Posts Tagged With: Conservation

Land Trust Day 2015

LandTrustDay2015_logosThank you to our Land Trust Day sponsoring businesses, for helping us raise $13,000 for conservation in one day!

We’d also like to give a special THANK YOU to Mast General Store, for allowing us space in the Asheville and Waynesville stores to provide informative materials and talk to customers throughout the day. And thank you to our staff and volunteers who hosted tables at the Mast General Store locations: Michelle Pugliese, Sarah Sheeran, Caitlin Edenfield, Joan Worth, Leigh DeForth, and Cheryl Fowler.

This year, we also hosted two area hikes during Land Trust Day.

Second Spring Market Garden produces veggies as part of SAHC's Farmer Incubator Program.

Second Spring Market Garden produces veggies as part of SAHC’s Farmer Incubator Program.

Community Farm Hike: We hosted our third annual Land Trust Day hike out on SAHC’s Community Farm. Each year the hike becomes more interesting and in-depth as new projects develop and old ones continue to grow. This year we were excited to have some neighbors of the farm on the hike, who were interested in learning more about the Community Farm and our Farmer Incubator Program.

Tomatoes growing in the greenhouse.

Tomatoes growing in the greenhouse.

The morning started off cool, as we gave a brief introduction to SAHC and our Community Farm at the trailhead. Our first stop along the hike was at Second Spring Market Garden, the first farmers in our Farmer Incubator Program. Second Spring provides one of the most dynamic stops along, as it is constantly growing (pun intended) and expanding. Growing on just an acre-and-a-half, they’re providing Asheville with its first 52-week CSA. Walking through in June was a great time to visit, as the farmers were in full production mode! After passing by Second Spring, we ventured in the woods and into the Stream Restoration and Short Leaf Pine Restoration areas. While these areas are slowly growing, the before and after pictures provided by the info boards along trail are proof of progress!

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Piney Woods cattle herd, owned by Incubator Farmer Gina Raicovich.

We made our way up the steep hill, onto the ridge, from which a view of the entire farm can be seen. It was a little hazy out, but still a breathtaking view and easy way to visualize what 100 acres looks like. The group continued on their way, down off the ridge and back into the Stream Restoration zone. The 1.5-mile Discovery Trail does a wonderful job of covering every interesting aspect and project on the farm. As we made our way back to the trail head, we caught a glimpse of the Piney Woods Cattle roaming the farm. In just a couple of hours, we were able to give the all-access tour of our Community Farm!

OM Sanctuary’s “Human Health and Connection with Nature”:

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Hikers explored a protected urban forest at OM Sanctuary.

As part of a day-long open house and celebration of the conservation easement at OM Sanctuary, SAHC helped lead a hike on the tract, to explore the recently protected urban forest. Participants learned the benefits of urban forest, both to humans and to ecosystem health. We walked through chestnut oak forest and acidic cove forest, learning native trees and wildflowers in addition to how the history of the railroad affected OM’s current-day forest. Hikers also learned how to identify multiflora rose, Oriental bittersweet, and Morrow’s honeysuckle as non-native invasive species, and why Asian plant species are commonly invasive in our forests and, reciprocally, that our plants are invasive in their forests. The group was inspired at the end of the hike to pursue more naturalist-led hikes with SAHC and to volunteer with the invasive species removal project at OM Sanctuary.

Thank you to all who were involved throughout the day!

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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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Last chance to purchase fresh CSA shares from Our Community Farm!

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Casara Logan and Matt Coffay of Second Spring, part of SAHC’s Farmer Incubator Program.

Sign up for Asheville’s first 52 week CSA! Second Spring Market Garden has a handful of shares remaining for their CSA this year.  Learn more about their vegetable offerings and share options at www.secondspringfarm.com/csa.  You can sign up online or send a check by mail.  Beginning in May, CSA members will receive fresh vegetables every week of the year, even in winter. The CSA is nearly full for the year, and their sign up deadline is April 25, so check them out and sign up now!

What is Second Spring growing at our Community Farm? Turnips, radishes, peas, carrots, beets, spinach, head lettuce, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, baby salad mix, garlic, onions, potatoes, kale, cilantro, dill, and bok choy are growing in the ground now. They are pre-sprouting ginger and turmeric, and tomatoes should be ready in late May. Yum!

secondspringplantsSecond Spring First Annual Plant Sale

Second Spring Market Garden will host its first annual plant sale on Sunday, May 3rd from 10 AM – 5 PM.  Stop by to visit the farm and pick up your spring vegetable and herb starts. They’ll have heirloom tomatoes, lettuces, kale, chard, and other veg, along with herbs such as rosemary, thyme, mint, and more. Visit

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NPCA/Nature Valley Work Day

Around 33 volunteers offered services for the workday.

‘Thank you’ to the 33 volunteers offered services for the workday!

We hosted another successful volunteer workday in the Highlands of Roan, made possible by a generous grant from the National Parks Conservation Association and Nature Valley. Funding from this partnership has helped us accomplish land stewardship projects over the past several years.

Organized by our AmeriCorps Project Conserve Stewardship Associates and Highlands of Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett, 33 gracious volunteers gathered to get their hands dirty on our National Trails Tract.

Three teams worked on trail re-routing.

Three teams worked on trail re-routing.

 

After a brief introduction from Executive Director Carl Silverstein and Don Barger of the National Parks Conservation  Association, who manages the corporate relationship with Nature Valley, teams split up to hear safety talks and get to work on several critical projects on the property.

The main objectives of the workday centered around the vision for the tract to be used for hiking and camping enjoyment, and its capability of providing excellent habitat for the threatened Golden-winged Warbler.  One team of volunteers improved a scenic area near the property entrance, removing dilapidated and rotting structures to enhance the beauty of a picnic spot next to rushing Roaring Creek.

Trail improvements will help protect stream and habitat health as well.

Trail improvements will help protect stream and habitat health as well.

Also working to improve visitor accessibility to this gateway property, three teams of volunteers tackled a much-needed trail-rerouting.  The pre-existing trail loop, which leads to a breathtaking waterfall, contained gravel sections that were degraded and steep. The trail was unsustainable and eroding quickly.  With loppers and digging tools, the Nature Valley work crew re-routed a section of trail down a more gentle slope with a more sustainable tread.

Another team helped control some non-native, invasive plant species to enhance the quality of breeding habitat for Golden-winged Warblers. The beautiful sweeping meadows and mosaic of scrub and early successional habitat on the property naturally provide suitable habitat for these threatened neotropical migratory songbirds.

The crew enjoyed lunch in a meadow overlooking a scenic view of the surrounding landscape, including several other tracts that SAHC has helped to protect.  Trustee Jay Leutze highlighted major land protection efforts and successes in the area as everyone enjoyed the beautiful autumn weather.  Later, volunteers enjoyed hiking to the incredible waterfalls on the property to end a successful day.  It is our hope that visitors and Golden-winged Warblers alike benefit from the workday for years to come!

National Trails Tract

The aptly-named National Trails Tract is a gateway to the Roan area and central to an expanding network of conservation lands.  It is highly visible from the Appalachian Trail on Roan Mountain and the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail (which traces the route of patriot militia through VA, TN, NC & SC).  Because of the property’s connection to such important historic and scenic trails, its notable conservation values — pristine wild trout waters, bird habitat, and adjacency to Pisgah National Forest — it was identified as a high priority for conservation.  SAHC purchased the 113-acre property in 2008 to protect it from development and later transferred 73 acres to the state  of NC, retaining

40 acres for long-term management.

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Meet the Farmers at Our Community Farm!

Matt and Casara of Second Spring Market Garden, working land leased through SAHC's Farmer Incubator Program.

Matt and Casara of Second Spring Market Garden, working land leased through SAHC’s Farmer Incubator Program.

Matt Coffay and Casara Logan of Second Spring Market Garden are in the house! The greenhouse, that is.

We want to send a big welcome to these first vegetable producers in our new Farmer Incubator Program, and a thank you to all the volunteers who helped put up infrastructure so they can start growing.

Second Spring Market Garden offers Asheville’s first 52-week CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) supplying fresh produce year-round. They will be growing a variety of vegetables using organic methods and efficient four-season production with two heated greenhouses now in place on our Community Farm.

SAHC currently has two farm ventures — Second Spring Market Garden and a heritage breed Pineywoods cattle operation — participating in our Farmer Incubator Program. The program provides low-cost access to land and resources for new or expanding agricultural operations and is aimed at helping the next generation of farmers fill the gap left as aging farmers retire.

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“Without the Incubator, we’d probably still be looking for farmland,” says Matt Coffay.

“We’d spent several months looking for land,” explains Coffay. “We were selling out of produce each week with our existing markets and needed to expand up to about an acre-and-a-half of production in order to really be able to earn full-time incomes as growers.  Land access is one of the biggest challenges facing young farmers, though — especially in an area like Asheville, where relatively flat, inexpensive acreage is hard to come by. Plus, in terms of leasing a property, renting cheap land with no infrastructure (water, electricity, vehicle access, etc) makes starting a farm –which is already no easy task — even more challenging.”

Second Spring Market Garden offers local, pre-washed bagged salad mix year-round.

Second Spring Market Garden offers local, pre-washed bagged salad mix year-round.

“When we found the Farmer Incubator Program, we knew we’d finally landed at the right spot.  The folks at SAHC are assisting us with building the infrastructure we need in order to farm effectively on a small scale.  We’ve also been given access to land at a rate that’s affordable for us.  Without the Incubator, we’d probably still be looking for farmland.”

Casara Logan of Second Spring, which offers Asheville's first 52-week fresh veggie CSA.

Casara Logan of Second Spring, which offers Asheville’s first 52-week fresh veggie CSA.

Second Spring is now taking sign-ups for 2015 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares. Paying for crop shares early in the year gives farmers some stability and provides up-front capital for supply purchases. Members of a CSA are then provided a weekly box share of the crop throughout the year.

“We’re really excited to be offering the first 52-week fresh vegetable CSA in Asheville,” added Coffay. “We believe that local food only really works if it’s available every week of the year.  Community Supported Agriculture really does create community, too: our customers get to know one another, and we always invite folks to come out and see where their food comes from (and even lend a hand on the farm if they’d like).  It also makes an enormous difference for us when people pay for their share at the beginning of the year, when expenses are high and income is low; so, we always ask that our members send in their payments as early in the year as they can manage. We’re also open to working out a payment plan for folks who can’t afford the full amount up front.  Check out our website today to sign up, or send us an e-mail for more info!”

Pineywoods cattle at SAHC's Community Farm.

Pineywoods cattle at SAHC’s Community Farm.

Also participating in the Farmer Incubator Program is Gina Raicovich with her herd of Pineywoods cattle, a resilient but now rare heritage breed. Her agricultural operation will involve breeding of Pineywoods cattle and grass-finishing for market (selling yearling heifers and grass-fed beef), utilizing 26 acres of pasture on the Community Farm with rotational grazing.

Last fall, Raicovich chose to lease land through the Farmer Incubator Program because it provides an affordable pasture lease with proximity to town, allowing her to keep a regular job while growing the herd.

Infrastructure improvements at the farm include off-stream watering tanks for livestock.

Infrastructure improvements at the farm include off-stream watering tanks for livestock.

“My lease at the SAHC Community Farm is allowing me to access land close to downtown Asheville so that I can easily grow a small herd while I continue to work full time and look for a more permanent land base for my operation.  Ideally I’ll grow my operation to a profitable size before it’s time to leave the farm and shoulder a mortgage on my own land.”

The  Farmer Incubator Program was introduced last year, and continues to accept applicants on a rolling basis. Funding for the successful launch of the program has been provided by the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, Southern SARE, US Department of Agriculture, and New Belgium Brewing Company.

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Thunder on the Mountain

Sporting mid-October splendor, the view from Waterrock Knob was gorgeous.

Sporting mid-October splendor, the view of the Plott Balsam Mountains from Waterrock Knob was gorgeous.

Drew Stevenson from Highland Brewing Company  and Kana Miller (SAHC AmeriCorps PR and Outreach Associate) fearlessly led our group of hikers into the clouds for a strenuous but fun October hike — the Thunderstruck “For Love of Beer and Mountains” Partnership hike to  Blackrock Mountain. Drew recounts this trek through the Plott Balsams in Jackson County, our 2nd Partnership  hike of the fall season:

“The hike group met at the Waterrock Knob overlook (elevation 6,292 feet), which gets its name from a cool stream where hunters and farmers came to quench their thirst. About 1/4 mile down from the Waterrock Knob Visitor Center we started the trail, which covers approximately 2.2 miles of up-and-down terrain, becoming very skinny at times to hug the steep mountainside.
Relics from old logging days merge with the moss-dotted forest.

Relics from old logging days merge with the moss-dotted forest.

With occasional views of puffy clouds floating in the valley below,  the route provided a handful of opportunities for hikers to display some simple rock climbing skills. We reached the summit of Yellow Face Mountain about a mile into the hike and enjoyed a water break with a view, surrounded by trees and blackberry bushes.

On our next descent into the forest, before the trail began to climb again, we stopped in a flat, mossy area full of lichen, fungi and a large metal structure left over from the days of logging around the area. It kind of resembled something Steebo, a local metal artist, would have utilized for one of his projects.
"British soldier," an interesting species of lichen named for its bright red color.

“British soldier,” an interesting species of lichen named for its bright red color.

We also admired all the British soldiers (Cladonia cristatella) growing on a group of fallen trees on the edge of the forest. They are a species of lichen with erect, hollow branches that end in distinctive red fruiting bodies from which the popular name is derived. Then, we headed back up the trail into thicker forest and hiked beside large rocks, some draped with smooth rock tripe that looked like slick strips of vinyl peeling  off from the surface. An abundance of ferns and moss also covered many of the rocks bordering the trail to the top.

A pause before the final push before the summit.

A pause before the final push to the summit.

After successfully maneuvering through a couple of the most challenging spots on the trail, we passed a “Conservation Area” marker, which signified the important work that SAHC has done in this particular area and provided us with an indicator that we were nearing our destination.

Before reaching the Blackrock Mountain crest, we approached our last difficult climb and popped out onto the rock that would be our lunch spot. Clouds engulfed the majority of the long range views in front of us, but as the wind pushed them through, we managed to get glimpses of Yellow Face and some sights of autumn color change.

SAHC member and avid hiker, Bob Roepnack points out interesting landmarks as the clouds break.

SAHC member and avid hiker, Bob Roepnack points out interesting landmarks as the clouds break.

This peaceful place provided an opportunity for fellowship with our hiking group and time to talk about the “For Love of Beer & Mountains” partnership with those who were hiking with us for the first time. As we made our way back, the clouds lifted just as we ascended Yellow Face Mountain, allowing us the chance to get a peek at the beautiful view below.

On the way back to Asheville, Kana  and I stopped at the Thunderstruck Ridge overlook to see the ridge for which the latest Highland Brewing Company seasonal — Thunderstruck Coffee Porter — was named.”

About the “For Love of Beer & Mountains” Partnership:

Highland Brewing Company (HBC) partners with Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and US Fish & Wildlife Service in order to support our conservation efforts and heighten awareness of the unique peaks, natural features, and native species which make our area so special. As part of this partnership, Highland Brewing Company donates a portion of pint sales from each release party to SAHC to support land and water conservation.

The “For Love of Beer and Mountains” Partnership activities, including free guided hikes, occur throughout the year, centering around each of HBC’s seasonal releases. Each HBC seasonal brew is named for a feature of the Southern Appalachian landscape.

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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 robbie@townandmountain.com.

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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Community Farm/Discovery Trail Hike

SAHC's Community Farm in Alexander, NC, situated with a stunning mountain backdrop

SAHC’s Community Farm in Alexander, NC, situated with a stunning mountain backdrop

It was hot –  but not too hot – just the kind of bright summer sun you imagine plants loving to soak in.

On National Trails Day/Land Trust Day (June 7, 2014), we led a group of curious members, landowners, and local families on a two-hour tour of SAHC’s Community Farm in Alexander, NC. This first Saturday in June starts off Outdoor Month, and was given special designation to recognize the economic importance of trails across the nation as well as the land conservation work of local land trusts. It was a wonderful day to enjoy the 1.5-mile Discovery Trail and to showcase the many exciting programs going on at our Farm.

talking and pointing

Community Farm & Food Assistant Yael Girard (left) explains in detail about the many projects at the Farm.

We were led by Community Farm and Food Assistant, Yael Girard – with a little humor, a lot of detail, and an enthusiastic, jovial attitude. After meeting at the recently improved parking area and checking out the trail maps, our group of around 25 embarked on a pleasant walk down the mulched trail at the top of the pasture. With a sweeping view across the farm, Yael pointed out the newly installed livestock fencing, stream restoration area, and shortleaf pine restoration project. Then, we moseyed on down to the lower end of the stream, where native grass plantings in the riparian buffer had grown tall enough to tickle as we filed by.

The best part of roaming around the Discovery Trail for this tour was comparing the memories of past hikes, volunteer days and workshops on the property — the change is incredible! Yael explained how we had graded the stream banks to repair the incised, narrow canyon along the stream (created by years of erosion). We won’t lie to you – this project required some big earth-moving machinery – but the miracle is that we replaced the kudzu-covered tiny canyon with beautiful, sloping creek banks covered with native trees, bushes and grasses. On this day, the trail through the stream corridor was lined with tall silvery stalks, and many of the young native trees and shrubs planted in the stream buffer area were growing strong, too.

crossing stream

Crossing the stream.

We crossed the stream near one of the riffle-pools – features installed to promote aquatic life. Yael commented that  a naturalist has been examining aquatic organisms in the stream and was astounded by the rebound of growth since restoration construction finished last fall.

“You wouldn’t have expected to see stream life at this extent so recently after the construction was completed, so it’s surprising as well as gratifying to see it bounce back so well – and a testament to the planning and work done by Altamont Environmental and Riverworks,” Yael said. “I’ve already seen tadpoles, frogs, salamanders out in the stream – it’s pretty neat.”

Then, our tour continued up a rise along one of the steepest, most open parts of the trail and through the shortleaf pine restoration area. Here, SAHC contracted with the US Forest Service to plant over 25,000 seedlings. Yael paused to explain how we had found native shortleaf pine seedlings growing in this area and embarked on a restoration project to help re-establish this native tree species, which has been on decline in North Carolina.

jim houser looking at sign

New interpretive signs along the trail help explain the many projects ongoing at the Community Farm.

“As the trees mature, this restoration area will provide excellent habitat for native wildlife, too,” she explained. One of the recently installed interpretive signs for the Discovery Trail tells the how and why of the shortleaf pine restoration project.

We continued up the slope to the other access point for the trail. As the group looked out over the Farm, Yael pointed to the plowed field where the first of our new Farmer Incubator Program participants will be launching her own agricultural endeavor. Then, Yael pointed out the off-stream water tanks and new livestock fencing, important features that help create safe and healthy pasture for future beginning farmers while keeping cattle, sheep, or goats out of the stream we have just restored.

“If you look closely, you can see large blue balls floating in the top of the watering tanks,” said Yael as she pointed at one of several tanks installed across the pasture. “These floating balls help keep the water fresh for livestock. The balls float at the top of the water, supplied from a well below, and form a kind of light seal. It’s easy for livestock to push the ball down, then the water flows up. This keeps a lot of insects and debris from getting into their water. We researched programs across the country to find the best agricultural management practices for the Farm. One reason many farmers love these tanks is because, when it’s freezing outside, only a thin coat of ice can form on top of the ball. Livestock can break it fairly easily to get at fresh water underneath, and it’s better than having to go break up a huge tank full of ice.”

stream restoration area

Thank you to all who joined us for the Farm Tour. If you haven’t seen it yet, stayed tuned for the next hike!

With the bright sun almost directly overhead, our group continued down to check out the “before” and “after” photos on the stream restoration interpretive sign. Then, we followed a winding walk across a “hardened crossing” (another feature to prevent future erosion issues), up a section of pasture, and through the woods to the end of the Discovery Trail loop.

Thank you so much to all who came out to tour the Community Farm for Land Trust Day — and, if you didn’t make it yet, check our events at Appalachian.org for upcoming hikes. We will be hosting more Farm tours in the future!

Click here for more photos.

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Maney Fields – 100+ years in the family

Historic structure in the high-elevation pasture at Maney Fields

Historic structure in the high-elevation pasture

One of the most interesting things about working in land conservation is hearing stories about how people connect to the land. So often, we define ourselves by connection to place. Over generations, tracts of land become entwined in the history of a family. Staff at SAHC frequently hear statements like “I have this beautiful piece of land that’s been in my family for generations, and I don’t want to see it lost…” from landowners contacting our office, and it is truly gratifying when we see the protection of such tracts come to fruition.

When we accepted a donated conservation easement on Maney Fields, this 44-acre tract in Madison County where the corners of Madison, Buncombe, and Yancey converge — owned and treasured by one family for over 100 years — became permanently preserved.

“The Maney family is grateful to SAHC for all their efforts in preserving this very special place,” said landowner Diane Rosseter. “It is comforting to know that the beauty and uniqueness of the Maney Fields will be sustained and protected forever.”

View from Maney Fields, photo courtesy of Owen Carson from Equinox Environmental

View from Maney Fields, photo courtesy of Owen Carson from Equinox Environmental

Three headwater tributaries of Terry Fork, which flows into Paint Fork and then into Little Ivy Creek, originate on the property.  A high elevation wetland area on the property is located just below the 4,245 ft summit. The 360-degree view from the summit includes Barnardsville, Frosty Knob, Reems Creek, Sugar Creek, Rocky Face, Big Butte, Sandy Mush Bald, Roan Mountain, Craggy Dome, and Craggy Peak.

The Maney Fields tract is located near four other SAHC-protected properties and adjoins the Merschat Farm, a 118-acre farm under a conservation easement held by Buncombe County Soil & Water Conservation District.

“Sitting at the closing table with Diane and Rob Rosseter and Diane’s father Ed Maney brought to life the long family history on Maney Fields,” said Michelle Pugliese, Land Protection Director. “Three generations of Maneys have cared for this land, and the devotion of the family to preserve it filled the room that day.  I am delighted to have helped their family leave a legacy on this mountain that will last forever.”

This project was made possible by a generous donation of the value of the conservation easement from the landowner, as well as funds from Brad & Shelli Stanback and the Conservation Trust for North Carolina’s Money in the Ground mini-grant to cover transaction costs.

Personal Perspective — Caitlin Edenfield, Land Protection AmeriCorps Associate

Personal Perspective Caitlin Edenfield, SAHC's Land Protection AmeriCorps Associate

Personal Perspective Caitlin Edenfield, SAHC’s Land Protection AmeriCorps Associate

“As the AmeriCorps Land Protection Associate, I was able to work closely with landowners, Diane and Rob Rosseter to complete the Maney Fields conservation easement.

Diane and Rob were ideal landowners to work with because they were patient, flexible, and dedicated to the protection of their family land. I also helped facilitate many of the due diligence items such as the survey, appraisal, Phase 1 environmental site assessment, title work, legal review of the conservation easement.

Upon closing the conservation easement I felt an overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment, knowing that I helped preserve this land for perpetuity. I am grateful to be serving as an AmeriCorps member at SAHC and for the opportunity to be closely involved in the protection of our invaluable resources, like Maney Fields. My time with SAHC has influenced me to look for a full-time position with a land trust at the end of my term.”

AmeriCorps LogoOur Project Conserve AmeriCorps Associates form an important and integral part of our team. They give us the capacity to expand our land protection and stewardship program work, and in turn receive valuable experience for their careers.

 

 

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

Appalachian Spring Celebration – 40th Anniversary!

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Thank you to all our sponsors and raffle donors!

Thank you to all our sponsors and raffle donors!

Thank you to all the friends, members, volunteers, donors, and event sponsors who made our Appalachian Spring 40th Anniversary event such a success! And we appreciate Fire Cracker Jazz Band for providing music for our event and to NC PhotoBox for a fun-filled photo booth experience for our guests. We’d also like to give a special ‘thank you’ to Nona Mia Italian Kitchen for preparing the delicious buffet dinner enjoyed by all, and for generously donating a huge portion of the catering expense.

We enjoyed a night of fun and fellowship, honoring our founding members and volunteers for an inspiring forty years of conservation successes. During the mid-evening program, SAHC Executive Director Carl Silverstein’s remarks gave us perspective and pride in SAHC’s accomplishments:

carl_onstage2

Carl Silverstein, SAHC Executive Director, recaps some of the highlights from our past 40 years.

“Our conservation mission is important:

  • So that people can have beautiful places like the Roan to hike, camp, fish or just enjoy being outdoors in nature.
  • So that communities can have clean water from streams and rivers that aren’t degraded with sediment and other pollutants that come with incompatible development.
  • So that wildlife and rare plants can have un-fragmented wild places to thrive in.
  • So that local farming can continue productively here in the mountains long into the future.

Because these needs are so crucial, and because there are aspects that would go unaddressed if we weren’t here undertaking to solve them, we at SAHC bring intense passion, bold innovation, and leadership on behalf of conservation. This has enabled us to protect a priceless Legacy of Place in the Southern Appalachians for future generations.

I want to share a few examples of how SAHC has brought passion, innovation, and leadership to our conservation mission:

Triple B Challenge hike

Highlands of Roan

1. Long-term, proactive, holistic conservation strategy. Our founder Stan Murray and his colleagues recognized that we are what stands between a future in which the Roan remains intact versus one in which it were lost to development.

Accordingly, our conservation efforts have always been proactive, not just waiting for opportunities to come to us. Our founders made maps showing specific contiguous parcels of land that needed to be secured in order to meaningfully protect the Roan, realizing that it might take half a century or longer of persistent, diligent work to achieve that vision. They planned and executed a continuing strategy to reach out to landowners, ask for the opportunity to work with them, and build relationships over the long haul.

SAHC didn’t undertake this work solo, but rather led a broad collaboration among partners including Federal and State agencies and other conservation organizations.

This is one of the preeminent models in America of a long-term conservation initiative, and it has paid off. Forty years later, we’ve protected tens of thousands of acres of the key properties identified at the beginning, and we’re still acquiring tracts identified as top priorities in that early planning.

Roan was our first geographic focus area, and remains our flagship project today because of its globally significant qualities.However, in the early 1990’s we expanded our focus to include other important areas like the Black Mountains, the Smokies, the Balsam Mountains, the French Broad basin including Sandy Mush, and the Appalachian Trail countryside.

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

Our volunteers and partners have been a crucial part of our stewardship efforts.

We’ve brought similar strategic planning, mapping of priorities, and proactive landowner outreach for these focus areas, and have protected tens of thousands of acres of contiguous high-priority lands there. Our holistic approach emphasizes stewardship of lands, not just acquisition.

Through our Roan Stewardship program, we lead a broad coalition of stakeholders in managing the globally significant grassy bald summits of the Roan, in order to ensure that this unique and fragile ecosystem continues to exist in the future. Volunteers contribute thousands of hours to this work every year.

Our program of monitoring and enforcing conservation easements is among the strongest in the country. Accreditation by the National Land Trust Accreditation Commission is a testament to the quality of our program.

Attendees listen the program remarks during dinner.

Attendees listen to the program remarks during dinner.

Our carefully planned long-term approach to conservation has earned us credibility with public and private partners, which have enabled us to accomplish dramatic outcomes few would have guessed possible: like protecting Grassy Ridge in the Roan and Rocky Fork on the AT, and we promise other amazing achievements like these in years to come.

2. Purchasing financially distressed properties for a bargain. When the real estate market crashed in 2008, we recognized the opportunity to secure some of the most important lands in the mountains, which had been slated for development.

We purchased a dozen high-priority financially distressed properties since then at incredibly bargain-basement prices through foreclosure auctions, bankruptcies, short sales and other non-traditional avenues.

This entailed risk, courage and fortitude of SAHC, as well as educating ourselves in real estate financing legal processes that were new to us. We became nationally recognized experts in these processes, and have taught multiple workshops at national Land Trust Alliance Rallies to help our peers gain skills in this area.

SAHC's Community Farm

SAHC’s Community Farm

3. Farmland Access Service to ensure future of productive farms in the Southern Appalachians.

Since 2005, SAHC has been committed to implementing ambitious programs to ensure access to farmland in our region. This ranges from conservation easement purchases that permanently protect farms while injecting much-needed capital into family farming operations to creating a new farmer incubator at the SAHC Community Farm about 20 minutes from downtown Asheville. Aspiring farmers can lease land and use equipment at the Community Farm for a three to five-year term, before they venture out to lease or purchase farmland of their own.

You are part of one of the most special, high-achieving conservation organizations in the country. Together we’ve protected a network of some the most scenic outdoor destinations, pristine watersheds, significant wildlife and plant habitat, and vibrant family farms in the country.”

Buddy Tignor presents the Stanley A. Murray Award for Volunteer Services.

Buddy Tignor presents the Stanley A. Murray Award for Volunteer Services.

SAHC President Buddy Tignor awarded the 2014 Stanley A. Murray Award for Volunteer Services. In 1989, this award was created to honor persons who have made outstanding volunteer contributions to the work of SAHC, emulating the lifelong dedication of our founder, Stanley A. Murray.

Our Stanley A. Murray Award for Volunteer Services this year went to a father & son team — David Smith and his son Otto. David was introduced to SAHC as the Seasonal Ecologist in 1997 and since then has been a volunteer leader in many different capacities.

David and Otto Smith

David and Otto Smith

For the past 17 years, David has participated in the annual Grassy Ridge Mow-Off and led guided hikes at the annual June Jamboree. David’s son Otto has recently joined him in volunteer adventures in the Roan. For the past three years Otto has worked along side David at the Mow-Off, lopping and pulling brush to help conserve this globally imperiled habitat. Congratulations to David and Otto!

Retiring SAHC Trustee and former President of the Board, Jeanette Blazier, being recognized for her service.

Retiring SAHC Trustee and former President of the Board, Jeanette Blazier, being recognized for her service.

As part of the mid-evening program, we also recognized our retiring Trustees, Jeanette Blazier and Bruce Cunningham. Jeanette served as Board of Trustees President and chaired the Governance Committee; worked tirelessly to cultivate, recruit & orient outstanding Trustees; and was instrumental in SAHC strategic planning. Bruce served as Treasurer and on the Finance Committee; led development of SAHC Investment Policy and investing decisions; and was also instrumental in SAHC strategic planning. Thank you both for your service!

We elected two Trustees, Rick Manske and Laura McCue, to each serve a new term 3-year term on the SAHC Board. Rick and his wife Rebecca live in Weaverville and have been generous supporters of SAHC for several years. Rick serves as managing partner of Parsec Financial, a wealth management firm in Asheville that works with SAHC and has generously supported our efforts. Rick is enthusiastic about SAHC’s land conservation and stewardship mission, and will bring valuable finance talent to our board. Laura has served previously as a Trustee from 2003 – 09, including terms as Secretary and Treasurer. She brings SAHC expertise in finance and investing; strong personal ties among our membership and donors; and bountiful enthusiasm for hard work on SAHC’s behalf. She has advanced our strategy for long-term investing and endowments and continued to serve on our Finance Committee. Laura is President of White Oak Financial Management, Inc.

room_clapping

Attendees recognized former Volunteers of the Year and elected Trustees.

Four Trustees — Bill Lowndes, Kathy Singleton, Courtney Blossman and Jack Hamilton — were each elected to serve a consecutive term. Bill first served on the SAHC board in the 1970s and was SAHC’s 2nd Treasurer. He has been a key leader in our institutional and programmatic growth over the years, and currently serves on SAHC’s Human Resources Committee. Kathy lives in Kingsport, TN and is an attorney with Wilson, Worley, Moore, Gamble & Stout law firm. She has a long-standing love of the Roan and currently serves on SAHC’s Membership Committee and Development & Engagement Committee. Courtney began serving as an SAHC Trustee after relocating to Asheville from coastal Mississippi. She currently serves on SAHC’s Development & Engagement Committee as well as our Facility Evaluation Task Force. Jack currently serves as SAHC’s Treasurer and advises on our Facility Evaluation Task Force. He is a corporate and tax attorney at Roberts & Stevens law firm, Asheville.

Thank you for your support!

Thank you for your support!

Thank you to all who serve our community through your volunteer work or conservation support with SAHC!

And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to:

  •  Become a member.
  •  Tell your friends about us.
  •  Join us on an outing.
  •  Volunteer for a work day.
  •  Serve on a committee
  •  Include SAHC in your estate planning.

Your involvement makes it happen!

2014 member event program_sponsors

 

Categories: Special Events | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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