The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy is an accredited land trust conserving land and water resources in the Southern Appalachians. The health and happiness of future generations depends on how we invest today in protecting the places that nurture us. To foster healthy communities, we work to preserve:
- Water quality in streams and rivers
- Habitat for wildlife and rare plants
- Places for people to enjoy outdoor recreation
- Farmland for local food production
- Scenic viewsheds of the Southern Appalachians
We preserve unique forest and farm lands in the Southern Appalachians; organize recreational outings and volunteer opportunities for people to enjoy and connect with the amazing places that we have protected; and responsibly steward and manage lands for posterity.
We connect people with nature.
One of the best ways to enjoy and understand the unique landscape of the Southern Appalachians is to get out in it! Throughout the year, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy offers guided hikes, workshops and educational outings on protected lands. We provide options for people of all ages and abilities — from our annual June Jamboree hiking day in the Highlands of Roan and "Yoga on the Mountain" to the interpretive Discovery Trail at our Community Farm.
We organize volunteer work days on protected lands to remove invasive plant species, restore and manage wildlife habitat, improve trails, and clean up illegal dump sites.
We accepted the generous donation of this 103-acre farm and have embarked on innovative projects to make it a model for sustainable agriculture and best practices.
We restored streams on the property to improve water quality in the French Broad River watershed and created a stream buffer to prevent future erosion issues. With this project, we aim to demonstrate how a farm can be managed for both productive agriculture and environmental health. We also began extensive removal of non-native, invasive plants and reforested a section of the farm with shortleaf pine, a native tree.
We created a 1.5-mile Discovery Trail across the Community Farm, offering ample opportunity for exploration and education. Interpretive signs placed along the trail provide information about the various projects and wildlife on the farm. We offer guided hikes and tours of the farm on an ongoing basis to demonstrate how we are preserving the past while looking towards the future.
Beginning Farmer Incubator Program
The Farmer Incubator Program of our Community Farm & Food Project is based on successful programs used across the country and will create new farm businesses to fill the gap left by aging and retiring farmers in our region.
The Farmer Incubator Program provides new or beginning farmers with access to land and equipment at reduced rates to help initiate new agricultural businesses. While at the incubator farm, farmers will also receive support, training, and implementation tools to help them manage successful farm businesses on their own.
We work with landowners to purchase agricultural conservation easements on fertile farmland tracts, enabling them to keep family farms in the family while protecting vital agricultural assets for future generations.
SAHC focuses land and water conservation efforts in six distinct geographic focus areas of the Southern Appalachians, covering ten counties in Western North Carolina and East Tennessee. Many areas in these mountains are not yet protected and are at risk of being lost forever. Because of the significance and fragility of these ecosystems, protecting them is SAHC's highest priority.
Highlands of Roan
SAHC's flagship project is protecting the Highlands of Roan.
Soaring above 5,000 feet, the Roan Massif is a biological & recreation treasure, well-known for its grassy balds, rhododendron gardens, and rich spruce fir forests. These Roan ecosystems are home to an amazing number of imperiled species.
Appalachian Trail Countryside
Our conservation work helps preserve the wilderness experience for hikers along the internationally recognized Appalachian Trail (AT). The opportunity to hike along the AT attracts upwards of 3 million visitors annually. We have helped protect several special places near the AT, including the 10,000-acre Rocky Fork tract, Tennessee’s gateway to the Southern Appalachian Mountains.
We have protected tracts of land for inclusion in Mt. Mitchell State Park (which contains the highest peak east of the Mississippi), sites along the Blue Ridge Parkway, headwaters of the South Toe & Catawba Rivers, thousands of acres in the Montreat Wilderness, the Woodfin watershed, and land adjoining the Asheville watershed. We also hold a conservation easement on the 8,500-acre Big Tom Wilson Preserve, highly visible from Mt. Mitchell State Park.
This area protects land adjacent to the globally recognized Great Smoky Mountains National Park, buffering the eastern edge of the park, an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site that draws over 9 million visitors annually. We work here to expand the non-fragmented network of conservation land and create habitat corridors that link the Smokies to other significant networks of protected land. Our highlights in this focus area include Cataloochee Ranch, protected by SAHC’s first conservation easement, and Blackrock Ridge, a prominent peak near the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The French Broad River Valley
The French Broad River (the third oldest river in the world) is central to the region’s economy, tourism, agriculture, and way of life. This focus area includes a significant portion of the French Broad River Basin, as well as surrounding high grassy meadows along ridge tops, steep forested coves and slopes, and intact bottomland farms.
This area features the Balsam and Plott Balsam Mountains, with pristine headwaters, high-biodiversity streams, mature forests, and high-altitude ridges. Approximately 42 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway pass through the area, attracting eco-tourists from around the world. Our highlights here include projects on Cold Mountain surrounded by the Shining Rock Wilderness, headwaters of the Tuckaseegee River, and the Waynesville watershed.
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