College Students Volunteer in the Roan

Students from Mars Hill University and Warren Wilson College joined us this spring for a Golden-winged Warbler habitat management workday and camping trip along the Appalachian Trail in the Highlands of Roan.

The energetic volunteers cleared downed tree limbs and lopped saplings to create ideal breeding ground for this threatened species of neo-tropical migratory songbirds. Read more

Mowing Management for the Birds

Grassland birds are in trouble. As the grassland habitat needed for nesting and rearing their young continues to disappear, birds such as the Eastern Meadowlark, Grasshopper Sparrow, Dickcissel, and Bobolink found here in the Southeast are declining in numbers. So what can we do to help? Well, the good news is that the agricultural grasslands found throughout this region, such as hayfields, can provide the habitat these birds need to thrive with some simple management practices..

Ideally, hayfields should be mowed outside of the nesting season, which generally occurs from April to August. This prevents nests from being destroyed and ensures fledged young are developed enough to fly away. However, for economic reasons mowing often needs to occur during this period. If this is the case for you, consider implementing some or all of the following practices to contribute to the protection of birds and other wildlife who utilize this grassland habitat:

Practice rotational mowing. Maintain unmowed patches for wildlife habitat between areas being mowed and rotate which sections are mowed and unmowed each year. The size of mowed/unmowed sections should be determined based on your needs and field size, but remember that larger unmowed areas provide more wildlife habitat! For more info check out page 5 of this USDA leaflet:

Aim high! Set your mower as high as possible. However, even  4-8” off the ground can help save the lives of many grassland birds and other wildlife.

Leave uncut border fields. To allow for sufficient bird and wildlife cover allow a 10+ foot strip of hay to remain on the border of the field. This provides food along with nesting, escape, and brood cover. A wider border leads to less predation of nests.

Mow from the inside out. By mowing from the field center outward you can provide cover for birds as they escape to the edges of the field and prevent them from getting trapped in the center of the field during mowing.

Reduce mowing speed. This practice aids in giving birds the time to react and escape during a hay harvest.

Avoid night mowing. Birds are less likely to try to escape from the area being mowed during the night.

Use a flushing bar. This horizontal bar, attached in front of the blades of harvesting equipment, has chains that hang down and drag through the field to scare wildlife away from danger. This primarily helps to protect adult birds.

Golden-winged Warbler Working Group

Birdwatching with Working Group membersIn Spring 2019, the Southern Appalachian Golden-winged Warbler Working Group, consisting of more than 10 agencies and organizations, met in the Roan Highlands to discuss landscape-scale conservation measures, including strategic land protection and cooperative management projects. SAHC was proud to host the group on our preserves and to assist with touring iconic public lands across the Roan. Read more

Prescribed Burn for Shortleaf Pine

This Spring, we used a prescribed (controlled) burn of 13 acres to help manage our shortleaf pine reforestation project at our Community Farm.

This prescribed burn will help restore the shortleaf pine by removing undesirable, competing plant species and giving the slower-growing shortleaf pine a chance to re-establish. Shortleaf pine is a fire-dependent and fire tolerant species, meaning that the species actually depends on fire in order to reproduce and thrive. Read more

Elk Hollow Preserve Trail Work

Our Elk Hollow Preserve Volunteer Work Day in April was a success, thanks to an incredible group of folks who joined us in building trails, friendships, and partnerships!

The group of 18 staff and volunteers gathered on a beautiful spring day, celebrating Earth Month with WNC for the Planet and making swift progress on trail maintenance at SAHC’s Elk Hollow Preserve. Volunteers worked on establishing a beautiful new section of  the Everett J. Bowman Trail, which is still under construction and slated for completion later this year. We are  proud of the progress being made at our Elk Hollow Preserve and hope that this trail will serve future generations to see the effects of land conservation first-hand!

Mike Craft and Greg Kramer volunteers

R to L: Mike Craft of New Belgium and Greg Kramer of TN Eastman Hiking & Canoeing Club/Rocky Fork Trail Crew

We are very grateful to the tireless members of the Rocky Fork Trail Crew for their assistance in organizing and leading this work day, and to all the volunteers who came out to help — including dedicated members of the TN Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club and employees of New Belgium Brewery.

Sandy Mush Forest Restoration Coalition

SAHC partners on forest stewardship expansion in Sandy Mush.

We have long been stewards of Sandy Mush, protecting over 12,000 acres of this high priority conservation area. We are excited to collaborate with EcoForesters and the Forest Stewards Guild to help grow a Sandy-Mush-wide forest restoration project! While this project is still in its infancy, with collaborators working to secure funding, the primary goal is to foster healthy and resilient forests that protect environmental values, cultural heritage, economic opportunities, and quality of life for the Sandy Mush Community.

Through this project we hope to:

  • Form a “Sandy Mush Forest Restoration Coalition” by bringing together diverse stakeholders in the community and create a collaborative space for shared decision-making.
  • Restore native species habitat, as much of the forest land in Sandy Mush has been degraded by historical land use practices and non-native invasive plants.
  • Host an annual Forest Stewardship Gathering in Sandy Mush to connect landowners with resources to care for their forests.

Look for more updates in the future!

Welcome – Stewardship Associate Chris Kaase

Chris joins SAHC as our new Stewardship Associate. His primary responsibility will be stewardship of properties that have a working agricultural component.

“Protecting traditional livelihoods is a critical objective of regional land protection efforts,” says Chris. “I am really looking forward to serving as a liaison between SAHC and the owners of our agricultural easements.”

Chris moves to Asheville from Columbia, SC, where he worked as the stewardship coordinator for the Congaree Land Trust while finishing graduate school in the Department of Geography at the University of South Carolina.  

“I’m extremely excited to be back in the mountains,” he says. “I grew-up in southwestern Virginia and northwestern North Carolina and have a strong connection to this region. It’s where I’m from, where I want to be and, in turn, the community and natural environment to which I think I can contribute the most.” Read more

Invasive Feral Hogs Continue to Threaten the Roan

We are entering the fifth year of coordinated efforts to manage invasive feral hogs in the Highlands of Roan. These invasive feral hogs damage the fragile, globally important ecosystems of the Roan as they “root,” eating rare species and tearing up the terrain.  They also spread multiple diseases and pose a safety threat to outdoor recreation enthusiasts.

In November, the Feral Hog Working Group, part of our ongoing collaborative Roan Stewardship efforts, met at the SAHC office to discuss updates and plan future work.

“Since feral hogs can have devastating impacts on plants and wildlife, as well as human and livestock health, the situation requires coordinating a broad group of partners,” explains Marquette Crockett, SAHC’s Roan Stewardship Director. “This includes federal and state agencies in both NC and TN.” Read more