Raft Out the Trash!

Raft Out the Trash Volunteers, and the haul.

Raft Out the Trash Volunteers, and the haul.

Where would we be without our volunteers and amazing AmeriCorps Project Conserve members? Our “Raft Out the Trash” event  earlier this year reflects a stellar example of how these team members’ incredible initiative, drive and dedication help us achieve conservation success.

Since protecting the Lost Cove tract in 2012, we at SAHC have heard over and over how much this special place resonates with people. Unfortunately, however, years of illegal use had marred the beauty of the cove – and left literally tons of trash strewn about. When our AmeriCorps Outreach & PR Associate, Anna Zanetti, first scouted a hike into Lost Cove, she was appalled by what she found and commenced to plan an ambitious volunteer excursion to take care of it. The resulting “Raft Out the Trash” event was part of our celebration of Earth Month 2014, and this is Anna’s account of the day:

“The arrival of summer entices us to bask in the beauty of our mountains and rivers. Unfortunately, a recent volunteer experience with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) reminded me not to take our natural spaces for granted. I led a group of volunteers into the Nolichucky Gorge to “Raft Out The Trash” from a secluded, protected tract near the NC/TN border; and what we found there could be a poster lesson for “Leave No Trace.”

Before

Before

I recruited 24 volunteers to clean up scars of vandalism and debris in Lost Cove, a historic ghost town surrounded by the Pisgah National Forest. USA Raft generously offered their services in partnership for the volunteer day, replacing a strenuous trek out of the gorge with an adventurous rafting trip after a long and rewarding day of service.

After

After

On the morning of the event, we met a group of cheerful volunteers at USA Raft’s outpost in Erwin Tennessee and proceeded to the trail head. After soaking in the sun and views from the meadow above the gorge, we began a three-mile descent to the Lost Cove settlement, surveyed the damage, and divided into two groups to conquer the trash.

It was seriously sad. One group picked up beer cans, glass containers, and even clothing littered around the site. The other intrepid half of our party forayed into the more-than-knee-deep pit of garbage filling one of the remaining historic outbuildings, probably once used as an agricultural store house. They gathered up a hefty load of bottles, cans, shards of glass, scraps of plastic, aluminum foil, even pots and pans — the remnants of camps where people had come down to enjoy the cove and left much more than just a trace.

A little ingenuity goes a long way!

A little ingenuity goes a long way!

Despite the dirty work, we were still pretty fresh after filling our bags with garbage. But that’s when the real challenge hit us: How were we going to carry the bags (each containing around 100 lbs. of trash) down about a mile of the steepest, rockiest terrain to the meeting point with USA Raft? In cases like this, a little ingenuity goes a long way.

Teamwork!

Teamwork!

Henry, one of our volunteers, suggested we tie the bags of trash onto sturdy branches to help displace the weight on our shoulders. Working in pairs, and stopping along the way to take breaks and check out some of the blooming wildflowers, our crew finally reached the river. We rested underneath the shady trees to rejuvenate and ate lunch atop a rock bluff overlooking the Nolichucky River. Struggling with fatigue in the last portion of our trek, our group certainly gained a greater appreciation for the folks who had once inhabited the Lost Cove settlement and hiked goods and supplies up that steep trail!

Hiking down the trash.

Hiking down the trash.

After lunch the raft guides arrived. They pulled up to the beach with five rafts and ten guides, each a rollicking river character. With professional ease and an entertaining air, the guides ushered our group into four of the rafts and helped load the 23 bags of trash onto the last one — and off we went down the class three rapids!

When the passenger rafts paused for a break, we looked around and wondered, where is all the trash? Then, we turned to see one heroic guide managing double oars and keeping the Raft o’Trash afloat. Major kudos to him for navigating the class 3 rapids with all that unwieldy weight! And a huge ‘Thank You’ to USA Raft for safely transporting the trash and volunteers three miles down-river where food, music and fellowship awaited us at the Pickin’ and Paddlin’ event. We had an amazing time on the river and loved the character and camaraderie of the USA Raft staff.

The Raft O'Trash

The Raft O’Trash

After months of preparation and coordination among staff members and USA Raft, the Lost Cove “Raft Out The Trash” event was here and gone. The event was truly a bonding experience for all of us, but it has brought me the greatest happiness to provide this outing for SAHC and all of our volunteers. The experience also deeply underscored the need to remind all who use our beautiful outdoor spaces to strive to Leave No Trace, “to leave only footprints and take only memories.” As you  hike, camp and enjoy the breathtaking mountains around us this summer, please remember to pack out what you bring in – and leave it for others to enjoy in the future, too!

Thank you to all our volunteers, guides, and USA Raft!

Thank you to all our volunteers, guides, and USA Raft!

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Buzzz, buzz, buzz – Bees Still Buzzin!

Good news this summer! Our rescued honeybees made it through the winter – and when Community Farm and Food Assistant Yael Girard peeked inside the hive recently, she had this story to tell:

SAHC Community Farm and Food Assistant Yael Girard inspects the hive.

SAHC Community Farm and Food Assistant Yael Girard inspects the hive.

“The air was hot and heavy with humidity. Below the sounds of bird chirps and wind across the hayfield hummed the low vibration of thousands of tiny bodies beating in unison. The breeze shifted, and the smell of wildflower honey, rich and sweet, filled the air. Lifting off the propolis covered lid of the SAHC Community Farm beehive, I rejoiced to see tiny bee bodies hard at work.

 

The hive survived the winter.

The rescued hive survived the winter.

Last September, I stumbled upon a swarm of bees that had lost their home. We were able to successfully hive them, but it came with the understanding that they might not make it through the winter. These days, even experienced beekeepers with established healthy colonies are losing multiple hives each year. This colony had lost its home, all its honey and pollen stores, and all its developing brood. The entire swarm was no bigger than a volleyball when clustered together. I talked with several beekeeping experts in the area and they said our chances weren’t great given all those factors. However, I knew the other option was to let them attempt to survive without assistance, and I wasn’t ready to give up on them yet.

The colony  is now growing.

The colony is now growing.

Throughout the brutally cold winter we fed the bees a sugar syrup mixture and checked on them regularly. In the dead of winter, the group was no bigger than a softball. Each visit to the hive brought the dread that upon lifting the lid we would find it either deserted or full of dead bees. We underestimated our swarm. Through the negative zero days and nights they beat their wings and huddled closer together. On a spring day with temperatures just over 60 degrees I saw the first few worker bees crawl outside, stretch their wings in the sun, and begin the seasonal search for flowers.

Busy as bees!

Busy as bees!

Since then, the bees have astounded us. At this point, they have successfully filled 3 medium hive bodies with honey, pollen, and brood. These boxes will be left for the colony to use through the coming winter, instead of feeding them. This past week, I added yet another super to the hive. From this point on, newly added boxes will be exclusively “honey supers.” This means that any additional honey the bees produce can be harvested. We probably won’t get much this first year, but even a taste of honey from these hard working ladies is worth the effort. More importantly, we know that we have saved a colony of valuable pollinators!”

 

 

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SAHC’s Jay Leutze addresses NPCA Trustees

Nature Valley/National Parks Conservation Association/Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy work day volunteers on Grassy Ridge.

Nature Valley/National Parks Conservation Association/Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy work day volunteers on Grassy Ridge.

SAHC partner National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) held a board meeting for their national trustees in Asheville June 18-20th.  While in the area, the trustees visited the Blue Ridge Parkway, hiked into Shining Rock Wilderness,  and toured the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site.

They welcomed several guests, including Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Mark Woods, Acting Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cindy MacLeod, and Carl Sandburg National Historic Site Superintendent Tyrone Brandyburg, to a dinner featuring a talk from SAHC Trustee Jay Leutze. Jay recounted the role NPCA played in protecting the Appalachian Trail from impacts of the Putnam Mine, a story detailed in his book Stand Up That Mountain.

Several SAHC members and former trustees were in attendance, including Charlie and Shirley Ann McCollough, and former Blue Ridge Parkway superintendent Phil Francis. NPCA has been a wonderful partner in helping to preserve the rich vitality of our mountain landscape. Over the past few years, we have been fortunate to receive grant funding from NPCA and Nature Valley’s “Preserve Our Parks” program to support habitat restoration and stewardship in the Highlands of Roan and at Cataloochee Ranch adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

 

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Community Farm/Discovery Trail Hike

SAHC's Community Farm in Alexander, NC, situated with a stunning mountain backdrop

SAHC’s Community Farm in Alexander, NC, situated with a stunning mountain backdrop

It was hot –  but not too hot – just the kind of bright summer sun you imagine plants loving to soak in.

On National Trails Day/Land Trust Day (June 7, 2014), we led a group of curious members, landowners, and local families on a two-hour tour of SAHC’s Community Farm in Alexander, NC. This first Saturday in June starts off Outdoor Month, and was given special designation to recognize the economic importance of trails across the nation as well as the land conservation work of local land trusts. It was a wonderful day to enjoy the 1.5-mile Discovery Trail and to showcase the many exciting programs going on at our Farm.

talking and pointing

Community Farm & Food Assistant Yael Girard (left) explains in detail about the many projects at the Farm.

We were led by Community Farm and Food Assistant, Yael Girard – with a little humor, a lot of detail, and an enthusiastic, jovial attitude. After meeting at the recently improved parking area and checking out the trail maps, our group of around 25 embarked on a pleasant walk down the mulched trail at the top of the pasture. With a sweeping view across the farm, Yael pointed out the newly installed livestock fencing, stream restoration area, and shortleaf pine restoration project. Then, we moseyed on down to the lower end of the stream, where native grass plantings in the riparian buffer had grown tall enough to tickle as we filed by.

The best part of roaming around the Discovery Trail for this tour was comparing the memories of past hikes, volunteer days and workshops on the property — the change is incredible! Yael explained how we had graded the stream banks to repair the incised, narrow canyon along the stream (created by years of erosion). We won’t lie to you – this project required some big earth-moving machinery – but the miracle is that we replaced the kudzu-covered tiny canyon with beautiful, sloping creek banks covered with native trees, bushes and grasses. On this day, the trail through the stream corridor was lined with tall silvery stalks, and many of the young native trees and shrubs planted in the stream buffer area were growing strong, too.

crossing stream

Crossing the stream.

We crossed the stream near one of the riffle-pools – features installed to promote aquatic life. Yael commented that  a naturalist has been examining aquatic organisms in the stream and was astounded by the rebound of growth since restoration construction finished last fall.

“You wouldn’t have expected to see stream life at this extent so recently after the construction was completed, so it’s surprising as well as gratifying to see it bounce back so well – and a testament to the planning and work done by Altamont Environmental and Riverworks,” Yael said. “I’ve already seen tadpoles, frogs, salamanders out in the stream – it’s pretty neat.”

Then, our tour continued up a rise along one of the steepest, most open parts of the trail and through the shortleaf pine restoration area. Here, SAHC contracted with the US Forest Service to plant over 25,000 seedlings. Yael paused to explain how we had found native shortleaf pine seedlings growing in this area and embarked on a restoration project to help re-establish this native tree species, which has been on decline in North Carolina.

jim houser looking at sign

New interpretive signs along the trail help explain the many projects ongoing at the Community Farm.

“As the trees mature, this restoration area will provide excellent habitat for native wildlife, too,” she explained. One of the recently installed interpretive signs for the Discovery Trail tells the how and why of the shortleaf pine restoration project.

We continued up the slope to the other access point for the trail. As the group looked out over the Farm, Yael pointed to the plowed field where the first of our new Farmer Incubator Program participants will be launching her own agricultural endeavor. Then, Yael pointed out the off-stream water tanks and new livestock fencing, important features that help create safe and healthy pasture for future beginning farmers while keeping cattle, sheep, or goats out of the stream we have just restored.

“If you look closely, you can see large blue balls floating in the top of the watering tanks,” said Yael as she pointed at one of several tanks installed across the pasture. “These floating balls help keep the water fresh for livestock. The balls float at the top of the water, supplied from a well below, and form a kind of light seal. It’s easy for livestock to push the ball down, then the water flows up. This keeps a lot of insects and debris from getting into their water. We researched programs across the country to find the best agricultural management practices for the Farm. One reason many farmers love these tanks is because, when it’s freezing outside, only a thin coat of ice can form on top of the ball. Livestock can break it fairly easily to get at fresh water underneath, and it’s better than having to go break up a huge tank full of ice.”

stream restoration area

Thank you to all who joined us for the Farm Tour. If you haven’t seen it yet, stayed tuned for the next hike!

With the bright sun almost directly overhead, our group continued down to check out the “before” and “after” photos on the stream restoration interpretive sign. Then, we followed a winding walk across a “hardened crossing” (another feature to prevent future erosion issues), up a section of pasture, and through the woods to the end of the Discovery Trail loop.

Thank you so much to all who came out to tour the Community Farm for Land Trust Day — and, if you didn’t make it yet, check our events at Appalachian.org for upcoming hikes. We will be hosting more Farm tours in the future!

Click here for more photos.

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Today’s Our Birthday! June 10

Birthday

On this date in 1974, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy was officially incorporated as a non-profit land trust. So, it’s our ‘birthday!’ We are so excited to turn 40! — And looking back over the past four decades, we know we have a lot of living to celebrate. What are some of your favorite memories/experiences with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy?

In the spirit of celebration, our staff and AmeriCorps associates took a walk outside to say “Cheers to all of us!” We’re ‘toasting’ SAHC with some of that clean mountain water we work so hard to protect. Thanks to the passion and vision of our members, Trustees, friends, and followers over the years, we’ve been able to accomplish some incredible things. Here’s to 40 years of conservation, and many more to come!

SAHC 40th birthday staff pic

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Maney Fields – 100+ years in the family

Historic structure in the high-elevation pasture at Maney Fields

Historic structure in the high-elevation pasture

One of the most interesting things about working in land conservation is hearing stories about how people connect to the land. So often, we define ourselves by connection to place. Over generations, tracts of land become entwined in the history of a family. Staff at SAHC frequently hear statements like “I have this beautiful piece of land that’s been in my family for generations, and I don’t want to see it lost…” from landowners contacting our office, and it is truly gratifying when we see the protection of such tracts come to fruition.

When we accepted a donated conservation easement on Maney Fields, this 44-acre tract in Madison County where the corners of Madison, Buncombe, and Yancey converge — owned and treasured by one family for over 100 years — became permanently preserved.

“The Maney family is grateful to SAHC for all their efforts in preserving this very special place,” said landowner Diane Rosseter. “It is comforting to know that the beauty and uniqueness of the Maney Fields will be sustained and protected forever.”

View from Maney Fields, photo courtesy of Owen Carson from Equinox Environmental

View from Maney Fields, photo courtesy of Owen Carson from Equinox Environmental

Three headwater tributaries of Terry Fork, which flows into Paint Fork and then into Little Ivy Creek, originate on the property.  A high elevation wetland area on the property is located just below the 4,245 ft summit. The 360-degree view from the summit includes Barnardsville, Frosty Knob, Reems Creek, Sugar Creek, Rocky Face, Big Butte, Sandy Mush Bald, Roan Mountain, Craggy Dome, and Craggy Peak.

The Maney Fields tract is located near four other SAHC-protected properties and adjoins the Merschat Farm, a 118-acre farm under a conservation easement held by Buncombe County Soil & Water Conservation District.

“Sitting at the closing table with Diane and Rob Rosseter and Diane’s father Ed Maney brought to life the long family history on Maney Fields,” said Michelle Pugliese, Land Protection Director. “Three generations of Maneys have cared for this land, and the devotion of the family to preserve it filled the room that day.  I am delighted to have helped their family leave a legacy on this mountain that will last forever.”

This project was made possible by a generous donation of the value of the conservation easement from the landowner, as well as funds from Brad & Shelli Stanback and the Conservation Trust for North Carolina’s Money in the Ground mini-grant to cover transaction costs.

Personal Perspective — Caitlin Edenfield, Land Protection AmeriCorps Associate

Personal Perspective Caitlin Edenfield, SAHC's Land Protection AmeriCorps Associate

Personal Perspective Caitlin Edenfield, SAHC’s Land Protection AmeriCorps Associate

“As the AmeriCorps Land Protection Associate, I was able to work closely with landowners, Diane and Rob Rosseter to complete the Maney Fields conservation easement.

Diane and Rob were ideal landowners to work with because they were patient, flexible, and dedicated to the protection of their family land. I also helped facilitate many of the due diligence items such as the survey, appraisal, Phase 1 environmental site assessment, title work, legal review of the conservation easement.

Upon closing the conservation easement I felt an overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment, knowing that I helped preserve this land for perpetuity. I am grateful to be serving as an AmeriCorps member at SAHC and for the opportunity to be closely involved in the protection of our invaluable resources, like Maney Fields. My time with SAHC has influenced me to look for a full-time position with a land trust at the end of my term.”

AmeriCorps LogoOur Project Conserve AmeriCorps Associates form an important and integral part of our team. They give us the capacity to expand our land protection and stewardship program work, and in turn receive valuable experience for their careers.

 

 

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Appalachian Spring Celebration – 40th Anniversary!

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Thank you to all our sponsors and raffle donors!

Thank you to all our sponsors and raffle donors!

Thank you to all the friends, members, volunteers, donors, and event sponsors who made our Appalachian Spring 40th Anniversary event such a success! And we appreciate Fire Cracker Jazz Band for providing music for our event and to NC PhotoBox for a fun-filled photo booth experience for our guests. We’d also like to give a special ‘thank you’ to Nona Mia Italian Kitchen for preparing the delicious buffet dinner enjoyed by all, and for generously donating a huge portion of the catering expense.

We enjoyed a night of fun and fellowship, honoring our founding members and volunteers for an inspiring forty years of conservation successes. During the mid-evening program, SAHC Executive Director Carl Silverstein’s remarks gave us perspective and pride in SAHC’s accomplishments:

carl_onstage2

Carl Silverstein, SAHC Executive Director, recaps some of the highlights from our past 40 years.

“Our conservation mission is important:

  • So that people can have beautiful places like the Roan to hike, camp, fish or just enjoy being outdoors in nature.
  • So that communities can have clean water from streams and rivers that aren’t degraded with sediment and other pollutants that come with incompatible development.
  • So that wildlife and rare plants can have un-fragmented wild places to thrive in.
  • So that local farming can continue productively here in the mountains long into the future.

Because these needs are so crucial, and because there are aspects that would go unaddressed if we weren’t here undertaking to solve them, we at SAHC bring intense passion, bold innovation, and leadership on behalf of conservation. This has enabled us to protect a priceless Legacy of Place in the Southern Appalachians for future generations.

I want to share a few examples of how SAHC has brought passion, innovation, and leadership to our conservation mission:

Triple B Challenge hike

Highlands of Roan

1. Long-term, proactive, holistic conservation strategy. Our founder Stan Murray and his colleagues recognized that we are what stands between a future in which the Roan remains intact versus one in which it were lost to development.

Accordingly, our conservation efforts have always been proactive, not just waiting for opportunities to come to us. Our founders made maps showing specific contiguous parcels of land that needed to be secured in order to meaningfully protect the Roan, realizing that it might take half a century or longer of persistent, diligent work to achieve that vision. They planned and executed a continuing strategy to reach out to landowners, ask for the opportunity to work with them, and build relationships over the long haul.

SAHC didn’t undertake this work solo, but rather led a broad collaboration among partners including Federal and State agencies and other conservation organizations.

This is one of the preeminent models in America of a long-term conservation initiative, and it has paid off. Forty years later, we’ve protected tens of thousands of acres of the key properties identified at the beginning, and we’re still acquiring tracts identified as top priorities in that early planning.

Roan was our first geographic focus area, and remains our flagship project today because of its globally significant qualities.However, in the early 1990’s we expanded our focus to include other important areas like the Black Mountains, the Smokies, the Balsam Mountains, the French Broad basin including Sandy Mush, and the Appalachian Trail countryside.

Nature Valley/National Parks Conservation Association/Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy work day volunteers on Grassy Ridge.

Our volunteers and partners have been a crucial part of our stewardship efforts.

We’ve brought similar strategic planning, mapping of priorities, and proactive landowner outreach for these focus areas, and have protected tens of thousands of acres of contiguous high-priority lands there. Our holistic approach emphasizes stewardship of lands, not just acquisition.

Through our Roan Stewardship program, we lead a broad coalition of stakeholders in managing the globally significant grassy bald summits of the Roan, in order to ensure that this unique and fragile ecosystem continues to exist in the future. Volunteers contribute thousands of hours to this work every year.

Our program of monitoring and enforcing conservation easements is among the strongest in the country. Accreditation by the National Land Trust Accreditation Commission is a testament to the quality of our program.

Attendees listen the program remarks during dinner.

Attendees listen to the program remarks during dinner.

Our carefully planned long-term approach to conservation has earned us credibility with public and private partners, which have enabled us to accomplish dramatic outcomes few would have guessed possible: like protecting Grassy Ridge in the Roan and Rocky Fork on the AT, and we promise other amazing achievements like these in years to come.

2. Purchasing financially distressed properties for a bargain. When the real estate market crashed in 2008, we recognized the opportunity to secure some of the most important lands in the mountains, which had been slated for development.

We purchased a dozen high-priority financially distressed properties since then at incredibly bargain-basement prices through foreclosure auctions, bankruptcies, short sales and other non-traditional avenues.

This entailed risk, courage and fortitude of SAHC, as well as educating ourselves in real estate financing legal processes that were new to us. We became nationally recognized experts in these processes, and have taught multiple workshops at national Land Trust Alliance Rallies to help our peers gain skills in this area.

SAHC's Community Farm

SAHC’s Community Farm

3. Farmland Access Service to ensure future of productive farms in the Southern Appalachians.

Since 2005, SAHC has been committed to implementing ambitious programs to ensure access to farmland in our region. This ranges from conservation easement purchases that permanently protect farms while injecting much-needed capital into family farming operations to creating a new farmer incubator at the SAHC Community Farm about 20 minutes from downtown Asheville. Aspiring farmers can lease land and use equipment at the Community Farm for a three to five-year term, before they venture out to lease or purchase farmland of their own.

You are part of one of the most special, high-achieving conservation organizations in the country. Together we’ve protected a network of some the most scenic outdoor destinations, pristine watersheds, significant wildlife and plant habitat, and vibrant family farms in the country.”

Buddy Tignor presents the Stanley A. Murray Award for Volunteer Services.

Buddy Tignor presents the Stanley A. Murray Award for Volunteer Services.

SAHC President Buddy Tignor awarded the 2014 Stanley A. Murray Award for Volunteer Services. In 1989, this award was created to honor persons who have made outstanding volunteer contributions to the work of SAHC, emulating the lifelong dedication of our founder, Stanley A. Murray.

Our Stanley A. Murray Award for Volunteer Services this year went to a father & son team — David Smith and his son Otto. David was introduced to SAHC as the Seasonal Ecologist in 1997 and since then has been a volunteer leader in many different capacities.

David and Otto Smith

David and Otto Smith

For the past 17 years, David has participated in the annual Grassy Ridge Mow-Off and led guided hikes at the annual June Jamboree. David’s son Otto has recently joined him in volunteer adventures in the Roan. For the past three years Otto has worked along side David at the Mow-Off, lopping and pulling brush to help conserve this globally imperiled habitat. Congratulations to David and Otto!

Retiring SAHC Trustee and former President of the Board, Jeanette Blazier, being recognized for her service.

Retiring SAHC Trustee and former President of the Board, Jeanette Blazier, being recognized for her service.

As part of the mid-evening program, we also recognized our retiring Trustees, Jeanette Blazier and Bruce Cunningham. Jeanette served as Board of Trustees President and chaired the Governance Committee; worked tirelessly to cultivate, recruit & orient outstanding Trustees; and was instrumental in SAHC strategic planning. Bruce served as Treasurer and on the Finance Committee; led development of SAHC Investment Policy and investing decisions; and was also instrumental in SAHC strategic planning. Thank you both for your service!

We elected two Trustees, Rick Manske and Laura McCue, to each serve a new term 3-year term on the SAHC Board. Rick and his wife Rebecca live in Weaverville and have been generous supporters of SAHC for several years. Rick serves as managing partner of Parsec Financial, a wealth management firm in Asheville that works with SAHC and has generously supported our efforts. Rick is enthusiastic about SAHC’s land conservation and stewardship mission, and will bring valuable finance talent to our board. Laura has served previously as a Trustee from 2003 – 09, including terms as Secretary and Treasurer. She brings SAHC expertise in finance and investing; strong personal ties among our membership and donors; and bountiful enthusiasm for hard work on SAHC’s behalf. She has advanced our strategy for long-term investing and endowments and continued to serve on our Finance Committee. Laura is President of White Oak Financial Management, Inc.

room_clapping

Attendees recognized former Volunteers of the Year and elected Trustees.

Four Trustees — Bill Lowndes, Kathy Singleton, Courtney Blossman and Jack Hamilton — were each elected to serve a consecutive term. Bill first served on the SAHC board in the 1970s and was SAHC’s 2nd Treasurer. He has been a key leader in our institutional and programmatic growth over the years, and currently serves on SAHC’s Human Resources Committee. Kathy lives in Kingsport, TN and is an attorney with Wilson, Worley, Moore, Gamble & Stout law firm. She has a long-standing love of the Roan and currently serves on SAHC’s Membership Committee and Development & Engagement Committee. Courtney began serving as an SAHC Trustee after relocating to Asheville from coastal Mississippi. She currently serves on SAHC’s Development & Engagement Committee as well as our Facility Evaluation Task Force. Jack currently serves as SAHC’s Treasurer and advises on our Facility Evaluation Task Force. He is a corporate and tax attorney at Roberts & Stevens law firm, Asheville.

Thank you for your support!

Thank you for your support!

Thank you to all who serve our community through your volunteer work or conservation support with SAHC!

And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to:

  •  Become a member.
  •  Tell your friends about us.
  •  Join us on an outing.
  •  Volunteer for a work day.
  •  Serve on a committee
  •  Include SAHC in your estate planning.

Your involvement makes it happen!

2014 member event program_sponsors

 

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Land Trust Day – June 7

landtrustdaylogosShop or dine to support conservation on June 7!

Enjoy lunch or dinner at one of our Land Trust Day partner restaurants: King Daddy’s Chicken & Waffles, Laughing Seed Café, or Jack of the Wood.

Shop to support conservation by visiting our Land Trust Day retail partners: Mast General Store, New Morning Gallery, Bellagio Art to Wear, Bellagio Everyday, Second Gear, the Weinhaus, Wild Birds Unlimited, Mobilia, or Four Corners Home.

On Saturday, June 7, these Asheville area businesses will donate a percentage of sales to support conservation in Western North Carolina. Local land trusts like the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC), work throughout the year to preserve productive farmland, scenic mountains, and clean streams that are important economic drivers for the region.

This first Saturday in June coincides with National Trails Day and has been designated Land Trust Day to recognize the link between the local economy and conservation of our area’s natural resources.

“We are very grateful to our partners in the business community for supporting our conservation work on Land Trust Day,” said Carl Silverstein, SAHC’s executive director. “By donating a portion of sales on June 7, they help protect the special places that draw so many residents and visitors to the Southern Appalachians. It’s a wonderful way for our local businesses to give back and help us build healthy communities.”

IMG_6137In conjunction with Land Trust Day, SAHC will also hold a free, open house tour of our Community Farm in Alexander, NC. Guided along an easy-to-moderate 1.5-mile Discovery Trail, participants will learn about the history of the farm, community involvement with volunteers, use of agricultural best management practices, trail construction, stream restoration project, short leaf pine restoration project, educational opportunities, and new Farmer Incubator Program. This guided hike is free for all participants and suitable for families with children, but registration is required.

Contact Anna Zanetti at anna@appalachian.org or 828.253.0095 ext 205 or visit www.Appalachian.org for more info or to register for this hike.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbout Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy:

In the past forty years, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy has protected over 63,000 acres of unique plant and animal habitat, clean water, farmland and scenic beauty across the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. Recently, SAHC established a Farmer Incubator Program at its Community Farm in Alexander, NC to provide low-cost access to land and resources for farmers to start new agricultural businesses

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June Jamboree – Saturday, June 14

Guided Hikes In the Highlands of Roan

Honoring our origin in the stunning Highlands of Roan, SAHC hosts a day of guided hikes each June to gather and enjoy our treasured flagship focus area.

This year we have five guided hikes planned, catering to a variety of skill levels and interests. Since the hike locations are spread out across the Roan, we will host post-hike gatherings at two different locations. Descriptions, details and start times for each hike, as well as the post-hike socials, are given below. You will receive directions to the departure location and carpool information upon registration.

Be sure to bring: sturdy hiking shoes, camera, walking stick, water, lunch, sunscreen, binoculars, and appropriate clothing for your hike. The weather may be sunny, rainy, windy or cool.
Hikes are rated on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most difficult.
We hope you can join us in the Highlands this year! Click here to register online.

Click here to register online for the June Jamboree hikes described below.

 

Hike #1 — Carvers Gap to Grassy Ridge

Carvers Gap to Grassy Ridge hike

Carvers Gap to Grassy Ridge hike

Start Time: 9:00 am
Leader: Bill Ryan
Difficulty: 7.5
Fellowship Location: Roan Cabins (2:30 – 5 pm)

This classic and rewarding hike is full of adventure atop the highest elevation balds in the Highlands of Roan, widely considered among the most spectacular scenery along the Appalachian Trail. Grassy Ridge, elevation 6,189 feet, is the highest point near the AT. Enjoy a natural, unobstructed 360-degree view and so much more — blooming rhododendron, flame azalea, patches of spruce fir forest and rare plants such as Gray’s lily and Roan Mountain bluets.

Hike #2 — Roll n’ Stroll in Rhododendron Gardens

Roll and Stroll in the Rhododendron Gardens

Roll and Stroll in the Rhododendron Gardens

Start Time: 11 am
Leader: Judy Murray
Difficulty: 2+
Fellowship Location: Roan Cabins (2:30 – 5 pm)

The Rhododendron Gardens on top of Roan will be blazing with color this time of year. Judy Murray, will take hikers along gentle terrain with stunning views of the Roan landscape. On this leisurely stroll hikers will learn about SAHC’s newest land protection projects including several tracts in Yellow Mountain State Natural Area like the Justice Creek property on Spear Tops and Hawk Mountain Farm. This hike is designed to give people of all hiking abilities the opportunity to get outside and enjoy some of the property that SAHC has diligently protected over the last four decades. *This trail is paved and wheelchair accessible.

Hike #3 — Yoga on the Mountain

Yoga on the Mountain group.

Yoga on the Mountain

Start Time: 11:00 am
Leader: Danielle Fath-Goldstein
Difficulty: 5
Fellowship Location: National Trails Tract (2:30 – 5 pm)

Lay your yoga mat in the open meadow, tucked within the stunning Highlands of Roan. Prepare to move into your exalted warrior or tree pose while feeling the sun warm your skin as the high elevation breezes simultaneously cool you. Enjoy an moderate 1.5  hike through our protected Natural Trails Tract in the Roaring Creek Valley. The trail is narrow and is steep in areas so please be mindful of this and wear appropriate clothing. We will hike along pristine streams and critical bird habitat for a gentle yoga practice. The fellowship gathering after the event will be held on this property. 

Hike #4 — Kids in the Creek

Kids in the Creek

Kids in the Creek

Start Time: 11:00 am
Leader: Lizzy Stokes-Cawley
Difficulty: 3
Fellowship Location: National Trails Tract (2:30 – 5 pm)

Bring your kids to play in the creek on SAHC’s beautiful National Trails Tract. This shorter hike is designed to get kids outdoors and explore some of the beautiful water protected by SAHC. Kids will learn about some basic stream ecology, look for crayfish and salamanders. Kids are welcome to bring fishnets, buckets, or other toys to play with in the creek. This hike is for kids 7 years and older. Parents are welcomed to participate as well. Please bring water appropriate clothing and shoes plus appropriate day hiking materials.

Hike #5 — Challenge Hike

Triple B Challenge hike

Challenge hike

NOTE – this hike is NOW FULL; registration has reached capacity.

Start Time: 8:00 am
Leader: Tom Gatti
Difficulty 10+
Fellowship Location: National Trails Tract (2:30 – 5 pm)

The June Jamboree Challenge hike will start where the Appalachian Trail crosses Highway 19E, 4 miles west of the town of Roan Mountain. Participants will steadily hike 5.4 miles climbing a total of 2,707 feet to the summit of Hump Mountain. We will continue south along the Appalachian Trail over Little Hump and then along the spine of Yellow Mountain to Yellow Mountain Gap at 8.7 miles. From Yellow Mountain Gap we’ll hike another 1.7 miles to Low Gap and the Stan Murray Shelter. From here we leave the trail (long pants are recommended) and make our way to Elk Hollow Creek which we will follow for a mile or so down to the National Trails Tract, celebrate, and ride back to our cars.

Click here to register online, or contact Anna Zanetti at anna@appalachian.org or 828.253.0095 ext 205.

Categories: Hikes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Honoring 40 Years of Service to the Roan — “For Love of Mountains”

Founding member Margy Clark with Judy Murray (right)  at her retirement party in Kingsport, TN.

Founding member Margy Clark with Judy Murray (right) at her retirement party in Kingsport, TN.

When she came to Kingsport, TN in 1960, Judy Murray knew that she loved mountains. Two days after arriving, her first visit to the Highlands of Roan kindled a passion that became the driving force behind much of the preservation and habitat restoration work we and our partners have accomplished on the Roan.

This year Judy retired from her position as our Highlands of Roan Stewardship Director, and we give her a resounding and heartfelt ‘thank you’ for her dedicated service over the past forty years.

Judy's retirement party was held in Kingsport, TN in April – well-attended by many friends and founding members of SAHC.

Judy’s retirement party was held in Kingsport, TN in April. It was well-attended by many friends and founding members of SAHC.

“It was the mountains that really drew me here,” says Judy. “Two days after I landed in Tennessee, I was on the Roan.”

She came to work at  Eastman Chemical Company straight out of college, and her early experiences with the Tennessee Eastman Hiking Club eventually led to her lifelong work in the Highlands of Roan. Guided by SAHC founder Stan Murray, members of the hiking club formed the Roan Mountain Preservation Committee  (RMPC) of the Appalachian Trail Conference in order to preserve the views and landscape surrounding the Appalachian Trail through the Highlands of Roan.

Judy has been leading the Grassy Ridge Mow-off on Roan since the 1990s.

Judy has been leading the Grassy Ridge Mow-off on Roan since the 1990s.

“There is a delicate balance between public use and resource protection, and that has never been more apparent than on Roan Mountain,” says Judy.

Judy chaired the RMPC for several years, obtained her graduate degree in ecology, served as  SAHC’s volunteer land steward, and then became Highlands of Roan Stewardship Director. With her guidance, SAHC spearheaded a coalition of partners dedicated to the management and restoration of Roan’s unique grassy balds. The Highlands of Roan stewardship partners address the growing problem of encroachment on the balds. No longer naturally grazed, the open expanses of grassy balds and their incredible diversity of rare native species are in danger of being lost.

Volunteers at the annual Grassy Ridge Mow-Off help maintain Roan's grassy balds.

Volunteers at the annual Grassy Ridge Mow-Off help maintain Roan’s grassy balds.

Judy began organizing the Grassy Ridge Mow-off in the 1990s to help keep the grassy balds open. Each summer, a group of volunteers camps at Grassy Ridge and spends the weekend hand-mowing to maintain the balds. “We’ve been holding an annual Grassy Ridge Mow-off Volunteer Weekend for over 20 years.  Volunteers come in for the weekend or just for a day to mow and help restore the balds. Many return time after time, and it’s certainly one of the highlights of my year.”

The Grassy Ridge Mow-off crew gathers on Saturday night at the Rock to share stories and lots of laughs. It is a beautiful time and place to make memories.

The Grassy Ridge Mow-off crew gathers on Saturday night at the Rock to share stories and lots of laughs. It is a beautiful time and place to make memories.

“On Saturday nights after supper is over and the dishes are washed and put away, we all grab our cups, camp chairs, flashlights, and warm clothing and head for the Rock where we gather to share tales, travel stories, favorite books and lots of laughs,” Judy reflects. “Sometimes I like to be the last one to turn in for the night, when I have the stars, the wind, and the Rock to myself.  A time for silent reflection from the place I love most in the world. Somehow, it makes me feel connected to all the mountains on the planet.”

Special moments like this have fueled Judy’s stewardship of the Roan. The Highlands of Roan management partners focus on the entire ecosystem and work collaboratively across state lines. Some of the challenges facing the Roan and our new Roan Stewardship Director include non-native invasive species, fragmentation of the landscape (much of which is still unprotected), and user impacts due to the popularity of the area. Judy stresses the importance of “Leave No Trace” principles for people enjoying the Roan.

“Roan is different from other places. It’s an extraordinary piece of our natural heritage — an ecological crown jewel. It’s natural, and we want to keep it that way.”

This year, the Grassy Ridge Mow-Off will be held from July 18 to 20 — come for a day or camp for the weekend! In addition to rewarding work, volunteers enjoy swapping stories and delicious meals at camp. For more info or to volunteer contact: Judy Murray at roanwoman@aol.com.

 

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Categories: The People Behind SAHC | Leave a comment

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