Intern Perspective: LaKyla Hodges

Since her childhood, inspired by shows like the Crocodile Hunter and the Jeff Corwin Experience, LaKyla has loved wildlife. Today, she is passionate about intersections among environmental issues and under-represented communities. She hopes to raise awareness about the disproportionate impacts of environmental challenges on minority communities and also to help engage youth in these communities in environmental advocacy.

“I am very excited to work with the SAHC team and to help connect diverse communities with land conservation,” she says. “When working in the environmental field, it’s important to remember to consider how different aspects of one’s identity can affect how they view and interact with the natural world. Intersectional environmentalism is one of the best ways we can ensure that our environmental practices are sustainable and effective. Taking intersectionality into account can help to reach people of all types of identities by making them feel seen and comfortable rather than being “blind” to our differences. Incorporating values such as equity, diversity, and inclusion can give you a strong start to becoming a more socially conscious organization or environmentalist, but  the follow through is the most important part. Deconstructing outdated beliefs that have been passed down to you and talking with members of marginalized groups first hand are, in my opinion, the best ways to reinforce intersectional practices. Reframing your point of view and doing needs assessment are much needed yet often forgotten aspects of activism.”

Salamander Plots at the SAHC Community Farm

Child is crouched down, placing a label on a cross section slice of a small tree. There is a hammer to the right of the slice. The child is wearing a black raincoat and grey and orange sweatpants.

Student of French Broad River Academy installing salamander plots, courtesy of Tamarya Sims

There has been lots of buzz on the SAHC Community Farm about our new salamander plot program. This program was piloted by Tamarya Sims, our Community Farm Associate. Western North Carolina is often considered the salamander capital of the world. Despite this, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find salamanders in the region due to declining populations across all amphibian species. This is why Tamarya felt that the moist areas near the creek on SAHC’s Community farm would be perfect for salamander plots.

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Allison Williams: Conservationist and Community Outreach Specialist

Allison is crouching in a garden. Behind her are rows of small green plants. She is smiling, wearing a blue shirt and black leggings.

Allison volunteering in an Asheville Community Garden, courtesy of Allison Williams

Allison Williams became a board member at SAHC in 2019. She is currently serving as an information assistant with Francis Marion National Forest in South Carolina. After her recent recognition by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) for her community outreach and coordination work, we were fortunate enough to have a conversation with Allison.

“It’s hard to be recognized in conservation. No one gives you a gold star”

In April, Allison was on the NPCA’s 10 Under 40 list. This list recognizes young people making a difference in conservation. This honor is especially fitting for Allison as she identifies more closely with the term conservationist than she does with environmentalist. She stated that “conservationists are more connected with the informative side of environmentalism” and that she is “100% an information person”. Information has been a driving force in Allison’s journey to get to where she is today. 

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Strategic Planning 2021-25

SAHC logoOver the past year, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy has engaged in a planning process to update our 5-year organization strategic plan. Staff, Board and committee members, and other stakeholders joined in input and feedback throughout the course of several months, and we are please to share updates from this strategic planning process, which provides a guiding framework for deepening our commitment to conservation and professional excellence.

SAHC Mission Statement

The mission of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy is to conserve the unique plant and animal habitat, clean water, farmland, scenic beauty, and places for all people to enjoy outdoor recreation in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, enduring for future generations. We achieve this through long-term conservation relationships with private landowners and public agencies and owning and managing land. We are committed to creating and supporting equitable, healthy and thriving communities for everyone in our region.

SAHC Vision Statement

Aerial photo

Aerial photo courtesy of SouthWings and Dennis Oakley, Carolinas’ Nature Photographers Association

We envision a green corridor of protected mountains and valleys from Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the Highlands of Roan, providing a resilient network of intact habitat for plants and animals, which enables them to thrive and respond to climate change; sources of clean water for healthy ecosystems and people; sufficient places for all people to enjoy outdoor recreation for their health and wellbeing, including welcoming those who have not traditionally been served by land conservation; scenic beauty for the benefit of present and future generations; and opportunities for sustainable economic development. A network of protected mountain farms will sustain local food production and pass on the agricultural heritage of the Southern Appalachians to future generations. The region’s cultural heritage will be a valued and prominent part of the community fabric.

SAHC will continue to be a leader among land trusts, recognized locally and nationally for our excellence, transparency, and integrity in protecting critical lands; partnering with landowners, organizations, public agencies and communities, and providing exemplary, enduring stewardship of land we own and conservation easements we hold. The land and water we conserve represents our legacy to future generations, and we will fight to defend it against all threats. The fragile globally significant ecosystems of the Highlands of Roan will be restored and effectively managed through partnerships convened and led by SAHC.

SAHC’s program of connecting all people with the land we protect will build and maintain a constituency of people who support conserving land. Through conserving land, SAHC will model best practices to positively affect local food systems, environmental issues, and adjust to climate change.

Roaring CreekSAHC will be an antiracist organization. SAHC will be a place where no one feels like an outsider and everyone is part of a team of people who value equity, justice and democracy. Every SAHC volunteer, staff member and leader will demonstrate a personal commitment and responsibility for breaking down inequities, building up justice, learning from the experiences of others and creating welcoming spaces for everyone to become involved.

SAHC’s organizational capacity including staffing, technology and infrastructure will match the rapid pace of our work and need for excellence in the services we provide. SAHC’s responsibilities will increase as the demand for our services grows. The better our staff is trained, equipped and supported, the better our community will be served.

SAHC will have a high-performing development program, supported by appropriate technology and capable of implementing the organization’s fundraising plan. We will grow contributions from individuals, corporations and business partners, private foundations, and public grants, additions SAHC’s endowments and long-term investments and returns on those funds, and in-kind contributions, merchandise sales, and revenue from events, property rentals and innovative sources such as stream restoration credits.

SAHC’s name will be widely recognized in households across our region and respected for our significant contributions to conservation.

Statement of Values and Ethics

Personal & Professional Integrity

All staff, board members and volunteers of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (“SAHC”) act with honesty, integrity and openness in all their dealings as representatives of SAHC. We embrace the highest ethical standards and promote a working environment that values respect, fairness, integrity, and transparency.

Impact

We are dedicated to making a positive impact for nature and our communities. Our success hinges on achieving the highest possible level of quality in every aspect of our work. Our reputation for excellence has enabled us to gain the respect of landowners, donors, organizational and government partners and the public, and to assume a leadership role in conservation in our region. We hold ourselves to the highest performance standards and employ the most advanced practices in conducting our work.

Innovation

To accomplish all we have set out to do requires vision, resourcefulness, a responsible entrepreneurial spirit and adaptability to change. We solve problems creatively, aiming to achieve practical and meaningful conservation goals. We encourage original thought and its practical application.

Relationships and Partnerships

We work collaboratively among our staff, with our membership, donors and other supporters, and with many external partners including landowners, local communities, state and federal agencies. The quality of our relationships and partnerships is a critical determinant of our effectiveness. The scope and urgency of our mission requires that we reach out to all sectors of society – public and private – to forge strong, productive partnerships based on mutual benefit and trust. We succeed only through these combined efforts.

Equity, Inclusiveness & Diversity

We recognize historic inequities in the conservation field, access to land and ownership of land. These factors cause imbalance in communities, and we commit to purposeful action to correct them. Conservation is best advanced by the leadership and contributions of people of widely diverse backgrounds, experiences and identities.

We will recruit and develop staff to create a diverse, inclusive and equitable organization and:

  • Leverage our differences to be more effective in achieving our mission.
  • Respect and learn from our variety of experiences and ways of thinking.
  • Create a day-to-day workplace climate that welcomes & encourages each of us, valuing the contributions of all.
  • Strengthen the diversity of our workforce, governing, board and membership.

Responsible Stewardship

Responsible stewardship of conserved lands is a primary obligation of SAHC. The long-term care of protected land is an inextricable component of land conservation. Land and conservation easements are meaningfully conserved when we manage land properly and monitor and defend easements to prevent inappropriate uses that would damage or destroy the conservation values for which the lands are protected.

Conservation Ethic

SAHC seeks to instill a conservation ethic by connecting people with land. We seek to foster a conservation ethic by providing opportunities for people of diverse backgrounds to experience the restorative and intrinsic values of conserved land so that they will better understand and appreciate its many benefits and, in turn, become advocates for its preservation.

2021-2025 Strategic Planning Goals

Protect

priority lands that further our conservation mission.

Steward

land and conservation easements that SAHC holds, and lead the way in landscape-scale stewardship of the globally significant fragile ecosystems of the Highlands of Roan.

Connect

people with land for outdoor recreation, health, fitness, wellbeing, farming, livelihood and learning, striving to create equitable access to land for all people.

Grow

our organizational and financial capacity while supporting an equitable and inclusive culture in order to achieve our ambitious program goals and assure SAHC’s future sustainability to meet long-term responsibilities.

 

PDF view of 2021 strategic planning goals

 

Salamanders and Youth Education

Plethodon amplus salamander.

Plethodon amplus, 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

Accreditation Renewal 2021

Land Trust Accreditation Commission seal and sloganOne thing that unites us as a nation is land: Americans strongly support saving the open spaces they love. Since 1974, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy has been doing just that for the people of Tennessee and North Carolina. Now SAHC has renewed our land trust accreditation – proving once again that, as part of a network of over 400 accredited land trusts across the nation, we are committed to professional excellence and to maintaining the public’s trust in its conservation work.

“SAHC became an accredited land trust in 2010, and we have now successfully renewed that accredited status twice,” says Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “This rigorous process serves to reassure our donors and stakeholders that SAHC continues to practice the highest standards in conservation, demonstrating strength, professionalism, and longevity for our organization.”

SAHC provided extensive documentation and was subject to a comprehensive third-party evaluation prior to achieving this distinction. The Land Trust Accreditation Commission awarded renewed accreditation, signifying its confidence that SAHC’s lands will be protected forever. Accredited land trusts now steward almost 20 million acres – the size of Denali, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Glacier, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined.

“It is exciting to recognize Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy’s continued commitment to national standards by renewing this national mark of distinction,” said Melissa Kalvestrand, executive director of the Commission. “Donors and partners can trust the more than 400 accredited land trusts across the country are united behind strong standards and have demonstrated sound finances, ethical conduct, responsible governance, and lasting stewardship.”

SAHC is one of 1,363 land trusts across the United States according to the Land Trust Alliance’s most recent National Land Trust Census. A complete list of accredited land trusts and more information about the process and benefits can be found at www.landtrustaccreditation.org.

About the Land Trust Accreditation Commission

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission inspires excellence, promotes public trust and ensures permanence in the conservation of open lands by recognizing organizations that meet rigorous quality standards and strive for continuous improvement. The Commission, established in 2006 as an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, is governed by a volunteer board of diverse land conservation and nonprofit management experts. For more, visit www.landtrustaccreditation.org.

Welcome New Trustees

SAHC Trustees provide guidance and leadership for the organization. We are grateful to the following individuals who join the SAHC Board this year and are willing to donate their time and experience to serve with the organization.

PenderLarry Pender, Horse Shoe, NC

Pender (as he prefers) retired from NYU, where he served as an administrator. He and his wife, Tanya Marie founded Pathways to Parks a couple of years ago to encourage and support inclusivity and access for all people, especially people of color; to enjoy hiking and outdoor recreation. He enjoys many outdoor activities including cycling, hiking and tennis. Pender has been a dedicated member and looks forward to supporting SAHC’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion initiative.

PamPam Kelley, Kingsport, TN

Pam retired from Eastman, where she served as Director of Global Credit. Her background is in the Accounting and Credit Management division. She enjoys the outdoors, hiking and biking.  After learning of SAHC’s work, she looks forward to being involved and supporting its mission.

Randy HunterMiranda “Randy” Hunter, Asheville , NC

Randy is a long-time, active member of the French Broad River Garden Club and enjoys studying horticulture and applying the science to her garden.  She recently led the nomination of SAHC for the Garden Club of America’s national Cynthia Pratt Laughlin Medal, and the year-long process of securing the award on SAHC’s behalf.

JoeJoe DeLoach, Jonesborough, TN

Joe is a longtime passionate SAHC leader. He previously served on SAHC’s board in the 1990s and early 2000s, and has served as Board Chair. He serves as a Technology Fellow with Eastman.

Youth Education with Black Folks Camp Too

Earl speaks to YMCA HorizonsEarl B. Hunter, Jr., founder of Black Folks Camp Too, speaks of bringing people together in unity to enjoy the great outdoors. Former Vice-President of Sales at SylvanSport and a recognized speaker in the outdoor recreation industry, Earl began his company as a way to bring all people together to experience and benefit from outdoor recreation. He says they are creating an educational portal, and the campfire in their logo is a way to bring people together for discussion. We were excited to partner with Earl and Black Folks Camp Too during the summer to host outdoor recreation events for two local youth programs – Youth Transformed for Life and the YMCA Horizons program.

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SAHC Response to COVID-19

As a land trust, we always think about the big picture.

With the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation in our nation and local areas, this means that Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy will be operating from individual home and outdoor work sites in order to protect the health of staff, volunteers, supporters, partners, and our communities at-large. Our office on Merrimon Avenue is currently closed to the public. We have suspended all outings, events, and group education activities through the end of March, and will provide updates to our schedule in the future.

However, this doesn’t mean that we have stopped protecting the places you love.

SAHC has always been a forward-thinking and innovative organization. While the current situation presents many challenges and uncertainties, please know that we are diligently continuing to protect and steward land and water resources, while exploring remote technology options to help connect people with nature.

  • We are continuing to move forward with new land protection projects already in the works.
  • Our stewardship staff will continue to monitor protected properties. The Stew Crew is following social distancing recommendations while doing what they do best – spending time outdoors.
  • We are exploring ways to bring you environmental education instruction and virtual hike tours, using SAHC’s various communication channels.

We all know that spending time in outdoor spaces helps improve health outcomes. In the coming days and weeks, we will share tips and info about places to explore on your own.

State of Emergency declarations by government officials and mandatory K-12 school closings indicate that this is an unprecedented situation. As an organization, we have a commitment to uphold the highest standards of professionalism in our conservation work, and we extend that consideration to our operation within communities that we serve. We are following professional health recommendations in order to mitigate impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Concern for the health and well-being of our planet and people within our communities has always been a founding principle for our conservation mission. This concern includes you.

We will continue to do this work and overcome the current challenges as we have always done — together.

Thank you for being part of the SAHC family.

Carl Silverstein
Executive Director