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More Land Protected in Banner Year 2013
Last month, you read about many of the newest conserved lands in Henderson, Transylvania and surrounding counties protected by Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy in the land trust's record year in 2013.
These spectacular lands included a rare mountain bog in Flat Rock, lush forested slopes on the banks of the Green River, two scenic cascades in the Land of Waterfalls, an equestrian paradise on Horsepen Mountain and a picturesque farm along the French Broad River.
And in months prior, you've read about the perpetual protection of Hendersonville's scenic backdrop, Long John Mountain; more land forever saved and hiking trails under construction in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge; and new town parks at Lake Lure's Youngs Mountain and Laurel Park's Rhododendron Lake.
There were also the exciting announcements of the completion of the preservation of Deerfields, a mountain sanctuary surrounded on three sides by the Pisgah National Forest, and the addition of 2,400 more acres of public lands at East Fork that enabled the creation of Headwaters State Forest.
Altogether, CMLC conserved 4,024 acres in 2013 at 19 locations across our mountains — the most ever in a year by the Hendersonville nonprofit.
This banner year of successes protected 2.25 miles of the banks of the French Broad River, safeguarded water quality from sedimentation of WNC's 18.8 miles of creeks and tributaries, kept 1,011 acres of designated prime or important agricultural soils in or available for agricultural production, facilitated the future development of four miles of new public hiking trails and two new public parks, conserved 19 acres of rare mountain bog habitat, and buffered 7.6 miles of public lands including Pisgah National Forest.
This month, learn about the remaining conservation projects achieved by CMLC in 2013 and how they will forever keep intact the cherished natural heritage of our region.
“The people that don't take care of the land don't make it,” said landowner Bill Mayes, suggesting why he and his family felt driven to enter their entire Transylvania County property into a permanent conservation easement with CMLC.
Having a long history as a summer camp, Deerwoode first opened in 1923 as Camp Chickasaw for Boys before becoming Camp Deerwoode for Girls in 1935 and later Camp Deerwoode for Boys in 1962.
The Mayes family purchased the camp a few years later and continued its operation until 1991. They now manage a quiet retreat for adults on the historic property that formerly hosted campers for nearly 70 years.
The easement's protection extends from the French Broad River — over one-half mile of its bank — across the forested uplands on the southern slopes and up to the summit of 2,540-foot Sugar Loaf Mountain. Such protection was supported by Fred and Alice Stanback, CMLC donors, and CTNC.
“Somebody needs to take care of the land. If everybody did a little bit, it would be a lot better,” Mayes added.
Purchased by the land-owning family in the 1930s to start a dairy, a Henderson County farm holding a new conservation easement borders a half-mile of the French Broad River as well as 17 acres of USDA-rated prime soils.
In addition to preserving the natural view from the French Broad — a state designated paddle trail used heavily by recreationists — the recent protection supported by CTNC and CMLC donors also safeguards water quality along 1,000 feet of unnamed tributaries flowing directly into the river.
If you have driven the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville, you have almost certainly enjoyed viewing Long Mountain in the scenic backdrop of the road's many vistas.
The peak rises to 3,200 feet near Young Pisgah Mountain in the southwest corner of Buncombe County, less than two miles north of the parkway.
The mountain's ridgeline, now protected by a CMLC conservation easement, hosts an expansive grassy meadow that affords long-range views of Pisgah National Forest and surrounding natural landscapes of rural Buncombe County.
The conservation of scenic Long Mountain was supported by CTNC, CMLC donors, and Buncombe County.
6 more acres
When landowners Gus and Margaret Napier first moved to the Sherwood Forest community in Transylvania County, they identified a forested hill rich in wildflowers and overlooking the Little River and instantly thought that it needed protection.
“It would be a natural supplement to the community-owned green area,” the Napiers recalled.
“We bought it and considered it protected. But we later realized that we wanted to conserve the tract permanently, so we turned to CMLC. Their work has been so important in preserving land in this area,” added the Napiers, who also donated ownership of the land to Sherwood Forest for inclusion in its green common area.
With the addition of the Napier's easement — a project supported by CTNC and CMLC donors — CMLC now protects nearly 10 acres within the ecologically rich Sherwood Forest community.
South Fork Flat Creek
Landowners Robert and Annette Irvine worked with CMLC to protect their western Transylvania County property — including more than a half-mile of a tributary of the South Fork of Flat Creek — to safeguard water quality in two watersheds.
Straddling the Eastern Continental Divide, the easement protects headwaters that ultimately flow into both the French Broad and Toxaway rivers.
Also hosting a rare southern Appalachian bog, water quality is at the heart of the conservation value of the Irvine's property.
Mountain bogs 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.
The new conservation project — supported by CTNC and CMLC donors — also shares a quarter-mile boundary with CMLC's Duncan easements, creating a pocket of 114 contiguous acres of protected land.
High Meadows Farm
Gayle Ramsey placed a conservation easement on his Transylvania County farm with CMLC in order to protect nearly 50 acres of prime farmland soil, almost two-thirds of a mile of the French Broad River and an additional two-thirds of a mile of perennial and intermittent tributary streams.
The easement preserves the pastoral view of the farm as seen from U.S. Highway 276 and its rural, agricultural character as the Ramsey family has known it for generations.
The farm borders nearly a quarter-mile of Greenville Highway south of Brevard.
Directly opposite the river from another new CMLC conservation easement at Deerwoode, the two projects form a nearly 300-acre contiguous tract of conserved land in the picturesque French Broad River valley.
The conservation was supported by CTNC, CMLC donors and Transylvania County.
Pace could decline “Achieving our mission at this scale is certainly a cause for celebration,” said Kieran Roe, CMLC executive director.
“However, our excitement is tempered by the knowledge that this pace of success may not continue in the years to come.”
According to Roe, the flurry of conservation projects completed by CMLC in 2013 was due in part to the impending expiration of the state income tax credit and enhanced federal income tax deduction for conservation.
For many years, these tax incentives provided conservation-minded landowners with a meaningful financial benefit in exchange for protecting their land in perpetuity.
While the sunset of these tax programs — which expired Dec. 31 — expedited many conservation projects last year, Roe suggested that their absence might leave future conservation-minded landowners less able to justify financially the donation of a conservation easement.
“While we treasure the wonderful places now permanently protected, we are also working hard with colleagues in Raleigh and Washington, D.C., to restore these incentives so that the pace of conservation does not ebb,” Roe said.
On top of the loss of the tax benefits, the priority to sustain public funding for conservation in North Carolina has continually trended downward in recent years — funding that safeguards water quality, protects natural heritage and productive farmland, and creates new parks and trails.
“It's up to all of us to speak up for the importance of conservation tax incentives as well as sustained funding for land and water protection at the state level in order to turn the tide of receding public investment in protecting natural resources,” Roe said.
“Your voice can make a difference in forever preserving our mountain heritage.”
by Peter Barr, CMLC Trails & Outreach Coordinator
Read more stories of CMLC’s conserved lands at www.carolinamountain.org/stories.