The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy recently closed on purchasing 139 acres for permanent conservation, adjoining the Pisgah National Forest Bent Creek Experimental Forest in Enka, south of Asheville. The property is known as Scott’s Ridge after its mile-long ridgeline bordering the national forest. SAHC will own and manage the property for the long term as a nature preserve.
“The property was being marketed for residential real estate development, and developers were making offers to buy the property,” explains Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “But thankfully, the seller Enka Land Development One LLC, sold the property to SAHC instead. With development continuing to intensify around Asheville, conserving these 139 acres is a major ‘win’ for wildlife habitat, water quality and scenic views.”
The tract ranked as a high priority in SAHC’s conservation-planning process completed several years ago, because of its relatively large size and long boundary with the national forest. Conserving it provides an undeveloped forest buffer for Bent Creek Experimental Forest, improving connectivity for wildlife to move and migrate, and for plants and animals to adapt to climate change.
The property contains headwaters of two streams. Development could have degraded water quality in nearby streams and Enka Lake.
“Mature forests on the tract act as a sponge that soaks up and disperses water from increasingly intense rain events that accompany the warming climate,” continues Silverstein. “Protecting these forests from development helps reduce flooding from storms and avoid creating runoff and sedimentation from development.”
At 3,000-feet in elevation, the ridgeline is prominent in the view from all around Enka, including Hominy Valley Park, AB Tech Enka campus, and Enka High School. Scenic views of the mountain and its vibrant fall foliage will continue to be enjoyed by people in the area.
Over the coming months, SAHC will create a comprehensive land management plan for the property, following national Land Trust Standards and Practices. Eventually SAHC foresees leading periodic guided hikes, habitat management workdays, and educational programs on the new preserve.
“More than 430 households contributed to this conservation effort, raising $1.8 million towards the purchase,” adds Silverstein. “It was an SAHC ‘first’ in the amount of crowd-sourced funding for a major land acquisition. The total purchase price for the property was $2,500,000, with funding for the purchase made possible by this enormous crowd-funding effort and a wonderful gift by the Stanback family. We are grateful to all the generous conservation-minded folks who made permanent protection of this land possible.”