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Doll Branch – 62 Acres Protected

Doll Branch Tract, photo courtesy Southwings

Doll Branch tract, aerial photo courtesy Southwings and Dennis Oakley of Carolinas’ Nature Photographers Association

Trout and AT hikers can rejoice – another piece of the Roan has been permanently protected!

We purchased 62 acres at Doll Branch in the Highlands of Roan this summer, protecting exceptional habitat and scenic mountain views in Carter County, TN. The land adjoins Cherokee National Forest and is less than ½ mile from the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT). 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

Invasive Feral Hogs Continue to Threaten the Roan

We are entering the fifth year of coordinated efforts to manage invasive feral hogs in the Highlands of Roan. These invasive feral hogs damage the fragile, globally important ecosystems of the Roan as they “root,” eating rare species and tearing up the terrain.  They also spread multiple diseases and pose a safety threat to outdoor recreation enthusiasts.

In November, the Feral Hog Working Group, part of our ongoing collaborative Roan Stewardship efforts, met at the SAHC office to discuss updates and plan future work.

“Since feral hogs can have devastating impacts on plants and wildlife, as well as human and livestock health, the situation requires coordinating a broad group of partners,” explains Marquette Crockett, SAHC’s Roan Stewardship Director. “This includes federal and state agencies in both NC and TN.” 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

Tech Update for the Roan

Grassy Balds Management gets a Tech Update

Ilan Bubb interned with us this summer through the Duke University Stanback Intern program. He is earning his Masters of Environmental Management at the Nicholas School of the Environment.

Ilan did a “needs assessment” and GIS modeling project to assist with an update to the Environmental Assessment for grassy balds management in the Highlands of Roan. The Environmental Assessment is a plan which has helped guide stewardship efforts in the Roan for decades. He ground-truthed both restoration and maintenance targets in this plan. He visited GPS-referenced points within the Roan landscape and photographed each area so we can evaluate the effectiveness of stewardship efforts.

In addition, Ilan assisted with volunteer workdays, including our annual Grassy Ridge Mow-Off, to help manage the Roan’s precious ecosystems.

Yellow Spot – 234 Acres Protected

This summer we purchased 234 acres in the Highlands of Roan, securing high elevation wildlife habitat and permanently protecting a corridor linking our Tompkins Preserve with Pisgah National Forest in Mitchell County. This acquisition at Yellow Spot protects rare plant and animal habitat, wildlife corridors, scenic views, and sources of clean water along an important high elevation ridgeline.

“This property contains a remarkable combination of features that have made it a conservation priority for decades,” explains Marquette Crockett, SAHC’s Roan Stewardship Director. “We conserve some properties to preserve exceptional water quality and native trout habitat and we protect others because they contain rare, high elevation open areas or exceptional forest habitat – but Yellow Spot has everything. It’s a microcosm of the Roan Highlands. SAHC’s acquisition of this tract secures a perfect puzzle piece, surrounded by National Forest and protecting the main spine of the Roan Massif.” Read more

Help prevent lily leaf spot disease

Healthy Gray’s Lily

If you’re out traipsing high elevation mountains and meadows across WNC this July, you might spy the stunning red-orange trumpet of a Gray’s lily (Lilium grayi) bloom. Please look but don’t touch! This rare native flower has been suffering from a fungal disease that may be spread by contact. The Lily Leaf Spot Disease kills juveniles and reduces reproduction in adults, creating a grim forecast for the future of these beautiful blooms.

First identified by famous American botanist Asa Gray in the Highlands of Roan in 1840, Gray’s lily occurs at high elevations in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, on grassy balds and in moist forests and wet meadows. They bloom in June and July, creating brilliant displays beloved by nature photographers and naturalists. Already listed as Threatened in NC, Gray’s lily populations have been suffering from the wide spread of disease caused by the fungal phytopathogen Pseudocercosporella inconspicua. Indications of the disease occur as tan spots on the leaves, stems, and reproductive portions of the lily. SAHC, in partnership with the US Forest Service and Appalachian Trail Conservancy, recently posted educational signs along the Appalachian Trail in the Highlands of Roan to raise awareness about the Gray’s lily and try to slow spread of the disease. impacts other native lilies, including Canada and Turk’s Cap lily, but Gray’s lily seems to be most susceptible.

Read more

Big Rock Creek Volunteer Work Day

On April 28, 2018, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and Nature Valley partnered with us for a volunteer work day at our Big Rock Creek Preserve, surrounded by national forest land and public recreation hotspots in the Highlands of Roan. In addition to the area’s rare habitats and unique species, SAHC’s Big Rock Creek Preserve – once the home of TrailRidge Mountain Camp — provides a great space for people to connect with protected conservation lands.  A total of 35 volunteers showed up for the work day and tackled a variety of tasks around the preserve to help better connect people with nature. The crew of volunteers represented programs from across the region, including Western Carolina University, East Tennessee State University, AmeriCorps Project Conserve, Conservation Trust for North Carolina, and Asheville Women Outdoors.

The volunteers broke into smaller groups to work on tasks, which included building a quarter mile loop trail, deconstructing an old camping platform, transplanting rhododendron, and seeding an open area with native grasses.  

Jeff Hunter of NPCA led one of the trail crews to clear and grade the first segment of the trail. Jeff has extensive experience in building trails and volunteers learned a lot by working with him.  

Building the trail was an eye opening experience, I have hiked on trails for years and years, but had no idea the amount of work and love that goes into making and maintaining them. Now, when I am looking at a trail I can identify the mineral soil, what is a good slope, and where water may end up pooling; all things I never would have noticed prior to the Big Rock Creek Workday.  It was definitely a Saturday well spent!” -Emily Adler

The trail crew also built two sets of steps and cleared fallen trees. By the end of the day, all major obstacles had been cleared from the trail, creating a strolling path for SAHC’s educational programs and guests to use to explore the property.

On another portion of the preserve, volunteers worked in the open area surrounding our new camping platform.  Volunteers cleared the area around the platform, then spread seeds and transplanted rhododendron along the border. We hope to see this area sprouting native grasses and wildflowers in the next few weeks.

In only 5 hours, all of the tasks were completed and everyone took a walk on the newly built trail together.  We shared stories about what led us to volunteer and reflected on the importance of environmental stewardship.  Thank you to everyone who participated or supported this work day. We couldn’t do it without you!

Big Cove Creek

Appreciating the beauty and ecological importance of the Highlands of Roan, Ben and Leah Sherman recently donated 15 acres in Carter County, TN to SAHC for us to protect forever from development. The property adjoins Cherokee National Forest and can be seen from the Appalachian Trail. Located a scant quarter mile from our Little Cove Creek Preserve, the new preserve borders national forest land at the foot of Wolf Ridge, a high elevation ridgeline that descends from Roan High Knob.

“In 2001, we fell in love with the property adjacent to Cherokee National Forest, at the base of Wolf Ridge on the north side of Roan High Knob,” shared the former landowners Ben and Leah Sherman. “For more than 10 years we raised our young boys among the rocks and creeks and the cozy shadows of The Roan.”

“When we had to relocate, we knew we wanted to conserve as much of the land as possible. We were aware of SAHC before buying the land and increasingly learned of the good work SAHC does protecting so many beautiful areas. We are so happy SAHC will protect this property for future generations.”

Although small in acreage, the property contains significant habitat and water resources. More than half of the property is covered by open areas and early successional forest, which could potentially serve as habitat for rare species such as the Golden-winged Warbler. Nearly 1,000 feet of streams flow through it, including a portion of Big Cove Creek, one of the headwater tributaries of the Doe River.  The Doe River watershed is popular for trout fishing.

Near the new preserve in every direction there are public lands popular for recreation — Roan Mountain State Park to the north, Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area to the east, and the Appalachian Trail and national forests to the west and south.

We are very grateful to Ben and Leah Sherman for donating this land for permanent conservation, and to Brad and Shelli Stanback for donating funds for transaction costs and long-term stewardship of the property.

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