All Current News, Events and Hikes

Come outside with CMLC on July 15 for a hike and adventure at Fryingpan Mountain! This hike will offer breathtaking views of much of the land CMLC protects in Henderson and Transylvania counties. 

The Fryingpan Mountain lookout tower is one of the tallest in western North Carolina, standing 70 feet above the summit. It was constructed in 1941 by the US Forest Service. This lookout tower was actively staffed for fire detection until the early 1990s when its use was decommissioned by the US Forest Service.

From the top of the lookout tower, view expanses of beautiful, undeveloped natural landscape. To view lands that CMLC has protected, look east and southeast. On the horizons and successive ridges below, many CMLC conservation projects are visible on a clear day including (from left to right) Little Pisgah Mountain (Florence Nature Preserve), Bearwallow Mountain, Shumont Mountain (Weed Patch Mountain & Chimney Rock State Park), Sugarloaf Mountain (Chimney Rock State Park), Queen Creek Mountain (Deerfields), Sharpy Mountain (Mountain Meadows at Turkeypen), and Rich Mountain (Camp High Rocks). More CMLC conserved land is visible farther below in the French Broad River valley as well as DuPont State Recreational Forest.

This hike is 1.4 miles round-trip and a total elevation gain of 400 feet. The hike is considered moderate difficulty and starts just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

This hike is FREE and open to the public! There is no cap to registration. However, RSVP is required! You may CLICK HERE to access the hike registration form. 

“It helps to tickle the toes,” says Kate Lis as she holds up a milkweed plant and works to loosen up its compact root system fresh out of the plastic planting container. It is a hot, clear day in June and a group of students are gathered around Lis, an AmeriCorps Project Conserve stewardship associate at Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, taking note of the planting process.

They eagerly grab their own plants, “tickle the toes”, dig a shallow hole in the soil and plant the small, green, leafy plant in the two pollinator garden beds that Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) has installed at Isaac Dickson Elementary School in Asheville.

CMLC, a nonprofit that permanently conserves, cares for and connects people to the natural wonders of western North Carolina, is working with schools and organizations to plant pollinator gardens in our local community.

“I shy away from calling them pollinator gardens,” says CMLC Land Protection Director Tom Fanslow, “Because they aren’t just for pollinators, they’re for people, too.”

This is evident by the students’ enthusiasm and passion for planting these gardens.

“We need pollinators so the flowers and plants can keep producing and keep making stuff,” says Ella Root, a fourth grader at Isaac Dickson Elementary, as she waters a freshly planted milkweed bed.

“Milkweed is important so the monarch butterflies don’t go extinct," she adds. "It’s the only plant where the monarchs will lay their eggs and that the caterpillars will eat. They lay their eggs on the milkweed and their eggs are like little tiny white dots almost. When they hatch, if there’s nothing for the caterpillar to eat, it’ll die. If it dies, that’s one less of them in the environment.”

Ella is right. And, the monarch’s journey doesn’t stop there. Every fall monarch butterflies in the eastern United States migrate to the oyamel fir forests of the Sierra Madre mountains in central Mexico to stay comfortable through the winter. A monarch butterfly may travel 3,000 miles until it settles in the relief of Mexico.

Monarchs and other pollinators are true heroes of our ecosystem. Butterflies, birds, bees, bats and other animals play a significant role in the production of more than 150 food crops in our country—from almonds, apples and alfalfa to melons, plums and squash. We have pollinators to thank for every three bites of food. They also provide a means for our native plants to reproduce and thrive.

For Nina Veteto, a kindergarten teacher at FernLeaf Charter School in Fletcher and founder of the education and conservation-focused nonprofit Monarch Rescue, it is more about helping kids connect to the monarch in a meaningful way that will ultimately translate into care and concern for the environment.

“We started this monarch project in the fall. We raised the caterpillars, tagged the butterflies (helping to track their long flight south), and released them and the kids were so excited and so engaged,” says Veteto. “What was so great was we were able to reconnect to all that knowledge we had built in the fall through our spring planting partnership with CMLC.”

CMLC donated milkweed, assisted with site prep, and led a discussion with students on the importance of land stewardship at FernLeaf in March. Every grade level and all 170 students had an opportunity to come out and plant.

Within a month, there were eggs on the milkweed. The milkweed leaves were brought into the classroom with eggs scattered on their undersides. Beginning as tiny spheres of life, the caterpillars hatch and grow.

Just like Eric Carle’s classic children’s book, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”, the caterpillars consume more and more resources as they mature, hungrily gorging on a bounty of milkweed, they take in what they can before it is time to metamorphose. The students observed the transformation from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis (similar to a cocoon) to adult butterfly, again.

“It came through the seasons, full circle in a way that was a very powerful learning experience for the kids,” says Veteto. “A lot of times in schools you teach something and you move on and it doesn’t come up again, but this was just a really neat way to spiral back and see the whole thing happen again in the spring. The kids loved it. They got connected to plants and animals in a profound way that wouldn’t have happened without the partnership with CMLC.”

Lis explains that CMLC’s aim is to weave a big picture understanding of the complexities in our global ecosystem and how humans play a leading role that cannot be ignored. “With enough conservational groundwork, especially with the help of these ecologically-minded schools, these kids can realize their own potential to create sustainable change,” shares Lis.

The intention is to expand from milkweed to a variety of native pollinator plants, so students understand the connection between the pollinators and their evolution with these plants. There are specific pollinators that will only pollinate specific native plants. It is all part of an incredibly fragile web; its stability is threatened by factors like habitat fragmentation and loss, non-native invasive species, pollution, pesticide use and climate change.

“Without pollinators, a lot of plants couldn't really grow and flower and fruit,” says Jacob Portanova, a fourth grader at FernLeaf. “It’s fun because you get to see how it goes from one little seed to huge, huge beautiful flowers. It’s an extension of life. It’s not just cool to watch, it’s helping with the learning environment and you get to see it go through all the stages.”

Partnering with schools is a priority for CMLC. Not only is there a community need, there is underutilized space on school grounds and the opportunity to educate—in a real hands-on way—the importance of pollinators and native plants. Our basic needs are being met as a human race because of these little critters that most of us go through our day without noticing.

“With our food and pollinator crisis in the culture of 2017, we feel that everyone should have access to food and understand more about pollination, and we’re using our school grounds as a demonstration and launching pad for our community to share,” says Joan Pinegar, garden coordinator at Isaac Dickson Elementary.

While Isaac Dickson Elementary has been planting gardens for decades, the partnership with CMLC is new.

“We want to help allied organizations like CMLC, anyone who wants to share food and pollination messages, launch successes through our grounds at our school,” Pinegar says. “It’s important for kids to learn about native plants and pollinators, because they are the ones who will be able to take control of the situation that is dire.

"Climate change, fracking, habitat loss for animals, pollinators declining every year… you could go on and on about the impact of human consumption," she adds. "Our students talk about this every day.”

Pinegar believes opportunity is boundless when schools, local organizations and businesses partner. “It’s just getting folks to understand that we can use school grounds to enhance the classroom and Common Core (educational initiative), and the community as a whole with real tangible projects,” says Pinegar.

CMLC has expanded its pollinator gardens to include a previously unused piece of land adjacent to the Ironwood Square Business Park on Case Street in Hendersonville, where its office is located along with The Free Clinics of Hendersonville and the Children and Family Resource Center.

Fanslow is optimistic about the ability to make a positive impact. “How people manage their backyards can make a world of difference for pollinators, and by adding milkweed next to the patio we can join in helping preserve the 3,000-mile migration of monarch butterflies for our kids."

CMLC Hike to Bursted Rock in Headwaters State Forest

Join us on Tuesday, June 20th, for a group hike to Bursted Rock, a scenic viewpoint on the Blue Ridge Escarpment.  

Protecting the headwaters of the East Fork of the French Broad River was initiated by CMLC and its landowner, former Congressman Charles Taylor, in 2009. The undeveloped property—the largest remaining contiguous private tract in western NC—is teeming with waterfalls, 25 miles of trout streams, mountain bogs hosting rare species, and more than nine miles of the venerable Foothills Trail.

Acquisition of phases of this land by CMLC and its partners the NC Forest Service and The Conservation Fund have led to the creation of Headwaters State Forest, NC’s newest state forest. The new Forest now consists of about 6,000 acres of publicly-owned and protected land. Partners are striving to add 2,000 more acres to complete the project in the coming years.

We will be hiking along the Foothills Trail from Gum Gap to Bursted Rock and back. The total hiking distance is 5.2 miles (round-trip). The total elevation gain is 1,200 feet. This is a strenuous hike! 

The Headwaters State Forest Hike is also a part of Hiking Challenge 4, making this a wonderful opportunity to cross off one of the hikes on your  Challenge. 

This hike is FREE and open to the public! There is no cap to registration. However, RSVP is required! You may CLICK HERE to access the hike registration form. 

One hundred thirty-nine. That’s how many individual easement properties Deb Parmer turned into easement summary folders. She researched each individual property, tracked down all the pertinent information needed to take into the field, and consolidated paperwork from immense binders. With properties dating back to 1996 there was a lot of information to go through, and the older the property, the more information. 
On average how long did each property take? “Only about 30 minutes,” Deb nonchalantly replies. To put it in perspective, Deb started this project in June 2016 and finished in March 2017. She came in to the CMLC office every week for at least an hour and half. 
Deb’s can-do attitude is a huge asset to CMLC and we are thankful to have her on board. Deb became a member in 2014 when she and her husband moved from Michigan and discovered the Pardee & CMLC White Squirrel Hiking Challenge. Shortly after, she began regularly volunteering. When she is not helping CMLC, she is volunteering with Blue Ridge Humane Society, hanging out with her pup, Finn, or gardening while strategically avoiding poison ivy and ground bees. 
These easement summaries will be presented to other land managers like the Forest Service. When an easement property is up for sale, the information can assist the realtor by covering basic questions about the terms of the easement. We could go on and on about our gratitude for Deb and this massive project, but Torry Nergart, our Conservation Easement Manager, sums it up best. “It’s a win-win-win.” 

Bud Hunter had a tremendous love of the outdoors. Growing up in Hendersonville, he would fish the trickling creeks and winding rivers and hike the lush forests and rolling mountains.

Bud, who passed away in July 2016, and his wife Randy, have called Glassy Mountain—a densely wooded property adjacent to the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site—their home for almost 45 years. It has the feeling of a sheltered cove with the surrounding mountains offering a warm embrace.

They raised their two boys on the land, who quickly picked up their father’s passion for the outdoors. They spent their childhood running through the woods, climbing on top of boulders, and even getting into a bit of mischief.

Randy recounts a time when the boys thought it would be a good idea to light a fire in a hollowed tree. She smiles as she shares that the boys’ Christmas money was donated to the local fire department that year.

Their mountain home in Flat Rock is teeming with life. Oak, poplar, hemlock, pine, ash, chestnut, persimmon, rhododendron, azaleas, mountain laurel, blueberries… a little bit of everything flourishes on the 100-acre property. Turkey, bear, deer, green salamanders and a myriad of birds frequent and live amongst the forest and creek, fondly named Whiskey Creek, as it once served as the site of a government still.

“For anyone paying attention, the amount of pristine land is shrinking all the time and Bud and I both felt like it was important that future generations could enjoy land that is not developed. That is not built on,” shares Randy.

It was no surprise then when Bud was approached by Connie Backlund in the early 2000s (then Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site Superintendent) about including their land in a new proposed authorized boundary, that he was happy to be a part of it.

The park began a dedicated process of working with the community and partners, next door, near and far engaging in a community planning process for what the future of the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site would look like. During that process the park looked at its boundaries and neighboring boundary land parcels. Some boundary areas were fully developed with subdivisions, but some key areas still featured pristine, undeveloped views as you look across the pastures and up through and out of the park.

“It’s important that if ever a landowner might want to sell to the National Park Service, in order to do that, their land has to be within an authorized boundary,” shares Backlund, who served as the park’s superintendent from 1994-2012. “It does not require that they ever sell or do anything with the Federal Government. It gives you one added option as a landowner.”

Bud was receptive and didn’t stop there. On a map at that meeting with Backlund he outlined a bowtie shape that he thought would be a good potential piece of his property to conserve one day. He had served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the North Carolina Nature Conservancy and understood the importance of saving special places.

Bud and Randy worked with Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) to permanently conserve that 50-acre bowtie. It provides the opportunity for the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site to expand its hiking trail network to help more families get active and explore the forest together. It also helps protect scenic views and an extensive system of rock outcroppings, a rare natural habitat.

“Helping to protect the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, a beloved local treasure, from encroachment was critically important to us,” says Randy. “This presented an opportunity—and Bud was the one who thought about it and came up with it—of adding on to something that was already protected and just enhancing what was already there.”

The Carl Sandburg home is a place of immense tranquility and natural beauty. Carl Sandburg, “a poet of the people”, was inspired to write one-third of his work in this serene, pastoral setting. Today, it is a place where folks go to connect with the simplicity of nature and learn about one of America’s most remarkable and timeless poets.

“I think that especially today, but it has always been true, that connecting with nature is the healthy way to be and to have a way to do it with family,” shares Randy. “Bud’s idea behind this was to give people who normally wouldn’t have access to this much outdoors, to be able to see what’s here and enjoy it. There’s certainly a healing quality in nature and being outside. It’s just a way to share without giving it up. It wasn’t just protecting it for us; it was reaching out and sharing. That was a wonderful way he had about him.”

Randy loves the lush environment and peace that our region provides. An avid gardener, she feels right at home among the plants and flowers. Along with Bud, she shares a great sense of gratitude to call this place home.

“Protecting land requires patience and dedication and I just want to sing the praises of the Hunter family for following up on what Bud had envisioned, and what I understand was very meaningful to him,” shares Backlund. “That the Hunter family continued those wishes after Mr. Hunter passed away. What a great legacy and tribute to him.” 

AmeriCorps Project Conserve’s Summer of Service is a youth development initiative to engage 17-19 year olds of backgrounds typically underrepresented in environmental fields of study and work. Participants will have the opportunity to develop leadership, life, and work skills through a summer of service focused on environmental stewardship.
From June 19-August 18, Jason Brandyburg, Bailey Allen, Fernando Baruch, Abdul Derios, and Jordan Kirkland will work to build and maintain trails, and to restore habitat on natural lands in our area.
Members will complete at least 300 hours of service—each incorporating training and skill development activities in addition to direct outdoor service. The program is designed to help build confidence, trust, teamwork, environmental and service-oriented ethics, and to introduce participants to educational and career paths they may not have otherwise considered.
“This summer, the team will connect to and improve CMLC’s beautiful lands and trail network, while getting to know one another through experiential learning projects,” shares Tony Beurskens, Summer of Service Program Coordinator. “We will continue to explore the depths of our own potential within the reaches of our team dynamic, building employment skills through experiences in our wild lands of WNC.”
One of the program’s partners is Hood Huggers, an Asheville-based nonprofit that offers sustainable strategies for building support pillars for historically African American neighborhoods. Strategies incorporate the arts, social enterprise, and the environment, building a culture of stability that is inclusive and economically just. 
Summer of Service members will partner with Hood Huggers at the Burton Street Community Peace Gardens. 
“In neighborhoods that have a history of trauma, it’s important that we have green spaces that incorporate the outdoors, food and arts all into one,” says DeWayne Barton, Founder and CEO. “To be able to maintain these spaces and let them be the “A” in the alphabet, the doorway introducing urban youth to the greater outdoors, that bring people gradually that are not used to going in the woods, that don’t know much about nature, it’s creating that in our community.” 
“The Peace Gardens are a healing space designed to launch people up in any direction they want to go and there would be a base of support, a place of social and environmental justice,” adds DeWayne.
Summer of Service participants will be educated about the Peace Gardens, why they exist and why they’re important in the community. Projects in the gardens will likely include tangible work—building a shelter or piece of infrastructure—that creates a sense of pride, ownership and accomplishment for these young adults.

Peter Barr, Trails Coordinator at Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC), was honored by North Carolina's 23 land trusts as the state’s 2017 Rising Leader of the Year. The NC Land Trust Council awards are given annually to individuals and organizations that lead efforts to protect the state's streams and lakes, forests, and trails that help provide safe drinking water, clean air, local foods, and abundant recreational opportunities to North Carolina families.

Barr has served in multiple roles at CMLC since joining its staff in 2010, including Communications and Outreach Coordinator and Program Coordinator of AmeriCorps Project Conserve. He now leads the organization’s sustainable trails and recreational lands program. For five years beginning in 2011, he authored more than 60 Stories of the Land columns —highlighting the deep human connection to conserved land--which appeared in Sunday editions of Hendersonville Times-News. He has also led more than 50 hikes on the land trust’s protected locales.

Seeking to facilitate connection of people directly to the land, his current role plans, designs, builds, and manages sustainable trails in areas protected by CMLC. Nearly 20 miles of new public recreational trails have been developed under Barr’s leadership since 2010, particularly in the Hickory Nut Gorge where he is heading an effort to implement an 80-mile trail network linking protected natural lands surrounding Chimney Rock State Park, Lake Lure, and Gerton.

The awards were announced last week at the annual North Carolina Land Trust Assembly at Hendersonville’s Kanuga Conference Center. Barr was nominated by Lynn Killian, CMLC’s Development Director.

“Peter’s love of the mountains is infectious and his passion is unbridled.  When you combine that with his impressive skill set, his expansive knowledge of conservation, and his willingness to work tirelessly to fulfill conservation successes, you get a future conservation leader par excellence,” said Killian.

When it comes to our food systems, pollinators such as bees, butterflies, wasps, flies, bats and hummingbirds are true heroes. About 35% of our planet's food crops depend on insects and animals and 75% of the world's flowering plants rely on natural pollinators for their survival. That makes pollinators extremely important. Selecting native, pollinator-friendly plants not only helps increase the diversity of your garden, it adds a new splash of color and livelihood by attracting these important pollinators! Check out this list of 10 western North Carolina native plants that we recommend.

Spring Bloom

New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus)

New Jersey Tea attracts butterflies with its flowers and birds with its seeds. It is a nitrogen-fixing shrub with small, white flower clusters that bloom in March and April. It prefers shade to part shade, and dry to moist sandy or loamy soils. New Jersey Tea has a high drought tolerance and easily adapts to inhospitable conditions.


White wild indigo (Baptisia alba)

White wild indigo attracts butterflies, native bees, and bumble bees. It is a legume with small pea-like white flowers that bloom in April and May. It can tolerate full sun to partial shade, and dry or moist acidic soil. B. alba can tolerate heat, seasonal flooding, and clay soils.


Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Purple coneflower is a great nectar source for butterflies and hummingbirds. Coneflowers start blooming in early to mid-summer and repeat bloom through frost. They may take a break after their initial bloom period, but they will quickly set more flower buds. They will tolerate partial shade, but plants may flop or strain to reach the sun. Purple coneflower prefers dry, well-drained sandy or richer soils.


Scarlet Bee balm (Monarda didyma)

Bee balm attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds with a cluster of red, tubular flowers that can bloom from May to October, depending on elevation. It prefers full sun to part shade and rich, moist, acidic soils. Bee balm is cold tolerant and moderately deer tolerant.


Summer Bloom

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Milkweed is the only plant that monarch butterflies will lay eggs on because caterpillars will only consume milkweed leaves. It grows 3-5 feet, has fragrant pink to purplish umbels, and can have up to 100 flowers per umbel. Milkweed blooms from June-August. It prefers full sun and moist soil.


Narrow leaf mountain mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium)

Narrow leaf mountain mint attracts butterflies and bees with its flowers, and birds and other animals eat the seeds. It has silvery foliage and its small, white flowers bloom from July to September. Mountain mint prefers full sun to part shade, dry or moist soils, and is tolerant of drought, erosion, clay, and shallow rocky soil.


Fall Bloom

Common Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)

Boneset is a nectar source for butterflies and will grow to 2-4 feet with showy, bright white inflorescences from mid-summer into mid-fall. Boneset prefers partial shade to full sun, though it is tolerant of both. Moist, rich soil will provide the best medium, although Boneset is somewhat drought tolerant during the summer months.


Purple Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum)

Joe-pye weed is an important source for bees, attracting them with fragrant, pink to purple flowers that bloom from July to September. It prefers full sun to partial shade and likes to be kept somewhat moist in average to rich soil. Joe-pye weed will even tolerate wet soil conditions, but not overly dry sites. Due to its large size, it makes a great background plant but also needs plenty of room to grow.


Common ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata)

Common ironweed attracts butterflies, including monarchs, with its nectar and is the larval host for the American painted lady butterfly. It has perennial purple flowers that bloom from July to September. Ironweed can grow in full sun, part shade, and full shade, and grows in moist to wet areas. Ironweed has an excellent vertical presentation in the garden.


Goldenrod (Solidago altissima / S. rugosa)

Goldenrod attracts butterflies with its yellow flowers that bloom from September to November. It prefers full sun and tolerates various soil types as long as it’s well-draining. Goldenrod care is minimal once established in the landscape, with plants returning each year. They require little, if any watering, and are drought tolerant. Goldenrod is usually blamed for seasonal allergies, but allergies are actually caused by ragweed, which has a similar bloom time.

Join CMLC (CMLC) on Saturday, May 20th, 2017, for a guided hike through the scenic Johnson Branch CMLC conservation easement in Transylvania County. This hike has been one of CMLC's most popular hikes from previous years, featuring a picturesque 68-acre property conserved by the Jones family through CMLC in 2009.

The hike will be led by the landowners David Jones, who will tour hikers on his CMLC-protected property as well as tell the story of the land and the close connection that he shares with it. This property is not otherwise open to the public for hiking.

Hikers will enjoy a short but strenuous 3.3-mile hike that includes six stunning waterfalls waterfalls, a beautiful rich cove forest, and a scenic view high above the French Broad River valley. The total elevation gain for this hike is 815 feet.  

This hike is limited to 25 participants and is open to CMLC members only

RSVP is required. To sign up: CLICK HERE.  

Once you have successfully registered for the hike you will receive an email with additional details, including meeting time and place, 2 days before the hike. 

You made a huge difference in 2016! Your dollars helped build 7.2 miles of new trails, helped treat 418 hemlock trees from the invasive Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, helped conserve more than 3,816 acres, and helped teach 28 nature-themed lessons to the Boys & Girls Club of Henderson and Transylvania Counties. Thank you for making this work possible! 

Click Here or on the image to read our 2016 Annual Report.


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