The People Behind SAHC

Have you met our new Trustees?

We have three new members to the SAHC Board of Trustees. Welcome!

Popsie Lynch, Fairview, NC

Popsie is a Gray’s Lily Leadership Circle member and has shared her enthuspopsie-lynchiasm about SAHC by hosting a porch party at her home this spring.. She lives in Fairview on land that she placed under conservation easement with SAHC in 2015. Her property is part of an assemblage of adjoining conservation easements that stitch together and protect farmland that her grandfather used to own. Popsie is also a leader in the French Broad River Garden Club.

Matt Moses, Erwin, TN

mattmosesMatt is President and CEO of USA Raft, one of our Corporate Partners. He lives part-time in Johnson City and part-time in Greensboro NC. He and USA Raft have generously helped us in connection with our Lost Cove property, including a raft-out-the trash volunteer cleanup. Matt’s business depends on protected public land and rivers, and he has accompanied Jay to DC to advocate with Congress on behalf of the federal Land & Water Conservation Fund.

sturymanStu Ryman, Asheville, NC

Stu is one of the founders and the principal partner in Altamont Environmental. Stu and his wife Nancy live in Fairview and are longtime generous supporters. Stu played a leading role in assisting us with the successful stream restoration mitigation bank project we undertook at the Community Farm. He is an avid fisherman and outdoorsman who is deeply committed to conservation.

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Rising Conservation Leader

hanni2016 NC Land Trust Assembly Rising Conservation Leader of the Year: Hanni Muerdter

At the 2016 Land Trust Assembly in Raleigh in May, North Carolina’s 24 local land trusts announced annual awards for five conservation leaders, including our Stewardship and Conservation Planning Director, Hanni Muerdter!

Hanni started her career as a Project Conserve AmeriCorps Member in western North Carolina and continued her career by joining the staff at SAHC. She has made an impact in her current position by strengthening our land and easement stewardship program through the creation of modern policies and procedures that will ensure our easements will last.

Hanni is chair of the Blue Ridge Forever Conservation Committee; she has served in this role since 2010.  She leads development of meeting agendas and facilitates knowledge-sharing among land protection and stewardship staff of 10 land trusts in WNC, which in turn enhances the capacity of these organizations to respond to an ever-changing conservation landscape.  As Committee Chair she led the development of Blue Ridge Forever’s region-wide conservation vision with discreet
focus areas, and is currently updating that tool as the coalition moves into its second decade.  

hannimonitoringHanni’s dedication and approach to conservation are inspiring.  She regularly takes on responsibilities well beyond expectations, manages her ever-more-complex workload with calm focus, and approaches every interaction with empathy.  Inspiring, understanding, hard-working, and forward-thinking – these are all characteristics of a good leader, and Hanni embodies each,” said Jessica Laggis, Director of Blue Ridge Forever.  

Hanni is an active member in the Asheville community. She is the past Chair of the Board of Directors of Jubilee Community Church. Under her leadership and organizational skills the church was able to create a more formal framework, which will guide the church into the future. She is also an accomplished actress in the local theater.

Congratulations, Hanni!

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Stanley A. Murray, Inducted into Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame


Stanley A. Murray, SAHC’s founder.

SAHC founder Stan Murray was inducted into the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame last year, and retired Roan Stewardship Director Judy Murray traveled to Boiling Springs, PA (the “Half-way” point on the AT) to accept the award in his behalf.

Stanley A. Murray, along with Benton McKaye and Myron Avery, was one of the most important individuals in the early history of the Appalachian Trail.

When construction of the Appalachian Trail was first “completed” in 1937, it was about 45% on private property, and Myron Avery, while proclaiming the trail “finished,” stated that it would never be really finished until it received Federal protection.
Decades later, Stanley A. Murray worked to accomplish just that.  He wrote a draft bill and lobbied Congress, playing a major role in getting the National Trails System Act passed in 1968. Murray served as Chairman of the Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC) for 14 years.

Stan Murray Memorial plaque at Houston Ridge, along the AT

Stan Murray Memorial plaque at Houston Ridge, along the AT

He envisioned more than just a narrow footpath for the AT, and advocated the “greenway” concept to protect a wider corridor around the Trail. Murray was especially concerned with how to preserve Roan Mountain and the balds in the Highlands of Roan on the NC/TN state line, and personally focused much of his energy on that area of the AT.  His work on the Tennessee Eastman Hiking Club’s relocation of the AT over Roan and the formation of the ATC’s Roan Mountain Preservation Committee in 1966 led to the 1974 incorporation of SAHC with the goal of protecting thousands of acres along the Roan Mountain Massif from development. Murray served as President of SAHC for 11 years and was the first Executive Director. He passed away in 1990 at the age of 67.

“To have this prestigious honor conferred on our organization’s founder is indeed thrilling,” said Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “We are proud to continue his legacy of land protection in this unique, treasured landscape, and are gratified that the importance of Stan’s work has been recognized nationally.”

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Ken and Lotta Murray: From DC to the AT, to the hills of TN

Ken and Lotta Murray

Ken and Lotta Murray

Ken and Lotta Murray have transitioned from the hustle-and-bustle of Washington, DC, to the quiet coves of mountainous East Tennessee, carving out an idyllic home and garden on a tract where Ken’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 160 years ago. Introduced to SAHC while managing one of our conservation easement properties, they have become committed philanthropic leaders and engaged members, frequently exploring the Southern Appalachians through our guided group hikes.

Ken Murray became acquainted with SAHC when his mother, Katharine Tilson Murray, had the foresight to permanently protect the family homeplace with a conservation easement in 1999. Since retiring to the land in Unicoi County, where he often vacationed as child, Ken and his wife Lotta have become passionate supporters of SAHC, joining our Gray’s Lily Leadership Circle and frequently participating in guided outings on our other protected tracts.

The Tilson homeplace occupies an expansive, bowl-shaped cove just south of Erwin, TN.

The Tilson homeplace occupies an expansive,
bowl-shaped cove just south of Erwin, TN.

After Ken retired from the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC in 2011, he and Lotta hiked the Appalachian Trail together for six months.

“It was amazing, the most incredible thing I’ve ever done,” recalls Lotta. The timing was excellent. “It was a good transition, coming from the remote experience of hiking the Trail to live at the Tilson homeplace, which is also quiet and out-of-the-way. A simple lifestyle is what we wanted.”

Ken’s decision to return to the family homestead and enthusiasm for SAHC stem from summers exploring and adventuring in this wooded corner of TN.  Throughout childhood, he spent time on the property during school vacations.

Ken collects historic farm implements found on the tract, which provide a snapshot of the family’s life in years gone by.

Ken collects historic farm implements found on the tract, which provide a snapshot of the family’s life in years gone by.

“When I was a kid, I couldn’t imagine why everyone in the world wouldn’t want to be here,” Ken said. He and a neighbor would trek through the creeks and cove. But it wasn’t all play — a framed photo in the farmhouse shows Ken as a youth, discing ground for the garden with a team of mules.  “For a kid growing up in the suburbs of Connecticut this was a really cool place,” he added. The experiences sparked a passion for the land that has only gotten stronger over the years.

In 1977, Ken began making improvements and repairs to the family homestead,  starting the process of land management. In recent years, he has worked to remove invasive species and address erosion issues on the property.

“We support the mission of SAHC because they’re helping us protect this land, and because of the very active hiking program,” notes Ken. We are grateful to Ken and Lotta for their ongoing support, and love seeing them on the trail!

The Tilson Homestead Farm, Unicoi TN

The road from NC to TN ran directly by the Tilson home. Travelers frequently stopped to rest, sharing perspectives on the wider world.

The road from NC to TN ran directly by the Tilson home. Travelers frequently stopped to rest, sharing perspectives on the wider world.

Recently painted and well cared-for, the Tilson farmhouse remains much as it appeared in the late 1880s.

Recently painted and well cared-for, the Tilson farmhouse remains much as it appeared in the late 1880s.

Growing up in a backwoods corner of Unicoi County wasn’t for the faint of heart – but having a main travel route run right by the doorstep could bring a new world of opportunity and excitement to the hearth.

With the main route between Jonesborough, TN and Asheville, NC, running right by the Tilson homestead, travelers – including influential politicians – would often stop to rest a for a night, sharing stories and perspectives of the outside world that nurtured the growing young minds of John Q. Tilson and his siblings. They grew up to have successful careers as doctors, teachers, a federal court judge, and leading US Congressman.

The subsistence farm had a springhouse, grain storage, and smokehouse familiar to many mountain homesteads from the late 1800s, all still standing. To assist with hardships suffered during the Great Depression, John Q., who had prospered as a lawyer, purchased the original homestead tract from his siblings. He often hosted gatherings for friends and family, and the land is now owned collectively by his descendents.

The original 2-story log cabin was relocated on the tract & reassembled as a 1-story structure.

The original 2-story log cabin was relocated on the tract & reassembled as a 1-story structure when the family built the 2-story white farmhouse in the late 1800s.

In the 1990s, his daughter, Katharine Tilson Murray, worked with SAHC to permanently protect  the 377-acre tract with a conservation easement.

“Placement of the conservation easement on this property, and providing for SAHC in her estate planning, enabled it to be preserved,” said Ken Murray. “My mother had a vision, and we are very grateful for that.”

Ken notes that as families grow, they typically divide their homestead into smaller and smaller pieces over time. “The conservation easement alleviates a lot of pressure on future generations because it has to be owned as one parcel,” adds Ken. The family plans to own and enjoy this property for many years to come.

John Q. Tilson

John Q. Tilson

John Q. Tilson

John Q. Tilson and siblings, with parents sitting in the front, center.

John Q. Tilson and siblings, with parents sitting in the front, center.

John Quillin Tilson, or John Q. as he was frequently known, served as a US Representative from Connecticut for almost 22 years and House Majority leader for six. He spent early life on the Tilson homestead. With roots tracing back to the Mayflower, Tilson’s family had migrated to the Nolichucky River and then to a secluded cove south of Erwin, TN.

“In this house, humble though quite the best in the community, entirely without the aid of doctors and nurses, were born eight children,” he remarked in a published account of The Tilson Family.

They lived in the existing log cabin on the property, until his father built the 2-story white farmhouse in 1879. Moving to New Haven, Connecticut, in later years, John Q. frequently returned to his birthplace, and festive gatherings on the homestead attracted influential leaders from across the area.


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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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We love our AmeriCorps Project Conserve 2014 – 2015 crew!

(L to R) Andrea, Jesse, Caitlin, and Kana, our 2014-15 AmeriCorps crew

(L to R) Andrea, Jesse, Caitlin, and Kana, our 2014-15 AmeriCorps crew

Participants in AmeriCorps Project Conserve aren’t just looking for an internship. They commit to full-time 11-month service terms, contributing important skills to boost our capacity for conservation. This AmeriCorps program also provides unique opportunities to open doors for conservation careers. AmeriCorps LogoOver the years, SAHC has employed four AmeriCorps Project Conserve alumni in staff or contract positions.

AmeriCorps Land Protection & Education Associate

caitlinCaitlin Edenfield graduated from Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies with a BA in Landscape Architecture.  She was an intern at the Asheville Design Center, worked as a farm manager in Lewisville, NC, and was an AmeriCorps trail crew member in Vermont. She served as SAHC’s Americorps Land Protection Associate last year and is back again for a second term. In addition to serving SAHC through AmeriCorps, Caitlin is now pursuing her Master of Natural Resources degree from Virginia Tech.

AmeriCorps Conservation Education &  Volunteer Outreach Associate

Kana Miller is a recent graduate of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY with a BA in Environmental Studies and a concentration in Intergroup Relations. A native of Atlanta, GA, Kana grew up hiking and camping in Western NC.  She is a graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School in Tucson, AZ and enjoys backpacking, canoeing, and climbing.

AmeriCorps Stewardship & Volunteer Associates

(L to R) Andrea, Kana, and Jesse at Grassy Ridge

(L to R) Andrea, Kana, and Jesse at Grassy Ridge


Jesse Wood earned her B.S. in Biology from Furman University in Greenville, SC in May 2014.  Her hometown is Pickens, SC, though she lived abroad the first half of her life and grew up outside Washington, D.C. in Arlington, VA. Her most recent research focused on the conservation of Brown-headed Nuthatch in the Upstate of South Carolina.  She hopes to continue conducting field research by pursuing a Masters degree in the discipline of conservation/wildlife biology or ecology in the future.

Originally from the Asheville area, Andrea Thompson graduated with a degree in Environmental Studies from Montreat College.  She is also returning for a second AmeriCorps Service year. Andrea has worked in invasive species management for Western North Carolina Alliance and as a stewardship intern with The Nature Conservancy in Indiana.

Celebrating AmeriCorps

Kana and Jesse help build trail stairs during a volunteer work day.

Kana and Jesse help build trail stairs during a volunteer work day.

“I want to express my gratitude to our AmeriCorps members and appreciation for the creative energy, work ethic and talent these individuals bring to SAHC. Their often behind-the-scenes involvement in volunteer recruitment, education and outreach, relationship building with landowners and community partners, engagement and capacity building is essential to SAHC’s conservation success. The commitment to service of SAHC’s AmeriCorps, and others representing Project Conserve in western North Carolina, is worth more than my praise alone. To our AmeriCorps – you are valuable members of our organization and I personally want to thank you for committing a year of your life to SAHC.”
Sarah Sheeran, Stewardship Associate

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Grazing on Top of the World

Fred, Ted, and Jay with Grazing Lease and Spear Tops

Ted and Fred Hoilman sign a grazing lease with SAHC representative Jay Leutze, securing the future of the Big Yellow Mountain herd into the future.

According to Ted Hoilman and his brothers, the Hoilman family has been grazing cattle atop Big Yellow Mountain for over 150 years.  “There was never a time we can remember when there weren’t Hoilmans up on the mountain,” says Ted Hoilman.  That grazing history has given conservation biologists a trove of species to study and made the Hoilmans invaluable partners for the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.

“We don’t make any money grazing cows,” explains Hoilman.  “But we were born cattle men.  We do it because it’s in our blood.  It’s our family history.”  These days that that history might be hanging by a thread, but keeping the Big Yellow herd intact and healthy is important for SAHC and our partners at The Nature Conservancy.

They say change is the only constant. Certainly, change is no stranger to our flagship landscape — the Highlands of Roan. Conservationists have long puzzled over the existence of the signature grassy balds that cap the mountains comprising the Highlands of Roan.  Were they always treeless?  If not, when and how did they become treeless? Will they continue to be bald?

There is a body of evidence supporting the conclusion that the balds have been bald for at least tens of thousands of years, and probably far longer than that.  These were, after all, very tall mountains at their birth, with summits well above what would constitute a “tree line.”  They have eroded down to their current elevation, well below the tree line, yet some of the mountains remain bald.  The current prevalent theory goes like this: tundra-like summits were grazed and browsed by very large herbivores.  Think woolly mammoths, then, later, bison and elk.  When Europeans settled the area they quickly harvested all the readily-available protein, the bison and elk, and replaced those wild animals with domesticated beasts of burden. Many of the rare plants that evolved with grazing and browsing in place have remained in the landscape – and do, in fact, depend on grazers to create the openings they need to survive.

Ted Hoilman, atop the grass bald of Big Yellow with his cattle herd.

Ted Hoilman with his cattle herd on Big Yellow.

Other balds where grazing has been suspended have grown in, losing the relic species that tell of a time when this region lay in the frigid lock of arctic air.  “Cows, sheep, and horses grazed all over these balds for a couple hundred years,” explains Jay Leutze, SAHC Trustee.  “But when many of these lands were transferred to public ownership, grazing activity diminished and eventually disappeared.”  Almost everywhere in the Roan, that is, except for Big Yellow.  And Big Yellow is the one bald still supporting a wide range of rare remnant species.  The connection between grazing and the persistence of plants in the landscape since the end of the last ice age seems apparent.

Recently, the Hoilmans, whose cattle herd grazes Yellow Bald, and their conservation partners were faced with a troubling challenge.  The owners of the winter grazing ground for the herd decided to sell their land.  Loss of winter pasture down in the valley could have meant the end of the Hoilmans’ ability to sustain the herd — and potentially heralded doom for rare species atop Big Yellow which depend on the grazers to maintain the open, grassy bald. Recognizing that the tract for sale contained myriad conservation values, SAHC moved with an appropriate degree of urgency to successfully purchase the property and secure the coveted pasture land.

“We were not only protecting a gateway into the the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area,” says Leutze, “we were protecting the Hoilman legacy and the biodiversity of the Big Yellow Mountain Preserve. Luckily the sellers were as interested in protecting their land and this legacy as we were.”

“We are grateful to have been able to secure that property – and happy to support an important part of local mountain culture,” continues Leutze, “We all benefit from having the Hoilmans’ cattle herd creating conditions that enable the bald’s globally imperiled plant and animal habitat to persist.”

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Public Notice – SAHC is Reapplying for Accreditation

LTAC_seal_greenInvitation for Public Comment on Our Accreditation Renewal

The land trust accreditation program recognizes land conservation organizations that meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever. SAHC is pleased to announce that we are applying for renewal of accreditation. A public comment period is now open.

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, conducts an extensive review of each applicant’s policies and programs. SAHC first received Accreditation by the National Land Trust Alliance in 2010; this accreditation is for a period of five years, before the end of which a land trust must submit an application for renewal. This process provides external verification that SAHC is meeting national quality standards, exhibiting a high level of professionalism and commitment to long-term conservation in the public interest.

The Commission invites public input and accepts signed, written comments on pending applications. Comments must relate to how SAHC complies with national quality standards. These standards address the ethical and technical operation of a land trust. For the full list of standards see

To learn more about the accreditation program or to submit a comment,
visit or email your comment to

Comments may also be faxed or mailed to the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, Attn: Public Comments: (fax) 518-587-3183; (mail) 36 Phila Street, Suite 2, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.

Comments on SAHC’s application will be most useful by November 22, 2014.

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Benefitting SAHC through 1% for the Planet

Robbie McLucas donates to SAHC through 1% for the Planet

Robbie McLucas donates to SAHC through 1% for the Planet

We are extremely grateful to all our business and individual supporters for making local conservation possible. This year, SAHC benefited directly from 1% for the Planet, a global program that creates win-win-win situations for businesses, non-profits, and communities…

When he learned that SAHC was a direct beneficiary of 1% for the Planet, it was an easy decision for SAHC member and volunteer Robbie McLucas to join thousands of like-minded individuals and businesses who effect change by pledging to give one percent of their yearly incomes to environmental organizations.

With so many businesses in Western North Carolina dependent upon farming, outdoor recreation, and clean water, Robbie says that it only makes sense to help preserve them for future generations.

“The Highlands of Roan, the Black Balsams, the Seven Sisters, the Blue Ridge. The Appalachian Mountains played an important role in shaping the person I am today. They helped me to see the bigger picture of the impact our actions have on the planet. They’re why I volunteer my time with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, and why 1% for the Planet makes my annual gift to SAHC much more purposeful.

As a real estate broker in Asheville, N.C, every day I see the vibrancy of my local economy, which is built upon small businesses, agriculture, artists, tourism and outdoor recreation. When I saw that my gift would stay in my local community, I became 1% for the Planet member and part of the solution to preserve lands vital to my community for future generations.

logo_vert_standard_colorI wanted to demonstrate publicly my commitment to conservation and SAHC, and I wanted to recognize their sterling track record of preserving the pristine places in and around the area I call home.

By including the 1% for the Planet logo in my email signature and on all of my marketing materials, I hope to help other people become aware of the opportunities to support local organizations. People immediately see that I value something… that I have a passion for conservation-minded work.

I hope that I will inspire others, especially small business owners, to do the same. It is one thing to say you’re committed; it something else to be accountable to that commitment.”

For more information about how to support SAHC as a member of 1% for The Planet, feel free to give Robbie a call at 828.335.2515 or email him at

We would love to see other local business leaders join Robbie in committing to 1% for the Planet. To find out more about this program, check out his story online and view SAHC’s profile page here.

1% for the Planet is a nonprofit made up of a wide variety of people from all types of businesses and the private sector. Several of the more recognizable members include the musician Jack Johnson, New Belgium Brewing and Yvon Chouinard, the founder of apparel retailer Patagonia. The organization oversees each member’s commitment to give to an approved conservation organization.

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SAHC’s Jay Leutze addresses NPCA Trustees

Nature Valley/National Parks Conservation Association/Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy work day volunteers on Grassy Ridge.

Nature Valley/National Parks Conservation Association/Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy work day volunteers on Grassy Ridge.

SAHC partner National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) held a board meeting for their national trustees in Asheville June 18-20th.  While in the area, the trustees visited the Blue Ridge Parkway, hiked into Shining Rock Wilderness,  and toured the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site.

They welcomed several guests, including Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Mark Woods, Acting Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cindy MacLeod, and Carl Sandburg National Historic Site Superintendent Tyrone Brandyburg, to a dinner featuring a talk from SAHC Trustee Jay Leutze. Jay recounted the role NPCA played in protecting the Appalachian Trail from impacts of the Putnam Mine, a story detailed in his book Stand Up That Mountain.

Several SAHC members and former trustees were in attendance, including Charlie and Shirley Ann McCollough, and former Blue Ridge Parkway superintendent Phil Francis. NPCA has been a wonderful partner in helping to preserve the rich vitality of our mountain landscape. Over the past few years, we have been fortunate to receive grant funding from NPCA and Nature Valley’s “Preserve Our Parks” program to support habitat restoration and stewardship in the Highlands of Roan and at Cataloochee Ranch adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


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