Protecting the Blue Ridge Mountains & Foothills
Fourteen years ago, a small group of people looked up at the majestic waves of blue mountains rising from the North Carolina foothills, saw another disturbing wave of huge clear-cuts and mountain-top subdivisions, and decided to form a new land trust dedicated to preserving and protecting the region’s many special natural areas, unbroken forests, bountiful watersheds and farm lands.
Today, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, has permanently protected more than 45,000 acres across the eastern flank of the Blue Ridge Mountains and their foothills, a record among North Carolina’s 25 regional land trusts.
By far the majority of these protected lands are now owned and accessible by you, and by all the citizens of North Carolina, and crisscrossed with marked and unmarked trails leading to some of western North Carolina’s most special places. The place names are familiar, some iconic: Chimney Rock and Hickory Nut Gorge, Wilson Creek, Linville Gorge and the Linville River, Mountain-to-Sea Trail, Over Mountains Victory Trail, South Mountains, Johns River, Catawba River, Broad River, Lake James, Catawba Falls.
With the support of many, including Carolina Mountain Club members, Foothills Conservancy has partnered with N.C. State Parks to expand and/or create three state parks – South Mountains, Lake James, and most recently Chimney Rock.
Partnering with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and others, Foothills Conservancy has added tens of thousands of acres to the state’s wildlife game lands and fisheries, in the South Mountains, above Lake James and below the Linville Gorge, along the Johns and Catawba rivers, and most recently along more than four miles of National Wild & Scenic Wilson Creek.
Foothills Conservancy and its partners also expanded Pisgah National Forest above Lake James and below the Linville Gorge by almost 4,500 acres and added land to the Blue Ridge Parkway above Linville Falls, altogether protecting more than two miles of the Linville River along with vital watersheds and portions of the historic Revolutionary War National Over Mountain Victory Trail.
In the headwaters of the Catawba River near Old Fort, Foothills Conservancy has protected almost 1,400 acres as a conservancy-owned preserve, through easements with private landowners and by buying and holding for transfer in 2010 the property that provides trail access to spectacular Catawba Falls in Pisgah National Forest.
The land trust also works with willing landowners of farms and forests and has thus far protected almost 1,900 acres with permanent conservation easements. New outreach efforts are aimed at protecting even more of the region's "working" farms and forests in years to come.
“We have so many special and beautiful places in our land trust region,” says Susie Hamrick Jones, Foothills Conservancy’s executive director. “We, our staff, board and volunteers, members and supporters, are caretakers of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the wildlife and waters they shelter. No other nonprofit can do the unique work of a land trust, working with communities and land owners to permanently protect their most special lands and waters. Our work is leaving a legacy of protected lands across our region, and it depends on the support and assistance of people who live in, visit and love this area,” she says. “We look forward to working with the Carolina Mountain Club and other groups to permanently protect and steward even more of these mountains and hills in years to come.”
Foothills Conservancy is headquartered in Morganton and provides land trust services for an eight-county region including Rutherford, McDowell, Burke, Caldwell, Alexander, Catawba, Lincoln and Cleveland. Find out more about Foothills Conservancy and donate on-line at "http://www.foothillsconservancy.org" www.foothillsconservancy.org or by calling 828-437-9930.
Foothills Conservancy is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit. Tax-deductible membership gifts and other contributions may also be sent by mail to PO Box 3023, Morganton, NC, 28680. Become a “Friend” of Foothills Conservancy with a membership gift of $35 or more and receive bi-annual newsletters, monthly e-newsletters and updates, and invitations to special outings and events. Most importantly, you will receive on-the-ground protection and public access to some of North Carolina’s most beautiful places.