Just a few years ago, much of Little Yellow Mountain in Mitchell and Avery counties was slated for development. Today the summit of that 5,504-foot peak is totally protected thanks to the efforts of The Nature Conservancy and the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. The two organizations recently closed on a 207-acre tract rising to the summit from the west side of the mountain, ensuring that the entire mountain top will remain free of development. Eventually, all of the property will become part of Yellow Mountain State Natural Area allowing future generations to enjoy this amazing place.
Little Yellow Mountain is an important piece of the nationally significant Roan Mountain Massif natural heritage area, one of the most biologically diverse areas in the Southern Appalachians. Seventy-six rare species of plants and animals are found there. The Roan contains an incredible mix of habitats – spruce-fir forest, grassy balds, high elevation rocky summits, and rich coves.
The Little Yellow Mountain summit conservation began in 2007 when SAHC purchased 430 acres. Since then both conservancies have bought tracts on the mountain top.
“We went from zero to more than 1,300 acres of protected land in just four years,” says TNC Mountains Program Director David Ray.
“This just shows what you can accomplish when you work together,” says SAHC Board member Jay Leutze, who helped negotiate the deal. “In tough economic times, we have to marshal our forces to make conservation happen.”
The land purchase required private fundraising, internal loans and a loan from The Conservation Fund. “No project is truly complete until the loans are paid off,” adds Carl Silverstein, SAHC Executive Director, “but getting the top of the mountain secured for protection is worthy of a big celebration.”