Green forest

Hollybush Gap

Stream on Hollybush Gap propertySAHC recently purchased 17 acres at Hollybush Gap, a privately owned in-holding surrounded by Cherokee National Forest. SAHC will transfer this tract to the national forest in the next year or so, closing a notable gap within our public lands. Springs and tributaries on the property feed into Big Branch, a trout stream. We are grateful to our supporters for helping to conserve this land for all people to enjoy!

“Helping our partners in the public land agencies preserve land and reduce management boundaries is a win-win for conservation, people, and wildlife,” says Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. “Like putting together a puzzle, securing in-holdings within public lands helps complete the picture — improving our partners’ ability to manage land while creating more areas for public recreation.”

SAHC raised a portion of the purchase price from generous private donors, and borrowed funds from our internal revolving land acquisition loan fund for the rest of the cost of purchasing the land. The US Forest Service will eventually purchase the property from SAHC at a discounted price that will enable us to replenish the amount we borrowed from our internal revolving fund.

What’s wrong with this map?

Map of Hollybush Gap property surrounded by national forestDid you know that the large green shapes marked as “national forest” on many road or regional maps aren’t as solid as they appear? Federal legislation in the early 1900s established the U.S. Forest Service and authorized the creation of planning boundaries — which means that when privately owned tracts within those planning boundaries come up for sale (and funds are available), they can be purchased and added to the national forests.

These planning boundaries are often used on commercially produced maps to represent the national forests. But what you don’t see are the many small openings within the forest area which remain privately owned tracts. These inholdings — areas of private land surrounded by public land — can create difficulty in land management and confusion for people who are using  public forest land and accidentally cross into someone else’s property.

As a nonprofit organization with the ability to act quickly when these inholdings come up for sale, SAHC helps our public land partners by securing the tracts until the agency is able to work through their internal process to access funds and complete the transfer of property from us. This can even mean SAHC obtaining a loan when necessary to complete a high priority, time-sensitive acquisition. These transfers help ‘fill in’ the missing gaps on your map at home.

Update! In October 2022, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy transferred the Hollybush Gap property to become part of Cherokee National Forest.