David & Otto Smith – 2014 Volunteers of the Year

stanmurray_award.jpgOur Stanley A. Murray Award for Volunteer Services this year went to a father & son team — David Smith and his son Otto.

David and Otto Smith

David was introduced to SAHC as the Seasonal Ecologist in 1997 and since then has been a volunteer leader in many different capacities.  He served as a Trustee from 2004-2010, and was a leader in SAHC’s Land Protection Strategic Planning process. He served on the Land Protection Committee and continues to serve on the Land Management Committee. For the past 17 years, David has participated in the annual Grassy Ridge Mow-Off and led guided hikes at the annual June Jamboree.

David’s son Otto has recently joined him in volunteer adventures in the Roan. For the past three years Otto has worked along side David at the Mow-Off, lopping and pulling brush to help conserve this globally imperiled habitat. After they returned home from the Mow-Off last year, David was putting Otto to bed and noticed that he was sad. When David asked what was wrong Otto said, “I think I miss Roan Mountain, Papa.”

What better pair to honor than a father and son team for their volunteer efforts to SAHC. Congratulations to David and Otto!

 

 

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Warren Wilson College students help out on our Community Farm

wwc_trailworkopen_march2014.jpgThe forecast said to expect a wintry mix on the first morning in March, as a group of Warren Wilson College (WWC) students prepared to come out to volunteer at the SAHC Community Farm in Alexander, NC. With temperatures not expected to reach 40 degrees, most college students would have burrowed back under the covers and asked for a rain check.

Not these folks. Under cloudy skies, they eagerly removed invasive plants and helped finish up sections of the 1 ½  mile nature trail. The group was a mix of students from the Forestry, Landscaping, and Recycling Crews at WWC. Read more

Youth volunteers tackle stuborn invaders

groupwithrich.jpgThis fall, 6th and 7th grade boys from the French Broad River Academy (FBRA) volunteered to help heal a 45-acre conservation tract in the Sandy Mush area. They spent three days identifying invasive species and learning how to properly eradicate them without disturbing indigenous plants nearby.

Each morning, the boys arrived promptly at 9:30 am, ready to work hard weeding out the invasive plants. Kids and supervising adults split into three groups, and each group received a pair of loppers, hand clippers, rubber gloves, leather gloves, protective eye wear, a trash bag and a little bottle of herbicide that only adults could apply. Read more

AmeriCorps on Round Bald

2013-apc-round-bald-work-day-24.jpgSAHC was pleased to host a group of sixteen volunteers from AmeriCorps Project Conserve (APC) on Round Bald within the Highlands of Roan. For the last three years, SAHC has partnered with APC to get members out on the Roan’s grassy balds to complete a variety of habitat restoration projects.

This year, APC members used hand tools to cut back woody plants from the interior of the grassy bald on Round Bald. Without management, the small herbaceous plants, sedges and grasses that characterize grassy bald habitat will be eventually overgrown by woody plants. This is a natural process called “forest succession;” however in this case, it is important to keep succession in check because grassy balds are a globally imperiled habitat type. Grassy balds offer a home to rare endemic plants and high elevation grassland wildlife species – a home that will slowly be lost without the help of volunteers like those from APC. Read more

Nature Valley/NPCA/SAHC partner in Highlands of Roan

naturevalleygroup.jpg“All good things are wild and free”  – Henry David Thoreau

The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy began some forty years ago with a mission to protect the Highlands of Roan. We don’t have a lot of places left that make us feel “wild and free” anymore, at least not in the way Thoreau implied. While we have constructed ways and means to feel these ideals, arguably none of them are as effective, or human, as standing atop an undeveloped landscape. The Roan is certainly wild and free, but only because of the hard work and care that so many people have contributed. Unfortunately we aren’t done yet. As long as we still face threats to our wild places, good people will keep working. SAHC is lucky enough to count many of these willing people among our ranks.

On Saturday October 19th, SAHC hosted a volunteer work day on our Grassy Ridge property within the Highlands of Roan. The day was a culmination of work sponsored through a grant from National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), who has partnered with Nature Valley to fund projects that benefit National Parks around America. Nature Valley also partnered with National Geographic travel journalist Andrew Evans to help document the importance of our project. Read more

Reflecting on Spring and Stewardship at SAHC

035.jpgby Margot Wallston, SAHC AmeriCorps Stewardship Associate — July 2013

One of my favorite things about working in land conservation during the spring is being able to take note of the persistent emergence of botanical life after winter’s long repose. Hiking off-trail to monitor remote pieces of land affords the opportunity to witness the first signs of spring: new stems pushing up through the ground, swelling leaf buds, the first hints of color as flower petals begin to open.  It’s fun to guess what identity each new plant will take on: Will a red, clenched hand atop a fuzzy stem become false goats beard? Will a blue-purple fan of soft baby leaves become blue cohosh?

I’m not alone in relishing in this annual event.  Many people look forward to spring’s arrival as the best time to watch the forest reawaken after winter as wildflowers gradually begin to bloom.  But spring also stirs to life a host of invasive, non-native plants which compete with our native wildflowers and trees for essential resources.  One of the first invasive plants to pop up amidst our native spring ephemerals is garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata). Read more

The Roany Boyz – 2013 Volunteers of the Year

volunteergroup.jpgThe Roany Boyz began as a group of friends who liked to hike and camp together.  One of the group — former SAHC president Carol Coffey — was involved with our annual Grassy Ridge Mow-off, in which volunteers spent the third weekend of July cutting back invasive plants to protect the quality of the Grassy Ridge Bald.  The Appalachian Trail in this area crosses Round Bald, Engine Gap, Jane Bald, and a shoulder of Grassy Ridge.  Hiking out to Grassy Ridge, Carol noticed that Engine Gap and the Southwest side of Jane Bald were rapidly being overgrown with blackberries.   Judy Murray, SAHC’s head of Stewardship for the Roan Highlands at the time, agreed to provide tools, primarily weed eaters, if Carol could form a volunteer group to work at Engine Gap. So, in 2001 the Roany Boyz began volunteering to manage grassy balds habitat at Engine Gap.  Read more

Trail Building on SAHC’s Community Farm

smallgroup1.jpgOn a chilly mid-March day, SAHC’s Anderson Farm was host for an AmeriCorps service day. Fourteen AmeriCorps Project Conserve members, currently serving at host sites throughout Western North Carolina, came together on SAHC’s Community Farm to lend their hands in building a trail on the 100 acre property.

The SAHC Community Farm property lies just 15 minutes to the north and west of Asheville within the Newfound Creek watershed, an impaired waterway as identified by NC Division of Water Quality. Years of timbering and intensive cattle grazing have impacted the pastures, forests, and waterways of this property. Since acquiring the farm, we have begun the process of revitalizing the agricultural and conservation assets on the property. Read more

Partners Continue Service Project Successes

2012-go-round-bald_-28_blog.jpgThis fall, SAHC continued two great volunteer management partnerships on the Roan. Asheville Green Opportunities and AmeriCorps Project conserve came out for two separate management days, restoring grassy bald habitat on the western slope of Round Bald. It is always rewarding to bring young volunteers to a beautiful place they have not been before, especially when their work can build a sense of connection to the land. It affords us the chance to look at the Roan and its vistas with new eyes and underlines the importance of SAHC’s protection efforts. Read more

Hurray for Volunteers! At Cataloochee Ranch with Nature Valley & NPCA

cataloochee-nature-valley-work-day-023.jpg31 volunteers and staff rallied to help the Smokies on Saturday, July 28.  In a partnership with Nature Valley (the granola bar company) and the National Parks Conservation Association, several SAHC projects are underway at the protected Cataloochee Ranch (directly adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park) to improve animal habitat, plant life and water quality.

On Saturday under a clear sky with beautiful views of the Plott Balsams, Mt. Pisgah, and the Smokies, volunteers improved an eroded section of popular trail mere meters from the border of Great Smoky Mountains Park.  Fueled by camaraderie and an endless supply of Nature Valley granola bars, volunteers used shovels and trail tools to reshape a badly incised section of trail into a good slope to efficiently shed water instead of catching sediment and carrying it to the streams. Read more