Keeping ash in the Smokies: Land managers, conservation groups work to protect ash from invasive pest

At some point roughly 20 years ago, a shipment from Asia arrived in the United States with a passel of six-legged stowaways lurking in its wooden pallets. Since it was first detected near Detroit in 2002, the emerald ash borer has gnawed its way through ash trees across North America, leaving a swath of destruction across 31 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces — and counting.

The EAB was first spotted in North Carolina in 2013, when it was confirmed in Granville, Person, Vance and Warren counties, a contiguous area in the central part of the state bordering Virginia. Now it’s present in 33 of the state’s 100 counties and continues to spread. WNC counties with confirmed ash borer infestations are Haywood, Swain, Macon, Graham, Buncombe, Madison, Mitchell and Yancey counties — this month, the N.C. Forest Service found EAB on several trees in the Alarka area of Swain County after the beetle was initially found in Bryson City last summer.

Jackson considers giving toward land conservation effort

The fundraising deadline is drawing nearer for an effort to conserve 15.9 acres adjacent to Panthertown Valley, and the Jackson County Commissioners have indicated a willingness to chip in toward the more than $80,000 still needed. 

Federal dollars fuel WNC farmland conservation: $8 million allocation is region’s largest ever

Land conservation groups across the region found something to celebrate this month when the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced an $8 million allocation for farmland conservation in Western North Carolina — a gargantuan number that the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy calls “unprecedented.”

This type of funding, allocated through the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Regional Conservation Partnership Plan under the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, has been available in the past. But never before has the amount been so large or so specifically targeted to Western North Carolina.

Conservation easement finalized near Marion

One of the largest conservation easements to ever be donated by an individual in North Carolina history has been finalized in Rutherford and McDowell counties.

Growing elk population triggers landowner conflicts, land conservation efforts

Elk may be the most polarizing animal in Western North Carolina right now, but William Carter has kept a closer eye on the issue than most. Carter makes his living off a small mountain farm in the Jonathan Creek area, sharing a property line with the Ross dairy farm — that family’s elk-related struggles have earned them plenty of unwanted time in the local spotlight. 

SEE ALSO: Two-mile fence keeps elk off dairy farm following winter shooting of seven animals

As the elk population has grown, Carter’s found himself wondering what the future holds for his acres of beans, pumpkins and cattle pasture.

Homebuilding company wants to sell Plott Balsam tract for conservation

High in the Plott Balsams, there’s a swath of property riddled with panoramic views, sparking waterfalls and high-elevation solitude that was once destined for development. But more than a decade after purchasing it, America’s Homeplace has yet to build a single structure — and now the homebuilding company is offering the 912 acres at a reduced rate for long-term conservation. 

“It’s a beautiful piece of property, kind of a one-of-a-kind piece,” said Stacy Buchanan, regional president for the company and a Jackson County native. “There’s not many pieces this large left in the Southern Appalachians.”

Getting what you give up

In a 12-round heavyweight professional boxing match, at the beginning of the twelfth round there is a bell and the referee motions the two fighters to the center of the ring to begin the final round of the contest. In the fight for life on the planet Earth, and according to a majority of noted scientists, we are in the twelfth round. And Pulitzer-winning biologist E. O. Wilson is the referee. 

Conservation groups plead for red wolf program to stay

out redwolfPetitions bearing nearly half a million signatures urging protection of the endangered red wolf made their way to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week, about one year after the USFWS announced it would suspend a program reintroducing red wolves to the wild.

Beyond the river: Fly fishing camp builds confident, conservation-minded kids

out frRods, reels, and wader-clad teenagers dotted Big East Fork’s meander to Lake Logan through the warm summer mornings last week, a picture of mountain tranquility framed between green-shrouded banks backlit by the mountain-bordered reservoir downstream.

“It’s pretty relaxing,” said Gabby Dilemme, 14, of Brevard. The rod she grasped was her own, an instrument she’s used before when fishing with friends. But at Rivercourse, the annual four-day fly fishing and conservation camp organized by N.C. Trout Unlimited, she was hoping to dig a little deeper into the sport.

Group forms to support Pisgah District

fr pisgahWhen John Cottingham, then working as — in his words — a “stuffy, corporate lawyer,” walked into the Pisgah District Ranger Office to drop off a donation, he was surprised to learn that there actually wasn’t a way for the Pisgah National Forest to accept donations toward projects.

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