Roan Stewardship 2022

Formed by a tight cluster of mountains straddling the NC and TN border, the Roan Massif (also known as the Highlands of Roan), requires commitment and coordination between federal and state agencies, widespread organizations, local clubs and landowners, and passionate volunteers. SAHC’s Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett leads partnership efforts in long-term management of this  treasured place.

We hosted a successful -return to- group volunteer work this summer, with events including the annual Grassy Ridge Mow-Off, NC Bridge Crew work, and the inaugural Round Bald Rubus Round-Up, all of which focused on controlling blackberry and other woody encroachment into Appalachian grassy bald habitat that supports globally rare plants and endemic species.

“Thank you to our amazing SAHC volunteers who restored over 18 acres of Appalachian grass balds this summer,” says Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett. “This work was supported by grant funding from our partners at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the National Forest Foundation, and we are very grateful for their support.”

SAHC and our partners at Appalachian Trail Conservancy, U.S. Forest Service, and the Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club continued to host a seasonal Roan Naturalist along the Appalachian Trail this summer. This year’s Roan Naturalist, Thomas Hatling, hiked back and forth across the stretch of the AT across the Roan to meet and educate hikers about the importance of Leave No Trace principles and the unique and fragile nature of the ecosystems found here. He also assisted with Roan management throughout the summer.

Gray’s Lily Monitoring

Early this year, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy staff and volunteers joined partners in the Highlands of Roan for training by Dr. Matt Estep and Ben Brewer of Appalachian State University in how to monitor Gray’ lily for lily leaf spot disease.

Gray’s lily is a rare wildflower endemic to the region which grows only at high mountain elevations and blooms in meadows, bogs, and forests in early summer. This rare – and striking – red flower was first identified by and named for prominent botanist Asa Gray. Over the past several years, Gray’s lily populations have been suffering from lily leaf spot, a fungal disease that may be spread by contact. Lily leaf spot disease kills juveniles and reduces reproduction in adults, creating a grim forecast for the future of these beautiful blooms. We look forward to gathering data this fall to see how the plants monitored this year have fared; teams will re-survey the Roan to look at long-term viability.

Birdathon – Thank YOU!

We extend enormous gratitude to our partners at Blue Ridge Audubon Chapter and to all the Birdathon 2022 participants for raising over $15,000 for restoring and managing bird habitat. This year’s Birdathon supports SAHC’s efforts in managing habitat for Golden-winged Warblers in the Highlands of Roan. The Golden-winged Warbler is a neotropical migratory songbird with populations in sharp decline, particularly suffering from loss of habitat. SAHC has been protecting and managing habitat in the Roan Highlands for more than 10 years  to support Golden-winged Warblers along with associated species. The Birdathon contribution will help expand these efforts in the Roaring Creek Valley.

“We are looking forward to using these funds to manage habitat for Golden-winged Warblers in Roaring Creek this fall, and to surveying the results next spring” says Marquette. “Thank you for raising this generous contribution to support SAHC’s habitat management and restoration work for this climate sensitive species.”

Perspective: Roan Naturalist Thomas Hatling

Serving as the Roan Naturalist not only enabled me to spend the summer working in one of the world’s most gorgeous settings, it gave me the opportunity to help inform people about the importance of mitigating human impacts on the fragile ecosystems of the Roan. Through lack of awareness about the importance and fragility of the grassy summits, visitors may inadvertently cause negative impacts on Roan, despite feeling an innate love for the mountain. The Roan Naturalist position lets people know about the rare plants and animals of the Roan Highlands and how to reduce our impacts as visitors, answer people’s questions, and create signage in problem areas to encourage visitors to Leave No Trace. .

This summer I spoke to thousands of visitors about Leave No Trace principles. This is key to helping the rare plants and animals of the Roan thrive. Leave No Trace boils down to these  straightforward principles:

  • Plan ahead and prepare.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  • Dispose of waste properly.
  • Leave what you find.
  • Minimize campfire impacts
    (be careful with fire).
  • Respect wildlife.
  • Be considerate of other visitors.

I encourage everyone who enjoys the outdoors to remember these core principles and always put them into practice!  A key part of enjoying the outdoors is respecting the environment around you and saving that beauty for others and generations to come.