Rocky Fork – 55th TN State Park

rockyforkpark_ramsey.jpgPlans for Tennessee’s 55th state park on the stunning Rocky Fork tract were announced on a chilly October day, with early snow still blanketing the ground and a swelling group of attendees packed into the Tennessee Welcome Center off I-26 in Erwin, TN.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau joined members of the General Assembly, local elected officials and members of the community on Tuesday, October 30, for a special ceremony announcing the future conveyance of more than 2,000 acres in the Rocky Fork area of Unicoi County, that will eventually become Tennessee’s 55th state park. Read more

SAHC Continues Preservation of Little Pisgah Mountain

little-pisgah-mountain.jpgConservation is a process – A step-at-a-time, often complicated process. Like a snowflake, each conservation project is truly unique. As we endeavor to fulfill our mission to secure the region’s most conservation-worthy tracts for future generations, we carefully navigate this complex process with landowners. Quilting together various pieces for a contiguous protected landscape requires patience and diligence, as recently demonstrated in the Little Pisgah Mountain region along the continental divide at the Buncombe/Henderson County line.

On Monday, July 23, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy accepted donation of a 15-acre conservation easement in Fairview, NC. The tract is part of an assemblage of protected properties that together preserve the summit and north face of Little Pisgah Mountain. These tracts join with neighboring conservation easements and other preserves to protect over 1,400 acres of land around Little Pisgah. Read more

Inspired by Salamanders on Jim’s Branch

p_teyahalee.jpgNarrative and photos courtesy of Tom Ward
“As a child I first came to appreciate the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains on hikes up the family property with my Grandpa. My grandparents would often let me go out on my own and hike up Jim’s Branch turning over river rocks or flipping decaying logs looking for salamanders & snakes. I could find a Dusky (Desmognathus fuscus), Black-bellied (Desmognathus quadramaculatus), Two-lined (Eurycea wilderae) or other species of salamander under almost every other rock, though catching the big ones long enough to identify them was quite a challenge.

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The Plateau

dsc_0011.jpgOn December 28, we recorded a conservation easement on 112 acres of land in Madison County, near the Cherokee and Pisgah National Forests.

“The Plateau is remarkable because it fills an immensely significant gap between the Cherokee National Forest and the Pisgah National Forest. One of our primary focuses is to protect land adjacent to State and National Forests; thus, to secure a tract of land that bridges two National Forests is a spectacular accomplishment,” said Carl Silverstein, SAHC Executive Director. Read more

SAHC protects additional land adjoining the Sandy Mush Game Lands

norco-map-for-blog1.jpgLand adjacent to the Sandy Mush Game Lands in northern Buncombe County has been donated to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. The newly donated 88-acre tract of land will connect the Sandy Mush Game Lands on two different sides.

This property bridges the gap between major portions of state-owned game lands, which are managed by the NC Wildlife Resource Commission (WRC).

“SAHC has played a role as a major partner in the protection of the Sandy Mush Game Lands,” said Carl Silverstein, SAHC’s Executive Director. “This property will protect a corridor for wildlife in the largest contiguous network of protected lands in this portion of northern Buncombe County. We are so pleased we were able to continue our work in preserving this area.” Read more

SAHC purchases 248 acres in Sandy Mush community – the Robinson Rough property

img_5725.jpgOn December 28, 2011, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy saved another special piece of land from development in the Sandy Mush community of Buncombe County, North Carolina. The 248-acre property holds pristine streams, steep slopes, and is adjacent to working farmlands. Due to a slow economy and eager seller, SAHC was able to acquire this valuable property at a great value.

“The property could have been sold to a developer in a heartbeat, but we acted quickly and protected another striking piece of land,” said Carl Silverstein, SAHC’s Executive Director. Located at the end of a state road with excellent access, southern exposure and creeks, the property was just waiting for a developer to buy it, according to William Hamilton, SAHC’s Farmland Program Director.

“It would have been a shame for a large development to go in right next to properties that SAHC, Buncombe County, and landowners in the area have worked so hard to preserve,” said Hamilton. Read more

192 Acres Protected in Yancey County

dsc_01461.jpgSouthern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) established another conservation easement in Yancey County, NC. The 192 acres rise to an elevation of 5,163 feet at the summit of High Knob.  The property holds spectacular northerly views over the Black Mountains and sits close to several other prominent conservation easements, including the Big Tom Wilson Preserve, public tracts of land such as Pisgah National Forest, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Mount Mitchell State Park. The property is also within several miles of another SAHC easement.

“The Elk Fork property epitomizes what land conservation trusts try to do on a daily basis–protect pieces of land that hold aesthetic, practical, and intrinsic value.” States SAHC Executive Director, Carl Silverstein. “It is pivotal that we continue to protect properties that are highly visible to the public eye.” Elk Fork is definitely that. On clear days, Elk Fork can be seen from Mt. Mitchell and along the Cane River. Read more

Landmark Protection on Little Pisgah Mountain

little-pisgah-052.jpgOn December 22, 2011, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy recorded conservation easements protecting 474 acres in southern Buncombe County. This project combines with neighboring conservation easements and other preserves to bring the total amount of land protected on Little Pisgah Mountain to more than 1,400 acres.

“The Little Pisgah project is a major step in preservation of mountaintops in an important focus area of the Buncombe County land conservation plan,” according to Albert Sneed, chairman of the Buncombe County Conservation Advisory Board. The property contains 100 acres of high elevation pasture, rock outcrops and cliffs, and 374 acres of forested land, rising to an elevation of 4,400 feet on the top of Little Pisgah Mountain. Read more

Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy purchases 90 acres adjacent to public trails and the Woodfin watershed in Buncombe County

img_7434On Friday, December 16, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) purchased 90 acres on Snowball Mountain in Buncombe County, permanently preserving scenic views for recreational visitors, clean water sources for area residents, and habitat for native species. Nestled in the publicly treasured Craggy Mountains, this tract is highly visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway and national forest land, and it adjoins the publicly accessible Snowball Mountain Trail and Camp Sequoyah Trail.

“Protecting part of Snowball Mountain is a beautiful example of what we try to do here at SAHC,” says SAHC’s Land Protection Director, Michelle Pugliese. “Snowball Mountain holds immense conservation value as it will protect viewsheds, threatened wildlife habitat, high water quality, biodiversity, and pockets of quality high elevation northern hardwood forest. We are thankful to work with such generous landowners and conservationists on this project.” Read more

114-acre Property Protected in the Swannanoa Mountains

forest.jpgAt the end of October, we closed on a 114-acre conservation easement in the beautiful Swannanoa Mountains, along Jim’s Branch, that will protect important tributaries that flow into Christian Creek and is within 6,600 linear feet of the French Broad river basin.

Jim’s Branch is approximately two and a half miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway and practically adjacent to two other properties held by SAHC.  While there is no direct landscape connectivity between Jim’s Branch and the Blue Ridge Parkway or other conservation lands, the conservation easement is connected to neighboring forested land, other SAHC conservation easements, and natural corridors that allow for species movement. Jim’s Branch close proximity to other protected land greatly increases the conservation value of the property and the viewshed from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Read more