Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) is with busy land project closings from now until the end of the year. At the end of October, SAHC closed on a 114-acre conservation easement in the beautiful Swannanoa Mountains, along Jim’s Branch, that will protect important tributaries that flow into Christian Creek and is within 6,600 linear feet of the French Broad river basin.
Jim’s Branch is approximately two and a half miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway and practically adjacent to two other properties held by SAHC. While there is no direct landscape connectivity between Jim’s Branch and the Blue Ridge Parkway or other conservation lands, the conservation easement is connected to neighboring forested land, other SAHC conservation easements, and natural corridors that allow for species movement. Jim’s Branch close proximity to other protected land greatly increases the conservation value of the property and the viewshed from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The easement protects a large stand of mixed hardwood and rich cove forests that shelter a variety of different birds and mammals. Within the rich cove forests, there are several rare rock outcroppings that host plants and other vegetation that require very specific altitudes and other growing conditions to prosper. Some of these unique plants within 2.5 mile radius of the property include: purpleleaf willowherb, Glade spurge, Cliff spurge, Northern green orchid, shooting star, and the pinnate-lobed black-eyed susan.
Lastly and perhaps most importantly, Jim’s Branch contains four unnamed tributaries that run directly into Christian Creek. SAHC’s effort to protect the integrity of western North Carolina’s and eastern Tennessee’s water quality has always been a critical goal. The presence of aquatic life such as crayfish and salamanders are great indicators of a healthy stream.
Animals, humans, and western North Carolina will all benefit immensely from this 114-acre conservation easement, and as SAHC’s Land Protection Director, Michelle Pugliese, explains that Jim’s Branch is, “another piece in the conservation landscape puzzle”–but a significant one at that.