Conservation of tract protects the Pigeon River

A 92-acre tract near the Little East Fork of the Pigeon River in the Bethel community in Haywood County has been protected through a conservation agreement by the property owner.

“We are very grateful to everyone involved in this project — and most of all to the landowner — for showing such a great commitment to keeping Bethel rural,” said Steve Eaffaldano, President of the Bethel Rural Community Organization. “We have more work to do to keep Bethel’s rural nature going strong, and we are hopeful that other landowners will consider similar actions to conserve their lands.”

The property owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, entered a conservation agreement with the Haywood Soil and Water Conservation District. The landowner still owns the land and can continue using it, including farming and limited logging, and can also sell it or pass it along to heirs, but the conservation agreement ensures it remains undeveloped forever.

The land includes more than 6,000 feet of headwater streams that provide water for downstream farmers, drinking water people in Canton and Clyde, industrial water for the Canton paper mill, trout habitat, one species of rare fish, two species of rare freshwater mussels and hellbender salamanders.

Project supporters included the Haywood Soil and Water Conservation District, the Southwestern NC RC&D Council, the Bethel Rural Community Organization, and the Pigeon River Fund, which has provided several grants to help protect water quality in the Pigeon River Valley by protecting rural lands.

For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 828. 712.6474.

Protection of mountain’s vast tract hinges on funding

An 8,000 acre tract in Transylvania County, the largest block of privately owned wilderness in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains, may soon be protected if enough funds can be raised.

The landowner, former Congressman Charles Taylor who is also a logger and cattle rancher, has agreed to sell the land for $33 million to the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and The Conservation Fund. The selling price is a good deal at less than half the appraised value, but will still require substantial fundraising to make the conservation a reality.

“This is the last opportunity we will have to acquire such a sizable and significant tract in the southern Appalachians for conservation ownership ever again,” said Dick Ludington, southeast regional director of TCF.

The nonprofit land trusts hopes to raise the money to protect the tract, and then transfer the land to a public entity that would allow for public recreation including hunting, fishing, hiking and other uses.

“The Taylor family has offered the opportunity to add another jewel to the crown of conserved land in western North Carolina,” said Kieran Roe, executive director of CMLC.

The tract was owned by Taylor through his corporate entity, Champion Cattle and Tree Farms.

The acquisition project will open up over 50 miles of streams teeming with trout. The tract is home to rare plant communities, including pockets of Southern Appalachian bog, and lies atop the Blue Ridge escarpment, one of the most important biodiversity hotspots in world.

Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury, philanthropists that champion land conservation in the mountains, have expressed an interest in donating a portion of the necessary funding.

828.697.5777, ext. 201 or www.carolinamountain.org.

Nantahala headwaters tract protected

A 248-acre tract known as Rainbow Springs at the headwaters of the Nantahala River in Macon County has been protected through a conservation agreement between the long-time landowners and the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee.

The property owners, Myra Waldroop and her family, were honored with the Land Conservationist of the Year Award by the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee this month.

The tract is adjacent to Nantahala National Forest lands in the Standing Indian area and contains nearly 4,000 feet of the Nantahala River. It lies on either side of the Waterfall Scenic Byway, which runs from Rosman in Transylvania County to Murphy.

The property has been in the family since the 1850s, at first as a hunting and fishing retreat then a site for family vacations.

“Many family traditions live on,” said Myra. “With this long history, my family and I decided we wanted this property protected from development. The LTLT was our solution. We appreciate working with the folks at LTLT.”

During the 1920s and ‘30s, the Ritter Lumber Company operated in one of the meadows. A thriving lumber town included a post office, commissary, hotel and school. A railroad hauled lumber down the river to be shipped away. In 1948, Myra’s father, Carl Slagle, retired to Rainbow Springs, and later, Myra inherited a portion of the property where both of her daughters now live. The property is currently used for farming and sustainable timber harvest.

“The Waldroop Family conserved their land because of their love of the land and the heritage that the land represents,” said Sharon Taylor with LTLT.

Conservation fund donates land to HCC

Haywood Community College recently acquired a 328-acre tract of land located at Balsam Gap through a generous gift from The Conservation Fund.

Bordering the Blue Ridge Parkway for 3 miles, the property forms the headwaters of Dark Ridge Creek, which shelters a pure strain of brook trout.

As a natural extension of protected forest land, the Balsam Gap property will serve as a teaching environmental laboratory for HCC’s

Natural Resources programs. This laboratory of native hardwoods and plants will serve HCC’s Forest Management, Fish and Wildlife, GIS/GPS, Low Impact Development and Horticulture programs. HCC is one of only a few community colleges across the nation to offer these comprehensive programs and as a result serves a diversity of students from across the U.S.

“Our Natural Resources programs are attractive not only because of their quality of instruction and high rate of job placement but also because of their field-based instructional methodologies,” said Dr. Rose Johnson, HCC President. “The Balsam Gap property will greatly enhance our students learning experiences by providing more hands-on, in-the-field instruction. This property will have a profound impact on HCC, its students and our surrounding communities. I am deeply grateful to The Conservation Fund for this gift.”

Local couple recognized for land stewardship

John and Jane Young of Haywood County have been recognized by the North Carolina Forest Stewardship Program for their commitment to natural resource conservation on their land in the Upper Crabtree area of Haywood County.

The couple wanted to bring sound management and stewardship practices to a 32-acre tract they purchased in the late 1990s, and became involved with the Forest Stewardship Program. In addition to environmental steps, like reforestation, exotic species irradiation and sediment control, creating wildlife habitat is a high priority. Oak acorns and hickory nuts, black walnuts and apples, blackberry thickets and tall grasses provide food and habitat for deer, grouse, hawks and owls, amphibians and reptiles, and loads of songbirds.

“There is a wonderful variety of habitat here on this tract. John and Jane have been mindfully managing all these different areas for as much diversity as possible and as a result they are seeing more wildlife than ever,” said Kelly Hughes, a biologist with the program.

The couple received a certification plaque, a bluebird box, and a Stewardship sign to display on their property.

“Land stewardship has always been important to us,” says John. “Knowing that wildlife has a home here enriches our lives, too.”

The Forest Stewardship Program is administered locally by the N.C. Forest Service, with assistance from other agencies such as the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and N.C. Cooperative Extension Service.

Another piece of farmland saved

Hickory Nut Gap Farm, a historic and scenic farm in Buncombe County, has been permanently protected through a conservation agreement with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.

The family-owned farm raises livestock and grows produce found at several grocers, including Earth Fare in Asheville. In exchange for pledging conservation of the tract, the family received more than $1 million for protecting nearly 300 acres of the farm. The bulk of the money came from the N.C. Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, to the tune of $700,000. Matches came from the Buncombe County conservation fund and private donors.

The scenic farm is an important part of the landscape marked by the new state parks of Chimney Rock and Hickory Nut Gorge.

The farm straddles the designated Drovers Road Scenic Highway. Travelers of the road lodged at Sherrill’s Inn, the centerpiece of the farm.

The Clarke family faced a tough decision, as the property is in a prime spot for development, which could be lucrative for the family.

“But we looked at that and said, ‘no, we don’t want to do it,’” said Annie Clarke Ager, one of the landowners. Ager said the family is grateful to the citizens of the state for funding the conservation.

The farm is owned collectively by the six living children of the original property owners.

“The conservation easement is beneficial for family relationships because it settles important previously unanswered questions about how the family property will be managed and used in the future,” said Ager.

“This conservation easement was the only option our family had to keep our farm and forestland intact for future generations,” said Doug Clarke, part-owner of the property.

Study puts values on working easements

A recent study in the Bethel Community revealed that “working land conservation easements” would be valued as high as $7,900 to $9,400 per acre for flat or rolling land outside the floodway of the Pigeon River or other streams.

Old roots, new focus for soil and water district

For decades, soil experts like Duane Vanhook have been showing farmers how a crop of winter wheat can recharge soil nutrients or how to shore up a stream bank decimated by cattle hooves.

Improving the science of development

When Bob Brannon saw a newspaper announcement last spring seeking developers to participate in a pilot mapping project, he already had most of the planning for his development, Mountain Watch, in place.

Ivey wins conservation award

George Ivey, a well-known leader in conservation efforts in Haywood County, received the Pigeon River Award for 2006 from Haywood Waterways Association.

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