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:
“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:
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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!
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.
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 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!