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Key piece of Roan Highlands land acquired by Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy

Contributed • Aug 14, 2018 at 8:10 PM

ROAN MOUNTAIN — The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy has announced another purchase of high-elevation land that will provide permanent protection for rare plant and animal habitat.

The latest acquisition by the non-profit land trust is a 234-acre parcel at Yellow Spot and adjoins Pisgah National Forest near Carter County. In addition to habitat protection, the acquisition will protect wildlife corridors, scenic views and sources of clean water along the high elevation ridgeline connecting conserved lands in the Roan Highlands.

“This property contains a remarkable combination of features that have made it a conservation priority for decades,” said Marquette Crockett, SAHC’s Roan stewardship director. “We conserve some properties to preserve exceptional water quality and native trout habitat and we protect others because they contain rare, high elevation open areas or exceptional forest habitat — but Yellow Spot has everything. It’s a microcosm of the Roan Highlands. SAHC’s acquisition of this tract secures a perfect puzzle piece, surrounded by National Forest and protecting the main spine of the Roan Massif.”

The description of the acquisition in the conservancy press release said the property reaches an elevation of 5,100 feet at the peak of Yellow Spot and will provide a buffer for sensitive habitat in Pisgah National Forest. The Audubon Society's Roan Mountain Important Bird Area covers approximately two-thirds of the tract.

“Yellow Spot has all the interesting and rare high elevation species you would expect in a property of this caliber — Gray’s lily, Carolina Northern flying squirrel, Northern saw-whet owl, Eastern spotted skunk, Indiana bat and more,” Crockett said. "A biological inventory of the property identified six rare animal species and 12 rare plant species, including bog goldenrod and trailing wolfsbane.”

The tract contains over 2.5 miles of stream corridor, including 10 headwater tributaries of Cook Creek and Pineroot Branch.

“Much of the land is full of boulders and streams, and it contains some of the more rare habitat found in the Roan,” Crockett said. “Although rugged and remote, it is also highly visible from popular vantage points across the region. You can see the boundaries of this property from both sides of the Massif — from Buladean to Bakersville (in North Carolina). Drivers along the scenic NC 261 and visitors to the world-famous Catawba rhododendron gardens near Carvers Gap enjoy scenic views of this protected land.”

The Yellow Spot property was a longstanding conservation priority both because of its important strategic location and its outstanding conservation values. The conservancy’s acquisition of this property fills in a gap in the network of protected lands along the primary ridgeline.

“We are extremely grateful to philanthropists Fred and Alice Stanback, Tim Sweeney and The Biltmore Company for enabling SAHC to protect this incredible tract,” Crockett said. “This is an investment both in the future of conservation and in outdoor recreation and the economic vitality of local communities. Keeping viewsheds in the Roan Highlands intact and beautiful is a valuable asset to our region.”

The press release said the conservancy plans to own the property for the long term, managing it for habitat and clean water. Visitors to popular outdoor recreation hotspots, including the Appalachian Trail and rhododendron gardens atop Roan Mountain, will be able to enjoy views of the untouched land for generations to come.

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