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

Press Release – April 22, 2021



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. Read more

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


There’s No Place Like Roan: Ensuring a Highland Legacy

Location: ETSU, Brown Hall, Room 370

Long treasured for their astounding beauty, unique forests and grassy balds, the Highlands of Roan are biologically and geologically unique. However, the high elevation ecosystems on the Roan Mountain massif are among the most endangered and fragile habitats on earth. With ongoing threats including climate change and invasive species, how will our most vulnerable wildlands survive? How can we balance the protection of this biodiversity hotspot with a growing demand for recreational and economic opportunities?

Join us for a presentation by Marquette Crockett, SAHC Roan Stewardship Director, to learn more about the exceptional habitats of the Roan, the rare creatures who inhabit them, and the ongoing conservation work of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. Hear how our multi-partner efforts are working to address growing environmental threats and what you can do to safeguard the extraordinary beauty and ecology of the Highlands of Roan.

Following the presentation, JRH Brewing is hosting a pint night for SAHC. $1 from ever beer purchased will go directly toward our land and water conservation work.

This event is FREE, but reservations are recommended due to limited seating. Please contact Pauline Heyne at or 828.253.0095 ext. 216 for questions and reservations.

Parking is available for free at ETSU after 3:30 p.m.


2018 Roan Highlands Birding Hike

Join us for a Spring Birding hike in the Roan Highlands! With its unique habitats, this area is known to be the nesting site of some rare migratory birds. SAHC works to maintain ideal habitats for these birds and we hope to observe a few on this hike!

The hike will be approximately 2 miles and it will travel through different habitats including open meadows, streams, and forested areas. There are a few gradual uphill sections on the trail, but overall it is a leisurely walk.  Along with observing the birds, we will be making an initial checklist of species seen for future outings on the property.

We will be hiking on our protected Elk Hollow property which is located approximately 1.5 hours from Asheville.  A carpool from Asheville will be organized to leave at 7:30 am and will arrive at the site around 9:00 am.

Please contact Michelle Durr at with any questions

  • By providing your phone number, you ensure that we have a way to contact you in the rare event of any last-minute changes to the hike.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

2018 Big Rock Creek Volunteer Work Day

Date:  April 28, 2018

Time: 10:00- 3:00

Where:  Big Rock Creek property in the Roan Highlands

Join us in partnership with the National Parks Conservation Association and Nature Valley for a volunteer work day in the Highlands of Roan!  This work day will take place on the protected Big Rock Creek property and support an initiative to connect people with land.

The Big Rock Creek property located in Mitchell County, NC was recently protected by SAHC.  Formerly the home of Trailridge summer camp, the property contains 127 acres of unique high elevation habitat and streams. It is surrounded by Pisgah National Forest on three sides and the Appalachian Trail is less than a mile to the North. We hope to improve and maintain the camping and trail facilities on Big Rock Creek to “connect people to nature”!

Volunteer activities will include trail construction, vegetation management, and site beautification. Work gloves, safety eye wear, hand tools, and first aid kits will be available on site.  Feel free to bring personal gloves or tools.  Please dress in layers and bring a rain jacket as we will be working at high elevations and the weather is unpredictable.

What will we be doing?

Trail Construction– Using hand tools to clear a short trail through the property and to build two foot bridges at stream crossings.

Vegetation Management- Planting native shrubs and wildflowers in open areas

General clean-up– Collecting debris on the property

More volunteer tasks will be available on the work day.

Basic Schedule

10:00 to 10:15 – Introduction, safety talk, etc. Volunteers will be briefed, divided into groups, and dispersed across the site

10:15- 12:30– Work in Groups. Volunteers will work with teams on a specific task with a designated leader.

12:30- 1:15– Lunch.  SAHC will provide lunch for volunteers.  Please share dietary restrictions on the registration form below.

1:15- 3:00– Work in Groups. Volunteers will continue to work in teams to complete tasks.

Thank you for your interest! Please contact Michelle Durr, Roan Stewardship and Outreach AmeriCorps service member at for more information about the work day or specific volunteer duties.

This event is part of WNC for the Planet! Western North Carolina is celebrating Earth Day throughout the entire month of April by coming together to act locally and think globally. This year, local community and environmental groups are teaming up to offer a myriad of service days, workshops and educational events and celebrations.

Please register below

2018 Big Rock Creek Volunteer Work Day

  • By providing your phone number, you ensure that we have a way to contact you in the rare event of any last-minute changes to the hike.
  • First NameLast NameEmail 
  • SAHC will be providing lunch and snacks during the work day. Please let us know if you have any dietary restrictions.
  • (Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Other?)
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This event is part of #WNCforthePlanet —  a collaboration of environmental and conservation groups in Western North Carolina to coordinate and raise awareness about events and volunteer opportunities scheduled throughout the month of April in honor of “Earth Month.” Local nonprofit organizations, universities, and businesses have teamed up to host a myriad of service days, workshops, hikes, educational events and celebrations. Join us in unifying our community to encourage and celebrate environmental stewardship for our planet and the region. More info at

2017 Hump Mountain Hike

Location: Highlands of Roan
Date: October 21, 2017
Start Time: 10:00am
Difficulty Rating: Strenuous (9)
Cost: FREE but pre-registration is required.
Dogs: Well-behaved dogs are welcome, but must be kept on a leash.

Join the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy as we venture into the Highland of Roan, hiking to the 5,587 foot summit of Hump Mountain!  This impressive mountain hosts 360 degree views from its top. The hike will begin on the newly protected 324 acre tract that SAHC purchased in May of this year – eventually meeting up with the Appalachian Trail on our push for the summit. About 2 miles into our hike, we break out of the forest into the open grassy bald. Up here, there is the chance for superb views of a number of mountain tops – including Grandfather Mountain, Table Rock and Mt. Mitchell.  This strenuous out and back hike totals about six miles with over 1,500 feet of elevation gain in the first three miles.

Hike difficulty ratings are based on this formula: (0.002 x elevation gain (ft.)) + round trip distance (mi.) = difficulty rating (1 – 10+)

Leader: Emily Adler Americorps Conservation Education and Volunteer Outreach Associate. For questions or more info, contact Emily at or 828.253.0095, ext 205.

Registration for this hike is now full. We will create a waitlist based on the order in which we received registration forms and schedule another hike to the same site in the future. Thank you!

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: 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:
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.