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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

Smith Family Volunteers

smith family youth volunteersDavid and Melissa Smith and their children Otto, Clyde, and Asa spent a weekend managing grassy balds habitat at Grassy Ridge and camping under the stars together. It’s become something of a family tradition. Otto has been helping with the Grassy Balds Mow-Off since he was 5 years old and understands the importance of habitat management; now in high school, he asks about it every year before it’s even on the calendar. 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

Mowing Management for the Birds

Grassland birds are in trouble. As the grassland habitat needed for nesting and rearing their young continues to disappear, birds such as the Eastern Meadowlark, Grasshopper Sparrow, Dickcissel, and Bobolink found here in the Southeast are declining in numbers. So what can we do to help? Well, the good news is that the agricultural grasslands found throughout this region, such as hayfields, can provide the habitat these birds need to thrive with some simple management practices..

Ideally, hayfields should be mowed outside of the nesting season, which generally occurs from April to August. This prevents nests from being destroyed and ensures fledged young are developed enough to fly away. However, for economic reasons mowing often needs to occur during this period. If this is the case for you, consider implementing some or all of the following practices to contribute to the protection of birds and other wildlife who utilize this grassland habitat:

Practice rotational mowing. Maintain unmowed patches for wildlife habitat between areas being mowed and rotate which sections are mowed and unmowed each year. The size of mowed/unmowed sections should be determined based on your needs and field size, but remember that larger unmowed areas provide more wildlife habitat! For more info check out page 5 of this USDA leaflet:

Aim high! Set your mower as high as possible. However, even  4-8” off the ground can help save the lives of many grassland birds and other wildlife.

Leave uncut border fields. To allow for sufficient bird and wildlife cover allow a 10+ foot strip of hay to remain on the border of the field. This provides food along with nesting, escape, and brood cover. A wider border leads to less predation of nests.

Mow from the inside out. By mowing from the field center outward you can provide cover for birds as they escape to the edges of the field and prevent them from getting trapped in the center of the field during mowing.

Reduce mowing speed. This practice aids in giving birds the time to react and escape during a hay harvest.

Avoid night mowing. Birds are less likely to try to escape from the area being mowed during the night.

Use a flushing bar. This horizontal bar, attached in front of the blades of harvesting equipment, has chains that hang down and drag through the field to scare wildlife away from danger. This primarily helps to protect adult birds.

Roan Balds Management 2017

It takes a village to care for our mountains, and SAHC, our partners, and volunteers certainly made that happen this summer.  In less than four days of work, more than 25 volunteers cut blackberry from about seven acres of grassy and shrub bald habitat during our annual Grassy Ridge Mow-Off and Roany Boyz stewardship events. A big thank you to all the folks who came out to mow, to rake, to cook, and to photograph these events. They simply wouldn’t happen without you!

“After expecting rainy weather the weekend of the mow off, it was a pleasant surprise to have sunny skies and great views for much of the Grassy Ridge Mow-Off,” said Sarah Sanford, Duke Stanback Intern. “I really enjoyed meeting and working with such a wide variety of people, from folks who were there for the very first Grassy Ridge Mow-Off to brand new SAHC members. My favorite part was the views from our campsite on Grassy Ridge. Being part of the Grassy Ridge Mow-Off gave me a better perspective on the large scope of work that SAHC and its volunteers do to maintain the Roan Highlands.”

We would like to give a special thanks to the NC BRIDGE crew this year. In addition to hauling equipment to Grassy Ridge and Engine Gap for our volunteer events, they cleared 3.5 acres of grassy bald habitat and maintained 1.76 acres of early successional habitat on our Roan Mountain Gateway preserve. The BRIDGE (Building, Rehabilitating, Instructing, Developing, Growing, Employing) Program is a cooperative effort between the NC Forest Service and the NC Division of Prisons based out of Western Youth Institution in Morganton, NC. The primary goal of the program is to provide well-trained and equipped forest fire fighting crews ready at a moment’s notice. A secondary, but important, goal is to develop a strong work ethic and work skills so inmates will be able to secure a job when they are released.  For more than 20 years, BRIDGE has been crucial to our habitat management work. Every year, we are always privileged to witness the hard work, dedication, and professionalism exhibited by this crew.

Thank you all!

Poem below contributed by Bill Ryan, Roany Boyz Volunteer 2015-2017

The Roany Boyz  2001-

once a year
in one gap on the AT
in high summer
they gather

to work
to eat
to talk
to lay down ever wearier bodies to camp

some poetry
some stargazing
no campfire out of respect for the land

drinks just cool enough from the spring
work measured in tanks
dream images of blackberry and alder leaves interlacing

coming back to the same places
still trying to figure out why the balds were bald before them
eating a few early blueberries and seeking the elusive Gray’s lily

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

Sorrells Meadow

SAHC staff Caitlin, William, and Michelle atop Sorrells MeadowOn December 19, we assisted the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) with the purchase of 82 acres at Sorrells Meadow, to be added to the Cold Mountain Game Lands in Haywood County. With a remarkable mix of high elevation open meadow, forest communities, and pristine water sources, the property provides excellent wildlife habitat as well as opportunities for public recreation. It adjoins existing Cold Mountain Game Lands to the north and the Shining Rock Wilderness of Pisgah National Forest at its southern tip, within a quarter mile of the Art Loeb National Recreational Trail.

“Sorrells Meadow will be a crown jewel for the Cold Mountain Game Lands,” said Farmland Program Director William Hamilton. “The open meadow atop this 82-acre addition to the public game lands is one-of-a-kind in this area. If it had been developed, you would have been looking down on houses or condos from popular public trails. Now, that won’t happen.” Read more

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

Hurray for Volunteers! At Cataloochee Ranch with Nature Valley & NPCA

cataloochee-nature-valley-work-day-023.jpg31 volunteers and staff rallied to help the Smokies on Saturday, July 28.  In a partnership with Nature Valley (the granola bar company) and the National Parks Conservation Association, several SAHC projects are underway at the protected Cataloochee Ranch (directly adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park) to improve animal habitat, plant life and water quality.

On Saturday under a clear sky with beautiful views of the Plott Balsams, Mt. Pisgah, and the Smokies, volunteers improved an eroded section of popular trail mere meters from the border of Great Smoky Mountains Park.  Fueled by camaraderie and an endless supply of Nature Valley granola bars, volunteers used shovels and trail tools to reshape a badly incised section of trail into a good slope to efficiently shed water instead of catching sediment and carrying it to the streams. Read more

Grassy Ridge Mow-off — Success!

img_3090.jpgA message from Roan Stewardship Director Judy Murray:

“I am happy to report that Grassy Mow-off 2012 was a rousing success!  What the 23 volunteers and our Field Ecologist Chris Coxen were able to accomplish far exceeded my expectations!  They re-treated three large areas, and were able to track their progress over time. 

A true labor of love for this treasured resource, and one that continues to go down in the record books and the grassy balds database. Read more

Events

Grassy Ridge Mow-Off 2019

We need YOUR help on the mountain!

Camp out or come for a day. Join other volunteers as we work to maintain the globally rare grassy and shrub balds found on Grassy Ridge, one of the most beautiful and ecologically significant sites in the Roan Highlands. We’ll cut invasive blackberries and other shrubs using weed whackers and brush cutters. Enjoy great company, great food and great job satisfaction! Our annual Grassy Ridge Mow-Off is more than just a work day — it’s an incredible way to experience in the Highlands of Roan and to share cherished moments with friends.

Backpackers and day trippers are both welcome. The hike is about 2.5 miles one way, the camping is gorgeous, and we have a job suited to almost everyone. There are several different ways to help: cutting or raking blackberries, camp organization and cooking, taking photographs, and more.

Grassy Ridge Mow-Off Schedule:

Saturday, 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Campers arrive, set up your tent and return to the work site.

Saturday, 10:00 a.m. Day hikers arrive. Sign in/Orientation

Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Work time! (lunch break at 1 pm)

Saturday 4:00 p.m. – bedtime. Clean up and store equipment. Fun, Fellowship and Food time for campers!

Sunday 7:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. A short work day and pack out. *Everyone should be prepared to pack out group trash.

Please contact Marquette Crockett, Roan Stewardship Director at marquette@appalachian.org for more information about the work day or specific volunteer duties.

Sign up now to volunteer with us for the Grassy Ridge Mow-Off!

Roany Boyz (and Girlz) Volunteer Weekend

Join the Roany Boyz and Girlz in a weekend of jovial camaraderie while helping manage the grassy balds habitat at Engine Gap in the Highlands of Roan. Come for a day, or set up camp at Round Bald and stay for the weekend! For more info or to volunteer with the Roany crew, contact Carol Coffey at caroltee@aol.com.

Balds and Brews

What: Balds & Brews

When: Fri., August 11, 3:00 PM

Where: Balds presentation in Room 304, D.M. Brown Hall, ETSU, followed by Brews at JRH Brewing in Johnson City

Join us as SAHC’s Duke Stanback Intern Sarah Sanford presents her work cataloging the last three decades of grassy balds management in the Roan Highlands. Sarah will use GIS data, historic photographs, and interactive maps to portray the years of work performed by SAHC, our partners, and local volunteers.The presentation will also include a brief overview of the natural and cultural history of the Roan Highlands, from land conservation efforts to mountaintop festivals.

RSVP to presentation preferred. For more information or to RSVP, contact Pauline: pauline@appalachian.org or (828) 253-0095 x 216.

Following the presentation, join us for a cold brew at JRH Brewing in Johnson City. JRH is donating $1 of every pint to SAHC in support of our land and water conservation efforts! JRH Brewing is located at 458 West Walnut Street in Johnson City.

PARKING: There is a FREE Parking Garage located behind the Carnegie Hotel. From there you can use the walkway over State of Franklin and visit Brown Hall.

You are also able to apply for a ETSU parking pass online.  You can visit the parking services office or apply online for your parking permit: http://www.etsu.edu/bf/fs/parking/
JUST REMEMBER, when you register, it may give you the current day, not August 11.  If you print the day before please put 2 days to ensure it will cover August 11.

Also – the Little Chicago Downtown Music and Arts Festival is happening in Johnson City on Friday, so downtown parking will be busy. If you are planning to join us at JRH Brewing afterwards, walking to the brewery from ETSU may be your best option. JRH is less than 1 mile from ETSU.

Roany Boyz & Girlz Volunteer Weekend

Join the Roany Boyz and Girlz in a weekend of jovial camaraderie while helping manage the grassy balds habitat at Engine Gap in the Highlands of Roan. Come for a day, or set up camp at Round Bald and stay for the weekend! For more info or to volunteer with the Roany crew, contact Carol Coffey at caroltee@aol.com.

2017 Grassy Ridge Mow-Off

We need YOUR help on the mountain!

Camp out or come for a day. Join other volunteers as we work to maintain the globally rare grassy and shrub balds found on Grassy Ridge, one of the most beautiful and ecologically significant sites in the Roan Highlands. We’ll cut invasive blackberries and other shrubs using weed whackers and brush cutters. Enjoy great company, great food and great job satisfaction!

Backpackers and day trippers are both welcome. The hike is about 2.5 miles one way, the camping is gorgeous, and we have a job suited to almost everyone. There are several different ways to help: cutting or raking blackberries, camp organization and cooking, taking photographs, and more.

Grassy Ridge Mow-Off Schedule:

Saturday, 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Campers arrive, set up your tent and return to the work site.

Saturday, 10:00 a.m. Day hikers arrive. Sign in/Orientation

Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Work time! (lunch break at 1 pm)

Saturday 4:00 p.m. – bedtime. Clean up and store equipment. Fun, Fellowship and Food time for campers!

Sunday 7:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. A short work day and pack out. *Everyone should be prepared to pack out group trash.

Please contact Marquette Crockett, Roan Stewardship Director at marquette@appalachian.org for more information about the work day or specific volunteer duties.