“It is simply magical,” says Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett, referring to Roaring Creek in the Highlands of Roan. “If I were a Hellbender, this is the stream I would want to live in.”
Because of the exceptional water resources, SAHC was awarded a North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund grant to purchase the land. The property includes headwater streams of Upper Roaring Creek, a high-quality native brook trout stream, according to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. SAHC’s acquisition will protect water quality and aquatic habitats of the Nolichucky/Cane/Toe Rivers Conservation Area which includes at-risk aquatic species, like the Eastern Hellbender, and federally-endangered species, like the Appalachian Elktoe mussel.
“This project was essentially about the water and the watershed - a high priority for conservation on a big scale,” says Crockett.
Conservation of the mountainous land also protects habitat for birds and other animals as well as scenic views. Rising to an upper elevation of 4,700 feet, the forested acreage can be seen from public recreation areas in the Roan, including the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail.
Approximately one third of the land lies within the Audubon Society’s Roan Mountain Important Bird Area (IBA). According to Audubon, the Roan IBA is one of North Carolina's most important sites for Northern Saw-whet Owls and one of the most significant sites in the southern Appalachians for Magnolia Warbler. Other key species include: Alder Flycatcher, Willow Flycatcher, Red Crossbill, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Veery, Canada Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler and Golden-crowned Kinglet.
The land also offers connection to vestiges of history and local mountain culture. SAHC purchased the property from descendants of Jerry Hughes, who moved into the valley in the late 1800s. Reportedly, Jerry Hughes named the stream “Roaring Creek” because it was so noisy.
“The land has been in my family close to 100 years,” said landowner Chris Hughes. “I believed that the SAHC would be a good route for us to go, and would preserve what to me is a sacred mountain for future generations long after we all are dust. This is my heritage, it is in my very genetic code, and no one can possibly know how much this place means to me.”
The 142-acre acquisition builds upon SAHC’s conservation work across the Roaring Creek Valley and Roan Highlands. Over the past several decades, SAHC and its partners have worked to conserve tens of thousands of acres in this area.
The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy is a non-profit land trust headquartered in Asheville, North Carolina. Since 1974, SAHC has protected over 71,000 acres of unique plant and animal habitat, clean water, farmland and places for outdoor recreation of the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina.
Community contributor Angela Shepherd is the communications director for the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.