Judy Murray Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award

2022 TN Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award Winner – Robert Sparks Walker Lifetime Achievement Recipient: Judy Murray

Judy Murray, who has led an inspired life dedicated to conservation in Southern Appalachia, has been named winner of the 2022 Robert Sparks Walker Lifetime Achievement Award. The award is part of the annual Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards administered by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).

Judy Murray standing with awardThere are few people who can truly be described as committing a lifetime of sacrifice and passionate hard work to an endeavor with modest monetary reward yet boundless benefit to the greater good of humankind and nature. Judy Murray, however, is just such a person. Judy was first inspired by nature on a quintessential family vacation in the 1950s when her family traveled by car from New York City to Canada. On the return trip, and especially as the family traveled through the Adirondack Mountains, Judy fell in love with nature and the mountains.

As a young lady, Judy joined and supported the Scenic Hudson organization in New York. Upon graduation from college in 1960, Judy sought a job that would enable her to further her interests in the outdoors and the mountains, accepting a chemist position with Tennessee Eastman Company (now Eastman Chemical Company) in Kingsport, Tennessee. Within days, she was hiking and enjoying the spectacular vistas from the grassy ridges of the Highlands of Roan and was soon a member of the Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club. An inspired life dedicated to conservation, Judy’s early experiences with the Hiking Club led to her lifelong work in the Highlands of Roan.

Early Work with the Appalachian Trail and founding Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy

Judy and six other members of the hiking club formed a working group to further protection of the Appalachian Trail and the magnificent grassy balds of the Roan massif. The entire area was threatened by development for resorts and vacation homes. The group of seven hiking club members started meeting at members’ homes in Johnson City to discuss how to safeguard the vulnerable Roan lands for present and future generations. The group grew and was formalized in 1966 as the Roan Mountain Preservation Committee of the Appalachian Trail Conference with the goal to preserve the views and landscape surrounding the Appalachian Trail through the Highlands of Roan.

In 1974, the U.S. Forest Service and the Roan Mountain Preservation Committee created a landscape-scale “Highlands of the Roan Composite Plan”. The plan identified tracts needed to protect the bald areas and the Appalachian Trail, established alternatives for acquisition if the tracts were not available in their entirety, identified the fragile resources of the bald areas, and described broad management direction of these lands.

To accelerate the protection of critical land across the Highlands of Roan and along the Appalachian Trail, Judy, and other members of the Roan Mountain Preservation Committee founded the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) as a Tennessee non-profit land trust. The organization was created to raise funds to purchase lands for which the Forest Service was not funded.

During this time Judy realized that she wanted to devote more of her time and energy to conservation. Judy resigned her position with the Tennessee Eastman Company to return to school. She knew that increased knowledge of the interaction of living organisms and their environment was key to protecting and managing the unique and fragile Highlands of Roan. Graduating with a master’s degree in Ecology from the University of Tennessee, Judy became SAHC’s first Roan Stewardship Director in 1974. A position she held for 40 years until her retirement in 2014.

SAHC’s non-profit charter was expanded to include North Carolina and now, nearly 50 years later, the organization continues to build on the foundational work of the Roan Mountain Preservation Committee. SAHC protected 1,644 acres of lands in 2021 including 1,050 acres in the Highlands of Roan, of which 150 acres have recently been added to Roan Mountain State Park. SAHC, its members and donors, and in partnership with many organizations and agencies, has protected over 19,000 acres in the Highlands of Roan and over 75,000 acres throughout the southern Appalachian Mountains. SAHC is a leading land trust nationally and is fully accredited by the Land Trust Alliance.

Caring for the Ecologically Important Highlands of Roan

Judy has spent her life dedicated to preserving the beautiful and ecologically rare Highlands of Roan. This has been accomplished through hard work and personal sacrifice, vision and extraordinary communication skills, stubborn determination, and encyclopedic knowledge of the area and ecology. But perhaps more than anything, Judy was able to use her deep and genuine love and respect for  nature and people to align interests and spur action. Continuing the early collaborative efforts of the Roan Mountain Preservation Committee with the Forest Service and other organizations, Judy, as SAHC’s Roan stewardship director, established the Roan Stewardship Committee to bring together a larger community of interested parties. And through all of this, Judy was able to build trust and respect among landowners whose cherished land had been part of their families for generations, thus opening the door to conversations about conservation and ultimately protecting their land. Landowners have many fond memories of working with Judy and often ask about her years after her retirement. These relationships formed a bedrock of trust that has led to a conservation success story that was unimaginable when the small group of individuals met in Johnson City over 50 years ago.

Whether leading a day-long workshop, applying the power of persuasion, or rallying volunteers, Judy got results. Getting to shared goals and prioritized projects was just the start of Judy’s work. Once plans were developed and projects agreed-to, the hard work of implementation began. One of Judy’s strengths has been her ability to recruit and lead volunteers to carry out the many projects needed to protect and restore the Highlands of Roan. From restoration of Golden-winged Warbler habitat in the Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area, removing invasive Garlic Mustard from Roan Mountain State Park, to mowing blackberry and other woody growth from the grassy balds, legions of volunteers have accomplished herculean goals.

A wonderful example is the annual effort undertaken by multiple groups and agencies to remove blackberry and other woody plants slowly encroaching on the grassy balds, threatening not only the unique habitat but also the attractiveness of the region to many thousands of annual visitors. Volunteers use loopers, rakes, hand scythes, and heavy-duty power equipment to mow down the growth, manually replicating as best possible what was done for centuries by fire and grazing animals. Each summer dozens of acres of grassy bald are restored by these efforts. And for many, it is a cherished annual event.

Along the way, Judy has been repeatedly recognized for her tireless contribution to conservation and protection of the Highlands of Roan. She was twice awarded the Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club’s Hiker of the Year Award and co-chaired the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s 50th anniversary biennial meeting. She contributed to Roan Seasonal Ecologists with mentoring and inspiration. She also added knowledge and guidance to numerous articles and scientific studies of the Highlands of Roan. Judy formally retired from her position as the SAHC Roan stewardship director in 2014, but her efforts to celebrate and protect the Highlands of Roan continue. And even at 84 years of age, she actively participates in strategy and planning activities as a member of the SAHC Roan Stewardship Advisory Committee. She’s always willing to share her knowledge, offer perspective and advice and lend a helping hand. Her legacy is also evident in the continuing success of SAHC.

A Lifetime of Partnership and Leadership on the Roan

As a founder, Judy was instrumental in shaping and leading the organization. Mentoring and inspiring staff members and scores of volunteers has insured that SAHC’s success is carried to other conservation challenges. This work has been accomplished using the same principles Judy embodied as she led stewardship of Roan – building trusting relationships with the community, partnering with state, federal, and other conservation organizations, and ensuring that the hard work gets done.

As a final testament to Judy’s lifelong commitment to conservation and the protection of the Highlands of Roan, she commissioned Jens Kruger, a member of the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame and recipient of the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass Music, to compose a musical celebration of the Highlands of Roan and to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first meeting of the Roan Mountain Preservation Committee. The result, the Roan Mountain Suite, premiered on October 15, 2016, at the Paramount Center for Performing Arts in Bristol, Tennessee. The performance of the Kruger Brothers and the Kontras Quartet was met with enthusiasm and multiple standing ovations. It was a thrilling evening that would not have been possible without Judy’s vision, powers of persuasion and patronage.

“Sometimes I like to be the last one to turn in for the night, when I have the stars, the wind, and The Rock to myself. A time for silent reflection from the place I love most in the world.” – Judy Murray

Stewardship – A Forever Commitment

Land Protected – Now What?

Each new land protection project generates a rush of joy and excitement. However, after the initial furor fades, the task of ensuring that conserved land remains permanently protected shifts to the shoulders of SAHC’s devoted stewardship crew. Perhaps the least understood aspect of our work, yet an integral component of the “forever” commitment to conservation, SAHC’s Stewardship Program is responsible for ongoing communication with landowners, annual monitoring of conserved land, defense against violations — and much more. Here’s what it takes to accomplish that commitment.

The Stewardship aspect of SAHC’s work centers on the perpetual care and protection of land and water. This entails everything from walking the property to keeping detailed documentation of changes over time and building relationships with landowners. Holistically, the “Stew Crew” is charged with the health of the living systems that surround us — ensuring that the waters remain pure and flowing, that natural communities flourish and invasive threats are removed, and that the people who live on and use the land understand the terms of conservation easements, which aim to protect “conservation values” that benefit the region and world at large. Of the more than 80,000 acres that SAHC has protected since 1974, we are responsible for stewarding over 54,000 acres of conservation easements and preserves. SAHC follows accreditation requirements and Land Trust Alliance standards and practices in accomplishing this work. Read more

Welcome 2021-22 AmeriCorps Team

Stephanie LongStephanie Long

Stephanie is joining SAHC for another year as the Stewardship & Volunteer Associate. She graduated from Smith College in 2019 with a degree in Environmental Science and Policy and a concentration in Conservation Ecology. While at Smith, Stephanie was involved in ecophysiology and spatial analysis research and is the recipient of the Amy Randall Brown Prize in Botany and the Florence Augusta Merriam Prize for innovative and collaborative approaches to solving environmental and sustainability problems. Before working at SAHC she spent a year in Vermont serving with the Vermont Land Trust. She obtained her Remote Pilot Certification in 2020 and has been using drones to help SAHC capture aerial imagery for baselines and communications.

Sarah near streamSarah Sussman

Sarah graduated from Appalachian State University in 2019 with a degree in Sustainable Development – Environmental Studies, a minor in Nonprofit Management, and an undergraduate certificate in Geographic information Systems. At ASU, Sarah was a member of Watauga Residential College and worked as a Sustainability Ambassador for the Office of Sustainability, connecting students, faculty, and staff to App State’s sustainability initiatives. After graduating, Sarah served in the Student Conservation Association managing trails in the Catskill Forest preserve in New York. This is Sarah’s second AmeriCorps term; she previously served at Conserving Carolina in Hendersonville, NC. In her free time she loves to run, hike, and explore the mountains.

Logan Dye - head photoLogan Dye

Logan is a western North Carolina native who grew up in Brevard, NC. While growing up, he spent his time mountain biking, rock climbing, paddling, and hiking. These activities fostered a love for the southern Appalachians, specifically the unique ecosystems of western North Carolina. While attending UNC Asheville, his fascination for the habitat he grew up in flourished as he pursued a B.S. in Environmental Studies with a concentration in ecology. Logan is returning for his second AmeriCorps term after spending last year with the Hemlocks Restoration Initiative. He is excited to continue his AmeriCorps journey with SAHC.

Laura - selfieLaura Fraser

Laura is originally from Iowa and graduated in 2019 from the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in Biology and Earth Sciences. During her time at university, she worked at the botanical center and observatory on campus. She joined Peace Corps Benin after graduating and did agricultural work with her local women’s group. After, she joined AmeriCorps and moved to Reno, NV to work as an arboretum educator at the Wilbur D. May Arboretum. She’s new to the east coast and is a plant mom that loves to bake, read, and hike.

 

Americorps logoAmeriCorps Project Conserve is administered by Conserving Carolina and funded by an AmeriCorps grant from the NC Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, and the critical support of our host sites and community partners. AmeriCorps, a federal agency, brings people together to tackle the country’s most pressing challenges through national service and volunteering. AmeriCorps helps make service to others a cornerstone of our national culture. Learn more at AmeriCorps.gov.

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.

Read more

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. 

Read more

Summer 2021 Interns

Meet our 2021 summer interns, and hear what they have to say about their varied projects and interests in conservation!

LaKyla Hodges, Communications and Youth Education Intern

LaKyla is a senior at Warren Wilson College where she is studying Environmental Education. She worked with SAHC as a communications intern this summer, focusing on implementing and supporting our equity, diversity and inclusion goals. LaKyla has a wide variety of experience working in the environmental education field. She has held positions as an intern with the DC Chapter of the Sierra Club, a senior camp aid at the Smithsonian National Zoo, a camp facilitator at the Western North Carolina Nature Center, and as a communications and advocacy intern at MountainTrue. As a Bonner Leader at Warren Wilson, she has also worked with several youth organizations in traditionally Black communities of Asheville. In addition to facilitating youth programs this summer, LaKyla spent time writing about the salamander plots at the SAHC Community Farm and interviewing with Allison Williams, Pathways to Parks, and more.

Lydie Costes, Duke Stanback Intern

Lydie Costes is a Master of Environmental Management student at Duke, focusing her studies on Ecosystem Science, Conservation, and Geospatial Analysis. She is from Chapel Hill, NC and has a background in agriculture, psychology, and administration. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, gardening, learning about plants, and dancing. This summer, Lydie worked as a Stanback Fellow designing the management plan for Chestnut Mountain. This parcel was purchased in 2020 by SAHC and will be donated to the Town of Canton for use as a public park. Lydie consolidated existing documentation and communicated with various community partners to establish recommendations that balance conservation and recreation. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with SAHC this summer,” she says.

Joshua Lyon, Roan Naturalist

Joshua is a “plant nerd” heading to Western Carolina University after working with SAHC. He started in seasonal outdoor work in 2016 by maintaining trails with the Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards and stayed on to lead crews for multiple seasons before becoming a Ridgerunner in Georgia for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC). As the seasonal Roan Naturalist, Joshua split time between stewardship projects and visitor interactions. Half of the season consisted of interacting with hikers to teach them how to minimize impact on the trail by staying safe and respecting the plants and animals that make up Roan’s imperiled ecosystems. The other half was spent on stewardship projects such as mowing the balds, planting spruce, doing bird surveys and putting out educational signs. This position is funded by the ATC and jointly hosted between SAHC, ATC and the US Forest Service.

Maya Nightsky Rosensweet, Roan Highlands Intern

Maya is a Biology and Philosophy double-major at Mount Holyoke College. “My goal is to be part of the climate change movement with a biological focus in carbon sequestration and a social focus in well-being,” she says. “For SAHC, my main project has been planning and building wild native plant gardens at Little Rock Creek preserve, including a pollinator garden, a meadow, and a raised edible garden. These gardens are not only environmentally sustainable (native, good for pollinators, birds, and other fauna, and specifically good carbon sequesterers), but they are also culturally and historically significant. All in all, we aim for this property to be beautiful AND educational.”

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.