This year, the Trust for Public Land purchased a 482-acre tract at Dark Ridge, located near the Appalachian Trail in Avery County, just north of the Roan Highlands. The property shares a long boundary with the Cherokee National Forest and Pisgah National Forest. SAHC identified the Dark Ridge tract in our 2018 conservation planning process as one of our Top Priorities in the AT Countryside. We are proud to have been able to assist our partners at the Trust for Public Land in this acquisition.
The Trust for Public Land (TPL) will own the property in the short term, until the US Forest Service is able to purchase it from TPL and add the property to Pisgah National Forest. SAHC assisted in the transaction by securing $300,000 gift from Fred and Alice Stanback toward the purchase price, along with previous gifts that enabled TPL to hold the property under Option until it was read to close on the purchase. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is also a supporter and funding partner in this project.
“This is a major land-conservation achievement that SAHC has played an integral role in bringing about,” says Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “We’ve been working on the project since July 2017, and we are pleased we have been able to help our partners at TPL secure this large acreage tract.”
What is an “Assist”?
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy’s toolbox for conserving land includes various techniques such as accepting conservation easements, purchasing and owning land that we manage for the long term as a preserve, acquiring land that we transfer to a public agency partner such as a national forest or state park, and sometimes assisting a partner organization or agency to acquire land or an easement that is a conservation priority. In an “Assist” project, SAHC is not in the title chain. We have not been recorded as an owner of the property, although we have contributed significant resources towards negotiation, guidance, relationship development, or securing funds for a partner to acquire a property.
Some of SAHC’s early successes in securing tracts in the Highlands of Roan occurred as project assists. SAHC’s founders and devoted AT and Roan enthusiasts began an outreach campaign and long-term relationship-building network, reaching out to private landowners to establish connections and lay the groundwork for landowners to connect with and sell land to the U.S. Forest Service. In other regions, SAHC has worked with partners at the NC Wildlife Resources Commission in assist projects that added to public game lands by securing private gifts as required matching funds which enabled our partners to access grant funds. In each case designated an ‘assist’ project, SAHC provides critical logistical work or fundraising crucial to the completion of the conservation project.