Posts Tagged With: conservation easement

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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Reeves Homeplace Farm

The higher elevation mountain pastures are used in summer, where cattle flourish because of lower temperatures, rich native blue grass, and less insect pressure.

The higher elevation mountain pastures are used in summer, where cattle flourish because of lower temperatures, rich native blue grass, and less insect pressure.

“This project represents five years of hard work by the land trust, the landowner, and the agencies involved,” said Farmland Program Director William Hamilton. “This farm is representative of agriculture in Western North Carolina, and we are thrilled that the Reeves family will be able to continue owning, living and farming on this land in the future.”
Located in the Little Sandy Mush community amidst a scenic landscape of family farms, the property was part of a US land grant that once encompassed a much larger area. Landowner Betty Reeves is a 6th generation member of the Reeves family to farm the land, and she wanted to protect it with an agricultural conservation easement so that that it would be a resource for current and future farmers.

Lower elevation pastures of the Reeves Homeplace Farm are used in fall and winter.

Lower elevation pastures of the Reeves Homeplace Farm are used in fall and winter.

“People are always going to need healthy food to eat, and if we use all the land for development, we won’t have anywhere to farm,” said Betty. “When you think about it, we’re not getting any more land.”

Betty had worked the land alongside her husband, lifetime farmer Burder Reeves, who passed away a few years ago. Both Betty and Burder have been inducted into the NC Mountain State Fair Livestock Hall of Fame — Betty in September 2015 and Burder in 2010. Continuing the family tradition, one of their daughters, Robin, manages a diverse enterprise on the farm today, producing cattle, hay, and pasture-raised broilers and turkeys.

“Developers have offered substantial sums for this place, but Daddy never wanted it to be sold,” recalls Robin. “He wanted it to stay in the family, and wanted to see it continue to be used as farmland.”

Protecting the land also protects water quality in the French Broad River watershed.

Protecting the land also protects water quality in the French Broad River watershed.

The recently protected property consists of distinct parcels, each necessary for the farm operation: a lower-elevation farmstead in the valley and a high-elevation mountain field used as summer grazing pasture, rising to 4,544 ft. above sea level.  The cattle graze on the mountain pastures from May to October, flourishing with cooler temperatures, less insect pressure, and nutrient-rich native blue grass.

Conservation of the Reeves Homeplace Farm also protects water quality in the region, including Fall Branch, a significant tributary to Little Sandy Mush Creek.

“We are grateful to the partners involved who helped make this happen,” said Hamilton. “Their programs provide necessary financial incentives for a landowner to permanently restrict their land from subdivision and development.”

The historic Reeves family home was built with bricks produced on the farmstead.

The historic Reeves family home was built with bricks produced on the farmstead.

The Reeves Homeplace Farm conservation project was made possible by funding from the USDA — Natural Resource Conservation Service Federal Farm and Ranchland Protection Program; the NC Department of Agriculture — Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund; and a generous private donor. The project brought the first federal and state funds specifically for the purpose of purchasing an agricultural conservation easement to Madison County.

“SAHC is proud that we serve the community in this way,” added Hamilton. “ We competed for grants across the nation and the state to bring these resources to Madison County to protect this historic valley farm and scenic mountain grazing land.”

Part of a Farming Family

Robin and Betty Reeves (L to R)

Robin and Betty Reeves (L to R)

Robin and Betty Reeves are as incredible a pair of ladies as one will find in the hollers and hills of Sandy Mush. Robin considers herself lucky because as a teenager she was able to raise produce – like green beans – to sell to Ingles grocery stores for “spending money” instead of getting a job in fast food.

Robin continues the family tradition of raising cattle on the farm.

Robin continues the family tradition of raising cattle on the farm.

“Selling to Ingles as a teenager gave me confidence and the foundation to realize that I could succeed in a farm business,” she said. Her first forays into farming came even earlier. Starting around age 11 or 12, Robin showed cattle through 4-H at the Mountain State Fair, with the support of her parents. She quickly demonstrated a talent for it and regularly won awards until she aged out of the competition at 21.

“You have to do all the handling yourself,” she recalls, “Gentle them, groom and feed them, and get them calm enough to show in an arena, with the loudspeaker blaring and all the people and noise.”

Betty and Robin are still very much supporters of youth programs like the Future Farmers of America and 4-H. Betty emphasizes that it is important for our future to have both “people and the land to farm.”

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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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Ivy Creek: 102-acre conservation easement in Madison County

ponders_cowbarn

The farm at Ivy Creek is permanently protected for future agricultural use.

Chancellor Emerita of UNC Asheville Anne Ponder and her husband Chris Brookhouse have protected their 102-acre property in Madison County with a conservation easement, preserving pastoral and forest land for future generations.

“A convergence of truly great Asheville folks led us to establish a conservation easement on our property in Madison County.  Last year we were inspired by the creation of the McCullough Institute at UNC Asheville, created by the late Charles McCullough and his wife Shirley Anne to research conservation and sustainability. At an event announcing the Institute, financial advisor Michael Andry of Wells Fargo Private Bank introduced me to Carl Silverstein — and our conversations turned to action.

IvyCreek_mapI worked with Carl, Michael, and Farmland Director William Hamilton to place 102 acres of our property, acquired in 1995, into a conservation easement. My husband Chris Brookhouse and I knew that if we didn’t protect our farm and forest land now, its beauty and proximity to Asheville could provide an irresistible opportunity for future development.

Born in Asheville, I have had the great good fortune to return to this remarkable place, becoming chancellor of UNC Asheville in 2005. The natural beauty of our mountains is an asset for the environment, for prolonging the biodiversity of flora and fauna in our region, for preserving farm land, and for the sanity and grace that a walk in the woods or a view of the blue hills gives us. Because we placed our property in a conservation easement, generations to come will have the advantages which this natural beauty  affords.

We are grateful for each of the people we worked with along the way, as we pursue a  stewardship plan for our conservation easement in the years ahead.”

— Landowner Perspective by Anne Ponder

The conservation easement also protects water quality in the French Broad River watershed.

The conservation easement also protects water quality in the French Broad River watershed.

Visible from the French Broad River, Ivy Creek farm is characteristic of Madison County’s rural landscape, with open pasture ridge tops and steep wooded slopes. The tract is approximately 30% pasture, grazed by cattle, and 70% forest, with a variety of forest types and mixed hardwoods.
The property contains seeps, springs, streams and water courses of high water quality, including Ivy Creek and unnamed tributaries of the creek, which flows into the French Broad River. Permanently protecting the tract preserves water quality, future agricultural use, open space, and wildlife habitat on a parcel that could otherwise have become a fairly dense development.

Concerned about this potential for future development, the landowners donated the conservation easement and made a gift toward future stewardship of the tract.

“We are grateful to Anne and Chris for their foresight in realizing the potential vulnerability of this property, and for proactively working with SAHC to protect the scenic value as well as water and agricultural resources of the farm,” said Executive Director Carl Silverstein.

Conservation of the Ivy Creek farm was made possible by a Mountain Revolving Land Fund Mini-Grant from the Conservation Trust for NC and a gift from private donors, to cover the transaction costs of the project. Anne and Chris will continue to live and farm on the property, with the peace of mind that it has been permanently protected from development.

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New conservation projects protect 267 acres in the Newfound Mountains

NewfoundMtnsmapWe recently protected 267 acres in two separate conservation projects in the Newfound Mountains, near the area where Buncombe, Haywood and Madison counties converge. We purchased 31 acres at Doubleside Knob in Haywood County, and placed 236 acres into conservation easement at Haywood Gap, permanently protecting clean water sources, healthy forest communities, habitat, and wildlife corridors.

“These projects continue our decades-long commitment to conservation efforts in the Sandy Mush community,” says Executive Director Carl Silverstein. Over the past two decades, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy has protected over 10,000 acres in this area.

Haywood Gap

haywoodgapwater

The conservation easements protect headwaters in the French Broad River watershed.

The Haywood Gap conservation easements, in two adjoining tracts, protect over 16,000 linear feet of stream corridor, including five tributary streams of Bald Fork, which flows into Sandy Mush Creek in the French Broad River watershed. The tracts also adjoin 600 acres owned by the Long Branch Environmental Education Center, which we protected with a conservation easement in 1995.

The 236 protected acres at Haywood Gap rise to 4,380 ft. elevation on the border of Haywood County. The tracts contain healthy forest habitat with high elevation rock outcrops, rich cove forest, and montane oak forest. The robust understory plant communities support a diversity of native species, including large & small mammals, birds, migratory species, amphibians and reptiles, and aquatic life.

“On a clear day, Haywood Gap is visible from downtown Asheville in the sweeping arc of mountains that frame the western horizon,”  adds Silverstein. “This conservation project is particularly exciting because of the prominence of that view — as well as the quality of water sources, habitat, and connectivity to other protected lands. Large rock outcrops found at high elevations are rare. They are a priority habitat to protect because several rare plants and animals – such as the rock vole and the Alleghany woodrat – thrive within these communities.”

We are grateful for the vision of the landowners, private philanthropic leaders, and Buncombe County for the permanent protection of Haywood Gap.

The 236-acre Haywood Gap tracts rise above scenic lands in Sandy Mush.

The 236-acre Haywood Gap tracts rise above scenic lands in Sandy Mush.

Landowner Perspective: “We bought our share of Sandy Mush land back in the mid-late 70’s together with Jim and Susan who had the other portion; we were really part of the “back to the land” movement of the time – realizing how important nature and protecting it was.  We were so struck by the  gorgeous land in itself – and the incredibly beautiful valley we had to go through to get to it.  For Bill, it connected to his past, growing up in Andrews, NC in the beautiful Snowbird Mountains.  For me, it connected to my love of land and the wish to protect it. Also, my father was from Switzerland, and I lived there for 3 years as an adult and developed a deep love of mountains. Sandy Mush feeds that feeling and need in me.  When I drive through the gorgeous valley before ascending our mountain area, I connect with our beautiful state, with Switzerland and with my love of nature, especially mountains.  When SAHC  approached us, we were so excited that the land would be even better protected.  With developers encroaching everywhere, protecting land feeds the future, protects water and food supply, and feeds all of my  senses. We are so fortunate to be connected to such a beautiful, peaceful and nourishing place, and we are thrilled that our daughter Thea and her husband Rachit are also excited about this area and its preservation.” — Evelyn Bloch, one of the Haywood Gap landowners

Doubleside Knob

Doubleside Knob is visible from publicly accessible Rough Creek hiking & biking trails.

Doubleside Knob is visible from publicly accessible Rough Creek hiking & biking trails.

The 31-acre Doubleside Knob tract purchased by SAHC also contains healthy habitat, with Southern Appalachian oak forest, mixed hardwoods, boulder fields, and elevations reaching above 4,000 ft. at the top of the knob. The property is adjacent to an existing conservation easement  and connected to a large network of protected land in Sandy Mush. Connectivity is important in conservation lands, helping to create wildlife corridors.

Our purchase of Doubleside Knob protects clean water sources.

Our purchase of Doubleside Knob protects clean water sources.

Part of a mountainous backdrop, Doubleside Knob is visible from the hiking/mountain biking trail in the Rough Creek Watershed. The 870-acre Rough Creek Watershed, owned by the Town of Canton, is publicly accessible for day use by hikers and mountain bikers. In 2002, SAHC worked with the Town of Canton and the Clean Water Management Trust Fund to place a conservation easement on the tract, protecting its unique forest ecosystem and natural resources. Today, the Rough Creek Watershed Trail System is open to the public and comprised of three trails of various distances, totaling 10+ miles.

Our purchase of Doubleside Knob protects water quality as well; the property contains the main branch of Long Branch, which flows into Beaverdam Creek.

Landowners Gloria Nelson and Mary Morehouse owned and enjoyed the property for many years. Mary was once Gloria’s teacher, and they became friends and remained close throughout their lives, often visiting each other to spend time on the land they love.

Landowners Gloria Nelson and Mary Morehouse. Mary was once Gloria’s teacher, and they have remained close throughout their lives, often visiting each other to spend time on the land they love.

Landowners Gloria Nelson and Mary Morehouse.

“For years we have walked this property and enjoyed the beauty of the trees, the animals, and the stream that runs through it,” said landowner Gloria Nelson. “For this reason we wanted this land to remain just as it is. We are very happy that the conservancy now owns it and will be able to preserve it for years to come.”

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“Human Health and Connection to Nature” — A Special Event and Conservation Celebration hosted by OM Sanctuary

OMsanctuary

OM Sanctuary

On Saturday, June 6, Oshun Mountain (OM) Sanctuary in Asheville, NC will host an open house and conservation celebration with an informative hike through a recently protected urban forest above the French Broad River. OM Sanctuary will welcome visitors between 11 am and 4 pm, offering free lectures, class demonstrations, an educational hike, and raffle/silent auction centered on the theme ‘Human Health and Connection with Nature.’ Founded in 2012, OM Sanctuary is a non-profit holistic education and nature-sensitive retreat center that offers overnight stays, classes, lectures, trainings and other programs.

Serenity Garden and waterfall

Serenity Garden and waterfall

“Nature is integral to our well-being — you can’t separate people from their environment,” says Shelli Stanback, OM Sanctuary Founder and President. “We are pleased to offer this event as a way to learn more about OM Sanctuary and what we offer, and to explore the connection between mind, body, spirit, and nature in relation to personal health and well-being.” The open house starts at 11 am. Holistic class demonstrations will include: Guided Relaxation and Meditation with Jerome Pearson at 11:15 am, Yoga with Elle Jai at 12:15 pm, Qi Gong for Self Healing with Lara Diaz at 1:15 pm, and Qi Gong with Virginia Rosenberg at 2:15 pm. OM Sanctuary’s Residential Chef Katie will also present Nutrition and Clean Eating demos at 12, 1, and 2 pm. At 3:15 pm, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) will give a brief introduction to conservation, followed by a guided 0.6-mile walk through OM Sanctuary’s preserve.

Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel

Led by SAHC AmeriCorps Stewardship Associate Andrea Thompson, hikers will learn about identification of native plant species, what constitutes a healthy forest community, and the importance of biodiversity for ecosystems. As participants ruminate on the interdependence between nature and human health, they can expect to see native species such as rosebay rhododendron, mountain laurel, black walnut, American beech, American holly, Carolina silverbell, New York fern, hay-scented fern, cucumber root, striped wintergreen, and more. After three years of dedicated effort, OM Sanctuary’s 42-acre urban forest was recently protected by a conservation easement with SAHC. Overlooking the French Broad River, Interstate 26, and Riverside drive, the easement protects a bluff containing cove forest, oak forest, and low montane pine forest with mixed hardwoods. The tract also contains pools in the river floodplain that provide likely habitat for wildlife like salamanders, amphibians and reptiles.

Hiking trail

Hiking trail

“Natural places are essential for human health,” says Stanback. “Once they have been lost to development, they are gone forever. We must preserve them now for our sake, and for the sake of the future. With few urban open spaces remaining near Asheville, protecting the forest with a conservation easement was the clear, sustainable choice. It will assist OM Sanctuary in fulfilling our mission to inspire healthy lifestyle practices through holistic education and connection with nature.”

The property is located near Buncombe County’s Richmond Hill Park and the state-designated Richmond Hill Forest Natural Area. Conservation of the tract also helps protect tributary streams of the French Broad River Watershed from sources of sedimentation and other types of pollution. “We were thrilled at the opportunity to protect this undeveloped, mature forest so near the heart of the city,” said Carl Silverstein, SAHC’s Executive Director. “It is a rare gem containing an uncommon cluster of natural features near Asheville’s urban core. The forest provides ecosystem services and preserves a scenic view seen by many people every day: recreational users of the French Broad River and everyone who drives past it.”

trailhead_best

SAHC will lead a guided hike through the protected forest on June 6.

The open house and celebration of the new conservation easement are open to the public, free or by donation. The event will conclude at 4 pm with a raffle drawing. Donations and proceeds from the raffle and silent auction will be used to benefit the OM Sanctuary’s mission of providing holistic health services to individuals of all of all ages, cultures, and income levels. For more information, visit http://www.omsanctuary.org.

About OM Sanctuary: This non-profit organization was formed in 2012 as a response to the increasing number of people of all ages, cultures, and income levels seeking holistic methods to improve health, reduce stress, and bring balance to their personal and professional lives. Located on the site of the historic Richmond Hill hotel just outside downtown Asheville, NC, OM Sanctuary responds to this need by offering a holistic retreat center, educational scholarship programs, and charitable initiatives focused on Body, Mind, Spirit, and Nature. Their mission is to inspire healthy lifestyle practices through holistic education and connection with nature. For more information, visit http://www.omsanctuary.org.

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Camby Mountain

Camby Mountain, viewed from the Drovers Road Scenic Byway.

Camby Mountain, viewed from the Drovers Road Scenic Byway.

Peeking above a pastoral setting of rolling hills, panoramic mountain views surround the Drovers Road Scenic Byway. In the western portion of the Fairview Farming Community, Camby Mountain dominates the skyline.

Smith Farms Inc. partnered with SAHC to protect scenic Camby Mountain from subdivision and development. GD Smith, President of Smith Farms Inc., and his wife Janice Smith closed on a conservation easement with SAHC on the 58-acre mountainside above their farm in Fairview.

“The Smith family is doing a great thing for Fairview by protecting scenic views from the valley,” said Farmland Program Director William Hamilton. “We are so grateful to have a chance to work with them and secure the view of Camby Mountain from the byway.”

The property contains a prominent ridgeline and mountain face highly visible from Drovers Road Scenic Byway US-74A as well as from other public roadways and vantage points in the community.  The portion of the tract protected by conservation easement includes the upland, forested area rising above Smith Farms.

“Protecting this ridgeline is an important part of preserving the beloved mountain landscape of Buncombe County along the federally designated scenic byway between Asheville and Chimney Rock State Park,” added Hamilton.

Camby Mountain and other protected tracts within  the Fairview area.

Camby Mountain and other protected tracts within the Fairview area.

 

This project was made possible by a generous gift from Fred and Alice Stanback; funding from the Federal Scenic Byways program, Buncombe County, and the Conservation Trust for NC; and the generosity of the landowners. Altogether, SAHC has conserved approximately 1,500 acres in the Fairview area.

 “The Smiths’ foresight in protecting Camby Mountain from subdivision and development is a major step in securing the scenic beauty and natural landscape in southeast Buncombe County,” said Executive Director Carl Silverstein.

Camby Mountain is near 1,830 acres of conservation easements and fee simple land held by SAHC, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, and the Nature Conservancy, including Hickory Nut Gap Farm, Flying Cloud Farm, Little Pisgah Mountain, Blue Ridge Pastures, and the Florence Preserve.

The connectivity afforded by protecting Camby Mountain at Smith Farms so near other large tracts supports diverse wildlife, including black bear and bobcat; smaller mammal species such as red fox; large birds such as wild turkey, grouse, barred owl, and red tailed hawk; small song birds and neotropical migratory birds; and a variety of species of amphibians and reptiles.

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Preserving Farms – And “A Way of Life”

Jeffersfarm

52 acres of Watalula Farm in Leicester, NC were recently placed under agricultural conservation easement.

Over the past few years, the terms ‘local food’ and ‘farm to table’ have gained greater and greater prominence in our daily conversations. What you may not hear as frequently, however, are some of the underlying concerns for farmland conservation – namely, that local food production requires both local farmland and successful farmers, and that not all farmland is created equal. These concerns are an integral part of the story behind two recent farmland conservation projects completed by the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC).

SAHC recently created conservation easements on two tracts of important, working agricultural lands in northwestern Buncombe County totaling 88 acres. The newly protected 52-acre Watalula Farm tract in Leicester and 36-acre portion of Duckett Farm in Sandy Mush each contain prime agricultural soils.

SAHC Farmland Program Director William Hamilton explains, “Only 2% of the land mass in Western North Carolina consists of nationally recognized prime soils.  In most places, this land is also the most threatened by development, and a good bit of it has already seen a change in land use. As a land trust working in the Southern Appalachian mountains, we recognize that preserving rich bottomland must be a high priority.  It is vital that we preserve this natural resource to secure our food supply into the future.”

Anne Grier of Gaining Ground Farm, working the land they lease at Watalula Farm.
Anne Grier of Gaining Ground Farm, working the land they lease at Watalula Farm.

Watalula Farm – 52 acres
Landowner Will Jeffers purchased the farm in 2011 from the previous landowner, who had grown up in the area and  shared his desire to keep the land available for farming. An insightful young professional and graduate of Warren Wilson College, Jeffers learned that the property had come up for sale from his friends and neighboring farmers Anne and Aaron Grier of Gaining Ground Farm.

“After living in Asheville for a number of years and feeling helpless as countless farms were developed, we always dreamed of viable ways to preserve land for agricultural use,” says Jeffers. “Thanks to an open dialogue between the seller, SAHC and neighboring farmers this dream became a reality with the preservation of Watalula Farm.  We hope the story of this farm’s placement into conservation can be an example for future efforts.”

Gaining Ground Farm leases the pastures at Watalula Farm for their herd of Red Devon cattle.

Gaining Ground Farm leases the pastures at Watalula Farm for their herd of Red Devon cattle.

Jeffers leases land at Watalula to young farmers of Gaining Ground Farm and First Blossom Farm to keep the land agriculturally productive. Gaining Ground Farm leases some of the bottomland and the pastures on Watalula, producing vegetables and local beef for local tailgate markets, local restaurants, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs).

“We can produce a lot more and do better crop rotation by leasing and using the Watalula land in addition to the land we already lease as Gaining Ground Farm,” said Anne Grier. “It has been especially helpful in improving our ability to sell to local restaurants. And, with the new conservation easement on the Watalula Farm land, we have a sense of security that the land will stay available for us and for others to use for farming now and in the future.”

According to Hamilton,”This farm has been a constant agricultural contributor for the last one hundred years.  It has and is continuing to provide local jobs for the community. As needed, it has evolved to survive the changing economics of agriculture, and the new farmers will continue to seek economic viability through direct marketing of produce and meat to the local market.”

This critical 52-acre property consists of 80% important agricultural soils (including 21% “prime” – nationally significant soils). A section of Newfound Creek also flows through the farm. The tract adjoins the Snelson Farm conservation easement preserved by Buncombe County.

“This is a great farmland preservation project,” says Hamilton. “The farm has all the right components: valuable soils, a great water supply, and beautiful scenery, all located within 10 miles of downtown Asheville. There was a significant threat of development, and we are proud to be able to preserve this innovative, highly productive, sustainable, and forward-thinking family farm for the future.”

Duckett farm – 36-acre tract

The rich bottomland of the Duckett tract is currently used for winter grazing lands and hay.

The rich bottomland of the Duckett tract is currently used for winter grazing lands and hay.

This 36-acre tract is a portion of 330 acres of family farm owned by Bill & Mabel Duckett, of which 260 acres have already been protected under conservation easement with SAHC. The Duckett farm is a 4th generation family farm operation located in the remote Big Sandy Mush area of Buncombe County. 

“Bill’s 36 acres is situated right in the middle of the Sandy Mush Valley,” says Hamilton. “This parcel is especially good because 26 of the 36 acres are recognized nationally as prime soils.  Prime soils take thousands of years to form, and usually consist of a balanced combination of sand, silt, and clay.  They can be cultivated year after year and never suffer from erosion if managed well. “

Presently, the bottomland tract is used for hay and for winter grazing land for cattle; it was used for row crops in the past. Duckett practices a historic tradition of wintering cattle on bottomland in Sandy Mush valley and driving them up to summer grazing at higher elevations, including his land at Chestnut Gap, which is also protected by conservation easement with SAHC. The pastures connect to a remarkable network of protected lands in the Sandy Mush valley and the Newfound Mountains.  While the cattle are at summer pasture, the newly protected conservation easement area is planted with hay, an erosion-minimizing practice encouraged by the farm’s Buncombe County Soil and Water conservation plan.

The recently protected 36-acre conservation easement on Duckett farm land (outlined in red) lies in the heart of Sandy Mush.

The recently protected 36-acre conservation easement on Duckett farm land (outlined in red) lies in the heart of Sandy Mush.

Remarking on the recently completed conservation easement, Bill Duckett said, “I’d like to see the land stay in farm use and not be developed, and that’s what my boys wanted, too. It’s good for the area to have more open land. This program works well for someone at my age. I can’t farm like I used to, and it can serve to help me retire. That’s something all farm families have to face, eventually – a way to change over to the next generation.”

Duckett’s children are interested in continuing the farming tradition of the land, although they do not have plans to take over farming as a full-time operation. Placing the land under conservation easement is a way for the current generation to continue the traditions of the past and ensure that the farm’s rich, agriculturally important soils will not be lost in the future. 

“Most farms are passed down — they didn’t happen in one generation,” continues Duckett. “It takes more than one generation to put a farm together. It’s more a way of life than just property, not something you want to sell and see disappear. I’d also like farmers to be aware of the farmland preservation program – and the fact that there is funding available to preserve farms through the Farm Bill. It’s not something that you’ll be forced into, but it’s nice to know that it is available.”

The Duckett farm tract of 36 acres is 100% open agricultural land, and 73% of soils on it are classified as “Prime” – Nationally Significant.  26% of Duckett Bottomland Soils are classified as “Statewide Importance” – State Significant. The tract is bordered by Sandy Mush Creek, which flows into the French Broad River.

NewSAHCfarmlandconservation projectsSAHC successfully applied for Federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) funds to protect the prime agricultural soils on both these tracts. We also secured funding and support for the projects from partners at the local, state, and national level, including Buncombe County, the Conservation Trust for North Carolina – Farmland Forever Fund, North Carolina Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust, and the US Department of Agriculture – Natural Resources Conservation Service. The landowners also made generous contributions to make completion of the projects possible.

“These are both incredible successes for local farmland preservation efforts,” sums up Hamilton. “The high occurrence of prime soils and the continued use and expansion of agricultural operations on these tracts made them priorities for conservation. We are grateful to the landowners for working to preserve their lands, and to our partners for providing critical funding for these projects.”

If other farm landowners  are interested in working with SAHC to preserve their land for agricultural use, we would be happy to help with the process. Contact William Hamilton at 828.253.0095 ext. 211 or william@appalachian.org for more information.

Categories: Farmland Preservation Program, Land Protection Updates | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Music in the Forest – Protecting Bob Moog’s Big Briar Cove

Sunbeams in forest_briarcove

SAHC accepted a conservation easement on 105 acres of Bob Moog’s land at Big Briar Cove.

Musicians around the world know the name Bob Moog and respect his groundbreaking innovations in electronic instruments. However, what they may not know is that a quiet cove outside Asheville, NC provided a setting of respite and inspiration to nourish his uncanny genius.

In December, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) accepted a donated conservation easement on 105 acres of Bob Moog’s property in the South Turkey Creek community of Buncombe County. The quiet cove includes the former home and workshop of local music icon Bob Moog. His widow, Ileana Grams-Moog, donated the conservation easement to SAHC to protect forest habitat and clean water resources on the property.

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Completing the conservation easement in December (L to R): SAHC Stewardship & Conservation Planning Director Hanni Muerdter, Ileana Grams-Moog, SAHC Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese, SAHC Executive Director Carl Silverstein.

“Bob would have been very happy about the conservation easement at Big Briar Cove,” said Grams-Moog. “People do not often think of him as an outdoorsman, but Bob was very passionate about the outdoors and the wilderness. I know that donating this conservation easement to protect the land for the future is something he wanted.”

The property contains rare natural communities including rich cove forest, a stand of old growth forest, and a small remnant southern Appalachian bog. Ten creeks flow through the cove, including several streams that serve as headwaters of South Turkey Creek.  These pristine waters flow through the Sandy Mush Game Lands before emptying into the French Broad River.

Headwaters of South Turkey Creek originate on the Big Briar Cove tract.

Headwaters of South Turkey Creek originate on the Big Briar Cove tract.

“When he first learned about conservation easements, Bob was very interested and thought it would be a good thing to do for the cove,” Grams-Moog continued. “In his will, he directed me to preserve the environmental values of the land. I’m pleased to honor his wishes by donating the conservation easement at Big Briar Cove to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.”

In addition to the natural resources on the tract, the completion of this conservation easement protects scenic views in the northwest corner of the county. Rising to 3,700 feet in elevation, the property is visible from a scenic rural route and in the distance from Old Marshall Scenic Byway. As the home and work site of Moog, who is widely regarded as an early pioneer in electronic music, the property is also important for its cultural and historical context.

Bob Moog, photo courtesy of Ileana Grams-Moog.

Bob Moog, photo courtesy of Ileana Grams-Moog.

When Moog purchased the property in 1978, he was already well established in his career as an inventor and entrepreneur. He founded Big Briar, Inc. and built and sold custom electronic musical instruments under the Big Briar name until 2002, when the name was changed to Moog Music, Inc. At the workshop on the Big Briar Cove property, Moog experimented with designs for his electronic instruments and produced many instruments that were sold through his company.

briarcove

Big Briar Cove

“This property is a biological gem situated near 6,000 acres that SAHC has protected in the Sandy Mush farming community,” according to SAHC Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “We’re grateful to Ileana Grams-Moog for protecting this lovely cove with its significant forest, habitat, water resources, scenic value and historic connection to Bob Moog. We are deeply proud to be able to preserve it for posterity.”

Transaction costs for this donated conservation easement project were covered in part by the ‘Money in the Ground – Mountains & Coasts’ grant program of the Conservation Trust for North Carolina.

Categories: Land Protection Updates | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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