Mountain land to be added to U.S., N.C. forests

Nov. 14, 2013 @ 10:01 AM

A conservation group recently sold the state 250 acres of forest in the Globe Township and is nearing completion of a sale of another 212 acres nearby to the federal government.
They are portions of more than 750 acres known as Backbone Ridge, including the headwaters of the Johns River and tributaries of Wilson Creek, that The Conservation Fund bought in the region to protect them from development, said Bill Holman, North Carolina state director for The Conservation Fund, which is based in Arlington, Va. The land is part of the “viewshed” visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
“This has been a very popular project, particularly in Blowing Rock,” he said.

Because the Johns River and Wilson Creek feed into the Catawba River and Lake Rhodhiss, the land also is important for the water supply for Lenoir and much of Caldwell County.
The 250-acre parcel toward the ridge line that was sold to the N.C. Forest Service in October for nearly $1.9 million will become a demonstration forest after the state establishes a formal plan, with input from the public, Holman said.
The 212-acre parcel, near the bottom of the ridge, is being sold for $1 million to the U.S. Forest Service for addition to Pisgah National Forest, Holman said.
The Conservation Fund will still own 288 acres there, the only acreage left in the area that is not already part of public lands. The N.C. Forest Service eventually plans to buy 90 acres of that for about $1.2 million, public information officer Brian Haines said. The rest would be sold to the federal government.
The Conservation Fund has preserved 7 million acres in all 50 states.
The Conservation Fund first bought a 569-acre portion of Backbone Ridge in July 2009 for approximately $7.6 million, then a small tract just under 32 acres was purchased for $381,000 in December, and the final, 153-acre parcel was purchased for $1 million in June 2010, bringing the total purchase to more than $8.9 million. The property belonged to Keith Brown, who initially planned to develop the property, but when the real estate market suffered, Holman said, Brown sold to The Conservation Fund instead.
Eventually, Holman said, trails could connect Grandfather Mountain, Blowing Rock, Wilson Creek and Pisgah National Forest through the ridge, with full public access.
Michael Teague of the N.C. Forest Service, said it will be four to five years until the land is fully opened to the public. The main focus of the project is the protection of the headwaters for various streams in the area, he said, but that the land would eventually be opened for hunting and other recreational uses.