Sandy Mush land owners receive conservation grant

More than 400 acres on a mountain in Sandy Mush have been protected thanks to a special conservation fund created by the Buncombe County commissioners.

The owners of the property received a $425,000 grant from the county in exchange for entering a conservation agreement that will keep the property from ever being developed. The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, a local land trust, orchestrated the conservation agreement. Sandy Mush is in the Newfound Mountains, straddling the Buncombe and Madison county line.

The property, owned by the Jayne Family, will stay in the family and can be sold or passed down to heirs. But under the conservation agreement, a deed restriction prevents it from ever being developed.

“We are so grateful for the Jayne family’s commitment to conservation,” said Carl Silverstein, Executive Director of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. “We hope others in the community will also consider protecting their land.”

The family was awarded a monetary incentive to secure the conservation agreement. Buncombe County had established a $1.9 million land preservation fund for just this purpose and provided a grant to facilitate the tract’s protection. The grant from the county was matched by a generous donation from local philanthropists Brad and Shelli Stanback.

The property encompasses Little Sandy Mush Bald, one of the most prominent ridgelines in Buncombe County, visible from Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The property is also significant because is connects with other protected lands. It is adjacent to two other tracts also in conservation agreements through the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy: a 600-acre and a 138-acre tract.

Protecting large contiguous properties supports diverse wildlife, including black bear, bobcat and red fox as well as large birds such as wild turkey, grouse, barred owl and red tailed hawk.

The Newfound Mountains and Sandy Mush area has been identified as a priority by the Buncombe Land Conservation Advisory Board and is also a high priority for the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. Efforts are underway to secure more key properties in Sandy Mush.

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