On December 22, 2011, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy recorded conservation easements protecting 474 acres in southern Buncombe County. This project combines with neighboring conservation easements and other preserves to bring the total amount of land protected on Little Pisgah Mountain to more than 1,400 acres.
“The Little Pisgah project is a major step in preservation of mountaintops in an important focus area of the Buncombe County land conservation plan,” according to Albert Sneed, chairman of the Buncombe County Conservation Advisory Board. The property contains 100 acres of high elevation pasture, rock outcrops and cliffs, and 374 acres of forested land, rising to an elevation of 4,400 feet on the top of Little Pisgah Mountain.
Tailoring the conservation easements in this complex project involved six separate parcels, and was made possible by the dedication of the MacKay family to protect the unbroken scenic views, wildlife corridors, and water sources afforded by the property. Two generations of the extended MacKay family came together with SAHC to protect this large tract that has been in their family for over 60 years.
“For each of us and our children and grandchildren, the Little Pisgah tract has meant camping, hiking and experiencing the unique joy of unspoiled wildness. We are thankful that the dedicated people of Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy have made it possible for us to preserve this unique place for future generations,” said members of the Mackay family, Elizabeth MacKay Fisher and her husband Bob, who live in Buncombe County, and Buddy MacKay and his wife Anne, who have a summer home on the Little Pisgah tract.
The four branches of the MacKay family came together to protect the tract from unplanned development that could have added 47 ten-acre home sites on the highly visible mountain top property.
The family worked cooperatively with SAHC to limit the number of future home sites to six. In addition, they worked with SAHC and an experienced landscape architect to locate those home sites in areas that protect the overall conservation values of the land.
“It was a pleasure to assist the MacKay family over 18 months as they worked through the many issues that are part of a project as significant as this. This project is the culmination of work by an experienced team of conservation professionals at SAHC and willing landowners,” said Michael Green, who led the efforts on behalf of SAHC. Green won SAHC’s 2011 Volunteer of the Year award for his extensive work on the combined Little Pisgah conservation easements.
With 20% of the land open for pasture or farm use, the project particularly appealed to SAHC’s mission to preserve farmland and agricultural heritage. In all, SAHC has helped protect over 15,000 acres in Buncombe County, including over 700 acres in the Fairview farming community.
Buncombe County’s $337,000 contribution toward the project was matched by more than $1.2 million in donations by the landowners and a private philanthropist.