The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC), an organization that works towards protecting land and wildlife in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, recently transferred 91 acres to the USDA Forest Service. This transaction adds to the public lands just south of the Carvers Gap area on the North Carolina and Tennessee border.
Prominent in views, the 91 acres are collectively known as the Roan Mountain Gateway and are the last privately-owned land on NC Hwy 261 leading up to Carvers Gap. Its views from Round Bald and Jane Bald are iconic locations along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in the Highlands of Roan.
“This is a beautiful tract of land within the Highlands of the Roan that can now be enjoyed by all and seen from scenic viewpoints along the Appalachian Trail,” stated Jen Barnhart, Appalachian District Ranger with Pisgah National Forest, in a press release. “We are proud to be the stewards of this land among a majestic part of the Pisgah National Forest that was secured collaboratively with SAHC and support from Mitchell County Commissioners. Additionally, the local communities will benefit with the protection of the headwaters of Carvers Gap Creek, an NC classified ‘high-quality water’ stream that contributes to providing drinking water to North Carolina residents.”
The Roan Mountain Gateway is located within the Audubon Society’s Roan Mountain Important Bird Area and is considered to contain a high-elevation habitat. It includes restored habitat for neo-tropical migratory birds such as the Golden-winged Warblers along with headwater tributaries that flow into local trout streams.
“As part of the Roan Massif—a compact collection of connected mountains—preservation of the land contributes to protection of ecologically sensitive, globally important ecosystems,” SAHC stated on their website. “Headwater tributaries of Carvers Gap Creek, which flows into the North Toe River, originate on the property.”
The surrounding landscapes offer scenic views from over 5,200 feet of elevation. According to the SAHC and the U.S. Forest Service, opening public access to this land will hopefully alleviate impacts from overcrowding at Carvers Gap.
“I fell in love with the Roan Highlands at first sight, and I’m not alone in this sentiment,” Michelle Pugliese, SAHC’s land protection director stated in a press release. “The section of the Appalachian Trail running through the Roan has experienced a huge increase in visitation over recent years, leading to some damage to the fragile ecosystem. The Roan Mountain Gateway property lies just below Carvers Gap and is a valuable addition to Pisgah National Forest. In addition to its biological significance, it can provide an alternative location to hike and enjoy long-range scenic views, helping to reduce the impact of visitation on the nearby Southern Appalachian grassy balds.”
The land was purchased by SAHC between 2014 and 2016 to begin managing the land to protect wildlife habitats and clean water sources. The funds that the Land and Water Conservation Fund is what made the transfer to the USDA Forest Service possible.
Photo of Large Sitting Rocks Overlook Jane Bald – Courtesy of Getty Images by