This landscape contains some of the most stunning beauty found in our state, from the 11-mile long Smoke Hole gorge along the South Branch of the Potomac, to the dramatic, 4000+-ft. peaks on North Fork Mountain.
Because of its proximity to the large eastern metropolitan areas, this landscape is rapidly changing. Vacation home developments have already spread across four of North Fork Mountain’s eight highest peaks. In the 1990s, limestone quarrying destroyed the region’s highest quality cedar glade and another quarry currently may threaten the region’s most significant cave. Settlement has already eliminated over 95% of the limestone forests of eastern North America and now aggressive non-native weeds are invading the remaining patches, including one of the largest remaining blocks, found in the Smoke Hole.
Building on the success of the Campaign to Save North Fork Mountain (concluded in 1998), The Conservancy has completed a detailed conservation plan for this area. In addition to moving forward with traditional acquisition and protection of core parcels, our plan includes researching and restoring key ecological processes such as fire, reducing competition from non-native weeds, and creating a deeper public understanding of this landscape’s ecological values and conservation needs. We will also work closely with the Forest Service to promote ecologically compatible management of National Forest lands and with private landowners to provide guidance for conservation activities on their properties.