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Haw Orchard Ridge – 51 Acres Protected

SAHC Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese on Haw Orchard Ridge

SAHC Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese on Haw Orchard Ridge

In November 2019, SAHC purchased 51 acres on a prominent ridge near the Appalachian Trail in the Highlands of Roan. The Haw Orchard Ridge property adjoins Pisgah National Forest, rising to over 5,400 ft. just south of Roan High Knob. It is visible from the Appalachian Trail at Round Bald and Grassy Ridge Bald.

“Haw Orchard Ridge protects a portion of the well known red spruce-Fraser fir stand which stretches from Roan High Knob to Carvers Gap,” says Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett. “This spruce-fir stand is used by numerous rare high elevation species including Red crossbill, Northern Saw-whet Owl, and Pygmy Salamander. It is also inhabited by federally endangered species including the Carolina Flying Squirrel and the Spruce-Fir Moss Spider.  We hope that our protection of this property and restoration work will help to create a safe haven for these climate sensitive species.”

Haw Orchard Ridge and Roan Highlands mapSAHC will manage the land as a nature preserve, restoring conifer habitat for birds with a recently awarded grant from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Land Trust Bird Conservation Initiative.

“Protecting Haw Orchard Ridge has been a priority of SAHC’s for decades,” says Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. “Securing the rare high elevation habitat found on this property, bordering Pisgah National Forest and just down the mountain from the Appalachian Trail, is a great conservation achievement. We are so grateful to all of our supporters, philanthropic leaders Fred and Alice Stanback, and the Conservation Trust for North Carolina for providing funding to make this acquisition possible.”

Scenic view photo above taken from Jane Bald on the Appalachian Trail, by Travis Bordley. Haw Orchard Ridge sits just below Roan High Knob, sandwiched between Round Bald (foreground) and Roan High Bluff (background). 

Virtual Tour of Haw Orchard Ridge

SAHC and our partners at the Southern Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative are working to restore spruce-fir forests on this preserve, with support from a small grant program from the Cornell Land Trust Bird Conservation Initiative and the Land Trust Alliance. On a bright spring morning, our staff was thrilled to do the initial bird point count surveys for this property. How many species can you hear calling in the video?

PLEASE NOTE: The camera could not pickup all the bird calls that were being heard at that time. For example; at 0:28 Marquette identifies a ruffed grouse off in the distance while the camera only detects the call of a dark eyed junco. Similarly at 2:10 Marquette identifies a Canada Warbler visually while you can hear the song of a veery.

Roan Recreation Updates 2019

We are working with Pisgah and Cherokee National Forests, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), and Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club (TEHCC) to address recreational impacts in and around Carver’s Gap and Grassy Ridge. This area, with easy access to stunning scenic views along the Appalachian Trail, has experienced significant increases in visitation. We joined these partners for two work days this summer, to repair and restore a section of the trail going up Jane Bald. In addition, new signage and interpretative materials are planned for 2020.

Over the course of the summer, Roan Naturalist Sarah Jones interacted with more than 8,500 people on the Appalachian Trail. Sarah taught visitors about the ecology of the Roan Highlands and the role that SAHC and other partners play in protecting the landscape.  She shared Leave No Trace ethics and provided support for hikers of all levels. We are very appreciative to our friends at the ATC and the TEHCC for their support of this position.

College Students Volunteer in the Roan

Students from Mars Hill University and Warren Wilson College joined us this spring for a Golden-winged Warbler habitat management workday and camping trip along the Appalachian Trail in the Highlands of Roan.

The energetic volunteers cleared downed tree limbs and lopped saplings to create ideal breeding ground for this threatened species of neo-tropical migratory songbirds. Read more

Hump Mtn Transfer to Cherokee Nat’l Forest

Close-up of fall leaves on the meadow on the Hump Mountain conservation property.

We have transferred 324 acres on the TN slopes of Hump Mountain to the Cherokee National Forest in the Highlands of Roan, the upper edge of the property extends just 500 ft from the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT). Nearby, the AT passes across the grassy balds atop Hump Mountain, affording hikers breathtaking 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape.

“This is an outstanding example of how federal, state and private partners can work together to achieve common goals,”said JaSal Morris, Forest Supervisor, Cherokee National Forest.  “The purchase is a great addition, not only to the Cherokee National Forest land base, but to the entire National Forest System. It will be managed for protection of its exceptional natural resources and the public’s enjoyment of its scenic beauty.”

Read more

2018 Roan Naturalist Travis Bordley

Former AmeriCorps service member Travis Bordley stepped into our Roan Naturalist boots this summer.  Travis spent the majority of his time from May to August on the Appalachian Trail between Carvers Gap and 19 E, recording data, educating hikers, and helping manage negative impacts to the Roan’s fragile, globally important ecosystems.

In total, he observed over 12,600 hikers in the Roan, and had interpretive, educational discussions with more than 4,000 people.

“There were days where I couldn’t believe my eyes at the steady stream of people pouring onto the trail,” says Travis. “These moments made me fear for the sensitive habitat in the area. There were also slow days when visitor usage was low, and I was able to genuinely connect with people.” Read more

Marshall Watershed – 541 Acres Protected

In northwest Madison County, 541 secluded acres of forest filter miles of clean mountain streams that once provided drinking water to town residents. We worked with the Town of Marshall to permanently protect the Marshall Watershed property with a conservation easement — our sixth project to conserve municipal watershed lands. The Clean Water Management Trust Fund awarded SAHC a grant to protect this tract and its outstanding water resources.

“The Town of Marshall has been committed for years to preserving the Marshall Watershed from development,” said town attorney Jamie Stokes, on behalf of the Town of Marshall. “We are proud to have finalized this project, with the assistance and dedication of SAHC, so that this beautiful landscape and the natural resources thereon will be preserved for many generations to come.” Read more

Big Rock Creek Preserve – New Addition!

We purchased 21 wooded acres in the Highlands of Roan just south of the TN border in Mitchell County, securing a gateway to connect our existing Big Rock Creek conservation properties with Pisgah National Forest.

“This is another Roan success story that protects habitat for birds and native trout – with the added benefit of providing access and educational opportunities for connecting people with land,” says Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett. Read more

Conservation Leadership Corps on the Roan

On Tuesday, June 21, we were invited to assist the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Conservation Leadership Corps and Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club (TEHCC) with trail improvements leading to Jane Bald in the Highlands of Roan. Our Roan AmeriCorps member Travis Bordley and CTNC Diversity in Conservation intern Tamia Dame had a lively work day with eager interns from widespread home locations, including New Orleans, Dallas, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Carl Fritz, representing TEHCC, explained how recent rain has eroded gravel from sections of the Appalachian Trail, causing large puddles to form along some stretches. This has led hikers to form a secondary path to the right of the Trail. The mission on this workday was to restore the designated trail and discourage off-trail hiking by barricading the secondary path. Read more

324 Acres on TN slopes of Hump Mountain — Now Protected!

northern slopes of Hump Mtn

324 acres on the northern, TN slopes of Hump Mountain – Now Protected!

On May 19, we purchased 324 acres in the Highlands of Roan — permanently protecting the northern slopes of Hump Mountain just 500 ft. from the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT)! The property, adjoining Cherokee National Forest and Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area, has been a conservation priority for SAHC and our partners at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and the US Forest Service for decades.

“Our purchasing this tract ensures that future generations of hikers will be able to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the AT on Hump Mountain,” said Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “This property has been one of our top conservation priorities since the founding of our organization, and we are deeply proud of having worked with the landowners and our partners to acquire it.” Read more

Mars Hill University students manage habitat in the Roan

Near the end of their Spring semester, a group of dedicated Mars Hill University (MHU) students spent a Saturday volunteering for “the good of a bird that can fit in the palm of your hand,” according to workday organizer Travis Bordley, SAHC’s Roan AmeriCorps member.

Led by Professor Laura Boggess, the thirteen student volunteers helped manage habitat for Golden-winged Warblers (GWWA) along the Appalachian Trail in the Highlands of Roan. The workday was supported with a license plate grant from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC).

“With the support from Laura and the ATC, the volunteer engagement for this workday was at an all time high,” said Travis. “Now THAT is the kind of hustle we like to see from the future leaders of conservation in our landscape.” Read more

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