South Mountains to Blue Ridge Study Reveals a Pathway to Protection
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On the low mountains’ steep slopes, rocky outcrops and stream banks, a plethora of rare and threatened plants and smaller animals thrive in numerous unique, distinct habitats, many of which are part of Significant Natural Heritage Areas (SNHA) designated by the N.C. Natural Heritage Program.
In fact, some of
These mountains, most former timber tracts, provide a wilderness home and pathway between the piedmont and the mountains for a rich and diverse array of wildlife.
The corridor has long been a major protection focus area for Foothills Conservancy and identified by other conservation groups, including The Nature Conservancy, as ecologically significant. In the
Several other notable “stepping stones” across the corridor are now either publicly or privately protected, including 12,000 acres pieced back together over the last two years into one unbroken, forested tract by Tim Sweeney, for which the N.C. Wildlife Federation has selected him to receive their 2013 Governor’s Award for Land Conservationist of the Year.
“The landscape that Tim has conserved includes one of the state’s most highly ranked and largest privately-owned Significant Natural Heritage Areas, the 5,800-acre Box Creek Wilderness, and another jewel called the Bob’s Pocket Wilderness,” said Susie Hamrick Jones, Foothills Conservancy’s executive director. “These 12,000 acres connect to the
To the west near Old Fort, Foothills Conservancy’s 1,340-acre Catawba Headwaters Preserve, along with a 477-acre conservation easement on the Creston development and 88 acres the land trust acquired which now provides public access to
Together, these privately protected areas link to almost 50,000 acres protected in the South Mountains State Park and State Game Land and to hundreds of thousands acres of Blue Ridge Mountain lands in Pisgah National Forest.
Foothills Conservancy worked with BioGeoCreations, a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysis and mapping consulting firm, to analyze the rugged landscape factoring in elevation, slope, hydrology, land cover, important bird areas, biodiversity, road density and existing conserved lands.
The large blocks of forests also protect the water quality of headwater streams and source watersheds of the Catawba and
“For years, Foothills Conservancy has worked with willing landowners and many partners to protect lands from the
Other important conservation projects are already underway in the corridor.
For example, Foothills Conservancy has a three-year option with Sweeney to purchase a 2,100+acre tract adjacent to
Foothills Conservancy and other conservationists will use the results of the “