Sunset in the Roan

Strategic Planning 2021-25

SAHC logoOver the past year, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy has engaged in a planning process to update our 5-year organization strategic plan. Staff, Board and committee members, and other stakeholders joined in input and feedback throughout the course of several months, and we are please to share updates from this strategic planning process, which provides a guiding framework for deepening our commitment to conservation and professional excellence.

SAHC Mission Statement

The mission of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy is to conserve the unique plant and animal habitat, clean water, farmland, scenic beauty, and places for all people to enjoy outdoor recreation in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, enduring for future generations. We achieve this through long-term conservation relationships with private landowners and public agencies and owning and managing land. We are committed to creating and supporting equitable, healthy and thriving communities for everyone in our region.

SAHC Vision Statement

Aerial photo

Aerial photo courtesy of SouthWings and Dennis Oakley, Carolinas’ Nature Photographers Association

We envision a green corridor of protected mountains and valleys from Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the Highlands of Roan, providing a resilient network of intact habitat for plants and animals, which enables them to thrive and respond to climate change; sources of clean water for healthy ecosystems and people; sufficient places for all people to enjoy outdoor recreation for their health and wellbeing, including welcoming those who have not traditionally been served by land conservation; scenic beauty for the benefit of present and future generations; and opportunities for sustainable economic development. A network of protected mountain farms will sustain local food production and pass on the agricultural heritage of the Southern Appalachians to future generations. The region’s cultural heritage will be a valued and prominent part of the community fabric.

SAHC will continue to be a leader among land trusts, recognized locally and nationally for our excellence, transparency, and integrity in protecting critical lands; partnering with landowners, organizations, public agencies and communities, and providing exemplary, enduring stewardship of land we own and conservation easements we hold. The land and water we conserve represents our legacy to future generations, and we will fight to defend it against all threats. The fragile globally significant ecosystems of the Highlands of Roan will be restored and effectively managed through partnerships convened and led by SAHC.

SAHC’s program of connecting all people with the land we protect will build and maintain a constituency of people who support conserving land. Through conserving land, SAHC will model best practices to positively affect local food systems, environmental issues, and adjust to climate change.

Roaring CreekSAHC will be an antiracist organization. SAHC will be a place where no one feels like an outsider and everyone is part of a team of people who value equity, justice and democracy. Every SAHC volunteer, staff member and leader will demonstrate a personal commitment and responsibility for breaking down inequities, building up justice, learning from the experiences of others and creating welcoming spaces for everyone to become involved.

SAHC’s organizational capacity including staffing, technology and infrastructure will match the rapid pace of our work and need for excellence in the services we provide. SAHC’s responsibilities will increase as the demand for our services grows. The better our staff is trained, equipped and supported, the better our community will be served.

SAHC will have a high-performing development program, supported by appropriate technology and capable of implementing the organization’s fundraising plan. We will grow contributions from individuals, corporations and business partners, private foundations, and public grants, additions SAHC’s endowments and long-term investments and returns on those funds, and in-kind contributions, merchandise sales, and revenue from events, property rentals and innovative sources such as stream restoration credits.

SAHC’s name will be widely recognized in households across our region and respected for our significant contributions to conservation.

Statement of Values and Ethics

Personal & Professional Integrity

All staff, board members and volunteers of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (“SAHC”) act with honesty, integrity and openness in all their dealings as representatives of SAHC. We embrace the highest ethical standards and promote a working environment that values respect, fairness, integrity, and transparency.


We are dedicated to making a positive impact for nature and our communities. Our success hinges on achieving the highest possible level of quality in every aspect of our work. Our reputation for excellence has enabled us to gain the respect of landowners, donors, organizational and government partners and the public, and to assume a leadership role in conservation in our region. We hold ourselves to the highest performance standards and employ the most advanced practices in conducting our work.


To accomplish all we have set out to do requires vision, resourcefulness, a responsible entrepreneurial spirit and adaptability to change. We solve problems creatively, aiming to achieve practical and meaningful conservation goals. We encourage original thought and its practical application.

Relationships and Partnerships

We work collaboratively among our staff, with our membership, donors and other supporters, and with many external partners including landowners, local communities, state and federal agencies. The quality of our relationships and partnerships is a critical determinant of our effectiveness. The scope and urgency of our mission requires that we reach out to all sectors of society – public and private – to forge strong, productive partnerships based on mutual benefit and trust. We succeed only through these combined efforts.

Equity, Inclusiveness & Diversity

We recognize historic inequities in the conservation field, access to land and ownership of land. These factors cause imbalance in communities, and we commit to purposeful action to correct them. Conservation is best advanced by the leadership and contributions of people of widely diverse backgrounds, experiences and identities.

We will recruit and develop staff to create a diverse, inclusive and equitable organization and:

  • Leverage our differences to be more effective in achieving our mission.
  • Respect and learn from our variety of experiences and ways of thinking.
  • Create a day-to-day workplace climate that welcomes & encourages each of us, valuing the contributions of all.
  • Strengthen the diversity of our workforce, governing, board and membership.

Responsible Stewardship

Responsible stewardship of conserved lands is a primary obligation of SAHC. The long-term care of protected land is an inextricable component of land conservation. Land and conservation easements are meaningfully conserved when we manage land properly and monitor and defend easements to prevent inappropriate uses that would damage or destroy the conservation values for which the lands are protected.

Conservation Ethic

SAHC seeks to instill a conservation ethic by connecting people with land. We seek to foster a conservation ethic by providing opportunities for people of diverse backgrounds to experience the restorative and intrinsic values of conserved land so that they will better understand and appreciate its many benefits and, in turn, become advocates for its preservation.

2021-2025 Strategic Planning Goals


priority lands that further our conservation mission.


land and conservation easements that SAHC holds, and lead the way in landscape-scale stewardship of the globally significant fragile ecosystems of the Highlands of Roan.


people with land for outdoor recreation, health, fitness, wellbeing, farming, livelihood and learning, striving to create equitable access to land for all people.


our organizational and financial capacity while supporting an equitable and inclusive culture in order to achieve our ambitious program goals and assure SAHC’s future sustainability to meet long-term responsibilities.


PDF view of 2021 strategic planning goals