Nestled in the foothills south of Marion, the land permanently protects the 7,000-acre Box Creek Wilderness through a conservation easement that Cary resident Tim Sweeney donated to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The property is home to more than 130 rare and watch-list plant and animal species, including several that are new to science. In addition, three new-to-science natural communities were documented, as well as four never documented east of Murphy or Brevard.
The area ranks in the top 1 percent of natural heritage areas in North Carolina, the highest possible rank for a property.
In addition to conserving habitat found on the site, protecting Box Creek Wilderness forms a natural connecter between conserved lands in the South Mountains and the Pisgah National Forest, providing migration avenues for wildlife.
For years, a proposal to install power lines through several miles of the Box Creek area had threatened to fragment the property, but a lawsuit was settled that resulted in the power line being built along an existing road corridor. The road toward conservation was a long one that involved help from U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, Unique Places LLC CEO Jeff Fisher, and an army of local supporters.