Posts

SAHC to Accept Donation of 7,500 Acres in Roan Highlands

Press Release – April 22, 2021

SOUTHERN APPALACHIAN HIGHLANDS CONSERVANCY SIGNS LETTER TO ACCEPT DONATION OF 7,500 ACRES IN THE ROAN HIGHLANDS

Conservation of the globally-significant mountain adds to extensive land trust and public agency efforts in the region

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) announced today that they have signed a letter of intent to accept the donation of approximately 7,500 acres of land in the Roan Highlands landscape from a conservation philanthropist. The tract lies within the southern end of the planning boundary of the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area, a special conservation area designated by the NC General Assembly in 2008 to protect the exceptional nat­ural features found there.

Photo credit Tim Sweeney

The donation consists of dozens of separate-but-contiguous land holdings rising to 5,300′ in elevation straddling the border of Avery and Mitchell counties in Western North Carolina. It supports numerous threatened and endangered plant and animal species and features some of the most extraordinary scenery in the eastern U.S. The property includes the largest American Chestnut restoration project in the country, extensive boulder fields, rich coves, old growth forests, six waterfalls, and a system of rare heath-balds.

Transfer of the gift is expected to be completed in the next year. SAHC will own the land and manage it as a nature preserve. SAHC staff will continue ongoing use of the land for scientific study in collaboration with the donor. SAHC intends to host guided hikes on the property after the transfer is completed and a man­agement plan has been finalized.

“This is the largest single gift in SAHC’s history, and the largest gift of land to a land trust that I’m aware of” said Carl Silverstein, executive director of the land trust. “As we watch so much of our region get carved into sub-divisions, strategic acquisition of large parcels of land is increasingly important — and increasingly hard to accomplish. In twenty years this gift might be one of the few sites in Western North Carolina that still looks like it looked one hundred years ago, or one thousand years ago.”

“These parcels include some of the most sought-after conservation acres in the eastern United States, including over 100 miles of pristine creeks and streams. We really are honored to be entrusted with the responsibility to steward this vast mountain complex,” Silverstein added.

Photo credit Tim Sweeney

Even before his first acquisition here in 2012, longtime SAHC member Tim Sweeney envisioned assembling these parcels into a unified block of land with the intention of conserving the entire mountain ecosystem. With this gift the philanthropist’s dream has become a reality for the benefit of future generations.

“This project is a conservationist’s dream come true,” said SAHC Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett. “Pristine roadless land that has not been tim­bered over is almost impossible to find in the Southern Appalachians in 2021, but this assemblage contains so much that we value, from old growth forests to high-elevation open areas in an undisturbed condition. My phone will ring off the hook from biologists who want to visit and study this unparalleled preserve. We look forward to welcoming them to the mountain.”

SAHC Senior Advisor Jay Leutze is excited about the benefits the donated land will provide for surrounding communities. “I can’t wait to take local scout troops and church groups on hikes here and to invite school kids out to learn about how healthy forests clean our drinking water for free and how migratory songbirds fly between the Roan Highlands and Central America each year,” Leutze said. “This property is the back yard for a lot of people who treasure it for the clear air and scenic views it provides. In a world that is constantly changing our commitment is to keep this place functioning as a healthy ecosystem forever.”

The Roan Highlands

The Greater Roan Highlands landscape is a 60,000 acre complex of summits and ridgelines tracing the North Carolina-Tennessee border in the north and stretching southward to the outskirts of Spruce Pine, NC. The Appalachian Trail crosses a series of grassy balds along the northern peaks of the area. The area has drawn scientists from around the world since the 1700’s when word of its botanical riches reached European explorers. The landscape supports over 1,500 native plant species making it a global hotspot for biodiversity. Over 20,000 acres in the north of the landscape is open to the public and owned by the US Forest Service. Additional conservation acreage is owned and managed by Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, and the State of North Carolina.

Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy

SAHC was created as a land trust in 1974 with the initial goal of protecting the fragile grassy balds of the Roan Highlands and creating a route for the Appalachian Trail. Prior to today’s announcement the organization had preserved more than 78,000 acres of unique plant and animal habitat, clean water, farmland and scenic beauty in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. SAHC is headquartered in Asheville, N.C. at 372 Merrimon Avenue.

Read more in the Asheville Citizen-Times!

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

Crossnore Boy Scout Troop 814 Volunteer Workday

Ellis Ayers, the Committee Chair for Boy Scout Troop 814 out of Crossnore, NC, heard about our conservation work ‘through the grapevine’ and recognized a great opportunity for his scouts to do local land stewardship.

“I never had the pleasure of being a Boy Scout growing up,” said Travis Bordley, SAHC’s Roan AmeriCorps members. “That explains some odd holes in my outdoor education and training — and was one of many reasons why I was delighted to team up with Boy Scout Troop 814 out of Crossnore NC on behalf of Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.” Read more

UNCA Environmental Studies Student Workday

One of the most fascinating qualities of the Roan Highlands is the complex bio-diversity of the region. High elevation grassy balds colliding with shrubs, spruce-fir and hardwood forests is a potent mix. In the Roan you can find 25 globally rare ecological communities, as declared by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and 5 federally endangered species. This is a major reason why we value the Roan and do close monitoring of exotic invasive species.

Exotic invasive species in the Roan Highlands are a threat to the bio-diversity of the region. So when Oriental bittersweet was found at our Grassy Ridge property, we enlisted the help of UNC-Asheville Environmental Studies majors who understood the seriousness of this threat.

Read more

UNCA Outdoor Program Backpacking Trip

It was no joke when UNC-Asheville students and SAHC’s Travis Bordley started their backpacking trip, trapped in clouds on April Fools Day. Travis, our AmeriCorps Roan Outreach Coordinator, and eight students headed out from Carvers Gap for a backpacking adventure along the Appalachian Trail — a route that boasts big views. The students, including three leaders from UNC-Asheville’s Outdoor Program, were unfazed and trekked boldly into the cloudy mist. For a few students this was their first time backpacking. Read more

Big Rock Creek

bigrockrhodo.jpgFormerly operated as a camp and retreat, the Big Rock Creek tract adjoining the Pisgah National Forest in Mitchell County, NC has been imbued with love and memories for decades. We purchased the high elevation 58-acre parcel in the Highlands of Roan to permanently preserve this cherished place west of Hughes Gap, just a half mile south of the Appalachian Trail (AT).

Once occupied by TrailRidge Mountain Camp and later Camp Pleiades, the tract can be viewed from the AT south of Hughes Gap and from Roan High Bluff. Landowners Jacque Allen and Barbara Benisch, who operated Camp Pleiades for eight years, reached out to SAHC to preserve the land’s natural, recreational, and cultural  features. 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

Crucial Property Protected Adjacent to Yellow Mountain in the Highlands of Roan

justice-creek-falls-wl-july-2013-_5475The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, we acquired the title to a critically significant property in the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area in the Highlands of Roan. This 225 acre tract will be protected forever.

As Board Member, Jay Leutze put it, “Spear Tops has it all.” From endangered and threatened species such as Rock Gnome Lichen and Trailing Wolfsbane, to a stunning waterfall, this property is one of SAHC’s most spectacular pieces of land. At 4,900 at the summit, Spear Tops offers remarkable views of the Highlands of Roan and is a crucial addition to North Carolina’s conservation landscape. Read more

Conservancies Join Together to Reach Conservation Goals on Little Yellow Mountain

Little Yellow MountainThe Nature Conservancy and the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy ushered in the 35th anniversary of their conservation partnership with the joint purchase of the 104-acre Indian Saddle tract on Little Yellow Mountain in Avery County. The property was the result of a foreclosure proceeding after a projected development project failed and has been a long-time priority for both organizations.

“This tract bridges a gap between the mountain peak, which the Nature Conservancy bought last year, and Mollie’s Branch, which the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy protected earlier,” explains David Ray, NC Mountains Program Director for the Nature Conservancy. “Successful conservation is a matter of cooperation, not competition.” Together, the two conservancies have now protected 1,115 acres on Little Yellow Mountain that would otherwise have been developed. Read more

SAHC Purchases Another Key Tract in the Highlands of Roan

Protected PropertiesOn Friday, November 12th   we closed on the purchase of the 136-acre Views at Cranberry tract on Hump mountain in the Highlands of Roan. The property has been a longtime priority of SAHC because it presents an opportunity to preserve headwater streams of the Elk River watershed, which protects the public’s water sources, and to preserve the integrity of the Roan Mountain Massif as a landscape-scale ecological unit. The priority tract was actually marketed for sale as a development called “The Views at Cranberry” for over three years, which illustrates how close to development this environmentally significant property was. Read more

Events

Nothing Found

Sorry, no posts matched your criteria