puzzle – we work with willing landowners whenever possible to protect tracts that contain important habitat and water resources. Over time, it is exciting to see these puzzle pieces come together in a connected network that permanently secures wildlife corridors, watersheds, and wide scenic views.”

The Pyatt Creek preserve is located within the NC Natural Heritage Program Yellow  Mountains/Raven Cliffs Natural Area, within the Grandfather Unaka Priority Amphibian Reptile Conservation Area, and state priority forest types identified on the property include Rich Montane Seeps, Northern Hardwood Forest, and High Elevation Red Oak Forest. Read more

Cataloochee Gateway – Cove Creek Gap

cataloochee Divide Trail signYou know that feeling when you get ready to embark on an adventure? The building excitement… the thrill of the first moment you step foot on a trail… That setting is so important – it sets the tone and context for your experience. Unfortunately, many of the public lands and trails in the Southern Appalachians are bordered by forests and fields on private lands which, as an area increases in popularity, could be developed for residential or commercial uses – forever changing the experience for those seeking serenity in outdoor recreation.

Great Smoky Mtns National Park Cataloochee signThanks to generous conservation supporters, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy recently purchased 10 acres at Cove Creek Gap, the Cataloochee entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The land borders the Cataloochee Divide Trail, rising from Cove Creek Road to the ridgeline and sharing a 0.3-mile boundary with the trail and national park. Although small in acreage, these 10 acres have the potential to make a big impact. In addition to sharing a boundary with the trail and national park, the tracts are located just across Cove Creek Road to the left of the park sign, highly visible to visitors entering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at the Cataloochee entrance. Read more

Hickory Nut Gap Forest

View of Orchard and Distant Mountains from HIckory Nut Gap Forest tractThe rolling route along Drover’s Road Scenic Byway from Fairview to Bat Cave affords beautiful views of mountain peaks, forests, and farmland protected by SAHC – from flat, fertile bottomlands to the top of Little Pisgah Mountain, Blue Ridge Pastures, and Strawberry Gap. Now, 26 more acres of the picturesque landscape at Hickory Nut Gap Forest have been permanently protected. This recently conserved land includes a heritage apple orchard, open area, and forest, partially surrounding the Sherrill’s Inn, a designated Historic American Building.

Horse in pasture at Hickory Nut Gap Forest “Although this new conservation easement is small in acreage, it adds to hundreds of acres at Hickory Nut Gap Forest, which SAHC began protecting in 2008,” explains Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. “When I look at this conservation easement, I think about preserving the historic setting of places like the Sherrill’s Inn, protecting the natural land close to what it was like back when the inn was originally built and used as a stop-over for people traveling across the mountains. I’m excited that this project preserves the surrounding context of this historic site, as well as habitat and agricultural resources. This is a great example of how a smaller conservation easement can make a big impact.” Read more

2020 Conservation Review

Map of SAHC conservation projects in 2020Looking back as we head into the final stretch of 2020, we all know that this year has been far from ordinary. On a positive note, it has been a record-breaking year for local conservation efforts! Since the beginning of January, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy has closed on the protection of more than 2,600 acres across the mountains of Western North Carolina and East Tennessee, with additional projects scheduled to wrap up by year-end. Several of these have been in the works for many years.

“It is a testament to the commitment of SAHC members, staff, and conservation-minded supporters that we have been able to complete these projects during extraordinary circumstances, and we are grateful to all the people who make this remarkable work possible,” says SAHC Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “There is something tangible and reassuring in preserving land – it’s something you can put your hand on. These conservation projects help preserve cultural connections to the past, places to connect with nature, and vital resources we rely on now, and which will be increasingly critical in the future.” Read more

Beaverdam – 54 Acres

Google Earth image of 54-acre parcel on mountain slopeIn November, we purchased 54 acres in the Beaverdam community of Haywood County, protecting land adjoining the Town of Canton’s Rough Creek Watershed and other SAHC-protected properties in the Beaverdam and Newfound Mountains area.

“Permanent protection of this tract will help preserve scenic views from public trails in the adjoining Rough Creek watershed, as well as stream sources and habitat in an important wildlife corridor,” says Conservation Director Hanni Muerdter. “These 54 acres add to a network of thousands of acres of protected land in Haywood County and western Buncombe County.”

Read more

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