2022 Grassy Balds Management – Grassy Ridge Mow-Off

We need YOUR help on the mountain! Grassy Ridge Mow-Off, July 23-24th

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 and great job satisfaction! Our annual Grassy Ridge Mow-Off is more than just a work day — it’s an incredible way to experience the Highlands of Roan and to share cherished moments with friends.

Backpackers and day trippers are both welcome.

We are also pleased to announce that in 2022, we will have car camping available at our Little Rock Creek Preserve (a 10 min drive from Carver’s Gap) for volunteers who are interested in coming out and camping nearby, but are not interested in backpack camping on Grassy Ridge. Please indicate your interest in either backpack camping or car camping on your registration, as this will help us plan staff and resources.

The hike to Grassy Ridge is about 2.5 miles one way, the views are gorgeous, and we have a job suited to almost everyone. There are several different ways to help: flagging rare plants, cutting or raking blackberries, camp organization, taking photographs, and more.

Grassy Ridge Mow-Off  Planned 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 and Fellowship 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 for more information about the work day or specific volunteer duties.

Registration for the 2022 Grassy Ridge Mow-Off is now CLOSED. Thank you!

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

Grassy Ridge Mow-Off

When: July 17 and 18

This year we will once again host our annual volunteer weekend to manage Appalachian grassy balds habitat in the Highlands of Roan.

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. 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.

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.

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

June Jamboree 2021

Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy’s annual June Jamboree is a celebration of land protection and resource management in the stunning Highlands of Roan. This year, we continue our annual celebration of outdoor recreation and conservation in the Roan Highlands, along with other SAHC focus areas, with a week-long schedule of virtual events as well as a month-long challenge to get involved in citizen-science! Join us for one or all of these events. Can’t make it? All events will be recorded and shared on our YouTube channel.

Straddling the Tennessee and North Carolina border, the tight cluster of peaks and ridges known as the Roan Massif is a showcase of globally significant biological diversity, punctuated by Appalachian grassy balds, rhododendron gardens, high-elevation rock outcrops, southern Appalachian bogs, and rich spruce-fir forests. The Roan’s ecosystems contain one of the richest repositories of temperate zone biodiversity on Earth.

View of grassy balds and mountain ridgesLunch & Learn: The Ecological and Human History of the Roan Massif’s Grassy Balds

Monday, June 7 at 12 pm

Presented by Travis Knowles

Roan Mountain’s grassy balds have delighted hikers for decades. They also represent a long, enduring mystery for ecologists and biogeographers. What explains their presence and persistence in this landscape and why are they so special?

This presentation will address what we know about these fabled grasslands’ history, including a summary timeline, as well as remaining uncertainties. We’ll examine these unique ecosystems in the context of protecting this landscape for the future. Join us for this FREE virtual event to learn more about the history of the Roan balds and have an opportunity to interact with a Roan expert.

Register for Zoom Presentation

Golden-winged Warbler in flightThree-part Video Tour of the Roan Highlands

Tuesday, June 8 via YouTube

Presented by Marquette Crockett and Travis Bordley

Join Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett and Roan Seasonal Ecologist Travis Bordley for a virtual journey through the Highlands of Roan, highlighting Golden-winged Warbler Habitat Management, Spruce-fir Habitat, and High Elevation Streams.

In this 3-segment video tour, you will discover what makes these Roan habitats unique and learn about interesting species that live here. Find out about active stewardship efforts, in which Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy works to manage or restore habitat. SAHC’s Roan Stewardship program manages and restores globally significant resources, working alongside many partners across the region. The Roan Highlands are one of the most biodiverse locations in our nation, and conservation of these irreplaceable resources is an ongoing process. SAHC serves as a leader in continued stewardship of these habitats in the face of climate change and other ecological threats. So, come take a tour with us and enjoy footage filmed on-the-ground during annual bird surveys, tree planting projects, and more!

Link to join Roan Highlands Video Tour premiere via YouTube – TBA

waterfall - photo credit Tim SweeneyLunch & Learn: 7500 acres in the Highlands of Roan, Now What?

Wednesday, June 9 at 12 pm

SAHC is thrilled to accept a generous donation of 7,500 acres in the Highlands of Roan in 2022, but what does it take to make that happen? Hear from our leadership team at SAHC to learn more about how this incredible project came to be and what steps SAHC is taking to ensure this remarkable landscape will be managed and protected for generations to come.

Register for Zoom Presentation

View of Roan with rhododendron and distant mountainsJune Jamboree Social via Zoom

Thursday, June 10 at 5:30 pm

Join us for this engaging and informative social hour where you will have the opportunity to hear updates about our program work. We will announce the 2020 Stan Murray Volunteer of the Year and recognize our Board of Trustees leaders. You won’t want to miss this fun virtual program filled with stunning photos and compelling stories.

Register for Zoom Social and Presentations

Sarge pauses on the hiking trail to identify plantsVirtual Hike Video Premiere

Friday, June 11 via YouTube

Join us AmeriCorps member Shaylyn “Sarge” Sargent for an informative virtual hike to learn more about biodiversity in our region and appreciate how SAHC’s conservation efforts help protect the mountains you love. More details TBA.

Link to join virtual hike premiere via YouTube – TBA

Gray's lilyiNaturalist Scavenger Hunt Challenge

All month long!

Participating in citizen-science is a great way to get engaged with conservation. This month, we challenge all our members, volunteers, and your friends to participate in SAHC’s iNaturalist Scavenger Hunt and record as many observations as you can!

Ever wondered about what plants or animals fill your yard? Populate your nearby favorite trail? Or what that vibrant mushroom you found is? Join SAHC’s ongoing scavenger hunt to learn about and discover with your friends, family, and your community all the wonderful creatures that inhabit our mountains. Interact with SAHC staff and other hunters to help identify plants and animals, learn new fun facts, and explore beautiful photos.

If you have never used iNaturalist before, iNaturalist is a great place to identify plants and animals with the help of the internet and the surrounding community. You can learn about what the names of plants and animals are in your area and much more. Explore the great outdoors and find plants, animals, fungi, insects, etc. and take pictures of them. Once you have your pictures, you can upload them to the mobile iNaturalist app, or from your computer on the iNaturalist website.

Click HERE to Join the Challenge

Virtual Lunch and Learn: Public Lands

Lunch & Learn: Public Lands

Wednesday, Jan. 27 | 12 p.m.

Public lands are facing an increasing bind: They’re seeing a huge surge in visitors, but, at the same time, budgets to manage these lands have been cut. Overuse and a deferred maintenance backlog on public lands has been a slow-moving crisis, recently highlighted by huge increases in visitation. SAHC and our partners have been actively working to mitigate these impacts, improve visitor experiences, and educate the public about these issues for decades. Join Marquette Crockett, SAHC Roan Stewardship Director and Travis Bordley, SAHC Roan Seasonal Ecologist for an informative program to learn more about SAHC’s role in managing public lands, the partners we work with, and what you can do to help solve this problem.

Register in advance for this webinar:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

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

Roaring Creek Valley

Roaring Creek conservation mapTwo new acquisitions in Roaring Creek join our network of protected land in the Highlands of Roan. These two tracts adjoin other SAHC preserves on the slopes of Big Yellow Mountain, together protecting hundreds of acres of northern hardwood and high elevation red oak forests, rising up to the boundary of the Big Yellow Mountain Preserve, co-managed by SAHC with our partners at The Nature Conservancy.

Most of these properties are within the Big Yellow Mountain Natural Area and are part of the Audubon Society’s Roan Mountain Important Bird Area. They contain thousands of linear feet of tributary streams and headwater seeps, feeding into Roaring Creek. The North Toe River and Roaring Creek have been identified as critical to protecting water quality in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, and the watershed supports a host of rare species, including the Federally Endangered Appalachian Elktoe mussel. Read more

Byrd Farm – Mitchell County

Charolais cattle on Byrd farmByrd Charolais Farm – Mitchell County (Highlands of Roan Area)

The Highlands of Roan are known for rare and fragile ecological communities as well as magnificent, panoramic views studded with scenic mountain farms. At the end of 2019, SAHC permanently protected 127 acres of beautiful family farmland in Mitchell County, preserving bucolic views along NC Hwy 226. The Byrd Charolais* Farm is an agricultural gem, with water conservation practices in place and a long heritage of mountain farming. One of just a few farm preservation projects SAHC has completed in the Highlands of Roan, the property is now permanently protected for future generations.

* Charolais are a breed of cattle which originated in France in the historic Charolais region. Read more

Yellow Mountain Connector

Aerial photo of Yellow Mountain Connector by Dennis Oakley and Southwings

Aerial photo of Yellow Mountain Connector, photo credit Dennis Oakley and Southwings

In 2019,  Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) completed the purchase of an assemblage of properties in the Cane Creek Mountains totaling 456 acres, to permanently protect an important ridgeline corridor through the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area. SAHC’s acquisition of the land protects habitat for rare plants and animals, clean water sources and scenic mountain views from public lands.

“Together we protected a critical 456-acre chain that links previously unconnected sections of the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area,” says Michelle Pugliese, SAHC’s land protection director. “This one project made historic, landscape-scale strides in achieving the vision of the state natural area: to protect a long distance scenic and wildlife corridor from the Appalachian Trail south along the Cane Creek Mountains. It is one of the most impactful land acquisitions in the region.” Read more

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.


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