SAHC Virtual Lunch and Learn: Aerial Monitoring

When: Monday, August 3 starting from 12 – 1 pm

Online, FREE

To supplement our on-the-ground stewardship efforts, SAHC is currently developing an aerial monitoring program. SAHC stewards land spread across approximately 4,000 square miles — and as of 2020, our Stew Crew is responsible for monitoring over 52,000 acres. Annual monitoring site visits require substantial time and resources. While interaction with landowners/neighbors and spending time in the landscape is paramount, the ever-growing acreage for which we are responsible, its commonly rugged and remote character, and, now, the realities of social distancing make the ability to remotely monitor properties essential to our work.

Over the years, we have used new technological tools and methods to boost efficiency and accomplish our commitment to perpetual stewardship of protected lands. This year we are excited about integrating aerial monitoring into our stewardship program. Join us to learn more about the future of our aerial monitoring program.

Sarah Sheeran, SAHC Stewardship Director, and Erik Rieger, SAHC Stanback Fellow/Duke University Master’s Student, will present on SAHC’s integration of aerial monitoring into its stewardship program. Erik will also present his summer research and discuss the priorities, decision making, and processes used to create a GIS suitability model and help SAHC decide which of its conserved properties are the best candidates for aerial monitoring.

Registration Link


Aerial photo courtesy of SouthWings and Dennis Oakley, Carolinas’ Nature Photographers Association

Aerial Monitoring of Conserved Land

View from Above – Aerial Monitoring Using Satellite Imagery

To supplement our on-the-ground stewardship efforts, SAHC is developing an aerial monitoring program. SAHC stewards land spread across approximately 4,000 square miles — and as of 2020, our Stew Crew is responsible for monitoring over 50,000 acres of conservation easements and SAHC-owned land.

Individual tracts range from 0.5 acres to over 8,000 acres, with the majority of protected properties being between 100 and 200 acres – much of which is steep and rugged terrain. Annual monitoring site visits require substantial time and resources, and SAHC performs rigorously in fulfilling these monitoring responsibilities. However, as our portfolio of protected land continues to grow (yay, land protection!), the physical challenge of visiting every protected acre each year looms at the horizon of impossible — even for the Stew Crew at SAHC. 

Over the years, we have used new technological tools and methods to pragmatically boost efficiency and accomplish our commitment to perpetual stewardship of protected lands. This year we are excited about integrating aerial monitoring into our stewardship program.

What is Aerial Imagery Data and How Do We Use It?

In recent years, we have augmented our monitoring procedure by using satellite imagery that is freely available through Google Earth software to prepare for field visits. However, the intermittent publication of such publicly available imagery often makes it useless for detecting changes that occur on a protected property within the current year — the fundamental objective of annual monitoring.

To address issues of satellite data availability and resolution, we have researched companies who compile satellite data captured by multiple entities and make it available via a web service. Specifically, we’ve been looking at companies that focus on providing high resolution satellite imagery (that’s 0.5 meters or less) for environmental and conservation organizations. This service is a repository for historical and current imagery, and they contract with commercial satellite companies to request current images where they are unavailable. 

Aerial Monitoring in Keeping with LTA Standards and Practices

SAHC has decided to proceed with developing an aerial monitoring program in keeping with the Land Trust Alliance’s Standards and Practices.

We are currently identifying properties that SAHC stewards that are best candidates for aerial monitoring and plan to begin implementation in early spring of 2020. This program has the potential to help SAHC more completely survey properties to detect changes – especially encroachments in remote locations. It does not, however, replace on-the-ground monitoring. While monitoring using current, high resolution satellite imagery will enable us to increase efficiency and be in better touch with the condition and activity on the lands that we steward, we still very much look forward to seeing you all in the field!


Sandy Mush Forest Restoration Coalition

SAHC partners on forest stewardship expansion in Sandy Mush.

We have long been stewards of Sandy Mush, protecting over 12,000 acres of this high priority conservation area. We are excited to collaborate with EcoForesters and the Forest Stewards Guild to help grow a Sandy-Mush-wide forest restoration project! While this project is still in its infancy, with collaborators working to secure funding, the primary goal is to foster healthy and resilient forests that protect environmental values, cultural heritage, economic opportunities, and quality of life for the Sandy Mush Community.

Through this project we hope to:

  • Form a “Sandy Mush Forest Restoration Coalition” by bringing together diverse stakeholders in the community and create a collaborative space for shared decision-making.
  • Restore native species habitat, as much of the forest land in Sandy Mush has been degraded by historical land use practices and non-native invasive plants.
  • Host an annual Forest Stewardship Gathering in Sandy Mush to connect landowners with resources to care for their forests.

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

Look for more updates in the future!

2018 Grassy Ridge Mow-Off

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. Enjoy great company, great food and great job satisfaction! 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 and to share cherished moments with friends.

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. There are several different ways to help: cutting or raking blackberries, camp organization and cooking, taking photographs, and more.

Grassy Ridge Mow-Off 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, Fellowship and Food time 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.


Sign up now to volunteer with us for the Grassy Ridge Mow-Off!

Registration is now closed. 


2018 Volunteer Work Day: Invasive Garlic Mustard Pull in the Roan

This year, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy is partnering with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, US Forest Service, and Roan Mountain State Park to remove invasive garlic mustard from the park and heavily trafficked highways around Carver’s Gap and SAHC conservation properties in the Highlands of Roan. Plucking out the pesky invaders when they’re young and tender isn’t hard work, but it does take a lot of hands!

Location: Roan Mountain State Park in Roan Mountain, TN 

Date: Saturday, April 21

Start time: 9:30 am
9:30 to 9:45 – Introduction, safety talk, etc. Volunteers will be briefed, divided into groups, and dispersed across the Park and along public roadsides to pull garlic mustard. There will need to be some shuttling and driving of personal vehicles to make this happen.

Work from 9:45 am-1:00 pm

Lunch and “weigh in” from 1:00 to 2:00

Food/Drinks: Please bring your own snacks, lunch and bottled water. Lunch is not provided. A cooler of water will be available at lunchtime.

Equipment/Precautions: Work gloves and trash bags will be provided. Feel free to bring personal gloves or a trowel. Pulling garlic mustard is usually easy, but a trowel can be helpful for compacted roadside soil and stubborn roots. You will need a hat and/or sunscreen, long pants, sturdy shoes, lunch, water, a warm layer for high elevation hiking, and rain gear. If you are allergic to poison ivy, consider wearing long sleeves and pants. You may want a bag to keep your items with you throughout the day. It may be difficult to return to your car while we are working. Some work sites are very steep. Please let me know before the workday if you prefer to work on flatter terrain or have medical conditions. First aid kits will be on site.

Contact info: For more info or questions, contact Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett at or 828.253.0095 ext 210.
What is Garlic Mustard?
Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is an invasive, non-native plant, which has infested many parts of
the Southern Appalachian region. Because it has few natural enemies in North America, it is capable
of out-competing native plants by depriving them of sunlight, moisture and space. Garlic mustard is
a biennial plant, meaning it has a two year life cycle. In its first year, it develops kidney-shaped
leaves that grow close to the ground in what is called a basal rosette; the leaves smell like garlic
when crushed. In their second year, the plants rapidly grow upward and develop small white
flowers. The flowers are soon replaced by slender seed pods, which are capable of spreading
hundreds of seeds once mature.   
Garlic mustard is a hardy plant. If you pull the plant and leave it on the ground, it may re-root or
have enough energy stored in its taproot to produce viable seed after being pulled. Most compost
piles aren’t maintained in a way that gets hot enough to kill the seed, which means you could end up
spreading garlic mustard with your compost (The Stewardship Network).  Removing garlic mustard from thoroughfares such as Roan Mountain State Park and public roadsides is crucial to controlling the establishment and spread of this invasive species in our area. Please RSVP by emailing if you are interested. Let’s get ’em!

2018 Leave No Trace Trainer Course

Date: Thursday May 3- Friday May 4

Location: The Appalachian Trail in the Highlands of Roan

Cost: FREE for all participants and meals will be provided

Join us for a Leave No Trace (LNT) Trainer Course in the Roan Highlands!

This course is great for trip leaders, Scout leaders, camp staff,  college students, school teachers, and outdoor enthusiasts. This specific course, facilitated by two LNT Master Educators, will train participants in LNT outdoor ethics and provide them with the tools needed to educate others about responsible recreation.  The course material will be taught through verbal lectures and experiential education which will allow participants to practice the LNT principles in a backcountry setting. By the conclusion of this course, participants will have learned valuable skills that will enable them to facilitate their own LNT Awareness Workshop or outreach event. Due to the educational nature of this course dogs will not be allowed.

The course will follow 16 hour experiential education model as a backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail in the Roan Highlands of North Carolina. Participants should expect to hike approximately 5 miles per day carrying a pack weighing up to 45 lbs. A more specific route will be shared with the participants closer to the course date.

A packing list will be emailed to participants by 3/15.  Tents and personal camping gear will not be provided.

Participants are strongly encouraged to also attend a LNT outreach event after the Trainer Course.  This event will provide course attendees the opportunity to practice their new skills by educating the general public and thru hikers about LNT on the Appalachian Trail.  This outreach event will take place in the afternoon on Friday May 11.

General Schedule:

On day 1, participants will be introduced to the 7 LNT principles of outdoor ethics and the history of LNT Inc. while hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Basic skills such as knot tying, camp cooking, and general backpacking techniques will also be taught on day 1. In the evening, participants will work with a partner to prepare a LNT lesson plan for the following day.

On day 2 we will continue to hike on the Appalachian Trail. On down time, participants will act as the instructors and teach their LNT lesson to the group.

Thank you for your interest!

2018 Leave No Trace Trainer Course Registration

  • 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.
  • SAHC will provide all meals during the course
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


Waynesville First United Methodist Church Volunteers at Doubleside Knob

On Saturday June 3rd, ten members from Waynesville’s First United Methodist Church came out to our Doubleside Knob conservation property to help removed invasive Oriental Bittersweet vines.

This tract is located within SAHC’s French Broad River Valley Conservation Focus Area. The heart of this area is the French Broad River, which is believed to be the third oldest river in the world — even pre-dating the ancient Appalachian Mountains. Our efforts to protect land in this area contribute to clean streams and rivers. Properties like Doubleside Knob are often adjacent to or contain headwater streams, and protecting the land helps protect these clean water sources.

Read more

Mortgages on conservation easement properties

National Conservation Buzz Topic: Can a mortgage violate your conservation easement?

Curious about how a mortgage or deed of trust could impact your conservation easement? Imagine you need to borrow money at some point, and use your conservation easement property as collateral for the loan. A mortgage typically is not prohibited by a conservation easement.

But consider this: conservation easements limit, and many outright prohibit, dividing the property into smaller parcels. A violation could arise if a mortgage is placed on only a portion of a conservation property (rather than the whole conservation property).

Why? If a lender ever had to foreclose on the mortgage and take title to the portion of the property with the lien, that foreclosure would divide ownership of the property. The lender would own one part of the property and the landowner the rest. As noted above, many conservation easements don’t allow such divided ownership. And, in some states, the act of simply taking out the mortgage on a portion of the property can constitute a legal division.

When considering a mortgage on an existing conservation easement, please consult with your attorney and SAHC staff before you close the loan to ensure no impermissible divisions could occur.

Reflecting on Spring and Stewardship at SAHC

035.jpgby Margot Wallston, SAHC AmeriCorps Stewardship Associate — July 2013

One of my favorite things about working in land conservation during the spring is being able to take note of the persistent emergence of botanical life after winter’s long repose. Hiking off-trail to monitor remote pieces of land affords the opportunity to witness the first signs of spring: new stems pushing up through the ground, swelling leaf buds, the first hints of color as flower petals begin to open.  It’s fun to guess what identity each new plant will take on: Will a red, clenched hand atop a fuzzy stem become false goats beard? Will a blue-purple fan of soft baby leaves become blue cohosh?

I’m not alone in relishing in this annual event.  Many people look forward to spring’s arrival as the best time to watch the forest reawaken after winter as wildflowers gradually begin to bloom.  But spring also stirs to life a host of invasive, non-native plants which compete with our native wildflowers and trees for essential resources.  One of the first invasive plants to pop up amidst our native spring ephemerals is garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata). Read more

Volunteer crew transforms exotic invasives into hand-wrought works of art

p5050015.jpgOn May 5, 2012, SAHC stewardship staff teamed up with a dedicated group of volunteers to remove exotic-invasive species from a beautiful mountain farmstead. The crew worked for a majority of the day cutting humongous invasive oriental bittersweet vines on SAHC’s newly-acquired Robinson Rough

Robinson Rough is a 248-acre property near the Sandy Mush Township in northwestern Buncombe County, NC. 216 of these acres consist of steep, craggy forestland that continues all the way up to a high-elevation ridge that is visible from downtown Asheville. The lower 32 acres contain a series of rustic cabins and scenic open pastures. SAHC was able to purchase the Robinson Rough property in late-2011 with the help of an eager seller. Read more


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