Posts Tagged With: SAHC

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


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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Black Soldier Fly Digester Build Workshop


Black soldier flies are native, non-pest species that can help digest garden waste and provide a food source for small livestock.

“Black Soldier Fly” — the name resonates with fear and dread, and perhaps even conjures an image of winged, facet-eyed soldiers wielding guns. In reality, black soldier flies (Hermetia illucens) are useful native critters that chew through organic remnants, helping turn organic material into compost while producing tasty treats for chickens.

The black soldier fly is a non-pest tropical and warm-temperate region insect useful for managing small and large amounts of biosolids and animal manure. They are native to this region but do not like to come indoors — so you won’t find them buzzing around the dinner table. They do not feed as adults or spread disease like other flies. Although large and potentially scary-looking, since the females can be about the size of a large wasp, they do not bite humans or livestock. After black soldier fly residue is vermicomposted, it can be used as a soil amendment.

spreading fill material_2

A medium-sized digester can process about 80 lbs. of bio waste material in a day.

The total life cycle of a black soldier fly lasts just over a month. Black soldier flies lay 600 to 1200 eggs at a time, in dry crevices above or around moist waste material. After five days, the eggs hatch and white larva drop into the waste material and begin to consume it, growing to about ¾ inch over two weeks. Between day 19 – 33 of the life cycle, the larva turn into gray pupae and quit consuming material; this begins the migratory stage, when they crawl up and out of the bin to burrow. These pupae contain essential amino and fatty acids, which make them great food sources for pigs, chicken and fish.

Black soldier flies can reduce organic waste material by as much as 95%, depending on temperature and content. A medium-sized digester can process about 80 lbs. of bio material in a day. The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy recently hosted a Digester Build Workshop on its Community Farm, to demonstrate how to construct a digester for organic material using black soldier flies.

Building a digester

Explaining Brackets to mount cardboard

SAHC hosted a digester build workshop to demonstrate how to DIY.

For a regular household – for example, if you’re going to be feeding kitchen scraps, garden waste or small livestock manure – a 20-gallon tub is a good size to start. For a small vegetable farm, a 100+ gallon size would be best. During SAHC’s Digester Build workshop, we cut an olive oil tank in half and used it to construct a medium-sized digester. Both small and medium-sized digesters are modular, so you can add as many as you need over time. The basic construction is the same for each: a tub or container to hold the organic material; ramp for the pupa to crawl up and out; collection bucket to hold the pupa that crawl out; cardboard or similar medium for oviposition by the female black soldier fly; and lid or cover if the digester is not placed under a roof, to keep rain out.

The flexible ramp rests on top of bio material. Migrating pupae crawl up the ramp and drop into the collector bucket, to be gathered for small livestock.

The flexible ramp rests on top of bio material. Migrating pupae crawl up the ramp and drop into the collector bucket, to be gathered for small livestock.

Although you can build a digester with ramps that feed into a collection bucket located outside the digester, our design incorporates the collection bucket and ramps within the digester, which works well at a medium scale. The ramps should have a trough and or small sides so the pupa do not crawl off, and they must also be flexible so they can adjust to new organic material being added without becoming buried. Ramps could be made of PVC pipe, wood, old gutter, siding, etc. Place cardboard on the inside walls of the digester, so that the eggs laid by the female will be above the organic material. Locate your digester under an open-sided shelter, or place something over top to keep water out. When covering the digester be sure to leave enough room for the female black soldier fly to get to the cardboard to lay her eggs.

Starting your own colony

cardboard for egg laying

Attach cardboard above the bio material, to give adult females a place to lay eggs.

Because the Black Soldier Fly is a naturally occurring insect in our region, you can attract the female to lay eggs near a food source with a strong odor. Start a compost bin with a mix of kitchen scraps that are a couple of days old. The females will detect the chemical signal of a larval food source. It is important to give the female black soldier fly a location to deposit her eggs, so place a stack of corrugated cardboard on the inside wall of the container. Within two weeks, you should have black soldier fly eggs in the cardboard, which you can then transfer to the wall of your digester. The larva will hatch and fall into the organic material and start growing.

For more info, or to visit SAHC’s Community Farm and see a black soldier fly digester in action, contact or 828.253.0095 ext 203.

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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


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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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!


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”:


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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‘Twas indeed a lovely Appalachian Spring

Bill and the Belles provided music for the evening.

Bill and the Belles provided music for the evening.

You couldn’t ask for a more Appalachian setting, with flair. As guests arrived at the Farmhouse Gallery and Gardens on May 21, they were greeted by the eerie screams of peacocks who live on the property and nonchalantly flaunt their remarkable feathers. The weather was a little iffy – with threatening clouds hovering overhead much of the time, but we were grateful that the rain held off and the cover helped keep temperatures at just the right level.

AmeriCorps Land Protection Associate Caitlin Edenfield, on the raffle team.

AmeriCorps Land Protection Associate Caitlin Edenfield, on the raffle team.

The lovely raffle display on the deck and our festive raffle team sporting face paint and costumes helped brighten the festivities. Music by Bill and the Belles put all at ease, welcoming guests and entertaining throughout the night.

As folks sat down to enjoy the buffet dinner of barbeque, salad and potatoes, the evening program began with Executive Director Carl Silverstein’s remarks highlighting our conservation achievement over the past year, followed by recognition of our outgoing Trustees, Leslie Casse and Florence Krupnick, who have served two terms on our Board.

Election of Trustees

New Trustees Robbie McLucas and Jeff Needham.

New Trustees Robbie McLucas and Jeff Needham.

The new nominations to the SAHC Board of Trustees were approved by the vote of members assembled at the event or by proxy. We are very pleased to welcome Robbie McLucas and Jeff Needham to the Board!

Jeff lives in Kingsport, TN and is the Strategic Technology Director with Eastman Chemical Company. He is passionate about the environment and SAHC’s mission.  He brings SAHC strong leadership, analytical, and strategic planning skills, plus close ties with community leaders in Kingsport.

Robbie is a real estate agent in Asheville, and has served for several years on the SAHC Communications Committee. A dedicated SAHC volunteer, he previously worked with the Jackson Hole Land Trust. Robbie generously supports SAHC through One Percent for the Planet and actively promotes SAHC through social media.

Thank you to all who joined us for the event!

Thank you to all who joined us for Appalachian Spring 2015.

Patty  Cunningham-Woolf and Lyman J.  “Greg” Gregory, III  were each elected to serve a second 3-year term on our Board of Trustees.

Patty is an agent with Carolina Mountain Sales realty in Asheville. She serves on SAHC’s Member Outreach and Events Committee, and has led the development of our Real Estate Partner Program, in which realtors give a gift membership to SAHC on behalf of homebuyers in the area.

Greg is an attorney with the Asheville firm of Marshall, Roth, and Gregory. Greg chairs the SAHC Land Management and Stewardship Committee, and advises
SAHC on legal questions relating to conservation easements and other matters.

2015 Stanley A. Murray Volunteer of the Year – Craig Thompson

Trustee Anne Kilgore presents the 2015 Stanley A. Murray Volunteer of the Year Award.

Trustee Anne Kilgore presents the 2015 Stanley A. Murray Volunteer of the Year Award.

Anne Kilgore, SAHC Trustee and Director of Sustainability at Eastman, presented this year’s Stanley A. Murray Volunteer of the Year award to Craig Thompson, for outstanding service in the Highlands of Roan. In 1989 the Stanley A. Murray Award for Volunteer Service 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.

Craig lives in Jonesborough, TN. Recently retired, he is an avid hiker and photographer and has traveled extensively throughout the US. He has served SAHC as a model volunteer in key capacities. Craig cares passionately about the Roan Highlands and participates in almost every habitat management workday we hold there — assisting in coordination of the NC BRIDGE crew, Grassy Ridge mow-off, Roany Boyz, and other workdays.

Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett and Volunteer of the Year Craig Thompson.

Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett and Volunteer of the Year Craig Thompson.

Craig has been an enthusiastic participant in our recent “triple mowing” experiment, in which we are partnering with the US Forest Service and volunteers to look at new ways to control blackberry. Craig recognizes the importance of engaging new generations of conservationists in SAHC’s mission. He is actively pursuing outreach on our behalf in the Tri-cities region, in order to recruit new members and build our constituency. Thank you and congratulations to Craig!

As the raffle ended, the night concluded, and guests trickled out to return home, we were grateful and pleased to have been able to gather under the shadow of the mountains to celebrate and carry forward our conservation – now 41 years strong and growing.

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A HUGE Thank You to our Appalachian Spring Event Sponsors this year:


And our Raffle donors:



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June Jamboree 2015 – Hikes and social in the Highlands of Roan

Saturday, June 20

Please join us for our annual day of FREE, guided hikes and social gathering in the incredible Highlands of Roan. These five group hikes include outings for all age and ability levels. Descriptions, details and start times for each are provided below. You will receive directions to the departure location & carpool information upon registration.

Be sure to bring: sturdy hiking shoes, camera, walking stick, water, lunch, sunscreen, binoculars,
and appropriate clothing for your hike. The weather may be sunny, rainy, windy or cool.

Hikes are rated on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most difficult. We hope you can join us in the Highlands!

Social Gathering

Join us on our recently protected SAHC property just outside the Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area. Enjoy fellowship with friends and family and learn about our recent conservation initiatives. We will provide light refreshments and beverages. Drop by between 2 to 6 pm.

Hike #1 — Ed Schell Memorial Hike from Carver’s Gap to Grassy Ridge

Start Time: 9 am |  Estimated End Time: 2-3 pm |  Leader: David Smith
Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous (7-8)  |  Location: Start at Carver’s Gap

This classic and rewarding hike is full of adventure atop the highest elevation balds in the Highlands of Roan, widely considered among the most spectacular scenery along the Appalachian Trail. Grassy Ridge is the highest point near the AT, reaching 6,189 feet in elevation. Enjoy a natural, unobstructed 360-degree view and so much more — blooming rhododendron, flame azalea, patches of spruce fir forest and rare plants such as Gray’s lily and Roan Mountain bluets.
Along the way, former Seasonal Ecologist and Trustee David Smith will discuss the significance of the balds and the best practices for managing this pristine habitat. For those desiring an easier hike, there is the option of hiking out to Round Bald or Jane Bald, to enjoy the flowers and expansive views, instead of going all the way to Grassy Ridge. This year’s Carver’s Gap to Grassy Ridge hike is offered in memory of active, long-time member Ed Schell, who passed away early this year.


Hike #2 — Birding Hike with Simon Thompson

Start Time: 8 am |  Estimated End Time: 1 pm |  Leader: Simon Thompson of Ventures Birding and Nature Tours
Difficulty: Moderate (5-6) |  Location: Roan High Knob

The Highlands of Roan provide some of the best mountain birding in the high elevation ranges of North Carolina. Join us for a hike to Roan High Knob with Simon Thompson of Ventures Birding and Nature Tours, as we take advantage of the pristine habitat found in the Roan. The medley of spruce-fir forest to open grassy balds offers great wildlife diversity.
Roan High Knob is the pinnacle of the Roan-Unaka Mountain Range, a rolling expanse of highlands in northwest TN. Rising some 6,286 feet, the summit sits atop a modest rock outcropping some 30 meters from the Roan High Knob shelter, the highest shelter on the 2,160-mile Appalachian Trail. On a clear day you can see the nearby Roan High Bluff, Round Bald and Grassy Ridge Bald and much more.
About Simon: Originally from Suffolk, England, Simon has lived in NC for 10+ years. He has travelled extensively and spent six months in China studying the crane and bird of prey migration as a member of the British “China Crane Watch” expedition. As director and originator of Ventures Nature Travel program in Tryon, NC, Simon has led birding trips all over the world.

Hike #3 — Roll n’ Stroll in Rhododendron Gardens

Start Time: 11 am |  Estimated End Time: 1 pm |  Leader: Judy Murray
Difficulty: Easy (2)  |  Location: Rhododendron Gardens

The Rhododendron Gardens on top of Roan will be blazing with color this time of year. Volunteer Highlands of Roan Advisor Judy Murray will take hikers along gentle terrain with stunning views of the Roan landscape. On this leisurely stroll hikers will learn about SAHC’s newest land protection projects including Big Rock Creek and two retired Christmas tree farms. This hike is designed to give people of all hiking abilities the opportunity to get outside and enjoy some of the property that SAHC has diligently protected over the last four decades. *This trail is paved and wheelchair/stroller accessible.

Hike #4 — Salamander Scavenger Hunt

Start Time: 11 am  |  Estimated End Time: 2 pm |  Leader: Marquette Crockett
Difficulty: Moderately Easy (3-4) |  Location: Hampton Creek Cove

A twist on our usual Kids in the Creek, this shorter hike is designed to get kids outdoors and explore the beautiful waters of the Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area. Led by Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett, kids will learn about basic stream ecology while discovering different features of the surrounding landscape.

In the creek, kids will look for crayfish, salamanders, and other aquatic creatures. On land, Marquette will point out the historic fruit orchard and explore the cow pastures. Kids are welcome to bring fishnets, buckets, or other toys to play with in the creek. This hike is for kids 7 years and older. Parents are welcomed to participate as well. Please bring water appropriate clothing and shoes plus appropriate day hiking gear.

Hike #5 — Challenge Hike

Start Time: 8 am |  Estimated End Time: 5 pm |  Leader: Kana Miller
Difficulty: Very Difficult (10+) |  Location: Starting from Hughes Gap, ending at Hampton Creek Cove

Join us in traversing 15 miles across the longest contiguous stretch of grassy balds in the world. The Highlands of Roan is our flagship focus area; we’ve protected over 20,000 acres of globally significant, rare habitat and incredible views here – and we want to show it off!

The Challenge hike is the most difficult, but also most rewarding hike we offer during June Jamboree – and this year’s route is no different! Beginning on the Appalachian Trail at Hughes Gap, we will make our way up Beartown Mountain to Roan High Knob on the newly re-routed trail. From Roan High Knob, we’ll continue down to Carvers Gap and then up and over Round Bald, Jane Bald, past Grassy Ridge and on to Yellow Mountain Gap. Yellow Mountain Gap marks the 11th mile and the hike doesn’t stop there.

We will leave the AT and head down into Hampton Creek Cove on the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail. This final four-mile stretch is no rest for the weary; expect several stream crossings and short sections of incline, before finishing this long hike in the beautiful mountain pastures of Hampton Creek. Need an extra incentive to sign-up for this hike? The post hike fellowship will be within arm’s reach at the end of the trail. Challenge hikers will be able to wander down the street for some hard earned snacks and beverages.

Register Now

Register online now, or contact Kana Miller at or 828.253.0095 ext 205 for questions or more information.

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Land Trust Day – Shop and Dine to Support Conservation on June 6!

Join us in celebrating SAHC’s impact on our local economy! Businesses in the Asheville and Waynesville areas have pledged to donate a percentage of sales on Saturday, June 6 to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) to support local land and water conservation efforts.

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Land Trust Day/National Trails Day hike 2014

Land Trust Day is held each year in conjunction with National Trails Day, the first Saturday in June. The natural assets we preserve have made this region an international destination for hiking, biking, camping, boating, hunting, fishing, and farm-to-table culinary experiences. Recognizing this fact, our Land Trust Day business partners donate a percentage of the day’s sales to support SAHC.

“Our conservation work directly impacts tourism as an economic driver in Western North Carolina communities,” says SAHC Membership Director Cheryl Fowler. “We are grateful that many of our business partners have recognized this fact and pledged to ‘give back’ by donating a percentage of the day’s sales on Land Trust Day — Saturday, June 6.”


Participating businesses this year include:

Mast General Store (Asheville & Waynesville locations), Second Gear, New Morning Gallery, Blue Spiral 1 Gallery, Fine Arts Theatre, Bellagio Art to Wear, Bellagio Everyday, Navitat Canopy Adventures, Black Dome Mountain Sports, Laughing Seed, Jack of the Wood, and Weinhaus.

Your purchase on June 6 will help support our work! Please spread the word, and please help us thank the shops for participating in Land Trust Day.


SAHC’s Community Farm Discovery Trail

Community Farm Hike – June 6
10 AM

In honor of both Land Trust Day and National Trails Day, SAHC will also offer a free, guided hike on our Community Farm in Alexander, NC.

Second Spring Market Garden

Second Spring Market Garden

Beginning at 10 am, the moderately easy, family-friendly farm tour will traverse SAHC’s 1.5-mile Discovery Trail. Hikers will learn about the myriad projects progressing on the Community Farm, including active farming areas for the Farmer Incubator Program (vegetables farmed by Second Spring Market Garden and pasture for a herd of Pineywoods cattle), successfully restored streams flowing through the property, and a native shortleaf pine restoration project. Optional — bring a lunch and blanket or camp chairs to picnic on the farm after the hike.

More details and directions will be provided upon registration.

For more info or to register for the farm hike, contact Kana Miller at 828.253.0095 ext 205 or

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Beetles Battle the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid on hemlock branch.  Photo courtesy Robert L. Anderson, USDA Forest Service,

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid on hemlock branch.
Photo courtesy Robert L. Anderson, USDA Forest Service,

Dubbed the “Redwood of the East”, eastern hemlock is a long-lived and slowing growing giant that can reportedly live up to 800 years-old and reach heights of more than 150 feet. The species is considered to be the most shade tolerant tree in the Eastern US and is an ecologically important component of Southern Appalachian forests. The dense shade cast by the evergreen tree’s canopy creates critical wildlife habitat, stabilizes stream banks, and keeps mountain forests and streams cool.

Many forest and aquatic species depend on the presence of hemlocks, whose numbers have declined significantly in the past 10 years due to the introduction and spread of the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA). In fact, by 2010 all NC counties within the historic range of hemlocks were infested. This tiny aphid-like insect has wreaked havoc on both eastern and Carolina hemlocks by literally sucking the trees dry and injecting saliva that distorts plant growth. Under high infestation rates, HWA can cause tree death in as little as four to seven years.

Close-up of HWA. Photo courtesy of Michael Montgomery, USDA Forest Service,

Close-up of HWA. Photo courtesy of Michael Montgomery, USDA Forest Service,

In 2014 the Hemlock Restoration Initiative, a cooperative effort launched by the NC Dept of Agriculture & Consumer Services to restore the long-term health of NC hemlocks, provided $75,000 in grant funds to WNC Communities, which in turn funded several projects to address treatment and restoration options for North Carolina’s hemlock trees.

One of the award recipients, the Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and Development Council (Blue Ridge RC&D), provides educational workshops on biological control of HWA for individuals and organizations like SAHC who steward lands impacted by HWA.  The goal of the workshops is to provide information on the benefits and use of predator beetles for HWA control. Specifically, Blue Ridge RC&D’s project intends to train workshop participants on methods for collecting and releasing predator beetles such as Laricobius nigrinus (also known as Lari beetles) that feed on HWA. The program hopes this will facilitate the spread of predatory beetles. HWA is native to Asia and the Pacific Northwest, where it also feeds on hemlocks. However, HWA is not considered to be a pest in the western US because natural enemies like Lari beetles keep HWA populations under control.

A Laricobius larva eats hemlock woolly adelgid eggs. Right: An adult Laricobius beetle. Photo by US National Park Service.

A Laricobius larva eats hemlock woolly adelgid eggs. Right: An adult Laricobius beetle. Photo by US National Park Service.

Lari beetles are effective winter predators and feed exclusively on adelgids from October to May. Each Lari larva can consume 200 to 250 adelgid eggs or crawlers before they pupate in June. In fact, research shows that the beetles can eat more than 90 percent of HWA in areas where the beetles have been released. Once established, Lari beetles can advance up to 2 miles per year.

Lari beetles have been released throughout Western North Carolina on private, federal and state lands. Recently, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) released 50 Lari beetles on the Sandy Mush Game Lands located in Madison and Buncombe counties. SAHC is working with the WRC on a future release of Lari beetles on an SAHC-owned tract that bridges the gap between non-contiguous sections of the state-owned Sandy Mush Game Land. This property is home to numerous Canada hemlocks. Our hope is to facilitate the establishment of Lari beetles  on this property so they can be collected and redistributed to other areas affected by HWA.

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