Located barely 500’ from the Appalachian Trail (AT), the beautifully wooded Rice Creek tract has been a conservation priority for the US Forest Service (USFS) and Appalachian Trail Conservancy for over 15 years. We purchased the 77-acre property near Rocky Fork in Unicoi County with the intent to later transfer it to the Cherokee National Forest.
With a top elevation of 4,300 ft., the tract is visible from the AT north of Lick Rock and around Sugarloaf Gap. “This acquisition will provide permanent protection for the AT corridor,” said Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. “When the landowner decided to sell the tract, we were pleased to be able to purchase it to preserve the views and wilderness experience for hikers along the Trail.”
The purchase also protects bird habitat and a tributary of Rice Creek, which runs along the southern tip of the property.
Fred and Alice Stanback made a generous gift to enable SAHC to move quickly to purchase the tract. SAHC will eventually transfer the property to the Cherokee National Forest. In the short term, we will manage the undeveloped land for forest health.
Feet on the Ground: Partners for Protecting the AT Corridor
“While working on this project, I hiked on the AT with our partners from the Cherokee National Forest and Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Our mission – to locate the upper boundary of the Rice Creek property and assess its visibility from the AT. There is no substitute for hiking boots on the Trail when evaluating these issues! Adjacent to the property boundary, the forest cover is mature and offers a relatively open view into the property, confirming that any construction on the upper elevations would in fact be visible from the Trail. We stopped to enjoy the view from the AT, with the Rice Creek property prominent in the viewshed [photo below]. The trip was an excellent opportunity for collaboration, as well as a fun day of hiking.”
— Michelle Pugliese, SAHC Land Protection Director