Land Trust Day 2015

LandTrustDay2015_logosThank you to our Land Trust Day sponsoring businesses, for helping us raise $13,000 for conservation in one day!

We’d also like to give a special THANK YOU to Mast General Store, for allowing us space in the Asheville and Waynesville stores to provide informative materials and talk to customers throughout the day. And thank you to our staff and volunteers who hosted tables at the Mast General Store locations: Michelle Pugliese, Sarah Sheeran, Caitlin Edenfield, Joan Worth, Leigh DeForth, and Cheryl Fowler.

This year, we also hosted two area hikes during Land Trust Day.

Second Spring Market Garden produces veggies as part of SAHC's Farmer Incubator Program.

Second Spring Market Garden produces veggies as part of SAHC’s Farmer Incubator Program.

Community Farm Hike: We hosted our third annual Land Trust Day hike out on SAHC’s Community Farm. Each year the hike becomes more interesting and in-depth as new projects develop and old ones continue to grow. This year we were excited to have some neighbors of the farm on the hike, who were interested in learning more about the Community Farm and our Farmer Incubator Program.

Tomatoes growing in the greenhouse.

Tomatoes growing in the greenhouse.

The morning started off cool, as we gave a brief introduction to SAHC and our Community Farm at the trailhead. Our first stop along the hike was at Second Spring Market Garden, the first farmers in our Farmer Incubator Program. Second Spring provides one of the most dynamic stops along, as it is constantly growing (pun intended) and expanding. Growing on just an acre-and-a-half, they’re providing Asheville with its first 52-week CSA. Walking through in June was a great time to visit, as the farmers were in full production mode! After passing by Second Spring, we ventured in the woods and into the Stream Restoration and Short Leaf Pine Restoration areas. While these areas are slowly growing, the before and after pictures provided by the info boards along trail are proof of progress!

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Piney Woods cattle herd, owned by Incubator Farmer Gina Raicovich.

We made our way up the steep hill, onto the ridge, from which a view of the entire farm can be seen. It was a little hazy out, but still a breathtaking view and easy way to visualize what 100 acres looks like. The group continued on their way, down off the ridge and back into the Stream Restoration zone. The 1.5-mile Discovery Trail does a wonderful job of covering every interesting aspect and project on the farm. As we made our way back to the trail head, we caught a glimpse of the Piney Woods Cattle roaming the farm. In just a couple of hours, we were able to give the all-access tour of our Community Farm!

OM Sanctuary’s “Human Health and Connection with Nature”:

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Hikers explored a protected urban forest at OM Sanctuary.

As part of a day-long open house and celebration of the conservation easement at OM Sanctuary, SAHC helped lead a hike on the tract, to explore the recently protected urban forest. Participants learned the benefits of urban forest, both to humans and to ecosystem health. We walked through chestnut oak forest and acidic cove forest, learning native trees and wildflowers in addition to how the history of the railroad affected OM’s current-day forest. Hikers also learned how to identify multiflora rose, Oriental bittersweet, and Morrow’s honeysuckle as non-native invasive species, and why Asian plant species are commonly invasive in our forests and, reciprocally, that our plants are invasive in their forests. The group was inspired at the end of the hike to pursue more naturalist-led hikes with SAHC and to volunteer with the invasive species removal project at OM Sanctuary.

Thank you to all who were involved throughout the day!

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Headwaters Exploration

Nodding Trillium were found all over the trail, during a scouting trip back in April. This beautiful native flower is a sure sign of spring.

Nodding Trillium were found all over the trail, during a scouting trip back in April. This beautiful native flower is a sure sign of spring.

Tucked away in the hills of Black Mountain, NC, lies the headwaters of the Catawba River and the popular hiking destination, Catawba Falls. During the last week of May, we had the pleasure of leading a group of hikers to the upper portion of Catawba Falls, a rarely visited section of this favorite waterfall spot. Most hikers access Catawba Falls from the bottom and rarely see the upper portion of the falls, but we were able to gain access to this unique route by beginning the hike on a tract on which SAHC holds a conservation easement. This particular property in Black Mountain is a real favorite, for its incredible plant diversity, high water quality and most notably the headwaters of the Catawba River.

Thick rhododendron and relatively flat trail made for an adventurous  and fun hike.

Thick rhododendron and relatively flat trail made for an adventurous and fun hike.

We met early in the morning, with dark storm clouds lingering on the mountaintops. Although not too concerned about weather rolling in, since we would be at a lower elevation for most of the hike, we certainly hoped the weather would hold out, since a creek stomp isn’t as fun in the driving rain. A local historian met us at the property and shared the historical significance of the land. We certainly weren’t the first travelers to set foot on this land! The group eagerly listened as tales of families traveling through the mountains and across this very property were told.

The size and scale of Catawba Falls can hardly be captured. The massive and beautiful falls rises about 40 feet above the pool below.

The size and scale of Catawba Falls can hardly be captured. The massive and beautiful falls rises about 40 feet above the pool below.

At the last couple of stream crossings, it became obvious we were getting closer to our destination. The stream had widened as more water flowed by. Then, the top of the falls emerged out of nowhere, popping up behind a row of rhododendron. At first glance, it seemed unimpressive. As the group climbed down the final steep descent, we could hear the water raging and knew we had arrived. The thick rhododendron made it difficult to the see the falls until the last bend in the trail, and as we come around, the view revealed the waterfall towering above, cascading over mossy boulders. “Oohs” and “aahs” were released at the sight of the massive falls. The group split off, enjoying the large exposed rocks and small beach area as the perfect lunch spot.

Our hiking group, feeling tiny next to Catawba Falls.

Our hiking group, feeling tiny next to Catawba Falls.

A sense of relaxation and relief seemed to come over the whole group. The only sound was that of the water falling over rocks and splashing into the pool below. We enjoyed lunch slowly, exhilarating in such a beautiful location. In between bites and conversation, folks explored the pool below the falls. A couple crawdads were spotted and some people even went for a swim! As everyone relished stunning beauty of the falls, hike leader – AmeriCorps Conservation Education & Volunteer Associate – Kana Miller highlighted the importance of conservation in Black Mountain and in particular this property. Protecting the water sources and land surrounding the headwaters and tributaries of the Catawba River has lasting impacts across the state. The group listened and was grateful – Catawba Falls provides a clear and obvious reminder of why protecting these precious water sources is so important!

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Looking Back: June Jamboree 2015

Thanks to everyone who joined us for the June Jamboree this summer! As we prepare to bid adieu to our Project Conserve AmeriCorps Conservation Education and Volunteer Associate, Kana Miller (whose 11-month service term ends next week), we’d like to share her account from the day:

“Organizing the June Jamboree was like the grand finale of my experience with SAHC; it tested all the skills I’ve honed leading the outreach program. With five different hikes in one day on the Roan Massif, and close to 100 people participating, it’s a big event to organize — but for me, this year’s June Jamboree proved to be nothing but rewarding!

June Jamboree is our annual day of free, guided hikes and social gathering in the stunning Highlands of Roan.

The Breakdown – This Year’s Hike Offerings:

Hike #1 Ed Schell Memorial Hike – From Carvers Gap to Grassy Ridge

Hike #2 Birding Hike with Simon Thompson

Hike #3 Roll n’ Stroll in the Rhododendron Gardens

Hike #4 Salamander Scavenger Hunt

Hike #5 Challenge Hike

 In addition to coordinating all the hikes and hike participants, I also led the Challenge Hike. A fairly new tradition, the Challenge Hike is notorious for being a long hike (12 + miles) with strenuous route and rewarding, beautiful views. This year’s Challenge hike was no different – I planned a 15-mile trek across the Appalachian Trail and Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail.

A break in the clouds provided the rewarding views of grassy balds, long stretches of mountains, and the familiar Appalachian Trail, for which the Roan is known for.

A break in the clouds provided rewarding views of grassy balds, long stretches of mountains, and the familiar Appalachian Trail, for which the Highlands of Roan are known.

I was eager to get on the trail as we gathered at Hughes Gap, and I could sense the rest of the group was, too. We had a long day ahead and thunderstorms threatening to hit Carvers Gap in the afternoon. After a brief introduction and safety talk we took off on the Appalachian Trail, heading up Beartown Mountain and Roan High Knob, a 3-mile climb with over 2,500 feet of elevation gain. It was early in the morning with a cool breeze as we headed silently up trail, enjoying the newly routed section of the AT. We could see where the trail originally went straight up the mountain and were thankful for the new, gentle curves along the contours and switchbacks. It didn’t take long for folks to splinter off into groups with different hiking speeds as we tackled the long climb.

After about two hours, the group made it to the top and the highest point along our route, the old Cloudland Hotel Site and Roan High Knob. We took a break here and could already tell the mountain was alive with visitors. During this break, we ran into our staff representative on the Roll n’ Stroll, SAHC Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. While a brief encounter, it made June Jamboree feel like a close-knit community event – it was rewarding to see my hard work and coordinating come together!

The Grays Lily is a rare plant species, native to the Highlands of Roan. This year, the timing of June Jamboree was perfect for catching these blooms!

The Grays Lily is a rare plant species, native to the Highlands of Roan. This year, the timing of June Jamboree was perfect for catching these blooms!

Although Roan High Knob was the highest point along our route, we had only traveled a few miles. We sped right through Carvers Gap and continued up Round Bald to get away from the crowds. Dark clouds were lingering on the horizon. My worst nightmare seemed like it might come true – getting stuck in a thunderstorm on the open balds. The clouds were rolling right over the grassy balds and folks were getting hungry. We pushed on to Engine Gap, making our way to a sunny spot out of the clouds. A lunch break seemed to be exactly what the group needed to re-energize. With a map highlighting SAHC properties in the area, I spoke about SAHC’s involvement in protecting and managing the Roan Massif before we made our way back on trail.

The Ed Schell Memorial Hike, from Carvers Gap to Grassy Ridge, made their way down Jane Bald just as we were heading up. It was awesome to run into this group, especially since it constituted the biggest hike of the June Jamboree and had the presence of many current and former board members. As a light sprinkle began, I couldn’t help but notice that despite raincoats and clouds blocking our views, everyone was smiling and talking about  enjoying the great day. The excitement and camaraderie on trail was exactly the pick-me-up I needed to motivate our group and power through the second half of our route. We made it past Grassy Ridge, Elk Hollow Ridge, the Stan Murray AT Shelter and onto Yellow Mountain Gap in good time.

After a strenuous downhill hike into Hampton Creek Cove, this beautiful view (and flat trail!) was a welcome sight for the Challenge hikers during their last couple of miles.

After a strenuous downhill hike into Hampton Creek Cove, this beautiful view (and flat trail!) was a welcome sight for the Challenge hikers during their last couple of miles.

Although we still had about 4 miles to go, the trail junction at Yellow Mountain Gap was an important one. Yellow Mountain Gap is the four-way intersection of the Appalachian Trail and the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, and also marked our turn off of the AT. We had 11 miles under our feet and food and drinks awaiting us at the end of Hampton Creek Cove! Folks took a break as I gave a brief history of Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area and the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail. We were standing on the border of Cherokee National Forest, before rapidly descending into Hampton Creek Cove. The trail was overgrown and steep, but still very beautiful. We hiked though dense hardwood forest, crossing several small streams before popping out into cow pasture.

The Challenge Hike celebrating the end of a 15-mile day, with sunshine, food and good beer. Cheers!

The Challenge Hike group, celebrating the end of a 15-mile day, with sunshine, food and good beer from our “For Love of Beer & Mountains” partners at Highland Brewing Company. Cheers!

A slow drizzle started up as we finished our 15-mile day. We had endured a long, but fun, day of hiking. Our group was welcomed with ‘hoots and hollars’ as we made our way to the post-hike social. A delicious spread of fruit, crackers, cheese and refreshing beverages awaited us. Then the sun came out and a peaceful, rewarding sensation came across me as I sat back and relaxed. The day was done; June Jamboree 2015 was a success!”

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‘Twas indeed a lovely Appalachian Spring

Bill and the Belles provided music for the evening.

Bill and the Belles provided music for the evening.

You couldn’t ask for a more Appalachian setting, with flair. As guests arrived at the Farmhouse Gallery and Gardens on May 21, they were greeted by the eerie screams of peacocks who live on the property and nonchalantly flaunt their remarkable feathers. The weather was a little iffy – with threatening clouds hovering overhead much of the time, but we were grateful that the rain held off and the cover helped keep temperatures at just the right level.

AmeriCorps Land Protection Associate Caitlin Edenfield, on the raffle team.

AmeriCorps Land Protection Associate Caitlin Edenfield, on the raffle team.

The lovely raffle display on the deck and our festive raffle team sporting face paint and costumes helped brighten the festivities. Music by Bill and the Belles put all at ease, welcoming guests and entertaining throughout the night.

As folks sat down to enjoy the buffet dinner of barbeque, salad and potatoes, the evening program began with Executive Director Carl Silverstein’s remarks highlighting our conservation achievement over the past year, followed by recognition of our outgoing Trustees, Leslie Casse and Florence Krupnick, who have served two terms on our Board.

Election of Trustees

New Trustees Robbie McLucas and Jeff Needham.

New Trustees Robbie McLucas and Jeff Needham.

The new nominations to the SAHC Board of Trustees were approved by the vote of members assembled at the event or by proxy. We are very pleased to welcome Robbie McLucas and Jeff Needham to the Board!

Jeff lives in Kingsport, TN and is the Strategic Technology Director with Eastman Chemical Company. He is passionate about the environment and SAHC’s mission.  He brings SAHC strong leadership, analytical, and strategic planning skills, plus close ties with community leaders in Kingsport.

Robbie is a real estate agent in Asheville, and has served for several years on the SAHC Communications Committee. A dedicated SAHC volunteer, he previously worked with the Jackson Hole Land Trust. Robbie generously supports SAHC through One Percent for the Planet and actively promotes SAHC through social media.

Thank you to all who joined us for the event!

Thank you to all who joined us for Appalachian Spring 2015.

Patty  Cunningham-Woolf and Lyman J.  “Greg” Gregory, III  were each elected to serve a second 3-year term on our Board of Trustees.

Patty is an agent with Carolina Mountain Sales realty in Asheville. She serves on SAHC’s Member Outreach and Events Committee, and has led the development of our Real Estate Partner Program, in which realtors give a gift membership to SAHC on behalf of homebuyers in the area.

Greg is an attorney with the Asheville firm of Marshall, Roth, and Gregory. Greg chairs the SAHC Land Management and Stewardship Committee, and advises
SAHC on legal questions relating to conservation easements and other matters.

2015 Stanley A. Murray Volunteer of the Year – Craig Thompson

Trustee Anne Kilgore presents the 2015 Stanley A. Murray Volunteer of the Year Award.

Trustee Anne Kilgore presents the 2015 Stanley A. Murray Volunteer of the Year Award.

Anne Kilgore, SAHC Trustee and Director of Sustainability at Eastman, presented this year’s Stanley A. Murray Volunteer of the Year award to Craig Thompson, for outstanding service in the Highlands of Roan. In 1989 the Stanley A. Murray Award for Volunteer Service 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.

Craig lives in Jonesborough, TN. Recently retired, he is an avid hiker and photographer and has traveled extensively throughout the US. He has served SAHC as a model volunteer in key capacities. Craig cares passionately about the Roan Highlands and participates in almost every habitat management workday we hold there — assisting in coordination of the NC BRIDGE crew, Grassy Ridge mow-off, Roany Boyz, and other workdays.

Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett and Volunteer of the Year Craig Thompson.

Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett and Volunteer of the Year Craig Thompson.

Craig has been an enthusiastic participant in our recent “triple mowing” experiment, in which we are partnering with the US Forest Service and volunteers to look at new ways to control blackberry. Craig recognizes the importance of engaging new generations of conservationists in SAHC’s mission. He is actively pursuing outreach on our behalf in the Tri-cities region, in order to recruit new members and build our constituency. Thank you and congratulations to Craig!

As the raffle ended, the night concluded, and guests trickled out to return home, we were grateful and pleased to have been able to gather under the shadow of the mountains to celebrate and carry forward our conservation – now 41 years strong and growing.

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A HUGE Thank You to our Appalachian Spring Event Sponsors this year:

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And our Raffle donors:

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June Jamboree 2015 – Hikes and social in the Highlands of Roan

Saturday, June 20

Please join us for our annual day of FREE, guided hikes and social gathering in the incredible Highlands of Roan. These five group hikes include outings for all age and ability levels. Descriptions, details and start times for each are provided below. You will receive directions to the departure location & 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!

Social Gathering

Join us on our recently protected SAHC property just outside the Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area. Enjoy fellowship with friends and family and learn about our recent conservation initiatives. We will provide light refreshments and beverages. Drop by between 2 to 6 pm.


Hike #1 — Ed Schell Memorial Hike from Carver’s Gap to Grassy Ridge

Start Time: 9 am |  Estimated End Time: 2-3 pm |  Leader: David Smith
Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous (7-8)  |  Location: Start at Carver’s Gap

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 is the highest point near the AT, reaching 6,189 feet in elevation. 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.
Along the way, former Seasonal Ecologist and Trustee David Smith will discuss the significance of the balds and the best practices for managing this pristine habitat. For those desiring an easier hike, there is the option of hiking out to Round Bald or Jane Bald, to enjoy the flowers and expansive views, instead of going all the way to Grassy Ridge. This year’s Carver’s Gap to Grassy Ridge hike is offered in memory of active, long-time member Ed Schell, who passed away early this year.

 

Hike #2 — Birding Hike with Simon Thompson

Start Time: 8 am |  Estimated End Time: 1 pm |  Leader: Simon Thompson of Ventures Birding and Nature Tours
Difficulty: Moderate (5-6) |  Location: Roan High Knob

The Highlands of Roan provide some of the best mountain birding in the high elevation ranges of North Carolina. Join us for a hike to Roan High Knob with Simon Thompson of Ventures Birding and Nature Tours, as we take advantage of the pristine habitat found in the Roan. The medley of spruce-fir forest to open grassy balds offers great wildlife diversity.
Roan High Knob is the pinnacle of the Roan-Unaka Mountain Range, a rolling expanse of highlands in northwest TN. Rising some 6,286 feet, the summit sits atop a modest rock outcropping some 30 meters from the Roan High Knob shelter, the highest shelter on the 2,160-mile Appalachian Trail. On a clear day you can see the nearby Roan High Bluff, Round Bald and Grassy Ridge Bald and much more.
About Simon: Originally from Suffolk, England, Simon has lived in NC for 10+ years. He has travelled extensively and spent six months in China studying the crane and bird of prey migration as a member of the British “China Crane Watch” expedition. As director and originator of Ventures Nature Travel program in Tryon, NC, Simon has led birding trips all over the world.

Hike #3 — Roll n’ Stroll in Rhododendron Gardens

Start Time: 11 am |  Estimated End Time: 1 pm |  Leader: Judy Murray
Difficulty: Easy (2)  |  Location: Rhododendron Gardens

The Rhododendron Gardens on top of Roan will be blazing with color this time of year. Volunteer Highlands of Roan Advisor 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 Big Rock Creek and two retired Christmas tree farms. 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/stroller accessible.

Hike #4 — Salamander Scavenger Hunt

Start Time: 11 am  |  Estimated End Time: 2 pm |  Leader: Marquette Crockett
Difficulty: Moderately Easy (3-4) |  Location: Hampton Creek Cove

A twist on our usual Kids in the Creek, this shorter hike is designed to get kids outdoors and explore the beautiful waters of the Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area. Led by Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett, kids will learn about basic stream ecology while discovering different features of the surrounding landscape.

In the creek, kids will look for crayfish, salamanders, and other aquatic creatures. On land, Marquette will point out the historic fruit orchard and explore the cow pastures. 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 gear.

Hike #5 — Challenge Hike

Start Time: 8 am |  Estimated End Time: 5 pm |  Leader: Kana Miller
Difficulty: Very Difficult (10+) |  Location: Starting from Hughes Gap, ending at Hampton Creek Cove

Join us in traversing 15 miles across the longest contiguous stretch of grassy balds in the world. The Highlands of Roan is our flagship focus area; we’ve protected over 20,000 acres of globally significant, rare habitat and incredible views here – and we want to show it off!

The Challenge hike is the most difficult, but also most rewarding hike we offer during June Jamboree – and this year’s route is no different! Beginning on the Appalachian Trail at Hughes Gap, we will make our way up Beartown Mountain to Roan High Knob on the newly re-routed trail. From Roan High Knob, we’ll continue down to Carvers Gap and then up and over Round Bald, Jane Bald, past Grassy Ridge and on to Yellow Mountain Gap. Yellow Mountain Gap marks the 11th mile and the hike doesn’t stop there.

We will leave the AT and head down into Hampton Creek Cove on the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail. This final four-mile stretch is no rest for the weary; expect several stream crossings and short sections of incline, before finishing this long hike in the beautiful mountain pastures of Hampton Creek. Need an extra incentive to sign-up for this hike? The post hike fellowship will be within arm’s reach at the end of the trail. Challenge hikers will be able to wander down the street for some hard earned snacks and beverages.

Register Now

Register online now, or contact Kana Miller at kana@appalachian.org or 828.253.0095 ext 205 for questions or more information.

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“Human Health and Connection to Nature” — A Special Event and Conservation Celebration hosted by OM Sanctuary

OMsanctuary

OM Sanctuary

On Saturday, June 6, Oshun Mountain (OM) Sanctuary in Asheville, NC will host an open house and conservation celebration with an informative hike through a recently protected urban forest above the French Broad River. OM Sanctuary will welcome visitors between 11 am and 4 pm, offering free lectures, class demonstrations, an educational hike, and raffle/silent auction centered on the theme ‘Human Health and Connection with Nature.’ Founded in 2012, OM Sanctuary is a non-profit holistic education and nature-sensitive retreat center that offers overnight stays, classes, lectures, trainings and other programs.

Serenity Garden and waterfall

Serenity Garden and waterfall

“Nature is integral to our well-being — you can’t separate people from their environment,” says Shelli Stanback, OM Sanctuary Founder and President. “We are pleased to offer this event as a way to learn more about OM Sanctuary and what we offer, and to explore the connection between mind, body, spirit, and nature in relation to personal health and well-being.” The open house starts at 11 am. Holistic class demonstrations will include: Guided Relaxation and Meditation with Jerome Pearson at 11:15 am, Yoga with Elle Jai at 12:15 pm, Qi Gong for Self Healing with Lara Diaz at 1:15 pm, and Qi Gong with Virginia Rosenberg at 2:15 pm. OM Sanctuary’s Residential Chef Katie will also present Nutrition and Clean Eating demos at 12, 1, and 2 pm. At 3:15 pm, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) will give a brief introduction to conservation, followed by a guided 0.6-mile walk through OM Sanctuary’s preserve.

Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel

Led by SAHC AmeriCorps Stewardship Associate Andrea Thompson, hikers will learn about identification of native plant species, what constitutes a healthy forest community, and the importance of biodiversity for ecosystems. As participants ruminate on the interdependence between nature and human health, they can expect to see native species such as rosebay rhododendron, mountain laurel, black walnut, American beech, American holly, Carolina silverbell, New York fern, hay-scented fern, cucumber root, striped wintergreen, and more. After three years of dedicated effort, OM Sanctuary’s 42-acre urban forest was recently protected by a conservation easement with SAHC. Overlooking the French Broad River, Interstate 26, and Riverside drive, the easement protects a bluff containing cove forest, oak forest, and low montane pine forest with mixed hardwoods. The tract also contains pools in the river floodplain that provide likely habitat for wildlife like salamanders, amphibians and reptiles.

Hiking trail

Hiking trail

“Natural places are essential for human health,” says Stanback. “Once they have been lost to development, they are gone forever. We must preserve them now for our sake, and for the sake of the future. With few urban open spaces remaining near Asheville, protecting the forest with a conservation easement was the clear, sustainable choice. It will assist OM Sanctuary in fulfilling our mission to inspire healthy lifestyle practices through holistic education and connection with nature.”

The property is located near Buncombe County’s Richmond Hill Park and the state-designated Richmond Hill Forest Natural Area. Conservation of the tract also helps protect tributary streams of the French Broad River Watershed from sources of sedimentation and other types of pollution. “We were thrilled at the opportunity to protect this undeveloped, mature forest so near the heart of the city,” said Carl Silverstein, SAHC’s Executive Director. “It is a rare gem containing an uncommon cluster of natural features near Asheville’s urban core. The forest provides ecosystem services and preserves a scenic view seen by many people every day: recreational users of the French Broad River and everyone who drives past it.”

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SAHC will lead a guided hike through the protected forest on June 6.

The open house and celebration of the new conservation easement are open to the public, free or by donation. The event will conclude at 4 pm with a raffle drawing. Donations and proceeds from the raffle and silent auction will be used to benefit the OM Sanctuary’s mission of providing holistic health services to individuals of all of all ages, cultures, and income levels. For more information, visit http://www.omsanctuary.org.

About OM Sanctuary: This non-profit organization was formed in 2012 as a response to the increasing number of people of all ages, cultures, and income levels seeking holistic methods to improve health, reduce stress, and bring balance to their personal and professional lives. Located on the site of the historic Richmond Hill hotel just outside downtown Asheville, NC, OM Sanctuary responds to this need by offering a holistic retreat center, educational scholarship programs, and charitable initiatives focused on Body, Mind, Spirit, and Nature. Their mission is to inspire healthy lifestyle practices through holistic education and connection with nature. For more information, visit http://www.omsanctuary.org.

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Land Trust Day – Shop and Dine to Support Conservation on June 6!

Join us in celebrating SAHC’s impact on our local economy! Businesses in the Asheville and Waynesville areas have pledged to donate a percentage of sales on Saturday, June 6 to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) to support local land and water conservation efforts.

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Land Trust Day/National Trails Day hike 2014

Land Trust Day is held each year in conjunction with National Trails Day, the first Saturday in June. The natural assets we preserve have made this region an international destination for hiking, biking, camping, boating, hunting, fishing, and farm-to-table culinary experiences. Recognizing this fact, our Land Trust Day business partners donate a percentage of the day’s sales to support SAHC.

“Our conservation work directly impacts tourism as an economic driver in Western North Carolina communities,” says SAHC Membership Director Cheryl Fowler. “We are grateful that many of our business partners have recognized this fact and pledged to ‘give back’ by donating a percentage of the day’s sales on Land Trust Day — Saturday, June 6.”

LandTrustDay2015_logos

Participating businesses this year include:

Mast General Store (Asheville & Waynesville locations), Second Gear, New Morning Gallery, Blue Spiral 1 Gallery, Fine Arts Theatre, Bellagio Art to Wear, Bellagio Everyday, Navitat Canopy Adventures, Black Dome Mountain Sports, Laughing Seed, Jack of the Wood, and Weinhaus.

Your purchase on June 6 will help support our work! Please spread the word, and please help us thank the shops for participating in Land Trust Day.


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SAHC’s Community Farm Discovery Trail

Community Farm Hike – June 6
10 AM

In honor of both Land Trust Day and National Trails Day, SAHC will also offer a free, guided hike on our Community Farm in Alexander, NC.

Second Spring Market Garden

Second Spring Market Garden

Beginning at 10 am, the moderately easy, family-friendly farm tour will traverse SAHC’s 1.5-mile Discovery Trail. Hikers will learn about the myriad projects progressing on the Community Farm, including active farming areas for the Farmer Incubator Program (vegetables farmed by Second Spring Market Garden and pasture for a herd of Pineywoods cattle), successfully restored streams flowing through the property, and a native shortleaf pine restoration project. Optional — bring a lunch and blanket or camp chairs to picnic on the farm after the hike.

More details and directions will be provided upon registration.

For more info or to register for the farm hike, contact Kana Miller at 828.253.0095 ext 205 or kana@appalaachian.org.

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Beetles Battle the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid on hemlock branch.  Photo courtesy Robert L. Anderson, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org.

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid on hemlock branch.
Photo courtesy Robert L. Anderson, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org.

Dubbed the “Redwood of the East”, eastern hemlock is a long-lived and slowing growing giant that can reportedly live up to 800 years-old and reach heights of more than 150 feet. The species is considered to be the most shade tolerant tree in the Eastern US and is an ecologically important component of Southern Appalachian forests. The dense shade cast by the evergreen tree’s canopy creates critical wildlife habitat, stabilizes stream banks, and keeps mountain forests and streams cool.

Many forest and aquatic species depend on the presence of hemlocks, whose numbers have declined significantly in the past 10 years due to the introduction and spread of the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA). In fact, by 2010 all NC counties within the historic range of hemlocks were infested. This tiny aphid-like insect has wreaked havoc on both eastern and Carolina hemlocks by literally sucking the trees dry and injecting saliva that distorts plant growth. Under high infestation rates, HWA can cause tree death in as little as four to seven years.

Close-up of HWA. Photo courtesy of Michael Montgomery, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Close-up of HWA. Photo courtesy of Michael Montgomery, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

In 2014 the Hemlock Restoration Initiative, a cooperative effort launched by the NC Dept of Agriculture & Consumer Services to restore the long-term health of NC hemlocks, provided $75,000 in grant funds to WNC Communities, which in turn funded several projects to address treatment and restoration options for North Carolina’s hemlock trees.

One of the award recipients, the Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and Development Council (Blue Ridge RC&D), provides educational workshops on biological control of HWA for individuals and organizations like SAHC who steward lands impacted by HWA.  The goal of the workshops is to provide information on the benefits and use of predator beetles for HWA control. Specifically, Blue Ridge RC&D’s project intends to train workshop participants on methods for collecting and releasing predator beetles such as Laricobius nigrinus (also known as Lari beetles) that feed on HWA. The program hopes this will facilitate the spread of predatory beetles. HWA is native to Asia and the Pacific Northwest, where it also feeds on hemlocks. However, HWA is not considered to be a pest in the western US because natural enemies like Lari beetles keep HWA populations under control.

A Laricobius larva eats hemlock woolly adelgid eggs. Right: An adult Laricobius beetle. Photo by US National Park Service.

A Laricobius larva eats hemlock woolly adelgid eggs. Right: An adult Laricobius beetle. Photo by US National Park Service.

Lari beetles are effective winter predators and feed exclusively on adelgids from October to May. Each Lari larva can consume 200 to 250 adelgid eggs or crawlers before they pupate in June. In fact, research shows that the beetles can eat more than 90 percent of HWA in areas where the beetles have been released. Once established, Lari beetles can advance up to 2 miles per year.

Lari beetles have been released throughout Western North Carolina on private, federal and state lands. Recently, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) released 50 Lari beetles on the Sandy Mush Game Lands located in Madison and Buncombe counties. SAHC is working with the WRC on a future release of Lari beetles on an SAHC-owned tract that bridges the gap between non-contiguous sections of the state-owned Sandy Mush Game Land. This property is home to numerous Canada hemlocks. Our hope is to facilitate the establishment of Lari beetles  on this property so they can be collected and redistributed to other areas affected by HWA.

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Volunteers Clean Up Sandy Mush Game Lands

sandymush3

Volunteers removed 232 partially buried tires from the tract!

Sometimes you have to look beneath the surface to see the beauty in a conservation tract. Once such example is SAHC’s Sandy Mush Game Lands tract, which we acquired in 2011.

The 88-acre tract is important for conservation because it forms a critical linking bridge and wildlife corridor between non-contiguous portions of the state-owned game lands. Unfortunately, open public access to an old roadbed and the presence of hidden, steep slopes led to illegal dumping in the decades prior to our acquisition.

Dealing with the hundreds of illegally dumped items on the property has been a high priority goal for our Land Management and Stewardship team, and we were grateful to have some volunteer help to make headway this Spring.

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SAHC Stewardship Associate Sarah Sheeran helps get out the trash.

When SAHC Stewardship staff and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) officers walked through the property, they saw dozens of tires embedded in the soil slopes leading down to Sandy Mush Creek.  Not only illegal and unsightly, the debris in some cases had reached the creek and posed a potential threat to water quality.  Cleaning this up was no small task, so our Stewardship team mobilized a group of enthusiastic volunteers in March to tackle this issue.

Thank you to all who helped.

Thank you to all who helped!

A group of 16 volunteers from North and South Carolina gathered after a rain storm on a cloudy Saturday morning to get to work.  SAHC Stewardship Associate Sarah Sheeran, who monitors the property annually on behalf of SAHC, provided an overview and Chris Henline of NCWRC spoke with the group about long-term land management goals on the property.  The tract bridges two sections of Sandy Mush Game Lands owned by the State of NC.  The partnership between SAHC and NCWRC means that this property is eligible for state resources and management for wildlife habitat in exchange for the property being part of the game land system.

The tract’s early successional habitat and natural resources already make it ideal small game and bird habitat. Prescriptive burns and biological control treatment for Eastern hemlocks in the future will greatly enhance the value of the land for native plant and animal communities.

With the conservation values of the property in mind, the volunteers were ready for action.  Armed with shovels, rope, and trash bags, they dropped downslope of the roadbed and worked their way up, dragging tires and hauling out loads of assorted glass and metal debris.

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46 full contractor-size bags of debris were removed.

Assorted piles of metal debris and car parts had been illegally dumped as well.

Assorted piles of metal debris and car parts had been illegally dumped as well.

The accumulation of wet weather in Sandy Mush during the week prior meant it was not glamorous work, but these dedicated volunteers were undeterred by mud and gnats.  The work was best suited for pairs and small teams. By lunchtime, the group was dirty but proud as they shared snacks with and joked about unionizing.

By early afternoon, the debris totaled:  232 tires, 46 contractor bags of glass and other household trash, 15 bag-sized piles of metal debris, and many more odd relics, including a convertible in its many parts.  This debris was piled neatly for pickup by NCWRC later.

It was satisfying work, knowing how much debris was removed and that new gates, signage, and permanent protection will deter future dumping on the property.  We are very grateful to all who volunteered. Stay tuned for another workday opportunity to tackle the rest!

About Sandy Mush Game Lands

Contextual map of Norco property

West of the French Broad River, the Sandy Mush Game Lands provide excellent wildlife habitat. (Orange: 88-acre SAHC-owned portion, Green: Sandy Mush Game Lands owned by the State of NC).

The Sandy Mush Game Lands consist of 2,765 acres of land in Buncombe and Madison Counties, managed by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission  and owned by the State of NC (2,677 acres) and SAHC (88 acres). Sandymush Creek and Turkey Creek flow through it. In 2004, SAHC assisted the State of NC in the acquisition of the land, once owned by CP&L/Progress Energy, for conservation and public ownership.

The Sandy Mush Game Lands are open to the public for hiking, biking, fishing, hunting, and birding.

One of 105 sites on the NC Birding Trail, the Game Lands are actively managed with prescribed fire to restore native warm season grasses and forbs to benefit wildlife habitat.  Turkey Creek and Sandy Mush Creek gorges offer opportunity to view various warblers, Wood Thrush and Acadian Flycatcher.

For more details about public use, game animals, and bird species, visit ncwildlife.org.

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Appalachian Spring 2015 Annual Membership Celebration Event

Thursday, May 21  |  6 to 8 pm

Farmhouse Gallery & Gardens, Unicoi, TN

Enjoy delicious dinner catered by the Farmhouse Gallery & Gardens.

Enjoy delicious dinner catered by the Farmhouse Gallery & Gardens.

Click HERE to purchase tickets now. Join the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy in celebrating 41 years of conservation in our community. Because of our dedicated members, volunteers, and community supporters, we can continue protecting the special places we all love. Please join us for an evening of celebration and merriment, with footstomping entertainment provided by the ETSU Old Time Pride Band. We are honored to have Farmhouse Gallery and Gardens donate their venue space for this event and continue to support SAHC in our conservation efforts.

ETSU Old Time Pride Band, performing at a previous Appalachian Spring event.

ETSU Old Time Pride Band, performing at a previous Appalachian Spring event.

Event Ticket Price includes: Dinner, 1 drink ticket, music and fellowship. Purchase your tickets early and save! Early bird tickets ($20 for members/$25 for non-members) purchased by May 3rd are discounted. After May 3rd, all tickets will be $30. Raffle ticket sales help support our conservation work, and raffle tickets can now be purchased along with your event ticket: 1 for $5 5 for $20 15 for $50 Register online now! Have questions about this event? Contact Cheryl Fowler at Cheryl@appalachian.org or 828.253.0095 ext 209.

Raffle Items Needed:

We are grateful to the Farmhouse Gallery & Gardens for donating the venue space for this event.

We are grateful to the Farmhouse Gallery & Gardens for donating the venue space for this event.

Do you have gently used outdoor gear, like bikes, kayaks, or backpacks taking up space in your garage? Donate it to our raffle — it’s tax deductible!

Do you know of a business that would be willing to donate items for our raffle? Click here to download our Raffle Donation form or e-mail Kana@appalachian.org. Please include your business Name, Raffle Item, Retail Value, Item Description, Address, Phone Number, Email, and When’s the best time to pick up the item.

Sponsor This Event:

We try to keep our celebration cost reasonable for members, and our event sponsors make this possible! Interested in helping to sponsor this event? Contact Cheryl Fowler at Cheryl@appalachian.org or 828.253.0095 ext 209 or click here to download a PDF form and benefit information. A huge THANK YOU to our current event sponsors: Eastman Farmhouse Gallery

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