Yellow Spot – 234 Acres Protected

This summer we purchased 234 acres in the Highlands of Roan, securing high elevation wildlife habitat and permanently protecting a corridor linking our Tompkins Preserve with Pisgah National Forest in Mitchell County. This acquisition at Yellow Spot protects rare plant and animal habitat, wildlife corridors, scenic views, and sources of clean water along an important high elevation ridgeline.

“This property contains a remarkable combination of features that have made it a conservation priority for decades,” explains Marquette Crockett, SAHC’s Roan Stewardship Director. “We conserve some properties to preserve exceptional water quality and native trout habitat and we protect others because they contain rare, high elevation open areas or exceptional forest habitat – but Yellow Spot has everything. It’s a microcosm of the Roan Highlands. SAHC’s acquisition of this tract secures a perfect puzzle piece, surrounded by National Forest and protecting the main spine of the Roan Massif.”

Located within the state-designated Roan Massif Natural Area, the property rises to 5,100 ft. elevation at the peak of Yellow Spot and will provide a buffer for sensitive habitat in Pisgah National Forest. The Audubon Society’s Roan Mountain Important Bird Area covers approximately two-thirds of the tract.

“Yellow Spot has all the interesting and rare high elevation species you would expect in a property of this caliber – Gray’s lily, Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Eastern Spotted Skunk, Indiana Bat, and more,” continues Crockett. “A biological inventory of the property identified six rare animal species and 12 rare plant species, including Bog Goldenrod and Trailing Wolfsbane.”

The tract contains over 2.5 miles of stream corridor, including 10 headwater tributaries of Cook Creek and Pineroot Branch, both of which are designated as Trout Waters by the NC Division of Water Resources.

“Much of the land is full of boulders and streams, and it contains some of the more rare habitat found in the Roan,” says Crockett. “Although rugged and remote, it is also highly visible from popular vantage points across the region. You can see the boundaries of this property from both sides of the Massif – from Buladean to Bakersville. Drivers along the scenic NC 261 byway and visitors to the world-famous Catawba rhododendron gardens near Carvers Gap enjoy scenic views of this protected land.”

The Yellow Spot property was a longstanding conservation priority both because of its important strategic location and its outstanding conservation values. Our acquisition of the land fills in an unprotected gap in the network of protected lands along the primary ridgeline of the globally significant Roan Massif.

“We are extremely grateful to philanthropists Fred and Alice Stanback, Tim Sweeney, and The Biltmore Company for enabling SAHC to protect this incredible tract,” says Crockett. “This is an investment both in the future of conservation and in outdoor recreation and the economic vitality of local communities. Keeping viewsheds in the Roan Highlands intact and beautiful is a valuable asset to our region.”

SAHC plans to own the property for the long term, managing it for habitat and clean water. Visitors to popular outdoor recreation hotspots, including the Appalachian Trail and rhododendron gardens atop Roan Mountain, will be able to enjoy views of the untouched land for generations to come.

“Viewing the property from the Pisgah National Forest and realizing that we have now secured this part of the vista was very moving for me,” adds Crockett. “After one site visit, my favorite part of the day was drinking a milkshake in Buladean and looking back up at where we had come from… and knowing that this incredible place will now be protected forever. It’s very humbling to be part of this effort, and I’m so grateful to everyone who made it possible. I look forward to many years of research, discovery, and caring for this land.”

* A massif is a cluster of mountains containing separate peaks.

Personal Perspective, from SAHC President Jay Leutze

“It’s easy to get distracted by the news of the day.  Which is why you should feel good about supporting a land trust that never rests when it comes to protecting the places you treasure!

Let’s be honest: were you aware that the Yellow Spot tract was at risk?  Probably not, but this is one of those special places our land protection committee has had on our radar for a long time.  Since 1995 when we protected Pat Tompkin’s orchard and surrounding hundreds of acres of pristine forest, we have been tracking the fate of the Yellow Spot tract just to its north and east.

That’s how good conservation works.  It’s like a puzzle — but losing a piece is not just the end of the fun. In our line of work, losing a piece of the puzzle can interrupt the integrity of a wildlife corridor or close off a gateway into the landscape for hikers.  In this case the Yellow Spot tract was eyed for either timber harvest or development.  Surrounded by protected land, SAHC’s great work in partnership with Pisgah National Forest had made this area a very desirable place to live. But now Yellow Spot is safe.  We kept our focus and, when the opportunity presented itself, we bought it.  Now it’s time to build on this achievement.  The puzzle is still taking shape and luckily SAHC is not easily distracted!”

526-acre Swannanoa Conservation Easement

In 2018, SAHC accepted a donated conservation easement on 526 acres in Swannanoa owned by Chemtronics, Inc. The conservation easement permanently protects land adjoining Pisgah National Forest, as well as scenic views from the Blue Ridge Parkway, I-40 and NC Highway 70.

“This landscape is important to the surrounding Swannanoa community, and we are pleased to be able to permanently protect these ridges,” says Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “The conservation easement area provides important wildlife corridors and will create an undeveloped buffer adjoining other protected lands.”

The forested, steep slopes of the property rise to elevations over 3,580 ft. The tract adjoins a large block of contiguous, protected land in the Black Mountains that includes the Asheville Watershed, Pisgah National Forest, Mount Mitchell State Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is located less than a mile away. The Audubon Society’s Black and Great Craggy Mountains Important Bird Area covers a portion of the property. This Important Bird Area provides habitat for a wide variety of species, including: Black-throated Blue warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Canada Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Pine Siskin, and Dark-eyed Junco.

The conservation easement property was separated from a larger tract owned by Chemtronics, Inc., in which the remaining 535 acres are classified as a Superfund site. Superfund sites are contaminated sites that qualify for cleanup by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The conservation easement is located on upper slopes above and surrounding the Chemtronics Superfund site. The EPA issued an Amended Record of Decision in September 2016, in which the Chemtronics Superfund boundary was redefined to divide the original 1,065-acre property into two separate areas: the Superfund site containing 535 acres and the remainder of the property, which no longer carries the Superfund designation. The landowners voluntarily donated a conservation easement on the 526-acre tract separated from the Superfund site. Extensive site analyses indicate the land within the conservation easement boundary is not contaminated.

“This land has been a long-time priority for conservation for nearly 20 years, and I’m thrilled to see this project finally come to fruition,” says Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese.

The land will continue to be owned by Chemtronics, Inc, and will not be open to the public. SAHC stewardship staff will monitor the conservation easement area annually, and the property will be managed for forest health, according to a forest management plan.

Strawberry Gap, Stony Point Conservation

We purchased 170 acres in two adjoining tracts at Strawberry Gap and Stony Point near the Eastern Continental Divide  to protect water resources, plant and animal habitat, and scenic views from public trails and scenic byways. We plan to own these properties for the long term and manage the forests to promote resilience, diversity and longevity. Read more

Marshall Watershed – 541 Acres Protected

In northwest Madison County, 541 secluded acres of forest filter miles of clean mountain streams that once provided drinking water to town residents. We worked with the Town of Marshall to permanently protect the Marshall Watershed property with a conservation easement — our sixth project to conserve municipal watershed lands. The Clean Water Management Trust Fund awarded SAHC a grant to protect this tract and its outstanding water resources.

“The Town of Marshall has been committed for years to preserving the Marshall Watershed from development,” said town attorney Jamie Stokes, on behalf of the Town of Marshall. “We are proud to have finalized this project, with the assistance and dedication of SAHC, so that this beautiful landscape and the natural resources thereon will be preserved for many generations to come.” Read more

Big Rock Creek Preserve – New Addition!

We purchased 21 wooded acres in the Highlands of Roan just south of the TN border in Mitchell County, securing a gateway to connect our existing Big Rock Creek conservation properties with Pisgah National Forest.

“This is another Roan success story that protects habitat for birds and native trout – with the added benefit of providing access and educational opportunities for connecting people with land,” says Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett. Read more

Upper Roaring Creek Valley

“It is simply magical,” says Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett, referring Roaring Creek in the Highlands of Roan. “If I were a Hellbender, this is the stream I would want to live in.”

SAHC recently acquired 142 acres at Upper Roaring Creek Valley in the Roan, to protect clean mountain streams and habitat for native trout and other wildlife. The contiguous tracts in Avery County contain a portion of Roaring Creek and its tributaries as well as undeveloped, forested land that adjoins Pisgah National Forest.

“This is one of the most incredible stretches of mountain stream,” explains Crockett. “From a biological standpoint, Roaring Creek is one of the most productive native trout streams in the state. It feeds into the North Toe River, which is home to endangered species like the Appalachian Elktoe mussel.” Read more

Stevens Creek land protected near Great Smoky Mountains National Park

We recently purchased 147 acres at Stevens Creek, a quiet cove on the eastern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The acquisition permanently protects important habitat and water resources near the remote Cataloochee Valley area of the park.

“Wrapped on three sides by publicly owned land, this pocket of prime forest and open pasture habitat will remain undeveloped for future generations,” says Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “The acquisition presents a wonderful opportunity for SAHC to deepen our connection to America’s most visited national park.”

Read more

North Turkey Creek – 149 Acres Protected

trees on North Turkey Creek propertyWe purchased 149 acres at North Turkey Creek in Buncombe County, adding to a contiguous block of protected lands in the Sandy Mush community. The acquisition protects wildlife corridors and headwater streams that flow into North Turkey Creek in the French Broad River watershed.

“This tract adjoins the extensive network of lands protected by SAHC in Sandy Mush,” says Michelle Pugliese, SAHC’s land protection director. “It is surrounded on two sides by land SAHC protected between 1995 and 2011.”

Read more

Little Hawk Mountain

We purchased 220 acres on Little Hawk Mountain in the Highlands of Roan, protecting mature forest, trout waters, and important bird habitat. This acquisition adds to thousands of acres conserved by SAHC in the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area since 2008. 

“This acquisition extends the protected corridor along the ridgeline of the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area and offers potential for future public access and recreation,” said Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “We are looking at the long view, protecting the land now for people to enjoy in the future.” Read more

Glade Creek

Headwater sources of Glade Creek

We purchased 200 acres near the headwaters of the Catawba River, located southeast of the Town of Black Mountain. It bridges two SAHC conservation easements and a corner of Pisgah National Forest. On its west side, the property adjoins 400 acres protected by the SAHC conservation easement at Christmount. On the east lies 329 acres that landowners Mary and Joe Hemphill worked with SAHC to protect with a conservation easement in 2003. The Glade Creek tract was owned by Joe’s sister, Lynn Hemphill Wolter, and her husband Bill. Read more