Southeast Regional Land Conservancy Preserves 154 Acres in Western NC

Miles of streams and waterfalls are protected within High Hickory conservation preserve. Source: Southeast Regional Land Conservancy
Miles of streams and waterfalls are protected within High Hickory conservation preserve. Source: Southeast Regional Land Conservancy
Ever since studying the diversity and beauty of the Swannanoa Mountains during a study of the state’s significant natural areas way back in 1986, Karin Heiman has wanted to protect its natural habitats. Recently, she had the chance to do just that. In partnering with the Southeast Regional Land Conservancy (of which Heiman is Deputy Director), the High Hickory planned community permanently preserved 154 acres of its land in the Swannanoa Mountain Range with a conservation easement.

The conservation area in High Hickory will provide scenic pleasure for the public from Interstate 40, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Mountains to Sea Trail, as well as portions of the Asheville area. Keeping the mountains green is key to Western North Carolina’s tourism economy and long-term sustainability. It’s no secret that the natural land around the Asheville area is under astonishing development pressure. The area has received a long list of ‘awards’ for being a top destination for tourism, retirement, outdoor enthusiasts, and various other categories. One of the big reasons for the area’s popularity is the natural scenery.  Because of High Hickory’s commitment to conservation, the lush forests and unusual species of this lofty ridge can remain green forever, without logging or development.

Since the Appalachians are known to be the oldest mountain chain in the United States (and one of the oldest ranges in the world), they are considered globally unique and hold important keys for biodiversity. So far, over 300 species of plants have been found, with many more likely if further studied. The land is also home to many species of animals and wildlife habitat. Large trees and carpets of wildflowers grace the slopes.

Since the conservation land in High Hickory ranges in elevation from about 2,600 to 4,100 feet, this variation provides habitat for numerous natural communities and species adapted to different elevations. Protecting connected habitats of different elevations becomes even more crucial for long term viability of many species as we proceed through climate change. Also, High Hickory adjoins 167 acres of existing conservation land protected by the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, creating a larger block of habitat for wildlife to roam. The land protection also helps to maintain water quality for the Swannanoa and French Broad River watersheds. Protected forests also keep our air cleaner and help with climate change.

Due to its lofty location and the fact that the mountain chain parallels the interstate, the land provides a scenic public view to a rather long stretch of I-40, plus residential and business locations. The easement will help safeguard scenic views from long stretches of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Southeast Regional Land Conservancy has conserved over 30,000 acres of habitat around the southeast but has always called Asheville home. Find them online at www.serlc.org.

Source: Southeast Regional Land Conservancy

GAL 2019
GAL 2019
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