2018 Roan Naturalist Travis Bordley

Former AmeriCorps service member Travis Bordley stepped into our Roan Naturalist boots this summer.  Travis spent the majority of his time from May to August on the Appalachian Trail between Carvers Gap and 19 E, recording data, educating hikers, and helping manage negative impacts to the Roan’s fragile, globally important ecosystems.

In total, he observed over 12,600 hikers in the Roan, and had interpretive, educational discussions with more than 4,000 people.

“There were days where I couldn’t believe my eyes at the steady stream of people pouring onto the trail,” says Travis. “These moments made me fear for the sensitive habitat in the area. There were also slow days when visitor usage was low, and I was able to genuinely connect with people.” Read more

Tech Update for the Roan

Grassy Balds Management gets a Tech Update

Ilan Bubb interned with us this summer through the Duke University Stanback Intern program. He is earning his Masters of Environmental Management at the Nicholas School of the Environment.

Ilan did a “needs assessment” and GIS modeling project to assist with an update to the Environmental Assessment for grassy balds management in the Highlands of Roan. The Environmental Assessment is a plan which has helped guide stewardship efforts in the Roan for decades. He ground-truthed both restoration and maintenance targets in this plan. He visited GPS-referenced points within the Roan landscape and photographed each area so we can evaluate the effectiveness of stewardship efforts.

In addition, Ilan assisted with volunteer workdays, including our annual Grassy Ridge Mow-Off, to help manage the Roan’s precious ecosystems.

Roan Stewardship 2018

In the Highlands of Roan, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy convenes a multi-partner effort to manage the world’s largest stretch of Appalachian grassy balds. These unique ecosystems contain a variety of rare plants.

SAHC volunteers and our partners with the NC BRIDGE program contributed more than 1,900 hours to manage habitat on Roan’s grassy balds this summer. Altogether, Roan stewardship partners managed a record 32 acres. Volunteers and BRIDGE partners hand-mowed more than 17 acres from Round Bald to Grassy Ridge, cutting back blackberry and shrubs across the balds. The US Forest Service mechanically mowed 15 acres on Hump Mountain.

The BRIDGE crew are hardworking stewardship partners. A program of the NC Division of Prisons the NC Division of Forest Resources to train young, non-violent offenders with firefighting and forestry skills, BRIDGE stands for “BUILDING, REHABILITATING, INSTRUCTING, DEVELOPING, GROWING, EMPLOYING.

Our Roan stewardship work is supported by grants from the National Forest Foundation, McLendon Family Foundation and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Thank you to all the volunteers, partners, and supporters who make this work possible!

Hunter Outreach Chili Dinner

Highlands of RoanThe Roan Highlands are commonly referred to as the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy’s flagship conservation focus area. Along with their stunning views and unique habitats, the Roan Highlands are home to a rich mountain culture spanning generations with a deep connection to the land. The relationship between these communities and the mountain has been the foundation of stewardship in the Roan for hundreds of years. Historic uses like hunting and fishing have played a significant role in that relationship. Hunting for subsistence has always been a way of life and has fostered relationships with nature based on intrinsic values and respect.

SAHC honors the relationship between Roan communities and the land by allowing a limited number of hunting licenses to be issued for our protected properties. These licenses are typically issued to prior landowners, neighbors, or relatives to hunt deer and turkey. Read more

From Kudzu to Cover Crops

Our Community Farm continues to serve as a model — balancing agricultural production with environmental responsibility while providing educational opportunities.

Farmer Incubator Program

Will Salley and Savannah Salley of Headwaters Market Garden use a unique French method of bio-intensive vegetable production on small acreage. Currently in their first year of full-time farming, they have wholesale and restaurant accounts. They will return to the downtown Asheville City Market in the Spring, to host a booth on Saturday mornings. Next year, they plan to expand their operation with mushroom and egg production. Read more

A Golden Opportunity — NCWRC Researches Golden Eagle Wintering Grounds

The camera-trapping stations were baited with meat for the eagles to scavenge, secured to the ground with steel rebar. Photo credit NCWRC

Recent research conducted by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) reveals that the Southern Appalachians may be an important wintering ground for Golden Eagles, once considered rare visitors to the mountains of NC and TN. As part of the Eastern Golden Eagle Working Group, NCWRC set up camera trap stations across Western NC through the winters of 2013, 2014 and 2015. They also captured and released five Golden Eagles fitted with GPS transmitters. Their research casts an intriguing new light on these magnificent birds. Read more

Stream Buffer Benefits

Do you have a creek or stream flowing through your property?  Don’t let the land you paid for wash away. Shade your stream! A stream buffer helps reduce erosion while protecting water quality.

Riparian buffers are vegetated areas next to creeks and streams that benefit landowners in several ways. Vegetation along stream banks filters soil particles, pesticides and fertilizers, reducing non-point pollution of water resources.  Roots from vegetation anchor the soil to minimize erosion

Shade keeps the water cool, which is necessary for many aquatic species such as trout and provides shelter for wildlife. Streamside vegetation also adds to the aesthetic beauty of a property.

Landowners can contribute to water quality protection on their property by avoiding the following practices:

  • Farming or mowing up to the edge of the stream
  • Removing streamside shrubs, trees or other vegetation
  • Allowing livestock access to the riparian area
  • Straightening sections of streams

Streams are products of the land they drain, and their waters reflect streamside land management practices. Help protect your property’s valuable assets by maintaining or restoring riparian buffers.

For more information, consider consulting with your local Soil & Water Conservation District specialist.

 

Roan Highlands Story Map

Straddling the border of Tennessee’s Carter County and North Carolina’s Mitchell and Avery Counties, the Roan Mountain massif rises above the farms and villages of the valley below. Known as the Highlands of Roan, these mountain peaks and ridges, for the most part above 4,000 feet in elevation, are renowned for their exceptional biological diversity and magnificent beauty.

The Roan Highlands are home to grassy balds, rhododendron gardens, high-elevation rock outcrops, and rich spruce-fir forests. The Roan’s ecosystem is one of the richest repositories of temperate zone biodiversity on earth, including more federally listed plant species than the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Roan Highlands are home to more than 800 plant species and over 188 bird species.

This summer, Stanback Intern Sarah Sanford from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment created a Story Map of Grassy Balds management, using GIS data to catalog three decades of habitat management in the Highlands of Roan. Enjoy a virtual journey to the Roan through historic photos, scenic images, and interactive maps below — or feel free to visit and share the Story Map with this link. 

Roan Balds Management 2017

It takes a village to care for our mountains, and SAHC, our partners, and volunteers certainly made that happen this summer.  In less than four days of work, more than 25 volunteers cut blackberry from about seven acres of grassy and shrub bald habitat during our annual Grassy Ridge Mow-Off and Roany Boyz stewardship events. A big thank you to all the folks who came out to mow, to rake, to cook, and to photograph these events. They simply wouldn’t happen without you!

“After expecting rainy weather the weekend of the mow off, it was a pleasant surprise to have sunny skies and great views for much of the Grassy Ridge Mow-Off,” said Sarah Sanford, Duke Stanback Intern. “I really enjoyed meeting and working with such a wide variety of people, from folks who were there for the very first Grassy Ridge Mow-Off to brand new SAHC members. My favorite part was the views from our campsite on Grassy Ridge. Being part of the Grassy Ridge Mow-Off gave me a better perspective on the large scope of work that SAHC and its volunteers do to maintain the Roan Highlands.”

We would like to give a special thanks to the NC BRIDGE crew this year. In addition to hauling equipment to Grassy Ridge and Engine Gap for our volunteer events, they cleared 3.5 acres of grassy bald habitat and maintained 1.76 acres of early successional habitat on our Roan Mountain Gateway preserve. The BRIDGE (Building, Rehabilitating, Instructing, Developing, Growing, Employing) Program is a cooperative effort between the NC Forest Service and the NC Division of Prisons based out of Western Youth Institution in Morganton, NC. The primary goal of the program is to provide well-trained and equipped forest fire fighting crews ready at a moment’s notice. A secondary, but important, goal is to develop a strong work ethic and work skills so inmates will be able to secure a job when they are released.  For more than 20 years, BRIDGE has been crucial to our habitat management work. Every year, we are always privileged to witness the hard work, dedication, and professionalism exhibited by this crew.

Thank you all!

Poem below contributed by Bill Ryan, Roany Boyz Volunteer 2015-2017

The Roany Boyz  2001-

once a year
in one gap on the AT
in high summer
they gather

to work
to eat
to talk
to lay down ever wearier bodies to camp

some poetry
some stargazing
no campfire out of respect for the land

drinks just cool enough from the spring
work measured in tanks
dream images of blackberry and alder leaves interlacing

coming back to the same places
still trying to figure out why the balds were bald before them
eating a few early blueberries and seeking the elusive Gray’s lily

Asheville Greenworks’ Water Bar Workday

This summer, we partnered with Asheville Greenworks’ Youth Environmental Leadership Program (YELP) for a service day on our Robinson Rough property in Sandy Mush. The youth volunteers created water bars to prevent erosion and protect water quality.

Read more