In fall 2019, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy purchased 50 acres at Hidden Valley in Haywood County in order to protect corridors for wildlife movement, water quality, scenic views, and farmland.
The tract adjoins the 146-acre Little Creek Headwaters preserve that we purchased in 2016, providing connectivity for wildlife corridors. Conserving the land also protects scenic views from the Crabtree area and the agricultural community in Bald Creek valley.
“A scenic gem, the Bald Creek area of Crabtree is a quiet farming community tucked between the iconic Crabtree Bald and the Haywood/Buncombe County line,” says Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. “The Hidden Valley property expands SAHC’s protection of a concentration of over 1,400 permanently protected acres within Crabtree and nearby Sandy Mush (Buncombe & Madison Counties). This chain of protected land follows ridgelines that are important for wildlife movement and dip into fertile valleys that provide water resources and soil for productive agricultural land.”
The main stem of Little Creek flows through the property before merging into Bald Creek. The property reaches 3,740 ft. in elevation, with beautiful high-elevation pasture areas. Three-quarters of the tract is open grazing land for cattle, and the remainder consists of Appalachian oak forest. A local farmer currently grazes cattle on the land using seasonal grazing practices, and SAHC will continue to work with them.
“We plan to own and manage the property for the long-term, with continued agricultural use and implementation of best management practices for protecting soils from erosion,” explains Michelle. The property contains 15 acres of important soils. Seven acres are locally important soils (EvD and SdD), and eight acres are soils of statewide importance (SdC). A small corner of the southwestern tip of the property (less than one acre) contains nationally important prime soils (ScB).
The land will not be open to the general public, but in the future SAHC may use it to host guided recreational or educational outings.
Conservation in the Landscape – Connectivity vs. Fragmentation
“Our purchase of the tract will help reduce fragmentation in the landscape, which is one important goal of conservation,” adds Michelle. “Fragmented landscapes allow greater impacts from erosion and make it harder wildlife and plants to thrive. By protecting connected parcels of land, we are working to protect habitat for native plant and animal species, as well as soil and water resources. Plus, unbroken, beautiful views of surrounding farms and hillsides evoke a sense of joy and nostalgia. People support land conservation because they love these special places and want them to continue to be here for future generations.”
SAHC plans to continue to protect the important ridgelines and bottomlands that provide wildlife corridors, scenic value and productive farmland in Haywood County and beyond. We work with willing landowners who want to pursue conservation options for their land. SAHC provides a service for those who love the land and are looking for ways to conserve it.