Author Archives: Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy

About Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy

The mission of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (a land trust) is to conserve the unique plant and animal habitat, clean water, local farmland and scenic beauty of the mountains of North Carolina and east Tennessee for the benefit of present and future generations. We achieve this by forging and maintaining conservation relationships with landowners and public agencies, owning and managing land, and working with communities to accomplish their conservation objectives.

Have You Seen Our NEW Website?

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Last month we launched a fresh, new WordPress website at Appalachian.org, which now includes our blog! 

You will find our blog stories under Our Impact > “What’s New”.

Over the next few weeks, we will begin phasing this stand-alone blog at WordPress.com, and encourage you to visit us at Appalachian.org to continue getting stories about our ongoing conservation work and outdoor adventures.

You can sign up for our Monthly E-news, which will contain links to stories on our blog as well as announcements about upcoming events.

Our improved website also makes it easier to find up-to-date info on new land protection projects and upcoming events, and it’s mobile-friendly. You can send us your stories, too — look for “Share Your Passion” under Get Involved.

 

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7-acre Carvers Gap Inholding Protected

horner4At the end of December we purchased a 7-acre inholding surrounded by protected land just below Carvers Gap in the Highlands of Roan. The tract adjoins an SAHC preserve and Pisgah National Forest. Although small in acreage, it was a high conservation priority because of its location and visibility from the Appalachian Trail at Round Bald and Jane Bald.

“People often ask if SAHC has a minimum acreage requirement for land protection projects,” said Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. “This is an excellent example of a small property with large conservation benefits.”

horner3“Surrounded by permanently protected land, these seven acres were essentially an ‘inholding’ — the type of property people seek out for private residential development,” continued Pugliese. “This tract was the closest unprotected land to Carvers Gap, the public access to the Highlands of Roan and the Appalachian Trail. In buying this property, we carry forward our organization’s roots of protecting the Roan and preserving views from the Appalachian Trail.”

horner2Dominated by northern hardwood forest, the tract rises to an elevation of 5,220 ft. and has 435 ft. of road frontage on Highway 261, the route to the Carvers Gap parking area. The property lies within the Audubon Society’s Roan Mountain Important Bird Area and the state-designated Roan Massif Natural Area. Two tributaries of Johns Camp Branch flow through the parcel; Johns Camp Branch empties into Fall Creek, which is classified as High Quality Waters and Trout Waters.

“We are deeply grateful to Fred and Alice Stanback for making a generous contribution which made this acquisition possible,” said Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “Our purchase of this tract means that one more critical piece of the Roan landscape will never be developed.”

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A Bird House Workday

volunteergroupFor college students during the exam season, late November and early December can be riddled with stress, anxiety and wary nerves. Many students find that breaking from long hours in the library to spend time outside, for a breath of fresh air and a pause from the stress,  can actually boost effectiveness when they do return to their books.

The Environmental Science majors who came out to volunteer with us this month believed in this strategy. In the midst of stressful finals, ten students went up to our Bird House cabin at Grassy Ridge in the Highlands of Roan for a volunteer workday. Lead by Travis Bordley, our new AmeriCorps Roan Highlands Outreach and Volunteer Member, the group worked to improve Golden-winged Warbler habitat.

volunteerwork2Golden-winged Warblers (GWWA) are a neo-tropical, migratory songbirds that overwinter in Central and South America. In the summer months, these birds return to the highest peaks of the Appalachian Mountains; they particularly enjoy our land at Grassy Ridge. GWWA prefer young shrubby habitat or regenerating forest edges. They also move quickly to mature forest after fledging, so the high elevation open areas of this property – surrounded by hundreds of acres of conserved forest – provide perfect habitat. GWWA have suffered an extreme decline in population over the past half a century. They have one of the smallest populations amongst species not on the endangered species list. We strive to preserve habitat for this and other species in our landscape.

 

volunteer2Our ten generous volunteers  worked with weed eaters and clippers to knock back overgrown black berries bushes that surrounded our Bird House cabin, and then collect and pile the cut branches into three large brush piles. Such brush piles provide optimal areas for GWWA to breed and forage. The work was also effective in distracting the volunteers from stressful circumstances.

 

“With everything going on in the world lately, I  really enjoyed being able to volunteer with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy,” said Iyana Quinn-Cuffie. “A sense of helplessness is a common feeling I get these days. So, having the ability to go out and have such an immediate impact on something like the Golden-winged Warbler and its habitat gave me a deep joy.”

 

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Jay Leutze, President of our Board of Trustees, couldn’t stay out of the fun when he heard about the workday. Jay was deeply moved and impressed by the effective volunteers, stating, “You hear a lot of cynical talk about the “millennial” generation. You can throw all of that out the window when you see a group of young people giving up their weekend to improve habitat for a species some of them had never heard of before the workday.”

 

volunteer1Jay spent time around the fire with the group after the work was done, further explaining the importance of conservation, thanking the group for their hard work, and wishing them luck on their impending exams.
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Blue Hill Essentials Fundraiser for SAHC

bluehillBlue Hill Essentials will donate 15% of online sales Thursday, Dec. 8 through Saturday, Dec. 10 to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.

“Just one drop of essential oil on the back of our handmade ceramic diffuser pendants provides all-day aromatherapy. Each piece is kiln-fired for optimum durability and absorbency and comes with an adjustable cord necklace and a vial of pure lavender oil. We also sell a selection of 100% pure, carefully sourced essential oils from native habitats around the world. Our oils have been laboratory tested to ensure they are pure, natural, and undiluted.”

Their locally-crafted essential oil diffusers are wearable art! Plus, they have added a new birds’ nest essential oil diffuser for the holidays.

For more info, or to SHOP to support conservation, visit bluehillessentials.com

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Project POWER at Our Community Farm

dsc08840A cold morning brightened up on November 18th just in time to indulge a large group of AmeriCorps members on a tour of our Community Farm. Chris Link, SAHC’s Community Farm Manager, and Travis Bordley, our Roan Volunteer Outreach Associate, hosted 26 AmeriCorps members from Project POWER, which stands for “Putting Opportunity Within Everyone’s Reach.”

 

Project POWER is a local division of the national AmeriCorps program. Members of Project POWER work exclusively in Buncombe Country and with at-risk youth in schools, non-profits and faith biased organizations. SAHC and Project POWER have been fostering a relationship to connect people with the environment and outdoor experiences on conservation properties.

 

dsc08817“The current group of AmeriCorps members with Project Power is a really special team,” said Travis. “They all are incredibly positive individuals with a passion for what they do. We think our resources at the farm can help to serve them and bolster our relationship with youth in the community.”

 

Chris capitalized on the warm weather and eager spirit of the AmeriCorps members. He led everyone on an in-depth tour of the Community Farm, guiding the group to check out goats doing invasive kudzu management, productive greenhouses growing fresh veggies, and a successful stream-bank restoration project. The tour wrapped up in our new Education Center, where the group had ample space to host their bi-weekly meeting.

 

dsc08832Seventeen of the 26 visitors signed up with Travis after the tour in hopes to return to the farm with their children, and four members were also interested in doing environmental education programming on other SAHC properties. The beautiful weather really seemed to compliment a great relationship that is growing between SAHC and Project POWER!
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Mind Over Matter = Volunteer Work Day

dsc08841The phrase, “Mind over matter”, was put to the test when the UNC-Asheville Mindfulness club volunteered for a day with SAHC. Travis Bordley, our new Americorps Roan Outreach Associate, hosted 4 members of club and volunteers Saylor Fox and Bettye Boone for a trash clean-up day on a conservation property in the Highlands of Roan. The tract is located in just below Carver’s Gap on the North Carolina side of the ridge, and people pulling off to the side of Highway 261 have thrown empty bottles, trash bags, and tires onto it. Travis and his brave volunteer group came in to remedy the situation.
On Saturday, November 19th the mid-day temperature reached just 20 degrees and winds were blowing gusts up to 50 mph. This was no deterrent for the trash clean-up crew, who removed bags of garbage to protect important stream headwaters. Our guests from UNC-Asheville were delighted to spend time in the Roan and our longtime volunteers, Saylor and Bettye, offered up their home to allow everyone to eat lunch protected from the brutally cold wind.
dsc08850After lunch the crew decided to carry on with the days itinerary and go for a hike up Round Bald. Starting from about 1,000 below the summit, the mountain was consumed in a cloud of blowing ice. The view looked like the inside of a ping pong ball. The group struggled to maintain footing against the wind, fueled by the wonder of the Roan. Everyone was amazed by the arctic conditions that existed only at this elevation. At the top the group took its time rolling in the snow and taking pictures of the ice caked landscape. The Mindfulness Club, Saylor, Bettye, and Travis all took turns doing solo-hikes down from the summit.
We are very proud of our volunteers for facing an early winter and taking care of our natural resources!
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146-acre Little Creek Headwaters Property — Protected!

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Tributary of Little Creek, photo by Owen Carson of Equinox Environmental.

Today we purchased 146 acres in Bald Creek Valley in the Crabtree Community of Haywood County — a beautiful, forested cove with streams running through it, now conserved for future generations.

“This high-elevation, relatively untouched forest — once slated for development — will now be permanently protected,” said Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. “I’m so excited to have worked on protecting this land in Bald Creek Valley, one of the most beautiful rural valleys in the area. It’s just stunning!”

Little Creek Headwaters was a high conservation priority because it is a large tract that expands the growing network of lands protected by SAHC in Haywood County, adjacent to Sandy Mush. Once marked for the second phase development of a gated community, the tract rises to 4,280 ft in elevation and contains a variety of microclimates. The headwaters of Little Creek, which flows into Bald Creek, originate on the property.

The land is entirely forested — predominantly Appalachian oak forest with small areas of cove forest and hemlock forest. Little to no evidence of invasive species has been observed — making it a “gem” in the area.

“This property is remarkably free from the slow creep of invasive species that has become more common throughout the region,” added Pugliese. “It is a new anchor of protected land that SAHC is actively working to expand in this area.”

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Bedrock/boulder outcrop on the property, photo by Owen Carson of Equinox Environmental.

There is a wide range of elevations on the property, one of the factors that contributes to resiliency for climate change. It ranks “above average” for climate change resiliency with the Open Space Institute’s Southern Blue Ridge Focus Area.

“I’m extremely proud of the completion of this project,” said Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “We are grateful to Brad and Shelli Stanback for making a donation to SAHC to acquire this significant swath of forested land for conservation.”

We plan to own and manage the property as a preserve for the long term, and explore potential future use for our outreach program.

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We are thankful for our volunteers!

fbra4This month,  twelve 7th grade boys from the French Broad River Academy (FBRA) volunteered at our Community Farm. We are grateful for assistance from these positive, hard-working students! Service learning is a vital piece of the FBRA curriculum, and they partner with us several times a year to help out with various projects at the Community Farm.

Last week, we had a challenge for the student volunteers: we needed to re-grade an erosion-prone section of the Discovery Trail and build a retaining wall on the up-slope side. The boys got to work right away, with half of them using tools to carve out a small wall and re-grade the dirt along the trail. The other half teamed up to carry logs for the wall as our farm manager, Chris, felled and bucked a few already-dead trees on the property.

fbra8Once the digging and grading were mostly done, the boys began to take turns setting logs in place along the wall, and using a post-driver and hammer to drive in rebar to hold the logs. Others helped back-fill the top of the wall with the dirt they had removed earlier.

In the end, they completed the entire sensitive area–roughly 60 feet of trail — and had a beautiful retaining wall to be proud of. This was a labor-intensive project, but the boys worked hard and got the job done. The wall will help mitigate erosion of the trail within the stream restoration area, minimizing sedimentation of a stream whose water eventually flows into the French Broad River.

The boys do clean-ups and learn paddling skills throughout the year on the French Broad, so they were able to see how a project like this can directly affect water quality and their experiences down-stream.

Thanks so much for your hard work, FBRA boys—we look forward to working with you guys again!

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We are thankful for beautiful places to hike, and for our conservation-minded landowners!

webb-lakeOn Saturday, November 12th, we hosted a hike on our lovely 600-acre Webb Conservation Easement near Panthertown Valley in Jackson County. This beautiful property is bounded on the north side by Cedar Creek, a high quality tributary flowing into Webb Lake, which provides habitat for native brook trout. All water on the property eventually drains into the West Fork of the Tuckaseegee River, and on into the Little Tennessee River.

On the day of the hike, we were met at the property by members of the Webb family who own the property – Billy, Jimmy, and Jean Webb, as well as Julia Gaskin. The family introduced themselves briefly, and Billy, Jimmy, and Julia accompanied us on the hike.laurel-tunnel-over-trail

The route followed about 3 miles of well-established trails in a loop around nearly half of the 600-acre property. The trails led us through primarily acidic cove forest, under rhododendron tunnels and through laurel archways. The group stopped for lunch on “Laura’s Rock,” a granite rock outcrop at nearly 4000’ in elevation, with scenic views to the south and west. Even with some haze from the many wildfires burning in the area, we could see as far as Yellow Mountain, about 5.3 miles away as the crow flies.

When we returned to the family cabin where we began the hike, other members of the family had joined Jean and were waiting for us with crisp fall cider and cookies following our adventure.

group-with-viewWhile we ate our refreshments, just as during the hike, we all had a chance to talk to the family about their memories and experiences on the property, and their knowledge of some of the flora and fauna there.

This stunning property continues to be a staff favorite. Lisa, our Finance Director, said “I want to come on this hike every time we do it from now on! Every step of the way has been the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen.”

We are so thankful to the Webb family for allowing us to do a hike on their property, and we look forward to the next time!

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Farming In the Shadow of Crabtree Bald

kirkpatrickThis month we protected 32 acres of farmland in the shadow of Crabtree Bald in Haywood County. Located along Rush Fork Creek and adjacent to NC Scenic Byway 209, the farm contains prime agricultural soils and has been in the same family since the late 1700s.

Currently used for cattle grazing, the land has been used for various crops over the years, including tomatoes, corn and hay. It is now permanently protected for agricultural use under conservation easement with SAHC. Fertile soils on the property include prime farmland (Saunook loam), soils of statewide importance and of local importance.

“We appreciate the landowner’s commitment to improving water quality by using agricultural best management practices,” said Hanni Muerdter, SAHC’s Stewardship and Conservation Planning Director. “Fencing livestock out of Rush Fork Creek and providing alternative water sources protects water quality downstream.”

Conservation of this tract helps protect tributary streams of the Pigeon Watershed from sources of sedimentation and other types of pollutionRush Fork Creek flows across the farm into Crabtree Creek, in the Pigeon River watershed.

Psignrotection of the farm also adds to a significant protected landscape within the Newfound Mountains and preserves pastoral views along Rush Fork Road (also known as The Appalachian Medley), a rural NC scenic highway.  The property adjoins a 625-acre NC Farmland Preservation Trust Fund Easement property, held by the NC Department of Agriculture. The vast connectivity of all farmland and forested land in the general vicinity of the property is important for agricultural viability of the region as well as plant and animal diversity.

We are grateful for funding from the NC Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund and Brad and Shelli Stanback for making this farmland conservation work possible.

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