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Conservation projects protect key National Forest inholdings

Two parcels totaling 219 acres will eventually be added to the Nantahala National Forest thanks to a recently completed conservation project from the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. 

One of the tracts contains Big Creek, a headwater tributary of the Chattooga National Wild and Scenic River. The other is located on Tanasee Ridge and can potentially provide an alternate gateway to Panthertown Valley, a popular area for outdoor recreation. Both have long been priorities for addition to the Nantahala National Forest.

“Permanent conservation of the Big Creek and Tanasee Ridge properties will enhance the public experience of using the forest,” said Carl Silverstein, SAHC’s executive director.

The 110-acre Big Creek tract in Macon County just north of the North Carolina-Georgia border is a headwater source of the nationally significant Chattooga National Wild and Scenic River and protects important habitat for diverse plants and animals, especially salamanders, of which there are at least 12 species. The property is surrounded by the Nantahala and Chattahoochee National Forests. SAHC plans to own it for several years, and then transfer it to the U.S. Forest Service to become part of the surrounding Nantahala National Forest. 

The Tanasee Ridge property encompasses 109 acres along the ridge that forms the border between Jackson and Transylvania counties. It is surrounded by Nantahala National Forest on three sides and significant because of its potential to provide an alternative public access to popular outdoor recreation areas in Panthertown Valley. It also contains important water resources in the Wolf Creek-Tuckasegee River watershed and forested habitat in an important wildlife corridor, as identified by Wildlands Network Connectivity Index. This land will also be eventually transferred to Forest Service ownership.

SAHC leveraged philanthropic donations and a loan from trusted partners at The Conservation Fund to acquire the Tanasee Ridge property, and a generous anonymous conservation philanthropist made a loan to enable the purchase of the Big Creek tract.  

“SAHC borrowed more than $1.2 million towards the acquisition of the Big Creek and Tanasee Ridge properties,” said Silverstein. “Over the past years, there have been multiple attempts to secure these properties which didn’t work out. With the confidence that the Land and Water Conservation Fund will be available to transfer these properties to become part of national forests in the future, and thanks to our dedicated members and generous contributions from Brad and Shelli Stanback, SAHC was finally able to protect them.”

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