Here’s a simple video to give you a taste of our 2013 membership event in Kingsport, TN – Just in case you missed it, or want to refresh memories with good friends!
Posts Tagged With: Conservation
On Sunday, Septemeber 9th, David Ramsey led Mars Hill College 17 faculty and students on a hike to the protected 10,000-acre ecological treasure, known as Rocky Fork. It was the perfect day for some learning, hiking, and fishing.
Ramsey has been leading hikes for politicians, concerned citizens, and anyone else interested in protecting Rocky Fork’s vulnerable land since the mid-nineties, so when Karen Paar, director of The Liston B. Ramsey Center for Regional Studies at Mars Hill College, approached Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) about leading a hike with her department for this fall, SAHC suggested David Ramsey.
In the lead up to Ramsey’s field trip to Rocky Fork, The Center for Regional Studies hosted several events that focus on the theme, “Where There Are Mountains.”
“We adopted it as a theme for our last academic year continuing into this fall as a way to address a range of issues facing this region, as well as the physical realities of this landscape and the meanings that humans place on mountains,” says Professor Paar.
As part of this series and to get people excited about Rocky Fork, Paar asked, SAHC Board of Trustees member and author of “Stand up that Mountain,” Jay Leutze, to speak about Rocky Fork and the process of “Protecting Southern Appalachian Biodiversity – and Scenery – One Acre at a Time” on Tuesday, Sept. 4th. As always, Leutze made Rocky Fork come to life for his audience and paved the way for an exciting hike the following weekend with David Ramsey.
It was another beautiful day for a hike as cool winds from the Saturday before had pushed a refreshing and crisp Fall feel into the air. Hikers enjoyed a softer summer light that crept through the trees as the group made their way through just a small part of the 10,000 acre tract. Along the way, Ramsey shared childhood stories or romping through Rocky Fork’s woods, explained how much time, energy, and effort different individuals and organizations poured into protecting Rocky Fork, and even demonstrated the purity of Rocky Fork’s waters by catching a rainbow trout on his fly rod.
If you like a good conservation success story, it is imperative to come out and personally hear the gripping tale from David Ramsey. His eloquence and passion pervade every aspect of the hike, whether it is the account of Rocky Fork slipping through the grasp of conservation’s hands three separate times before finally being protected for a pricey forty million dollars; or walking through the hallowed ground where the Battle of Flint Creek took place nearly 223 years ago and where nearly 150 Cherokee lost their lives from John Sevier’s surprise ambush; or maybe it was seeing Rocky Fork’s pristine waters that are home to native brookies and wild rainbow trout. Ramsey painted a compelling picture. The whole crowd was convinced — Rocky Fork is worth every penny of that forty million.
It was the perfect storm for finding mushrooms last weekend in gorgeous Yancey County. In recent days, thunderstorms had soaked the ground, paving the way for an explosion of boletes, chanterelles, little brown mushrooms, and many others.
On July 22nd, SAHC & guests were led on an intriguing excursion by Asheville myco-hunter and expert, Charlotte Caplan. Everyone learned some tricks of the trade when identifying these mysterious fungi. The common question was, “How do you know if a mushroom is edible or not?”
“There is only one way to know if its edible or not – and that is to eat it,” joked Caplan. We all leaned in closer to hear more. From her basket, Charlotte pulled out a small white and harmless-looking mushroom with gills — A destroying angel. The name says it all; just one small bite is deadly enough to shut down a person’s liver and kidneys. What a comforting lesson to start the hike!
We dispersed along the edge of the forest to forage for some ‘shrooms, and within minutes everyone was filling baskets with russulas, boletes, puffballs, and morels galore. Caplan explained that identifying mushrooms is a challenging task, and even the most experienced mycologist cannot identify every mushroom.
Smell is one of the primary methods in the identification process for some mushrooms. Many have a signature fragrance. Some smell sweet when they are young, and as they mature the odor becomes fishy. Others have that fresh, dirt-like smell.
Our adventurous scavengers found the bioluminescant Jack o’lantern mushroom, chanterelles, umbrella mushrooms, and many more. For lunch, everyone took their spoils to the top of the property and enjoyed beautiful views of Mt. Mitchell, Cattail Peak, Winter Star, and Celo Knob. Storms looked eminent in the distance, juxtaposed beautifully next to the sunlit mountains to the west of the property. Caplan searched each basket to ensure that there were not any deadly mushrooms, and then folks hopped into cars to escape in the incoming storms.
The mushroom hike was such a fruitful experience that Caplan offered to lead another expedition sometime in the near future. If you missed this hike, please check out www.appalachian.org to find other SAHC hikes and events, and we’ll see you next time!
Sunday, May 20th, was a beautiful day for a hike in the Highlands of Roan. Thirty six ambitious hikers joined Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC), Highland Brewing Company, and US Fish and Wildlife Service for a full day of hiking.
Hikers started their journey along Roaring Creek down in the valley below Little Hump by hoping onto the Overmountain Victory Trail. This was a good warm-up for everyone as we gradually ascended to connect with the Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail traverses 17 miles in the Highlands of Roan and provides some of the most spectacular views in the Southern Appalachians. The grade of the trail became immensely more difficult as the group set their sights on summiting Little Hump Mountain. A little ways up, hikers took a break to look back down into the valley and admire the iconic Overmountain Shelter.
Almost 1,500 feet later, the crew made it to the top where everyone enjoyed breathtaking views and good company. The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and Highland Brewing Company became partners in 2010 to raise awareness of the importance of land protection in our region. To do that, Highland Brewing Company names their seasonal ales after protected peaks in the region. Little Hump Mountain was the inspiration for their spring seasonal.
On top of Little Hump, the Ridge and Valley Province lies to your west in Tennessee and the renowned peaks of Grandfather Mountain, Table Rock, and Linville Gorge rise to the east in North Carolina. Depending on the season, you could have bluets at your feet and flame azaleas in your line of vision as you look out across the mountains. Much of the panoramic viewshed from around Little Hump is untouched by houses or developments and perhaps the best part is that you can enjoy these views for free anytime of the year.
We had a phenomenal time at our member event last week at Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, NC! On Thursday May 17, we celebrated our 50,000 acre milestone with members, volunteers, sponsors, and guests.
The energetic April Fools Old Time Band (out of Moore County, NC) took the stage at 6:00 p.m., as the Tasting Room began to fill with celebrants. Nona Mia Ritrovo provided an exceptional spread for dinner, and exciting raffle items filled the foyer of Highland Brewing Company’s Tasting Room.
During the evening program, Executive Director Carl Silverstein presented a brief recap of the 2011 projects which pushed us over the 50,000 acres protected milestone. He also addressed the question “What does it take to protect 50,000 acres?” The answer — Determined volunteers, members, staff, trustees, conservation partners, and supporters!
Carl and Jeanette Blazier, President of the Board of Trustees, presented the 2012 Stan Murray Volunteer of the Year Award to four Warren Wilson Forestry Students: Nick Biemiller, Kira Santulli, Sarah Jamison, and Rhys Brydon-Williams.
Nick, Kira, Sarah, and Rhys provided extraordinary help to SAHC in our initiative to restore Golden-winged warbler habitat on Little Hump Mountain in the Highlands of Roan. This is a major restoration project of SAHC to increase early successional habitat on Little Hump, funded by a grant from the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Nick, Kira, Sarah, and Rhys hiked several miles with their own heavy equipment and offered their forestry skills to further our conservation efforts on the mountain. Their volunteer hours leveraged our paid grant work, allowing us to further increase the amount of early successional habitat on Little Hump mountain.
This project solidified an enduring partnership between SAHC and Warren Wilson Forestry department. The school naturally attracts dedicated individuals with an enthusiasm for environmental stewardship. SAHC hopes to continue this wonderful partnership for years to come.
Jay grew up hiking, camping, and exploring the Southern Appalachians. He deeply loves these mountains, and revels in their fragile wonder. He is driven to ensure that their ecology will remain intact for the future.
In 2008, Jay helped pass state legislation authorizing the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area adjacent to the Highlands of Roan. Since then, he has led the protection of more than 1,500 acres of critically important high elevation habitat there, with a long-term goal is to protect 30,000 more acres. He also stopped the proposed Putnam Mine, which would have devastated views from the Appalachian Trail in the Highlands of Roan.
Jay played a crucial role in protecting the 10,000-acre Rocky Fork tract along the Appalachian Trail in East Tennessee. He worked tirelessly with SAHC’s partners to secure the property, and he has been a trusted advocate in Congress for funds to help pay for the tract being added to the Cherokee National Forest for present and future generations to visit and enjoy. As a constant and heroic advocate for conservation, Jay testified on Capitol Hill in support of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. His constant presence and vigilance in Washington, DC has advanced conservation locally as well as nationally.
Patty Cunningham-Woolf and Greg Gregory were elected each to a first 3-year term on the Board of Trustees, and Leslie Casse and Florence Krupnick will return to each serve a second 3-year term with the Board.
Patty is a REALTOR with Keller Williams Professionals in Asheville. Her summers were spent backpacking and camping in the Smokies and surrounding mountains, where she developed her deep love of the area’s natural resources. Patty is a long time member of SAHC, the Blue Ridge Society, and The American Chestnut Foundation. While a Director for the Asheville Board of REALTORS, Patty helped to create an Eco designation for area brokers, a first of its kind in the U.S. She is a 12-year resident of Asheville with her husband, Ben, son Joseph, and daughter Katie.
Lyman J. (“Greg”) Gregory, III
Greg is an attorney with the Asheville firm of Marshall, Roth, and Gregory. He is a native of Asheville and actively volunteers in numerous community activities, focusing in particular on land use planning and environmental law. He has served on the SAHC Land Management and Stewardship Committee for several years, and has advised SAHC on legal questions relating to conservation easements and other matters. Greg, his wife Michele and their son Gabriel enjoy hiking in North Carolina’s mountains.
Leslie has brought her broad professional background in public relations, marketing, journalism, law, and public policy to SAHC’s Membership Development and Communications programs. She has a longstanding love of Roan and other special places in the Southern Appalachians. She, her husband Daniel and their two children live in Asheville. Leslie’s father Charlie McCullough is a past President of the SAHC Board of Trustees.
Florence is active on the SAHC Membership Committee and has hosted cultivation events on behalf of SAHC. She is active in a number of causes on behalf of outdoor recreation, the environment, and children. She, her husband Jack and their children live in Asheville. Florence has worked hard on behalf of the Blue Ridge Society, a philanthropic giving society that benefits SAHC and CTNC.
We had a wonderful celebratory party with our members & guests. Thank you for joining us! We also want to extend an enormous THANK YOU to all our event sponsors and raffle item donors!
|Highland Brewing Company
|Nona Mia/Ritrovo||Altamont Environmental, Inc.
David A. Ramsey, Nature Photography
Last Thursday, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) staff members enjoyed another sensational day at Peter and Polly Gott’s idyllic farm. Tucked away deep in Madison County, the 218-acre Gott Farm is surrounded by Pisgah National Forest on two sides, there are abundant springs, wet coves full of wild edibles, viable soil for farming, and breathtaking views. Their farm is truly an ecological gem.
Our visit started out with a tour of the Gott’s log cabin, which Peter meticulously made using hand tools and historic methods. The precision and perfection of Peter’s craftsmanship was exhibited in every other building on their property as well. Peter’s tools were impeccably organized and the woodsheds were stacked so systematically, you would think the logs were books in a library. After a tour of Polly’s old art studio (which Peter also made) and their sauna by the river, the staff headed to the top of their property to enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking White Rocks and iconic Camp Creek Bald.
The real fun began after lunch when the instruments were pulled out for some old-fashioned music making. Peter led the charge on his banjo, while SAHC’s Emily Bidgood and Margot Wallston piped in on the fiddle, Jamie Ervin played the guitar, and Hanni Muerdter strummed on the mandolin. Peter’s daughter and grandsons brought it altogether with a rendition of “Bury me Beneath the Willow.” The celebration culminated with SAHC staff dancing their socks off. Peter called each dance and his daughter Susie played on the fiddle. It was a grand ol’ time.
Visiting the Gott Farm has become a tradition that all the staff look forward to every year. When the trees start blooming and the flowers are out, everyone knows it is time to visit the property again. “Peter and Polly are two of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. Their generosity towards others and love for their land is pervasive in everything that they do.” Said SAHC Membership Director, Cheryl Fowler.
“It was also nice for our staff to see and experience the fruits of our labor firsthand. Because we do much of our work sitting in front of desks everyday, it’s easy to sometimes lose track of the bigger picture and forget why we protect these pieces of land.” Said SAHC executive director, Carl Silverstein. “After a trip like today, it reaffirms for SAHC staff on a personal level, why we continue to protect land that has so much conservation and sentimental value.”
Land adjacent to the Sandy Mush Game Lands in northern Buncombe County has been donated to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. The newly donated 88-acre tract of land will connect the Sandy Mush Game Lands on two different sides.
This property bridges the gap between major portions of state-owned game lands, which are managed by the Wildlife Resource Commission (WRC).
“SAHC has played a role as a major partner in the protection of the Sandy Mush Game Lands,” said Carl Silverstein, SAHC’s Executive Director. “This property will protect a corridor for wildlife in the largest contiguous network of protected lands in this portion of northern Buncombe County. We are so pleased we were able to continue our work in preserving this area.”
The state holds a conservation easement on the donated property. The land will be enjoyed for birding and hunting in the future.
“It is always encouraging to protect land that benefits the public,” said SAHC’s Land Protection Director, Michelle Pugliese. SAHC hopes to utilize this protected property this Spring or Summer with a creek walk or hike along one of the streams.
On December 28, 2011, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy saved another special piece of land from development in the Sandy Mush community of Buncombe County, North Carolina. The 248-acre property holds pristine streams, steep slopes, and is adjacent to working farmlands. Due to a slow economy and eager seller, SAHC was able to acquire this valuable property at a great value.
“The property could have been sold to a developer in a heartbeat, but we acted quickly and protected another striking piece of land,” said Carl Silverstein, SAHC’s Executive Director.
Located at the end of a state road with excellent access, southern exposure and creeks, the property was just waiting for a developer to buy it, according to William Hamilton, SAHC’s Farmland Program Director.
“It would have been a shame for a large development to go in right next to properties that SAHC, Buncombe County, and landowners in the area have worked so hard to preserve,” said Hamilton.
Hamilton continues, “The property was a developer’s dream. Robinson Rough has beautiful creeks, sun exposure, views into the Sandy Mush valley, and includes an 1885 farm house and hand-hewn cabins. It was a great success for SAHC to acquire such an impressive property.”
SAHC purchased the property in order to safeguard the mountain from development. The deal is a major addition to the protected landscape in Buncombe County, and a good deal for conservation.
“We have adjoining property under conservation easement, and we’re really happy that the property is going to stay as it is and not be developed,” said Bill Duckett, neighboring farmer and cattleman.
Hamilton adds, “We did what we’re good at – we acted quickly to protect a piece of property with exceptional conservation values and ensured that the land would remain a positive resource for the Sandy Mush community.”
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) established another conservation easement in Yancey County, NC. The 192 acres rise to an elevation of 5,163 feet at the summit of High Knob. The property holds spectacular northerly views over the Black Mountains and sits close to several other prominent conservation easements, including the Big Tom Wilson Preserve, public tracts of land such as Pisgah National Forest, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Mount Mitchell State Park. The property is also within several miles of another SAHC easement.
“The Elk Fork property epitomizes what land conservation trusts try to do on a daily basis–protect pieces of land that hold aesthetic, practical, and intrinsic value.” States SAHC Executive Director, Carl Silverstein. “It is pivotal that we continue to protect properties that are highly visible to the public eye.” Elk Fork is definitely that. On clear days, Elk Fork can be seen from Mt. Mitchell and along the Cane River.
The size of the property, complemented by its close proximity to several other protected properties, makes Elk Fork biologically significant. Elk Fork is made up of primarily Oak and Cove hardwoods that range from 20-60 years old and potentially older trees at higher elevations. NC wildlife biologists have found Allegheny Woodrats (State Special Concern Species) and Least Weasels (State Significantly Rare Species) in the rock habitats on the property.
“Our family has long shared a dream of protecting natural areas for the future. This easement ensures that our property will continue to support a small part of the incomparable biological diversity of the Appalachian Mountains,” said Russ Oates, landowner of the Elk Fork tract.
The conservation easement costs were made possible by a complete donation by the landowners and from the generous assistance of Fred Stanback. “It is reassuring to know that remarkable pieces of land can still be protected today thanks to the ecological awareness and economic generosity of others.” Says, SAHC’s Land Protection Director, Michelle Pugliese.
Elk Fork is within the French Broad River Watershed and includes tributary streams of Elk Fork Creek which flow into the Cane River.
“Conservation of the property helps protect tributary streams of the French Broad Watershed from sources of sedimentation and other types of pollution,” says SAHC Stewardship Director, Hanni Muerdter.
On August 8th, 2011, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) transferred 35 crucial acres to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and the US Forest Service. Located in Macon County, North Carolina, Wesser Bald will be utilized as a buffer between ATC lands and private property which is at risk of being developed.
SAHC originally acquired the 35 acres in 2007, with the intent to sell the land to the Forest Service once the Forest Service attained the appropriate funding. Although it has been four years since the original acquisition, the transfer ensures that the ecological standards of Wesser Bald will always be upheld. The addition of this tract, along with an adjoining 42 acres on which SAHC holds a conservation easement, closes a wide gap in a swath of contiguous Forest Service lands that were vulnerable to development.
In the Fall of 2006, Wilderness Society newsletter, Wesser Bald was highlighted as ”at-risk” and a priority for conservation acquisition. After publication of that article, AT enthusiasts and the ATC encouraged SAHC to help conserve this property. Fortunately, SAHC was able capitalize on the opportunity and prevent developers from compromising such a significant piece of land.
With the state of the current economic market, funding for the acquisition of additional land had almost come to a halt. Fortunately, SAHC was able to work in conjunction with generous donors and organizations that continue to make transactions like this possible.
In addition to the extraordinary views, this protected land will contribute a multitude of other benefits to the ecosystems of the Little Tennessee River watershed, the Nantahala National Forest, and the Appalachian Trail Corridor. The land will serve as a catalyst for the protection of significant watersheds, providing a contiguous wildlife corridor that will provide high quality wildlife habitats and ecosystems for rare plants and will assure that the land will stay pristine for generations to come.
SAHC’s long-standing partnerships with the ATC and the Forest Service were instrumental in completing such a crucial transaction. SAHC’s Executive Director, Carl Silverstein says, “we are proud to be working with these partners to add an important sight along the AT that’s visible to a lot of people.”
ATC’s Southern Regional Director, Morgan Sommerville, echoed similar sentiments, while emphasizing the importance of continuing to acquire land to bolster the width of the Appalachian Trail Corridor. Sommerville explains, “ATC really appreciates SAHC’s commitment for this project…because the upper part of Wesser Bald has been on our list to acquire for a long time. We hope to continue these successes further south.”