On Tuesday December 3, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, Haywood County Agricultural Advisory Board, and The Conservation Fund received Haywood Waterways Association’s Pigeon River Award, an award honoring individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to protecting land and water resources in Haywood County. SAHC has been conserving land in the county since the early 1990s — from the first conservation easement at Cataloochee Ranch to recent protection of 139 acres in the Beaverdam watershed and 50 acres in Crabtree.
“Haywood County is such a special place, and we are lucky to have so many great organizations, landowners, community leaders, and funders working to permanently protect its land and water resources – it takes all of us,” says Conservation Director Hanni Muerdter. “We’re honored to receive the Pigeon River Award along with wonderful partners at Haywood County Agricultural Advisory Board and The Conservation Fund. SAHC will continue to team with partners and willing landowners to protect the scenic vistas, wildlife corridors, fertile soils, and land securing clean water in Haywood.”
To date, SAHC has protected 38 properties in Haywood County, totaling over 12,100 acres. Some of the organization’s most notable conservation projects in the county include: SAHC’s first conservation easement project, which was accomplished at Cataloochee Ranch on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1993; the addition of 240 acres to the Cold Mountain Game Lands; 7,300 acres of the Waynesville Watershed, a NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund project in partnership with the Conservation Trust for NC; and 874 acres in the Town of Canton’s Rough Creek Watershed, another Clean Water Management Trust Fund project, which provides miles of hiking and mountain biking trails for public use.
In the past 12 months, SAHC has purchased 187 acres behind the I-40 rest area in the Pigeon River Gorge near Hurricane Ridge to protect animal habitat in an important wildlife corridor; 139 acres in the Beaverdam Watershed area of Haywood County, linking the Town of Canton’s Rough Creek watershed property with an existing SAHC preserve at Doubleside Knob; and 50 acres in Crabtree near the Buncombe/Haywood county line in order to protect corridors for wildlife movement, water quality, scenic views, and farmland. Last December, SAHC also completed agricultural conservation easement projects protecting 385 acres of multi-generational family farmland in Rogers Cove in Crabtree.
“Permanently protecting areas of low-impact use reduces land use pressure, stormwater impacts, and the consequent degradation of water quality,” says Eric Romaniszyn, executive director of Haywood Waterways Association. “We appreciate and support SAHC’s work and all our Haywood County partners to protect these lands, and in turn, maintain the high quality of our watersheds.”
SAHC is grateful for the support of many partners and contributors who make these projects possible, including our members, private donors, The Pigeon River Fund of The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund, N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Services.