Spruce-fir Habitat Restoration

Hiking in the Roan Highlands, you may have had the experience of leaving the sunny, open grassy balds to dip your head into the dark shade of adjacent spruce-fir forests. Like the grassy balds, these remnant, boreal forests host multiple federally engaged species. New efforts to conserve and restore high elevation spruce-fir forests complement SAHC’s decades-long program of restoration and habitat management of Appalachian grassy bald

Why is Spruce-fir Forest Special?

Youth volunteer planting spruce, with adult volunteer in background

For future generations… Volunteers helped plant more than 5,000 red spruce seedlings on SAHC preserves.

Southern Appalachian red spruce-Fraser fir forests are considered one of the top two most endangered ecosystem types in the U.S. and contain multiple federal and state listed rare species, including the federally endangered spruce-fir moss spider and Carolina northern flying squirrel, the rare Weller’s salamander, and Appalachian populations of Saw-whet Owl, Red Crossbills, and more. Cold water streams flowing from these forests support Appalachian brook trout and other rare aquatic species.

During the last ice age, red spruce and Fraser fir dominated the southern Appalachian forest. But as the climate warmed, the spruce-fir forests gradually retreated north to Canada and to the tops of the highest peaks in the Southern Appalachians, above 5,000 feet in elevation. Logging during the 19th and 20th centuries reduced the extent of spruce-fir forest in the southern Appalachians by up to 60%, as fast-growing hardwoods replaced forests which had been cut. These forests were further degraded by acid precipitation and the invasive balsam woolly adelgid. However, now the largest threat to these forests is climate change, with warming temperatures and changes in rainfall.

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Community Farm Update Summer 2021

This summer, Community Farm Associate Tamarya Sims brought a whole new feel for farm life to a wide variety of camp and community groups. From partnering with the NC Arboretum in their EcoExplore program to teaching kids to safely hold chickens raised on the farm, this season has been full of volunteer work days and educational activity, growing young minds along with  agriculture.

Community Farm Associate Tamarya Sims has been busy running educational programs on the farm this summer! In July, Tamarya taught groups from Project Lighten Up, Youth Transformed  for Life, and others about chickens, farming eggs, and how chickens fit into the farm ecosystems. Read more

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.

Roan Stewardship Updates 2020

balds management volunteersFrom seasonal bird surveys to trail management, education, and habitat restoration, the Roan Stewardship crew continues to care for our flagship conservation focus area. We are grateful to our partners at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for their support in this work!

Like many things in our world, SAHC’s grassy balds management looked different in 2020. We hand-mowed a total of 7.5 acres from Round Bald to Grassy Ridge, which is about the typical acreage mowed by our Grassy Ridge Mow Off and Roany Boyz events. Our first priority was to keep staff and volunteers safe and comfortable, so we scaled back the number of folks allowed to be out each day to less than ten people, total. We relied on long term volunteers, who knew what to expect and didn’t mind following safety protocols set by both SAHC and the U.S. Forest Service. However, due to state regulations, we were not able to cooperate with the NC BRIDGE program this year. NC BRIDGE has been doing the “heavy lift” of balds management for more than 15 years, mowing every day for two weeks and carrying out equipment for our volunteers. Read more

Smith Family Volunteers

smith family youth volunteersDavid and Melissa Smith and their children Otto, Clyde, and Asa spent a weekend managing grassy balds habitat at Grassy Ridge and camping under the stars together. It’s become something of a family tradition. Otto has been helping with the Grassy Balds Mow-Off since he was 5 years old and understands the importance of habitat management; now in high school, he asks about it every year before it’s even on the calendar. Read more

ETSU Student Volunteers

Thank you to East Tennessee State University’s Service Learning Program for volunteering to assist with land management at SAHC’s Bird House Preserve in the Highlands of Roan. Student volunteers helped remove old structures and continued Golden-winged Warbler habitat management on the property. In the process we salvaged roughly 50 black locust posts that will be used for future trail maintenance.

Roan Recreation Updates 2019

We are working with Pisgah and Cherokee National Forests, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), and Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club (TEHCC) to address recreational impacts in and around Carver’s Gap and Grassy Ridge. This area, with easy access to stunning scenic views along the Appalachian Trail, has experienced significant increases in visitation. We joined these partners for two work days this summer, to repair and restore a section of the trail going up Jane Bald. In addition, new signage and interpretative materials are planned for 2020.

Over the course of the summer, Roan Naturalist Sarah Jones interacted with more than 8,500 people on the Appalachian Trail. Sarah taught visitors about the ecology of the Roan Highlands and the role that SAHC and other partners play in protecting the landscape.  She shared Leave No Trace ethics and provided support for hikers of all levels. We are very appreciative to our friends at the ATC and the TEHCC for their support of this position.