Posts Tagged With: Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy

7-acre Carvers Gap Inholding Protected

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

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

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

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

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

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Partnerships in Education & Stewardship – Tilson Homeplace Work Day

TilsonFarmworkdayConservation doesn’t end with recording a land protection document. Stewardship of protected lands extends in perpetuity, and sometimes requires remediation of past problems for a property. Dedicated East TN State Univ. students responded to our call for a “Service Saturday”, helping clean up debris from illicit dumping on a protected, historic TN property.

The benefits of working with these student volunteers extended far beyond the impressive mountains of trash pulled out of waterways and forests. Through our partnership, the students glimpsed some of the challenges of managing natural resources — in this case, hundreds of acres bordered by a public road.

During the workday, volunteers tackled heaps of trash and debris that for decades had been dumped from cars on the public route encircling the 377-acre cove. Illegally-dumped debris had accumulated in gullies and on hillsides of this secluded corner in Unicoi County, which features the historic homestead of US House Representative and majority leader John Q. Tilson.

Landowners and caretakers Ken and Lotta Murray have been steadily reducing these debris piles for years, but the situation required a concerted effort to make a big impact.

By the end of the day, our trash-removal efforts overflowed a dumpster-trailer, a second trailer bed, and a truck bed. Our team of ten removed a total of 1,300 pounds of assorted trash and debris from the conservation easement property, along with a number of tires — including one from a Model-T Ford.

Impressed by their impact, the students began talking about organizing other cleanups on campus and in the region. It is empowering to tackle a problem with such a visible result, and that empowerment is contagious!

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Cold Mountain Game Lands Assist

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Newly protected Caldwell Tract, adjoining the Cold Mountain Game Lands in SAHC’s Balsam Mountains Focus Area.

We assisted the NC Wildlife Resources Commission in purchasing a 64-acre tract adjoining the Cold Mountain Game Lands near Lake Logan.

The forested tract, formerly owned by the Caldwell family, adjoins the Cold Mountain Game Lands and Significant Natural Heritage Areas, ranging in elevation from 3,400 – 4,000 feet.

It was purchased by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NC WRC) for addition to the Cold Mountain Game Lands.  Ownership by the state agency will help reduce land fragmentation and ensure that this area is protected and properly managed.

SAHC and NC WRC staff visit the property.

SAHC and NC WRC staff visit the property.

Timber on the property includes large yellow poplar, oak, and black cherry trees, and common wildlife species found on the tract include grouse, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, black bear, various songbirds, salamanders, and small mammals.

Protection of this tract was made possible through the partnership of SAHC and NC WRC. We assisted in the purchase by raising 25% of the purchase price through private philanthropic gifts.

The property will be open to the public for recreational opportunities, including hunting, hiking, bird-watching, and photography.

SAHC’s Land Protection in the Cold Mountain Area

Our assistance in helping NC WRC acquire this tract for the Cold Mountain Game Lands is part of ongoing conservation efforts in our Balsam Mountains Focus Area. The Balsam Mountains contain some of the most recognized public lands in the Southern Appalachians, including the Shining Rock Wilderness, Cold Mountain Game Lands and Mount Pisgah.  They are a biodiversity hotspot and critical wildlife corridor between the Nantahala National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, characterized by fertile cove forests, rich species diversity, and hardwood forests.  IMG_3724

Since 1999, we have protected nearly 11,000 acres in this area.

We hold conservation easements on more than 800 acres on Crawford Creek on the east side of Cold Mountain adjoining the Shining Rock Wilderness and the  8,000-acre Waynesville watershed (co-held with the Conservation Trust for NC).

SAHC is committed for the long haul to protecting more tracts in this iconic location.

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Feral Hogs in the Roan — Update

Hog damage on Big Yellow. Feral hogs destroy fragile habitats and threaten the health of native species and ecosystems in the Roan.

Hog damage on Big Yellow. Feral hogs destroy fragile habitats and threaten the health of native species and ecosystems in the Highlands of Roan.

SAHC and our Roan Stewardship partners met in summer 2014 to discuss the growing threat posed by the invasion of feral hogs into our mountain landscapes and how to combat their spread. These non-native animals threaten the health of our ecosystems including impacting rare species, destroying fragile habitats, and contaminating water sources. Since then, we and our partners have made important strides in addressing the issue of feral hogs in the Roan.

“Working with our partners, including USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – Wildlife Services (APHIS), we began initial monitoring and trapping efforts on the Roan in winter 2014,” said Crockett. Those efforts were quite successful — hogs were documented, trapped, tested for disease, and removed from both Mitchell and Avery counties. A number of trapped hogs tested positive for either Swine brucellosis or Pseudorabies.

Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett investigates feral hog damage.

Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett investigates feral hog damage.

“Feral hogs can spread disease to humans, our pets, and livestock,” added Crockett.

About the same time that SAHC and our partners began coordinating efforts in the Roan, the problems caused by feral hogs gained national attention. In 2015, APHIS received federal funding to implement a collaborative, national feral swine management program in all 39 states where there is a recognized feral swine population.  The overarching goal of this APHIS National Feral Swine Damage Management Program is to protect agricultural and natural resources, property, animal health, and human health and safety by reducing feral swine populations in the United States.

“APHIS will reduce problems by suppressing populations in states where feral swine populations are large and widely distributed,” explained Crockett. “In States where feral swine are emerging or populations are low, APHIS will cooperate with local partners to implement strategies to eliminate them.  SAHC’s existing, multi-agency partnerships in the Roan qualified us to submit the Roan Highlands project for consideration under the new APHIS program.”

SAHC is working with a variety of partners in the regional Roan Feral Hog Working Group, to monitor and address feral hog impact in the Highlands of Roan.

SAHC is working with a variety of partners in the regional Roan Feral Hog Working Group, to monitor and address feral hog impact in the Highlands of Roan.

Our submission was approved for 2015-2016, and the Roan Highlands project is now up and running.  We have more than 12 agencies and organizations (and several private individuals) actively contributing to trapping, monitoring, and research efforts on the Roan — including USDA APHIS (North Carolina), USDA APHIS (Tennessee), Pisgah National Forest, Cherokee National Forest, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, North Carolina State Parks, Tennessee State Parks, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (natural areas), Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the Nature Conservancy, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and Virginia Tech.

In 2016, SAHC will continue to coordinate the Roan Feral Hog Working Group and support trapping and monitoring work. We hired Kaitlin Shannon, an intern from UNC Asheville, to install and check wildlife cameras for hog activity, and we are partnering with students from Virginia Tech and other universities to study hog diet and movement on the Roan.  This year, we will also work with our partners to focus on educating landowners, farmers, hunters, and recreationists about the dangers and impacts posed by feral hogs.

“By using a large-scale, multi-agency approach, we hope to eradicate this destructive species from our mountains,” concluded Crockett.

Want to Learn More?

Educational Program: “Feral Hogs in the Roan Highlands — Impacts, Ecology, and Eradication Efforts

SAHC will host a free, public presentation on feral hogs in the Roan on  Wednesday March 9 from noon – 1:30 pm at the Kingsport Renaissance Center (Room 228), 1200 East Center Street, Kingsport, TN 37660.

Join us as Marquette Crockett, SAHC Roan Stewardship Director covers the history, basic biology, and environmental impacts of invasive feral hogs at the regional and local level. Joined by Scott Dykes of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, she will also discuss how SAHC, along with our state and federal partners, are using a large-scale, multi-agency approach to eradicate this destructive species from the Highlands of Roan.

This educational program is free and open to the public. Reservations are encouraged. Please respond to Pauline at pauline@appalachian.org or 828.253.0095 ext. 216 if you plan to attend. Bringing your lunch is encouraged. 

 

Perspective – On the Roan with Roan Stewardship Intern Kaitlin Shannon

Kaitlin Shannon experiments with natural camouflage as she helps install and monitor wildlife cameras to track feral hog activity.

Kaitlin Shannon experiments with natural camouflage as she helps install and monitor wildlife cameras to track feral hog activity.

“As a current student at UNC Asheville, it has been my pleasure to serve an internship with SAHC. In May I will complete my B.S. in Environmental Studies, with a concentration in Ecology and Field Biology. For me, this internship has been a segway from the classroom into the hands-on approach of conservation field work. I worked in conjunction with graduate students of Virginia Tech and members of APHIS to design a study to monitor feral hog populations in and around the Roan Highl

ands. It’s been my job to hike to the specified locations and set up wildlife cameras to detect the presence of hogs — which is important because once we have noted where the majority of the hog populations are located, we can more effectively plan to remove them.

I’ve gained experience with so much more than simply helping to design a study. Most importantly I’ve been able to surround myself with the land that SAHC works so diligently to protect. It’s clear as you ascend to the peak of Big Yellow that you’re standing in a very special, sacred place. The damage caused by these hogs cannot go unnoticed, and I am honored to be apart of a team working to mend such an important place.

SAHC is such a unique land trust and I encourage anyone who is curious about the work that they do to take the time to volunteer.”

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Hampton Creek Cove, A Hidden Gem in Tennessee

Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area

Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area

The 693-acre Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area (HCC SNA) is a breathtaking haven for wildlife with ample opportunity for outdoor recreation. Time spent visiting the pastoral cove, trekking the miles of hiking trails, or fishing cold trout streams will be well spent. Check out these recent updates from the cove!

Golden-winged Warbler Habitat Restoration

Golden-winged Warbler, a neotropical migratory songbird.

Golden-winged Warbler, a neotropical migratory songbird.

Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area is one of only three state natural areas in the Blue Ridge province of Tennessee and is home to one of the largest breeding populations of Golden-winged Warblers (GWWA) in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The Golden-winged Warbler is a species in need of additional conservation management, and is undergoing review by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for potential listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. Because HCC is so important to this warbler, the National Audubon Society designated it an “Important Bird Area” in 2005. The Golden-winged Warbler, along with many other important game and non-game bird species, relies on early successional, scrubby habitats for breeding and nesting. Past efforts to restore early successional habitat in Hampton Creek Cove SNA have focused on shrub management, tree thinning, and native grass restoration.

In 2015, SAHC and our partners at North Carolina Audubon and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation received a generous grant from the Tennessee State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, which enabled us to manage seven acres of early successional habitat in HCC.  The newly managed area is adjacent to a field that was previously restored by mowing and native grass restoration. It also adjoins habitat known to occupied by GWWA. We believe our recent work in this area will provide immediate benefits to the species.

Installation of Hiker Stiles

Multiple publicly-accessible hiking trails cross through the cove.

Multiple publicly-accessible hiking trails cross through the cove.

Several trails traverse Hampton Creek Cove SNA. The Birchfield Trail and the Shell Hollow Trail are popular birding spots, due to the variety of habitats found along their routes.  The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail — the historic route of the Overmountain Men in their march to the Revolutionary War’s 1780 Battle of King’s Mountain — also runs through the cove. Because the trails at Hampton Creek Cove traverse agricultural areas, hikers must pass through a series of farm gates. These gates can be difficult to open and can be left open, allowing livestock to enter areas where they should not be, and potentially injuring themselves or causing damage to sensitive wildlife species.

The hiker stiles in HCC were designed and built by Paul Cremer of Carolina Trailbuilders, from Weaverville, NC.

The hiker stiles in HCC were designed and built by Paul Cremer of Carolina Trailbuilders, from Weaverville, NC.

We installed three hiker stiles on the busiest sections of trail in HCC. The stiles are based on a design that has been used successfully along the Appalachian Trail in Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area, VA. This design does not require hikers to climb over fencing (a safety hazard) and is built to ensure that the gate will swing closed even if a hiker forgets to latch it behind him or her. Our work was sponsored by a grant from the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation “connections” grant program which funds greenway or trail projects connecting nearby communities to Tennessee’s beautiful State Parks and Natural Areas. Since 1999, the Tennessee State Park Connections program has awarded over 193 grants statewide totaling over $300,000.

Small Game Hunting

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Wild Turkey. Photo courtesy of Witt Langstaff, Jr.

In fall 2015, the State of TN reopened Hampton Creek Cove SNA for hunting on a limited basis. Hunters are allowed to take wild turkey, grouse, rabbits, squirrel and other small game. Deer hunting (archery only) has also been authorized for the site. No dogs, ATVs, or other motorized vehicles are allowed in the natural area and hunting must be conducted in accordance with current State of Tennessee Hunting Seasons and Regulations.

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Farm Workshop: The Two-wheel, Walk-behind Tractor

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SAHC Community Farm and Food Program Associate, Chris Link, demonstrates the ease of steering the two-wheel tractor.

Why choose a two-wheel tractor for your home garden or small farmstead, instead of a standard four-wheel tractor or tiller?

This small but mighty tractor is a versatile investment. With over forty implements available, it is designed to be an all-in-one performer for hobby farms, market gardeners, and backyard homesteaders alike. It is a favorite around the world, known for comparative ease of maintenance and operation, with a lower initial price that puts it within reach of beginning and small-scale growers.

Community Farm and Food Associate Chris Link explains how to connect and operate various attachments which make the two-wheel tractor a versatile and efficient tool for small farms.

Chris explains how to connect various attachments which make the two-wheel tractor a versatile and efficient tool for small farms.

“The two-wheel tractor is just right for many operations — not too big and not too small,” said Community Farm & Food Program Associate Chris Link. “They are also particularly nimble and user-friendly on our hillsides and small pathways, and therefore, more efficient when you are working with a compact site.”

Last fall, Chris led a workshop demonstrating two-wheel tractors at our Community Farm.

“I first saw the two-wheel tractor used at a farm in Maine, which was scaled as a market garden around a homestead, under three acres,” he continued. “This is the size farm that is feasible for a couple of people farming. Although many farmers will scale up to larger acreages in time, others who practice intensive growing methods will stay right around this size and will not need larger equipment.”

Background

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Attachments for the BCS tractor include a sickle bar mower.

In the United States, Gravely Brand developed a walk-behind tractor as early as 1911, but by the 1970s production had all but halted because commodity/cash crops had replaced much of what were once small family farms.

The BCS brand two-wheel tractor was first developed in Italy in 1942 as a walk-behind sickle bar mower for small-scale hay mowing on mountainsides. The design gained popularity in the 1950s and replaced draft power on small farms in Europe. With more than one million customers in 80+ countries, BCS is now the largest manufacturer of two-wheeled tractors and attachments in Europe.

Today, both Italian brands Grillo and BCS are available through dealers in the US, and are rising in popularity among small commercial growers as well as land managers, landscapers and hobbyists due to the lower cost point, reputation for quality, and versatility.

“Overall, you could expect to pay $1,550 to $4,500 for a new machine (and add $800 for a diesel engine model),” commented Chris. “There are also used models available.”

Benefits and Main Features

Two-wheel tractors are designed with one engine that can attach to a variety of implements.

Two-wheel tractors are designed with one engine that can attach to a variety of implements.

A two-wheel tractor is designed to attach many different implements in order to perform a variety of tasks, in contrast to the more traditional method of using multiple dedicated tractors/machines for each task. Less time, and money, are necessary to acquire, learn to safely operate, maintain and store walk-behind, two-wheel machine. Ease of switching multi-tasking implements and ease of switching implements is a major benefit of these smaller machines.

“The two-wheel tractor works best for a growing area between 5,000 SF and 3-5 acres. It is great for smaller, tighter cultivated areas because of its small turning radius,” explained Link.

Special features that come standard include: reversing handlebars, lockable differential with steering brakes, PTO drive (separate from wheel drive for different speeds), gas or diesel capability and electric start, quick-attach coupling, and being completely gear driven.

“As with traditional tractors, safety is paramount: all the same rules apply when it comes to safety when operating this smaller tractor as a larger one — it is still a tractor.”

Some of the most common implements for two wheel tractors include:

  • Rotary Plow, Tiller, Power Harrow
  • Wood Chipper, Wood Splitter
  • Snow Blower, Snow Blade, Power Sweeper
  • Rotary mower, Flail mower, Sickle bar
  • Root Digger
  • Power Washer
  • Utility Trailer, Sulky

SAHC plans to host more educational workshops (free and open to the public) on our Community Farm throughout 2016. Visit Appalachian.org or follow us on Facebook for updates!

This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2015-70017-22854.  for Farm Pathways: Access to Land, Livelihood, and Learning.

“Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

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Broad Branch, in the Highlands of Roan

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This 48-acre forested parcel, which was previosly slated for development, is now permanently protected.

Located less than 2 miles from the Appalachian Trail and the Roan Mountain Rhododendron Gardens, the 48-acre Broad Branch tract adjoins Pisgah National Forest and contains a broad mix of habitat. We acquired it in December, and plan to own and manage it for long-term forest health and water quality.

“This tract shares a nearly one-half mile boundary with Pisgah National Forest,” said Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. “It certainly earns the description of ‘highlands,’ with elevations exceeding 4,500 feet where it joins the National Forest.”

Located within the state-designated Roan Mountain Massif Natural Area, the tract is forested with mature trees and potential habitat for rare plant and animal species. Approximately 75% of the property falls within the Roan Mountain Important Bird Area, as designated by the National Audubon Society.

A headwater tributary of Broad Branch runs through the property, emptying into the trout waters of Big Rock Creek.

A headwater tributary of Broad Branch runs through the property, emptying into the trout waters of Big Rock Creek.

A headwater tributary of Broad Branch orginates in the adjoining Pisgah National Forest and flows through the property, emptying into Big Rock Creek (classified as Trout waters by the NC Division of Water Resources). SAHC will complete a biological inventory and protect the water and forest resources.

“The tract was slated for development,” continued Pugliese, “but SAHC was able to work with the developers to purchase the land for conservation.  It’s a great example of conservation serving as a viable alternative to an unrealized development.”Located less than 2 miles from the Appalachian Trail and the Roan Mountain Rhododendron Gardens, the 48-acre Broad Branch tract adjoins Pisgah National Forest and contains a broad mix of habitat. We acquired it in December, and plan to own and manage it for long-term forest health and water quality.

What is the Roan Mountain Important Bird Area?

 

Gray Catbird, photo by Witt Langstaff, Jr.

Gray Catbird, photo by Witt Langstaff, Jr.

Important Bird Areas (IBA) are designated areas of state, national, or global importance, which are prioritized for conservation because they provide critical habitat for threatened, endangered, or declining bird species. The Roan Mountain IBA has among the great diversity of birds in the NC and TN mountains. To date, 188 species have been recorded, 31 of which are high priority species.

On a short, late-morning visit to the Broad Branch tract, Roan Stewardship staff recently heard Blue-headed Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Ovenbird, Gray Catbird, and Red-breasted Nuthatch — as well as three birds on the Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture conservation priority list: Wood Thrush, Scarlet Tanager, and Eastern Wood PeeWee.

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Protecting Farmland in Fairview

This year, SAHC protected 30 bottomland acres along the Drovers Road Scenic Byway in Fairview.

This year, SAHC protected 30 bottomland acres along the Drovers Road Scenic Byway in Fairview, including portions farmed by Bel Aire Farm and Flying Cloud Farm.

This year, SAHC protected a bucolic stretch of land along the Drovers’ Road Scenic Byway in Fairview. We placed 30 acres of fertile bottomland into conservation easements to safeguard the scenic vistas of the valley and working, productive agricultural land. The three adjoining tracts contain high percentages of nationally significant, prime agricultural soils, with portions actively farmed by Flying Cloud Farm and Bel Aire Farm.

“My Fairview farm holds special memories,” said landowner Popsie Lynch. “The land has been in my family for over 150 years. Over the years, this place provided home, livelihood, sustenance, and recreation for family and friends alike, offering opportunity to experience the outdoors and the beauty and tranquility of the mountains.”

Landowner Popsie Lynch is pleased that her land, which has been in the family for over 150 yeras, is now protected for future generations.

Landowner Popsie Lynch is pleased that her land, which has been in the family for over 150 yeras, is now protected for future generations.

These Fairview Bottomland tracts adjoin lands already in conservation easement with SAHC and near more than 1,500 protected acres in the region. 85-93% of these parcels contain nationally significant prime agricultural soils, primarily Statler loam, Toxaway loam, Rosman fine sandy loam, Rosman loam, and Dillard loam.  The concentration of nationally recognized prime soils on the parcels is extremely important.

Prime soils in the Appalachian Mountains are a rare and threatened resource — only 2% of the land mass consists of prime soils, and much of that has already been converted to some other use. Prime soils take thousands of years to form through the geologic processes of flooding, freezing and thawing. Because of these soils, the Fairview Bottomland farms qualified for highly competitive federal and state conservation funds.

The protected tracts contain a high percentage of prime, fertile soils.

The protected tracts contain a high percentage of prime, fertile soils.

The project was initiated by SAHC Fairview Project Director Mike Green, who moved to the area with his wife Sydney in 2005 and became inspired by the unique conservation values embodied in the lands along this stretch of 74A. Mike’s volunteer efforts and experience gave SAHC the capacity to pursue conservation on relatively small parcels by grouping tracts together in order to protect an uninterrupted landscape along the NC Scenic Byway.

“Ordinarily it is difficult to complete conservation easements on small parcels of 5-10 acres,” says Green. “Funders generally prefer larger parcels, and the amount of work – surveys, appraisals, creation of baseline reports, drafting the conservation easement, etc. – is the same as for larger parcels. The Fairview bottomland farms competed with farms across NC for federal and state conservation funds, but because of cooperative land owners and the packaging of projects in groups of 30 acres each SAHC has been able to permanently protect 60 acres of prime soil working farms in the Ashworth Creek basin over the past five years.”

The Fairview Bottomlands conservation projects were made possible with generous contributions by Fairview residents and others in WNC who wanted to support the permanent preservation of the valley, donations by the landowners, Buncombe County, and the Federal Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program of the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The conservation easements also protect 2,170 linear feet of Ashworth Creek and frontage along the NC Scenic Drovers Road Byway.

The conservation easements also protect 2,170 linear feet of Ashworth Creek.

These agricultural conservation easements also protect 2,170 linear feet of Ashworth Creek and frontage along the NC Scenic Drovers Road Byway. Having a well-vegetated, forested buffer along Ashworth Creek protects water quality and provides important wildlife habitat, including corridors or aquatic species, small mammals and migratory songbirds.

“We treasure the unspoiled beauty of the valley and surrounding mountains, the prime soils that continue to nourish crops and pastures, and the fields, streams, and woodlands that are home to varieties of plants and wildlife,” continued Lynch. “I am so grateful to the Southern Appalachian Highland Conservancy for helping preserve our magnificent mountain landscapes and rich agricultural resources. Doing so requires effort and commitment, and deserves support from us all. I am thankful to know that the views through this valley will remain as magical in the years to come as they are today, thanks to the work of SAHC.

AnnieandIsaiahPerkinson“A crucial element of any great farmland preservation effort is the people who work the land,” said William Hamilton, SAHC Farmland Program Director. “Isaiah and Annie Louise Perkinson of Flying Cloud Farm grow organically produced vegetables and fruits on two of the recently protected tracts. Their presence and hard work on the land is a testament of why protecting these tracts for continued agricultural use is important.”

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Ivy Creek: 102-acre conservation easement in Madison County

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Landowner Perspective by Anne Ponder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New conservation projects protect 267 acres in the Newfound Mountains

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

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

Haywood Gap

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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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