The Nature Conservancy and the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy ushered in the 35th anniversary of their conservation partnership with the joint purchase of the 104-acre Indian Saddle tract on Little Yellow Mountain in Avery County. The property was the result of a foreclosure proceeding after a projected development project failed and has been a long-time priority for both organizations.
“This tract bridges a gap between the mountain peak, which the Nature Conservancy bought last year, and Mollie’s Branch, which the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy protected earlier,” explains David Ray, NC Mountains Program Director for the Nature Conservancy. “Successful conservation is a matter of cooperation, not competition.” Together, the two conservancies have now protected 1,115 acres on Little Yellow Mountain that would otherwise have been developed.
Little Yellow Mountain is part of the Roan Mountain Massif, one of the most biologically diverse areas in the Southern Appalachians. The area is a haven for rare and endangered species; a staggering seventy-six rare plants and animals have been discovered there. The reason for this is the variety of habitats the Roan Mountain Massif provides, including grassy balds, rich coves, spruce-fir forests, and high elevation rocky summits.
“Protecting this property builds on the work that the two conservancies have done since 1975,” says Jay Leutze, SAHC Board Member. That year, the two groups began joint management of Big Yellow Mountain Preserve, located across from Little Yellow Mountain. “Together, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and the Nature Conservancy have made a real difference.”
The sale was made possible through a generous grant from the North Carolina Natural Heritage Trust Fund and private donations to both organizations. Eventually, these Little Yellow Mountain properties will be transferred to the North Carolina Natural Heritage Trust Fund to become part of the newly created Yellow Mountain State Natural Area.