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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.

Roan Stewardship 2021

Volunteer Days, Bird Surveys, and Public Education

Spring and summer atop the Highlands of Roan stayed busy with active habitat management work days, biological surveys, and more. We’re grateful to all the volunteers who helped with stewardship and outing projects this year, and to all the supporters and partners who make it possible to preserve and restore rare and important ecosystems.

“We’re so glad to have been able to come back together as a group with the return of the annual Grassy Ridge Mow-off,” said Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett. “I think everyone really enjoyed the camaraderie of working together again! We’re very grateful to all the volunteers who came out. Plus, we enjoyed a pleasant surprise — everything bloomed a couple weeks later this year than usual, so we were able to see numerous Gray’s lily blooming in areas that were mowed by volunteers in previous years.. It was also the first time I’ve been on a mow-off without the rain!”

SAHC Board member Larry Pender joined in volunteering at the Mow-off again this year, reflecting on his time as “Celebrating the great outdoors with a heart healthy hike across the Roan and a momentous, meaningful mow atop the Grassy Ridge of the Roan!”

The National Forest Foundation awarded a $15,000 grant to support our grassy balds management work The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) awarded two license plate grants to SAHC, totaling $10,000 to support feral hog trapping in the Roan. SAHC staff continue to implement a previous ATC grant of $4,700 which will support the  installation of educational “peakfinder” signage on Round Bald. Read more

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

Golden-winged Warbler Working Group

Birdwatching with Working Group membersIn Spring 2019, the Southern Appalachian Golden-winged Warbler Working Group, consisting of more than 10 agencies and organizations, met in the Roan Highlands to discuss landscape-scale conservation measures, including strategic land protection and cooperative management projects. SAHC was proud to host the group on our preserves and to assist with touring iconic public lands across the Roan. Read more

2018 June Jamboree

Registration for the 2018 June Jamboree has now closed.

The Social

Time:  2-4 pm

After your adventure on your Jamboree outing be sure to stop by our afternoon social where friends and family can gather and share hike experiences while learning about SAHC’s recent accomplishments, including land protection and stewardship news. Drinks and light refreshments will be provided.

This years social will be at our Big Rock Creek Preserve.  The Big Rock Creek property, formerly the home of Trailridge summer camp, contains 127 acres of unique high elevation habitat and streams.  There will be a short, newly constructed trail that will be ready for walking – this trail was possible thanks to SAHC volunteers, the National Parks Conservation Association and Nature Valley!

The Hikes/Outings

*Hike Key Note: Hikes are rated 1-10 (greater than 10 for extremely difficult hikes). A rating of 5 is considered moderate, 10 difficult, and 1 extremely easy. We come up with this number by putting the hike elevation change and mileage into this formula: (0.002 x elevation gain (ft.)) + Round trip distance (miles) = Difficulty rating (1-10).

What to Bring: Water bottle, sturdy footwear, gear/clothing relevant for your specific outing, and a bag to carry personal items. Weather in the Roan can change quickly, so you may want to bring sunscreen, a rain jacket, and multiple layers. Most hikes will have an opportunity to stop for lunch along the way — please plan to bring your own lunch.

#1 Hike and Yoga

Location: SAHC’s Dr. William Davenport Preserve, Highlands of Roan

Start Time: 11 am | Est. End Time: 1 pm

Leader: Lauren McTigue | Difficulty: Easy (2/10)* – No yoga experience req’d

Join us for a peaceful yoga session in the Highlands of Roan, surrounded by scenic views protected by SAHC. The session will be on the Dr. William A. Davenport Tract, which was acquired by SAHC in 2014.  This property had been an SAHC top priority for 45 years before it was conserved! The yoga session will be led by SAHC’s Connecting People with Lands Associate, Lauren McTigue. Lauren has a 500 hour yoga certification in Anusara and Natural Movement Yoga. Students of all levels will enjoy a soothing, relaxing, and restorative experience.

#2 Roll and Stroll at the Rhododendron Garden

Location: Rhododendron Gardens, Highlands of Roan

Start Time: 11 am | Est. End Time: 1 pm

Leader: Amanda Smithson, Mountain Region Trails Specialist with NC Parks and Recreation  | Difficulty: Easy (2/10)* – 1 mile

The Rhododendron Gardens on top of the Roan will be blazing with color this time of year. Participants will stroll approx. 1 mile across gentle terrain with stunning views of the Roan landscape. On this leisurely walk, participants will learn about a number of SAHC’s land protection projects that can be viewed from the gardens. This family-friendly offering is designed to provide people of all abilities with an opportunity to get outside and enjoy some of the properties that SAHC has diligently worked to protect over the last four decades.  This trail is paved and wheelchair/stroller accessible.

#3 Challenge Hike: Shell Creek – Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area –

**This Hike is Full – to inquire about the waitlist, please email emily@appalachian.org.**

Location: Shell Creek Community Start Time: 9 am | Est. End Time: 3 pm

Leader: Tom Gatti | Difficulty: Strenuous (9-10) * – 7 miles

This challenge hike will begin on the new 324-acre Hump Mountain tract that SAHC protected in May of 2017! This piece of land was an SAHC priority for over 40 years.   From Shell Creek you will hike up to Bradley Gap and then traverse along the Appalachian Trail over Little Hump Mountain into Yellow Mountain Gap and down into SAHC’s Hampton Creek Cove Property! The hike will be about 7 miles and will traverse beautiful grassy balds! Hiking along the balds, there is the chance for views in all directions of Yellow Mountain and Grassy Ridge to the west and Grandfather and Linville Gorge to the East.  Along the route there could be Gray’s lilies in full bloom, and migratory birds flitting around the edges of the balds.

#4 AT: Iron Mountain Gap – Big Rock Creek

Location: Iron Mountain Gap

Start Time: 9 am | Est. End Time: 2 pm

Leader: Michelle Durr, Roan Outreach Americorps Member | Difficulty: Strenuous (9-10) * – 8 miles

This eight mile challenge hike begins on the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee and ends in North Carolina. The forested hike will start at Iron Mountain Gap and end right at the June Jamboree Party on the Big Rock Creek Preserve.  The eight mile route takes you through an old apple orchard and has views of Pinnacle Mountain and Unaka Mountain. The hike will be uphill with a few steep sections until the descent into Big Rock Creek.  There is the chance for beautiful summer flowers!

#5 Plant Inventory Walk

Location: Little Cove Creek near Roan Mountain State Park

Start Time: 11 am | Est. End Time: 2 pm

Leader: Susan Fruchey| Difficulty: Moderate (3-4) * – 2 miles

Join Susan Fruchey, a US Forest Service Botanist, as she leads participants on a plant inventory of SAHC’s Little Cove Creek Preserve in the Highlands of Roan.  The hike will be about two miles, and Susan will be able to identify the flora that makes this property their home.  The hike will also pass a waterfall and many beautiful natural features. The inventory can tell us if there are any rare species and if they are being threatened by invasives, recreational impacts, or climate change.  Knowing that about the populations in an area is important for protecting species and maintaining a healthy, biodiverse ecosystem. Plan on a leisurely, educational stroll!

#6 Carvers Gap to Grassy Ridge

**This Hike is Full – to inquire about the waitlist, please email emily@appalachian.org.**

Location: Carvers Gap

Start Time: 10 am | Est. End Time: 2 pm

Leader: Gary Kauffman   | Difficulty: Strenuous (7-8) * – 5 miles

This classic and rewarding hike is full of adventure atop the highest elevation balds in the Highlands of Roan, widely considered among the most spectacular scenery along the Appalachian Trail. Grassy Ridge is the highest point near the AT, reaching a stunning 6,189 feet in elevation. Enjoy a natural, unobstructed 360-degree view and so much more — blooming rhododendron, flame azalea, patches of spruce fir forest and rare plants such as Gray’s lily and Roan Mountain bluets.

Along the way, Gary Kauffman, a US Forest Service Botanist, will discuss the significance of the balds and the best practices for managing this pristine habitat. For those hikers wishing for an easier hike, there is the option of hiking out to Round Bald or Jane Bald, to enjoy the flowers and expansive views, instead of going all the way to Grassy Ridge.  The hike is about 5 miles round trip! 

A Bird House Workday

For college students during the exam season, late November and early December can be riddled with stress, anxiety and wary nerves. Many students find that breaking from long hours in the library to spend time outside, for a breath of fresh air and a pause from the stress,  can actually boost effectiveness when they do return to their books.

The Environmental Science majors who came out to volunteer with us this month believed in this strategy. In the midst of stressful finals, ten students went up to our Bird House cabin at Grassy Ridge in the Highlands of Roan for a volunteer workday. Lead by Travis Bordley, our new AmeriCorps Roan Highlands Outreach and Volunteer Member, the group worked to improve Golden-winged Warbler habitat. Read more

Hampton Creek Cove, A Hidden Gem in Tennessee

 

HamptonCreekCove
The 693-acre Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area (HCC SNA) is a breathtaking haven for wildlife with ample opportunity for outdoor recreation. Time spent visiting the pastoral cove, trekking the miles of hiking trails, or fishing cold trout streams will be well spent. Check out these recent updates from the cove! Read more

NPCA/Nature Valley Work Day

group-photo-with-almost-all-of-the-nature-valley-work-crewWe hosted another successful volunteer workday in the Highlands of Roan, made possible by a generous grant from the National Parks Conservation Association and Nature Valley. Funding from this partnership has helped us accomplish land stewardship projects over the past several years.

Organized by our AmeriCorps Project Conserve Stewardship Associates and Highlands of Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett, 33 gracious volunteers gathered to get their hands dirty on our National Trails Tract. Read more

“For Love of Beer and Mountains” partners care for Grassy Ridge

hike_crewOn a brisk fall morning in October, a boisterous group of SAHC and Highland Brewing Company staff (and guests) met at the corner of Roaring Creek Road and 19 East, eager and excited for the busy “For Love of Beer & Mountains” partnership work day ahead. The plan included removing invasive species and restoring habitat for Golden-winged Warblers (neo-tropical migratory songbirds that nest in the Highlands of Roan). Good company with cheery spirits, a gorgeous day on Grassy Ridge, and delicious food combined to create the recipe for a great workday! Read more

Nature Valley/NPCA/SAHC partner in Highlands of Roan

naturevalleygroup.jpg“All good things are wild and free”  – Henry David Thoreau

The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy began some forty years ago with a mission to protect the Highlands of Roan. We don’t have a lot of places left that make us feel “wild and free” anymore, at least not in the way Thoreau implied. While we have constructed ways and means to feel these ideals, arguably none of them are as effective, or human, as standing atop an undeveloped landscape. The Roan is certainly wild and free, but only because of the hard work and care that so many people have contributed. Unfortunately we aren’t done yet. As long as we still face threats to our wild places, good people will keep working. SAHC is lucky enough to count many of these willing people among our ranks.

On Saturday October 19th, SAHC hosted a volunteer work day on our Grassy Ridge property within the Highlands of Roan. The day was a culmination of work sponsored through a grant from National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), who has partnered with Nature Valley to fund projects that benefit National Parks around America. Nature Valley also partnered with National Geographic travel journalist Andrew Evans to help document the importance of our project. Read more

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