Sunset over the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Blue Ridge Sunset The sun setting over the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. © Dennis Oakley

Stories in North Carolina

Southern Blue Ridge

CAMPAIGN

 Adding Expertise and Building On Our History

The Our World campaign is an opportunity to expand The Nature Conservancy's influence in Western North Carolina and add to a large area of protected property that has been a big part of our work over the past decades.

"Our long-term strategy is to conduct landscape-scale forest restoration. The two tools that we use are controlled burning and silviculture," Southern Blue Ridge Program Director Megan Sutton explains.

Bog Turtle
Tiny Turtles The critically endangered bog turtle is the smallest turtle in North America. Much of their habitat has been developed and drained. © Mike Knoerr

"We have the fire knowledge, but we don't have the forestry expertise that we need in-house. The long-term management plans for the national forests are going to have goals and metrics that include removing timber to improve forest health. We don't have experience in the commercial economics of forestry." Sutton says.

The new forester position will work with private landowners to advise them on how to restore and manage their property and will help move restoration to scale.

TNC will also build on years of work in the New River headwaters in Ashe and Watauga counties. Over the past three decades TNC has protected lands at the source of one of the world's oldest rivers helping to ensure that it is near pristine before it flows north through Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia—building a strong network of conserved lands that include new state parks, state game lands as well as preserves the Conservancy still owns.

One potential campaign acquisition is home to the world's largest population of spreading avens, a federally endangered plant that is only found in a small portion of the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. Another tract is a mountain bog that has a sizeable population of bog turtles. Adults grow to just four inches, making them the smallest North American turtle.

"This is a really cool place," Sutton acknowledges. "Bogs are small, but they are ecologically critical."