Justice Creek – Protecting 260 Acres Visible from the Appalachian Trail

justicecreek_labelledpic.jpgWe recently purchased 260 acres visible from the Appalachian Trail and from the overlook at the Rhododendron Gardens on Roan Mountain.  Located in the middle of the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area, the parcel adjoins the 225-acre Spear Top Mountain property that we acquired in December 2011. Together, these adjoining conservation projects protect the summit and three sides of the mountain!

“This area is so special and precious, with beautiful waterfalls and many rare plants and mushrooms. It just needs to stay natural,” said landowner Laura Mitchell, who sold the property to SAHC in early December. “I wanted to make sure it will always be protected, and working with SAHC, I knew it would be.”

jay-at-falls-on-laura-mitchel-tract_1774.jpgProtecting this parcel has been a priority for us since the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area was created in 2008. The newly purchased tract holds thriving rich cove and northern hardwood forests, extending to 4800 feet in elevation along the upper reaches of Spear Tops Mountain’s western slopes. The headwaters of Justice Creek originate on the property, and tributaries of the North Toe River, a beloved trout stream, flow through it.

“My goal was always to be able to leave it in its natural state,” continued Mitchell. “SAHC’s purchase of the property makes it a win-win situation, and I’m just tickled to death.”

The acquisition was made possible by generous gifts from Fred & Alice Stanback, Jacqui Michel & Miles Hayes, several other philanthropists, and a $442,000 loan from The Conservation Fund. Michel & Hayes own property in Mitchell County and are committed to protecting the surrounding ridgelines from development and degradation. SAHC is now working to secure public funds to transfer the tract to state ownership, enabling us to  repay the loan and interest.