Posts Tagged With: Conservation

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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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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Appalachian Spring 2014 — Celebrate our 40th Anniversary with us on May 15!

The Meadow and outdoor stage at Highland Brewing Company will be the focal point of this year's Appalachian Spring event.

The Meadow and outdoor stage at Highland Brewing Company will be the focal point of this year’s Appalachian Spring event.

It looks like the warm weather is finally here to stay — and we’re gearing up to celebrate outdoors at our Appalachian Spring event on Thursday, May 15! Join us in The Meadow at Highland Brewing Company from 6 to 8 pm for a very special 40th Anniversary celebration — full of food, music, merriment, friends, and fellowship.

Highland Brewing Company has crafted a very limited small batch ‘Elevation Ale‘ in honor of our 40 years of conservation — and SAHC staff were even invited to go behind the scenes and help with the process.The limited ‘Elevation Ale’ is a summer brown ale made with local spruce tips and honey from Haw Creek Honey Company, available at Appalachian Spring  on May 15 as well as a few local venues (details TBA).

SAHC and Highland staff — strengthening our "For Love of Beer & Mountains" partnership.

SAHC and Highland staff — strengthening our “For Love of Beer & Mountains” partnership.

Come celebrate conservation with us at Appalachian Spring! Click here to purchase your ticket now.

Tickets are are $25 for SAHC members/$30 for non-members and include:  dinner by Nona Mia Italian Kitchen, music by Firecracker Jazz Band, and one drink ticket. NC PhotoBox will also be on-site making free, fun photo booth pictures for guests to take home. Attendees have the opportunity to purchase raffle tickets for exciting prizes like hiking, biking & camping gear; spa and hotel gift certificates; artwork, jewelry and handcrafted items by local artisans; zip line tours, and more. Proceeds from ticket and raffle sales help us raise money for conservation.

Sponsors for the Appalachian Spring event include: Highland Brewing Company; Equinox Environmental Consultation and Design; Kee Mapping and Surveying; Roberts & Stevens, Attorneys at Law; Wells Fargo; Altamont Environmental, Inc; Parsec Financial Wealth Management; Hickory Nut Gap Farm; Earth Fare; EBX (Environmental Banq & Exchange); Grove Arcade; Webb Investment Services; White Oak Financial Management Inc; Aloft Asheville Downtown ; Green River Woods ; Shoji Retreats/Spa ; and Navitat Canopy Adventures.

Celebrate Appalachian Spring with us!

Celebrate Appalachian Spring with us!

“Looking back over the past forty years, we are very proud to have preserved so many special and deeply loved places in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee,” said Kristy Urquhart, SAHC’s Associate Director. “We are also very grateful to Highland Brewing Company for donating the outdoor venue space for our anniversary celebration, to our sponsors for the event, and to the many members and supporters over the years who have carried us forward.”

SAHC began as a group of volunteers committed to protecting the landscape around the Appalachian Trail in the Highlands of Roan. Over the past forty years, we has protected over 63,000 acres across ten counties in Western North Carolina and East Tennessee, preserving clean water sources, productive farmland, habitat for native species, and thousands of acres transferred to national forests and state parks for public enjoyment.

Some of SAHC’s forty years of conservation successes include:

  • Grassy balds in the Highlands of Roan
  • Tracts added to Cherokee & Pisgah National Forests and Mt. Mitchell State Park
  • Rocky Fork – a 10,000-acre wilderness on the NC/TN border
  • Local farmland in intact farming communities
  • Asheville, Woodfin, Waynesville, and Canton watersheds
  • Cold Mountain in the Shining Rock Wilderness
  • Tracts along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Appalachian Trail, and Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail
  • Headwaters of the Toe & Tuckaseegee Rivers
  • Cataloochee Ranch on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Sites with ties to artistic/cultural figures, including architect Rafael Guastivino and electronic instrument designer Bob Moog
  • A 100-acre model farm with stream restoration, community farm & food, and shortleaf pine restoration projects – located just outside Asheville, NC

Celebrate our successes with us! Click here to purchase tickets now.

(Early Bird ticket sales end after May 5 – buy now to save $5 on each ticket)

 

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Hiking Into The Lost Cove

Although we are in the midst of an arctic freeze in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, we’re eagerly looking forward to the slate of outdoor adventures our outreach team has planned for this year. To whet your appetite, here’s a narrative from one of our 2013 fall hikes – a trek into the 95-acre Lost Cove tract that SAHC purchased in 2012, led by our AmeriCorps PR & Outreach associate Anna Zanetti:

Paddlers along the Nolichucky River on the edge of the Lost Cove property.

Paddlers along the Nolichucky River on the edge of the Lost Cove property.

“Lost Cove, once a self-sustaining community nestled on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, has become a mere ghost town with the occasional company of a destination hiker.

In late November I led 22 people on a hike to the old settlement where only abandoned and crippled buildings now exist. The group hiked up to Flat Top Mountain where we peeked over the edge looking down on the Nolichucky Gorge catching a glimpse of the Lost Cove Property. During the 1940s, from this point, you would have been able to see white buildings consisting of homes, the schoolhouse and the church, but all we saw was overgrowth amongst the color changing leaves. We headed west and began to descend two miles along the old soil bed road until we came to an intersection in the trail. This intersection marks the beginning of the Lost Cove settlement and to the left marks SAHC’s property.

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View from Flat Top Mountain looking down upon the Lost Cove.

We walked quietly under the dark clouds that came rushing in, covering the sun. Searching around the group examined the free standing stone chimneys and the decaying structures. Every few feet we would see old deteriorating cans, rusty car parts and we even found a wood-burning stove. We all navigated around on and off trail as if we were investigating an ancient civilization. Everyone was dispersed when a hiker called out, “Come up here, I found their cemetery.” We all rushed together to the top of a hill off of the trail to find a small gated graveyard with tombstones and some flowers. We knelt down reading the literature engraved in the stones — some had poems or just the family name, in places the letters were a little off and the p’s and d’s were backwards. On top of the hill we had a brief snack, but we were too engaged to turn around at that point. As a group we decided to push forward and hike down to the Nolichucky Gorge to see the train tracks and where the train platform once existed.

The group hiked about 1.5 miles descending through bolder fields with moss and lichen in every nook and cranny. It was like a sea of rocks flowing and rising within the tress. This section of the trail is by far my favorite because of its natural beauty. We reached the edge of our property looking upon the Nolichucky River and the train tracks nestled between the surrounding mountains. We all dispersed around the edge of the property to explore. Then we reconvened around an abandoned campsite,  all quiet and ready to eat our lunch. As I was getting settled the ground began to shake and we all stood up to see a train coming around the bend along the river. The graffiti covered railroad carts rushed by caring black coal and other cargo.

After the train was gone a fellow hiker said aloud, “These people had to hike 1.5 miles down here for goods and then proceeded to hike back up the steep and rocky trail with extra weight on their backs.”  This reminded everyone that Appalachian folk were and still are resilient people who don’t back down from a challenge. We packed up our belongings and I handed out trash bags and gloves to anyone willing to pickup and pack out the garbage from the abandoned campsite. Buddy Tignor, President of SAHC’s Board of Trustees, single-handedly packed out around 30 pounds of empty propane cans and debris.

The train was long gone and we were finishing packing up when it began to rain. We didn’t think much about it until the rain became worse, eventually turning into hail. We all looked at each other and understood that it was time to begin the trek up and out the gorge. The hail stinging our bare skin was not our only concern —  the slippery unsure footing made me nervous. A total of 45 minutes later and 1.5 miles up the steep terrain the rain and hail had stopped, giving us the opportunity to catch our breath.

The hike back was severely strenuous especially with the added weight from the trash we had picked up below. That morning we began the hike at 10:00 am and did not make it back to Flat Top Mountain till 5:00 pm. To say the least we were all exhausted, but we had formed an undeniable bond and gained a deeper appreciation for all the settlers who chose to call the Lost Cove their home.”

Group photo within the Lost Cove settlement.

Group photo within the Lost Cove settlement.

The next Lost Cove Hike will be held on April 26, 2014. Due to the increased popularity of this guided hike, we will open registration to SAHC members from March 1st through the 31st, followed by open registration for the general public after March 31. Please email Anna@appalachian.org for more info or to register.

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New “View from the Highlands” online!

Peruse the latest edition of the View from the Highlands online with ISSUU.

Peruse the latest edition of the View from the Highlands online with ISSUU.

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Yellow Mountain Gateway – 357 Acres Preserved!

YellowMthGatewaytract

Spear Tops mountain, rising above the winter pasture of the cattle that graze atop Yellow Mountain in the summer.

When we closed on the 357-acre Yellow Mountain Gateway tract in Avery County, we preserved more than unspoiled streams, wildlife habitat, and working lands. We opened a way for future generations to connect with the rich history of Avery County.

The Yellow Mountain Gateway is one of those rare treasured jewels — a large contiguous swath of mountain land handed down generation after generation. Rather than risk it being subdivided in the future, eight heirs of the Vance & Odom families came together to sell the tract to SAHC, ensuring that it will remain protected forever.

“The view of the two  ‘spears’ that form Spear Tops mountain as you drive south on
US Highway 19 E from Plumtree to Spear is as iconic a mountain view as you can imagine,” said landowner Risa Larsen.  “The Vance and Odom families are pleased to know that with the sale of our family farm to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy that view will never change.  Ancestors of the family actually lived on the farm in the late 1800s, and subsequently our families have enjoyed decades of picnics and hikes on the farm.  The multiple creeks that run through the property provided a cool spot in the heat of the summer and lovely waterfalls of various heights as theyrun down to join the North Toe River.”

Mitchell_waterfall

This impressive 100 ft. waterfall on Justice Creek, known as Cutler Falls by the Vance and Odom families, will be accessible to the public in the future, thanks to our acquisition of the Yellow Mt. Gateway.

Known as ‘Spear Farm’ by the family, the newly protected tract is situated in the center of the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area and can potentially provide public access to the state natural area in the future. The tract rises to 4700 ft on Spear Tops Mountain and also includes a lower pasture that fronts on Hwy 19 E. SAHC protected two adjoining tracts in 2011 and 2012, and this new conservation success completes our protection of the iconic Spear Tops Mountain.

The tract is crossed by a main branch of Justice Creek and several other pristine headwater tributaries in the North Toe River watershed.

The tract is crossed by a main branch of Justice Creek and several other pristine headwater tributaries in the North Toe River watershed.

The property is crossed by a main branch of Justice Creek and several smaller tributaries. The quality of clean headwater stream sources in the North Toe watershed made this tract a conservation priority for clean water.

Working agricultural lands on the recently protected tract include winter pastures for cattle herds that graze at Big Yellow Mountain in the summer. Preserving this land and allowing their winter grazing grounds to remain intact supports our commitment to management of the grassy balds in the Roan. SAHC plans to hold the tract with the intent to transfer it to North Carolina when state funds become available.

Categories: Land Protection Updates | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Blackrock Mountain – Protecting views from the Blue Ridge Parkway!

Blackrock Mountain summit.

Blackrock Mountain summit.

In October, SAHC purchased the summit of Blackrock Mountain in the Plott Balsam Mountains of Jackson County, with more than 250 surrounding acres. We plan to hold the property and manage it as a nature preserve until it can eventually be transferred to public ownership as park lands.

“All you need to do is stand at the Plott Balsam overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway or hike the trail from Waterrock Knob, to appreciate protecting Blackrock Mountain,” said Michelle Pugliese, SAHC’s Land Protection Director. “The 5,700 ft peak contains rare spruce-fir forest and two headwater tributaries that flow down its slopes. We are so proud to have preserved this view for all to enjoy.”

The newly protected tract is visible from overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The newly protected tract is visible from overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Blackrock Mountain summit is clearly visible from the Plott Balsam overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The entire property can be seen in the foreground view from the Plott Balsam overlook (mile post 458), the Waterrock Knob visitor center (mile post 451.2), and multiple locations along the parkway on the drive north from Waterrock Knob.

Blackrock Creek

Blackrock Creek

The tract’s proximity to and visibility from the Blue Ridge Parkway, as well as the high-elevation forest communities and pristine headwater sources found on the site, made it a priority for conservation. Two headwater tributaries of Blackrock Creek originate on the property and flow into Blackrock Creek, which empties into Soco Creek.

Hikers enjoyed stunning views from the summit.

Hikers enjoyed stunning views from the summit.

A publicly-accessible hiking trail originates on the Blue Ridge Parkway below the Waterrock Knob overlook, and the Blackrock Mountain summit purchased by SAHC contains a destination vantage point reached via this trail. Earlier in October, we led our Thunderstruck “For Love of Beer & Mountains” partnership group hike to the Blackrock Mountain summit to enjoy clear long-distance views of the surrounding ridgelines. We plan to lead similar hikes to the area in the future.

Map of Blackrock Mountain tract and surrounding area.

Map of Blackrock Mountain tract and surrounding area.

The Cherokee nation owns land to the north in the Qualla Boundary, and the newly protected tract adjoins other conservation lands: SAHC’s 60-acre Blackrock Ridge tract (protected in 2010), the Sylva Watershed (protected with a conservation easement held by the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee), and The Nature Conservancy’s Plott-Balsam Preserve.

“The efforts of multiple conservation partners highlight the priority of habitats, scenic views, and water quality of the Plott Balsam Mountains,” added Pugliese.

Categories: Land Protection Updates | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Youth volunteers tackle stuborn invaders

FBRA volunteers in Sandy Mush.

FBRA volunteers in Sandy Mush.

This fall, 6th and 7th grade boys from the French Broad River Academy (FBRA) volunteered to help heal a 45-acre conservation tract in the Sandy Mush area. They spent three days identifying invasive species and learning how to properly eradicate them without disturbing indigenous plants nearby.

Each morning, the boys arrived promptly at 9:30 am, ready to work hard weeding out the invasive plants. Kids and supervising adults split into three groups, and each group received a pair of loppers, hand clippers, rubber gloves, leather gloves, protective eye wear, a trash bag and a little bottle of herbicide that only adults could apply.

The young volunteers took their invasive species removal duties seriously.

The young volunteers took their invasive species removal duties seriously.

The groups hiked to designated areas on the  property and went to work on oriental bittersweet and multi flora rose. They followed a three-step process to assist the eradication process. The students cut the plant an inch from its root, a supervising adult dabbed the cut area with herbicide, and they all bagged up the remaining parts of the pants. The invasive species that the students were working with have adventitious roots — meaning that if part of the plant is cut and left on the ground it will re-root itself. This makes the eradication process very tricky but the students were up for the challenge, scouring the area to carefully recover all the cut portions of the invasives.

Invasive species - carefully bagged for removal.

Invasive species – carefully bagged for removal.

We were impressed with the great attitudes, eagerness, and work ethic of the FBRA volunteers.

We were impressed with the great attitudes, eagerness, and work ethic of the FBRA volunteers.

The students were working on a property densely populated with poplar, oak and witch hazel trees with a small stream flowing through the scenery. The students of FBRA are no strangers when it comes to water. Their education heavily focuses on the French Broad River and includes outings such as kayaking and canoeing. The students were enthusiastic about what was in the stream, and they found all sorts of creatures like crawfish, salamanders, and a small northern water snake.

Shortly after time spent in the stream, one student asked, “Why can’t we just spray all the invasive species instead of slowly cutting and dabbing?”

Investigating a stream on the property.

Investigating a stream on the property.

In response a fellow student replied, “Spraying the herbicide will kill the indigenous plants and get into the stream.” Outings like this volunteer day provide the boys with educational adventures in the environment and hands-on interactions that allow the students to teach each other. These experiences help the students to make connections between human actions and impact on nature.

FBRA is a one-of-a-kind school, and it was a pleasure working with well-behaved young boys. These students have the willingness to work hard to create a better environment for present and future generations. Thank you!

Categories: Volunteer & Stewardship Activities | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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