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Conservancy transfers 324 acres to Cherokee National Forest

Angela Shepherd, community contributor • Dec 22, 2018 at 4:30 PM

ROAN MOUNTAIN - The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) transferred 324 acres to the Cherokee National Forest. Located on Hump Mountain in the Highlands of Roan, the upper edge of the property extends just 500 feet from the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT). The AT passes across the grassy balds atop Hump Mountain, affording hikers breathtaking 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape.

“This is an outstanding example of how federal, state and private partners can work together to achieve common goals,” said JaSal Morris, Forest Supervisor, Cherokee National Forest. “The purchase is a great addition, not only to the Cherokee National Forest land base, but to the entire National Forest System. It will be managed for protection of its exceptional natural resources and the public’s enjoyment of its scenic beauty.”

SAHC purchased the tract last year in order to permanently protect scenic views and critical wildlife habitat. The property, which adjoins Tennessee’s Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area, had been a conservation priority for SAHC and partners at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and the U. S. Forest Service for decades.

“The AT offers Americans from across the country the ability to experience a piece of history while enjoying the outdoors from Georgia to Maine,” said Wendy K. Janssen, Superintendent of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. “We at the National Park Service are thrilled that the Hump Mountain tract will be preserved and protected as part of the AT landscape. This project is a model for our Landscape Conservation Initiative with the ATC and partners such as SAHC and U.S. Forest Service.”

The land contains exceptional habitat and water resources and is almost entirely surrounded by Audubon Society Important Bird Areas. Golden-winged Warbler and Alder Flycatcher have been identified near the property, and threatened, native Gray’s lily has been observed onsite. The tract contains the headwaters of Shell Creek and unnamed headwater tributaries of Doll Branch, which flow into the Doe River.

“SAHC took a financial risk to buy the Hump Mountain property, using a significant loan from our partners at The Conservation Fund,” explains Michelle Pugliese, SAHC’s land protection director. “The exceptional natural and recreational values of the property gave us confidence that it would qualify for funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to enable the U. S. Forest Service to purchase it from us. The LWCF program has played a critical role in establishing our national forests along the Appalachian Trail corridor. A grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service also helped transfer this property into public ownership. Appalachian Trail hikers and Golden-winged Warblers alike will benefit from this acquisition for generations to come.”

Created by Congress in 1965, LWCF was a bipartisan commitment to safeguard natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage, and to provide close-to-home recreation opportunities to all Americans. It expired in September. Bipartisan efforts continue to call for LWCF reauthorization and full funding.

“Unfortunately Congress allowed the LWCF to expire Sept. 30, after 53 years as America's most successful conservation program,” says Jay Leutze, SAHC Trustee and spokesman for the LWCF coalition. “We certainly hope this project is not the last one we get to do in this treasured landscape. Congress should reauthorize and fully fund the LWCF immediately, before we lose the opportunity to save more places like Hump Mountain.”

“The announcement by the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy that it has transferred 324 acres on Hump Mountain – close to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail – to the Cherokee National Forest is the latest example of the important role the LWCF can play in protecting Tennessee’s outdoors, like it has done for over 50 years,” said Senator Lamar Alexander. “Efforts like these will help further preserve our state’s beautiful land and recreation areas so future generations have the same opportunities to enjoy them as we have.”

The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy is a non-profit land trust. To learn more, visit www.Appalachian.org.

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