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Sandy Mush Forest Restoration Coalition Update

Photo of a tangle of Oriental bittersweet vines.

Oriental bittersweet vines can be extremely prolific, killing trees and harming forest health.

The Sandy Mush Coalition — a partnership among SAHC, the Forest Stewards Guild, and EcoForesters – has completed its first year of collective effort to increase capacity to control invasive exotic plants and improve forest stewardship in Sandy Mush. The coalition is fostering healthy and resilient forests that protect environmental values, cultural heritage, economic opportunities, and quality of life for people in the Sandy Mush area of Buncombe, Madison, and Haywood counties.

“The purpose of the coalition is to increase the community’s capacity to conduct forest management activities and to address the concerns and needs of landowners in the community,” explains SAHC Stewardship Director Sarah Sheeran.  “We just finished the first year of our partnership, in which we’ve been meeting with community members, natural resource professionals, and stakeholders. With the coalition up and running, we have an action plan and are now in the process of implementing that plan as we head into our second year.”

The coalition held two introductory information-gathering sessions with community members last fall and a Sandy Mush Forest Restoration Gathering in January, in which a variety of organizations and forest professionals presented.  These facilitated listening sessions connected state and local partners and other nonprofits involved in forest health initiatives with community members.

A tree after the Oriental bittersweet vines have been cut and treated

A tree after the Oriental bittersweet vines have been cut and treated.

“The coalition is providing a means to connect landowners with the technical and financial resources they need in order to improve forest stewardship on their properties,” continues Sheeran. “The event in January was a powerful way of gathering the people together in one room so that SAHC and our coalition partners could answer questions from landowners on the tools and resources available to help them manage their land.”

Funding for the coalition also enabled SAHC to treat approximately 50 acres of our conservation properties and preserves.

“We’re trying to be good stewards of the land we own and fulfill our own commitment to management, while modelling these management practices for others,” says Sheeran.

Blue Ridge National Heritage Area logoThis project is made possible in part by a grant from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership. Support from local philanthropic environmental leaders provided critical funding to make the coalition possible. We also want to thank the state and local partners and other nonprofits who presented at the community gatherings and have been involved in these efforts – including NC Forest Service, NC Wildlife Resources Commission, Mountain Valleys RC&D, MountainTrue, Hemlock Restoration Initiative, and several others.

“We’ve all been working together to fulfill community goals for family forests in Sandy Mush — To help gain an understanding of what people value about the land, fears they have, and the needs they’ve identified, so collaboratively we can come up with a plan to address these needs and concerns,” says Sheeran.  “What I really appreciate about the community is how much they value their sense of place. This is a very tight knit community that has a tremendous love for their land, their neighbors, and their place. You get a real appreciation for how special Sandy Mush is – the sense of ownership and pride in community.”

Sandy Mush Forest Restoration Gathering

Sandy Mush Forest Restoration Gathering

When: Saturday, January 25th from 9 to 3 pm

Where: Sandy Mush Community Center in Leicester, NC

This month the Sandy Mush Forest Restoration Coalition will host its first Restoration Gathering — a free, community event intended to provide practical and applied education about forest management and to connect Sandy Mush landowners with resources to sustainably manage family forests. At least a dozen local organizations and agencies will be on-hand to answer your land management questions. 

Come hear NC Forest Service, NC Wildlife Resources Commision, and registered foresters speak about the tax-incentive programs and technical services available to assist landowners with forest and land management needs. Together with the Forest Stewards Guild, EcoForesters, community members and other partners, SAHC will be working to increase the Sandy Mush Community’s capacity to restore native species habitat and improve forest stewardship. Through our collective efforts, we aim to nurture healthy, hardy forests to protect ecological values, local culture, economic prospects and quality of life for Sandy Mush residents. 

Following the gathering, please consider joining us for the third Sandy Mush Forest Restoration Coalition meeting, where we will discuss ways the Coalition can increase the efficacy of forest restoration activities in Sandy Mush and help the Community implement their conservation goals.

Blue Ridge National Heritage Area logoThis project is made possible by a grant from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership. 

Register for the event here.  Lunch is provided and feel free to bring family and neighbors.

Questions? Contact sarah@appalachian.org. We look forward to seeing you soon! 

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