Future Chestnut Mountain Nature Park

Volunteers clean up debris around Hominy CreekTrails are shaping up at the future Chestnut Mountain Nature Park in Haywood County! When SAHC purchased the 448-acre tract in 2020, we obtained a loan to complete funding for the acquisition. We will be able to retire the remaining loan in 2022 and complete the transfer of the property to the Town of Canton. The new park will tentatively open in spring of next year.

SAHC’s acquisition of the Chestnut Mountain property was made possible with funding from the North Carolina Land and Water Fund, the NC Attorney General’s Office’s Environmental Enhancement Grant Program, The Pigeon River Fund of The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, the Conservation Trust for North Carolina, many private donors, and a bridge loan from the The Conservation Fund.

We are grateful to partners at Haywood Waterways Association, Inc. and volunteers who helped clean up debris in and around Hominy Creek at the base of the property.  The large debris resulted from flooding from Tropical Storm Fred, which had a devastating impact on Haywood County and damaged property upstream.

Hanni and Jay accepting Dogwood Award in RaleighThe office of NC Attorney General Josh Stein honored Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy with a 2021 Dogwood Award for our work conserving land and water that will be enjoyed by generations as the future Chestnut Mountain Nature Park. Congratulations to our amazing team, gratitude to our partners the Town of Canton and Haywood County, and thank you to all the incredible conservation supporters who make this work possible!

Community Farm Updates, Fall 2021

French Broad River Academy volunteers help seed garlicSAHC’s 140-acre farm hosts beginning farm businesses, educational workshops, and service learning experiences. It’s a working model that blends productive agriculture and responsible land management with educational opportunities and community engagement. Contact us for more info about the programs, event space, or opportunities to visit the farm (by appointment).

This fall, we have been joined by multiple volunteer groups who assisted with diverse projects, including the French Broad River Academy boys and girls schools, the Willows Recovery Center and the accounting firm of Corliss & Solomon, PLLC. Community Farm Associate Tamarya Sims continues to focus on outreach, education and volunteer engagement. Tamarya has been working to analyze the local food system and explore ways SAHC can better serve our community. Thank you to everyone involved in these efforts! Read more

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.

Read more

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

Roan Stewardship 2021

Volunteer Days, Bird Surveys, and Public Education

Spring and summer atop the Highlands of Roan stayed busy with active habitat management work days, biological surveys, and more. We’re grateful to all the volunteers who helped with stewardship and outing projects this year, and to all the supporters and partners who make it possible to preserve and restore rare and important ecosystems.

“We’re so glad to have been able to come back together as a group with the return of the annual Grassy Ridge Mow-off,” said Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett. “I think everyone really enjoyed the camaraderie of working together again! We’re very grateful to all the volunteers who came out. Plus, we enjoyed a pleasant surprise — everything bloomed a couple weeks later this year than usual, so we were able to see numerous Gray’s lily blooming in areas that were mowed by volunteers in previous years.. It was also the first time I’ve been on a mow-off without the rain!”

SAHC Board member Larry Pender joined in volunteering at the Mow-off again this year, reflecting on his time as “Celebrating the great outdoors with a heart healthy hike across the Roan and a momentous, meaningful mow atop the Grassy Ridge of the Roan!”

The National Forest Foundation awarded a $15,000 grant to support our grassy balds management work The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) awarded two license plate grants to SAHC, totaling $10,000 to support feral hog trapping in the Roan. SAHC staff continue to implement a previous ATC grant of $4,700 which will support the  installation of educational “peakfinder” signage on Round Bald. 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.”

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.