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CMLC Report: Banner Year for Land Conservation
Nature heritage — our scenic views, our picturesque waterfalls, our venerable forests — constantly affirm why residents of Western North Carolina make this region their home. It inspires visitors to return here time and time again. It rejuvenates our spirits and renews our pride in this place.
In countless ways — thanks in part to clean water, open spaces, clear air and teeming biodiversity, to name a few — quality of life is enhanced by our majestic mountains that are permitted to remain in their natural state.
Each year, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy — with the help of government partners, dedicated landowners and generous individual supporters — strives to protect and preserve our region's precious natural resources to forever keep intact what gives our land meaning and life.
In the past few months, you have read the exciting announcements of recently protected lands in Henderson, Transylvania and surrounding counties. These included the summit of Long John Mountain in Hendersonville and the rugged cliffs of Little Bearwallow Mountain in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge. Also conserved was the revitalized Rhododendron Lake Park in Laurel Park and the entirety of Deerfields, a private mountain sanctuary in Mills River.
You also read the announcement of 2,400 more acres acquired in Transylvania County for creation of the new Headwaters State Forest, as well as the protection of the slopes of Youngs Mountain near Lake Lure.
Typically, this quantity of projects — and the stunning plethora of natural features so worthy of perpetual conservation — would make for a more than successful year among CMLC's land protection efforts. But the results are finally in for 2013, and these previously reported achievements in conservation are just a few of the new lands that were forever saved by the local land trust — and the community that supports it — last year.
“It was a record year saving the places that we love,” said Kieran Roe, executive director of CMLC, which this year will celebrate its 20th anniversary.
Altogether, CMLC conserved 4,012 acres in 2013 at 20 locations across our mountains — each the most ever in a year by the Hendersonville nonprofit.
Read all about the some of the newly protected locales you haven't yet heard about — and discover the others next month in the second part of this article. Share in the excitement of CMLC's banner year of conservation that will help keep this region as we know and adore it.
Vista Hill at Horse Pen Mountain
“Our parents, Don and Rose Marie Gladieux, taught us to love nature and animals. So when we had a chance to preserve a little piece of our natural landscape for the benefit of the animals that roam here, as well as for future generations, we jumped on it,” said landowners Will and Deni McIntyre.
The McIntyres and their parents, along with Lynn Hamilton and Cheryl Allari, sought out CMLC to place a conservation easement on their property on the north slopes of Horse Pen Mountain. Just north of the Eastern Continental Divide where water begins its flow toward the sea, the easement safeguards water quality near headwaters of Mud Creek.
The new protection of the entirely forested tract in western Henderson County also preserves views in the rural valley seen from Crab Creek Road.
The project was made possible by funding from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF) and the Money In the Ground grant program hosted by the Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC).
Green River Slopes
Encompassing one-third mile of the Green River — one of CMLC's priority conservation watersheds — a new conservation easement donated by John and Vicki Bell in southern Henderson County safeguards water quality by buffering the waterway from future sedimentation and other impacts from potential area development.
An additional one-third mile of smaller tributaries to the river will also be protected from future human impacts.
The project — also supported by the CWMTF — also preserves the scenic view from the Green River, a waterway frequently enjoyed by paddlers and fishermen, by ensuring the tract will remain entirely forested.
Altogether, CMLC now protects 3,700 acres in the Green River watershed in Henderson and Polk counties.
Southern Appalachian mountain bogs are one of the nation's rarest and most imperiled habitats. Only 10 percent — fewer than 500 acres — of original mountain bogs are believed to remain in our region.
To protect more of this rare habitat, CMLC worked in partnership with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) to acquire the 7.3-acre Hyder Pasture tract, which hosts one of the last remnants of a wetland complex that once covered a large region in southern Henderson County, including much of Flat Rock.
Support from Fred and Alice Stanback also made the acquisition possible.
Mountain bogs are hotspots for biodiversity, containing numerous rare plant and animal species. Hyder Pasture hosts a population of the bunched arrowhead flower — one of only 11 populations left in the world.
Bogs such as Hyder Pasture also possess a natural capacity for regulating water flow, holding floodwaters like giant sponges, then slowly releasing the water to minimize the effects of droughts and floods.
Following the success of the restoration efforts at nearby Ochlawaha Bog, CMLC — with funding from the CWMTF and the USFWS — will soon initiate a wetland restoration project at Hyder Pasture to restore the bog to its original natural character.
CMLC is proud to protect the scenery and safeguard the water quality in many cherished waterscapes in Transylvania County, the Land of Waterfalls. Landowner Michael Domokur partnered with CMLC to place a conservation easement hosting King Falls, a scenic 40-foot cascade.
The new easement also protects nearly a quarter-mile of North Flat Creek as well as more than 1,000 feet of another unnamed tributary.
Sharing a mutual boundary for 300 feet, the easement also buffers the natural area and expands the wildlife corridor surrounding Pisgah National Forest. The project — supported by CTNC — also shares a 700-foot boundary with private land conserved by North American Land Trust.
Dale and Janet Robertson partnered with CMLC on a conservation easement on their farm in Transylvania County that includes protection of 600 feet of the French Broad River as well as another 600 feet of one of its significant tributaries, Carson Creek.
About 95 percent of the 25 acres now under easement are classified as prime soil by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Only 2 percent of all WNC's land area is classified as prime soil.
The newly conserved tract adjoins 267 acres under conservation easement at Camp Gwynn Valley, which itself borders 329 acres at CMLC-conserved Deep Woods Camp, creating a total contiguous protected corridor of 621 acres of natural land.
“What would happen to our property after we're gone? We didn't want it to be divided up after our family,” the Robertsons said of their now-protected farm.
The project was supported by the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, CTNC, and Transylvania County.
by Peter Barr, CMLC Trails & Outreach Coordinator
Read more stories of CMLC’s conserved lands at www.carolinamountain.org/stories.