Decades of determination are paying off for the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) who, just two weeks ago, purchased 324 acres of terrain to preserve and protect the breathtaking views atop Hump Mountain. The founders of the conservancy first contacted the private owner of Hump Mountain, Oscar Julian, to show their interest in preserving the land in 1967.

On a northbound trek along the Appalachian Trail, the recently protected property is visible directly to the left, covering the northern slopes of Hump Mountain. Photo by: Michelle Pugliese

The acreage lies just 500 feet from the Appalachian Trail, adjoining the Cherokee National Forest and Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area in the Roan Highlands of Tennessee.

The permanent protection of this land was a project of high priority for the SAHC as well as the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service. This section of Hump Mountain was, for years, the missing puzzle piece as a tremendous 1,400 acres on the NC side of the mountain were purchased during the 1980s by the U.S. Forest Service with help from the SAHC.

This particular section of the Roan Highlands is well known in the hiking community for its stellar 360-degree views. As many thru-hikers ascend the ridges of Hump Mountain, they have ventured through long stretches of wooded areas, making this land a slice of heaven for all who get the chance to stand amongst its grassy meadows.

“Our purchasing this tract ensures that future generations of hikers will be able to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the AT on Hump Mountain in the Roan Highlands,” said SAHC executive director Carl Silverstein.

Not just a victory for the hikers’ experience, the attained land is also a victory for nature as the purchase guarantees to keep any kind of development from tarnishing the landscape’s natural beauty, ecosystems, and thriving wildlife.

The land was previously under the ownership of the Julian family who had a long standing tradition of passing the land from generation to generation. The family had previously turned down offers with the intention to use the land to build a resort area, and decided to give the land over to SAHC for preservation.

“I have so many memories, from camping to picnics and hiking up to the AT with my parents. I will forever cherish and treasure those memories, and they are part of the reason why we are excited to pass this land to SAHC. Its serenity and beauty will remain intact because we are leaving it in good hands,” said Zack Julian, one of the landowners.

The purchase of the property is sure to provide travelers with many recreational opportunities as it is home to habitat resources, the headwaters of Steel Creek and Doll Branch, and is surrounded by bird areas.

Surrounded by Audubon Important Bird areas, the conserved tract will continue to provide habitat for neotropical migratory birds and other wildlife. Photo by: Michelle Pugliese

“The purchase improves public access and will be open to many uses, such as hiking, camping, and hunting.  It’s a conservation home-run and we’re grateful to the Julian family for being such good stewards of this special place,” said Jay Leutze, SAHC President.

The future of the land is looking up as the SAHC intends to own the property until the have the funds for it to become a new addition to the Cherokee National Forest.

“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.

In a time where land is increasingly taken over for mining and drilling throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains, it is an outstanding step forward to see land being permanently protected rather than terminally destroyed.

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