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Celebrate a great year of conservation! Join us on Saturday, August 26th from 4-8 p.m. at Taylor Ranch, a privately-owned 500-acre working Quarter Horse and Texas Longhorn Cattle Ranch in Fletcher, NC. Experience scenic mountain views, gently rolling hills, and a tranquil 7-acre lake as you enjoy an evening with friends that share a deep love for our lands and waters. Proceeds conserve the farms, forests, parks, mountains, streams, and scenery that make our region special.

Become an individual sponsor or make your reservation!

Want to win the trip of your dreams? Trip Raffle tickets are just $100 and only 200 will be sold. The winner chooses from a 7 Day/6 Night Stay For Two in Belize, a 6 Day/5 Night Stay For Two at The Manor on Golden Pond, NH, or a custom-designed trip wherever your heart desires. The winner will be announced on August 26th at the Conservation Celebration, but you do NOT need to be present to win.

Get your Trip Raffle ticket!


 

Did you know land conservation plays a role in minimizing light pollution by ensuring natural lands stay natural and limiting excessive artificial light? We're lucky to have dedicated and passionate landowners who have permanently conserved their lands near and in the path of totality. When the moon passes over the sun and the sky turns dark, your viewing experience is all the better thanks to conservation.

Light pollution not only prevents us from seeing a beautiful night sky, it disturbs the growth cycles of plants, transforms night into day for nocturnal animals, makes it more difficult for migratory birds to find their way, and schools of fish perceive brightly lit bridges as insurmountable barriers. Artificial light also impacts people, postponing the release of the sleep hormone melatonin. This can lead to headaches, fatigue and stress.

By supporting land conservation you're making a difference in keeping night, well, night!

 

Amazing Sights You Can Only See During the Solar Eclipse


Conserved local summer camp provides enriching experiences for today’s youth and beyond.

It’s lunch time at Gwynn Valley Camp. About 220 campers are situated around large, round tables in the newly constructed dining hall. Each table has a counselor that acts as the head of the table, serving generous portions of macaroni and cheese, fruit salad and broccoli picked from the camp’s extensive garden.

After empty plates and full bellies, each person wipes the area in front of them clean. Without missing a beat, the whole table concludes the meal with a unison hand jive and heads outside to perform the post-lunch ritual of shucking ears of corn, also picked from the camp’s garden. That corn is then sent to the back of the kitchen where it will be served for dinner that evening.

Also grown at camp is the corn that ends up at the camp’s grist mill, built in 1890. Campers help grind the kernels into grits or corn meal that will soon be devoured as Johnnycakes and cornbread in the dining hall. Campers are an integral part of this process, from harvesting the produce at the garden to eating the fruits of their labor.

“Gwynn Valley really provides children the chance to see where food comes from in our farm program and also its relationship to raising farm animals,” says Grant Bullard, who owns and directs the camp with his wife, Anne. “It’s a unique part of our program on a true farm-to-table scale. We produce about 65 percent of our food on the Gwynn Valley farm.”

That farm features everything from a huge variety of fresh vegetables to goats, pigs, chickens and cows. The farm cat, Sam, happily keeps away any mice who visit.

When campers aren’t feeding the sow that recently gave birth to 10 piglets (fondly named Beyoncé), or putting one of the chicken eggs in the incubator, they are exposed to an incredible plethora of other activities. Swimming, horseback riding, stand-up paddle boarding, archery, mountain biking, pioneer crafts, rock climbing, outdoor skills…there is truly something for everyone.

“I’ve been looking forward to coming back to camp since the day I left last year,” says Bebe, 12, from Boston. It is Bebe’s sixth year attending Gwynn Valley. Her wrist is decorated with colorful friendship bracelets that she makes at the camp.

“Every single year at the first day of camp when you come into your cabin, the counselors are so kind and give you giant hugs,” Bebe says. “Even when you’re just walking into camp, Anne and Grant are greeting you. You just feel like you’re at home and you don’t have to worry. You can just be yourself.”

Founded in 1935 and nestled between Pisgah National Forest and DuPont State Forest in Transylvania County, Gwynn Valley values simplicity, acceptance, a non-competitive environment and a close connection to the natural world. You won’t hear the chime of a text message or see eyes glued to Facebook. Phones and computers are devices left at home.

“If you’re just walking around and playing on your phone all day, it’s not good for you,” says Crandall, a nine-year-old from Charlotte who has been attending camp for four years. “Sometimes you’ll get a phone and you’ll think that it’s the coolest thing, but really once you get outside a little, you might like that better. That’s what we do here. It’s really fun meeting new people and doing all these activities outside.”

Providing a deeper connection to nature and preserving the outdoor experience for future generations were also priorities of the previous camp owners, Howie and Betty Boyd. Howie and Betty had a strong connection to the land and wanted to keep Gwynn Valley a place that children could enjoy in perpetuity.

In 1995, they partnered with Pacolet Area Conservancy — which recently consolidated with Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and now operates as Conserving Carolina — to permanently conserve 300 acres of the camp. Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy was just getting started and Pacolet Area Conservancy was the go-to land conservancy serving the area.

“Western NC was just beginning to save these lands,” says Grant. “Howie and Betty believed this would really provide the camp with a way to preserve the land to just be used for the education of children.”

“Our lives are not connected to an uncle, aunt or grandparent’s farm or land as it used to be,” adds Grant. “Fewer children are growing up in rural settings and fewer children understand their own relationship with the natural world. Saving lands that keep us connected is so important. Nature is irreplaceable in the short term and preserving the natural environment and land helps to sustain our understanding and relationship with those lands.”

Bebe shares her gratitude that Gwynn Valley is forever conserved, “I would feel bad if future generations didn’t get to attend camp, because camp has been such a big part of my life and I’ve learned so much about nature and friendship,” she says. “I would feel bad because they would be missing out on a lot.”

Gwynn Valley fosters a love of the natural world in its campers, starting at age five. The woods become a place of discovery as campers are introduced to diverse and enriching outdoor experiences in a warm, inclusive setting with fellow campers and staff from all over the world.

Playfulness and creativity enter the scene. No camp is complete without its legends, and Gwynn Valley is no exception. Campers delight in stories of a mystical creature called the Tajar. “He lives up in the tallest tree at Gwynn Valley and he swings around on the branches and sometimes he does mischievous stuff,” says Crandall, with a laugh. “He’s part badger, part tiger ... part raccoon? Part something else.”

“I think he’s part jaguar or something,” says Bebe. “It’s crazy.”

While the makeup of the Tajar may be disputed, Gwynn Valley properly honors the legend with the “Tajar Ball” at the end of each camp session. In a carnival-like setting where everyone is in masquerade, campers socialize, enjoy ice cream and play games, all the while looking around for the Tajar himself to perhaps appear.

“You get off school, get to go to camp and you get a break from your house and get to make new friends,” says nine-year-old Sylvie, with a smile. Sylvie is from Atlanta and is experiencing her first summer at overnight camp. “It’s amazing. It’s our freedom and it’s a lot of fun!”

Camp activity is temporarily interrupted by Thor, a loud horn. Thor — fittingly named after the hammer-wielding mythological Norse god associated with thunder, lightning and storms—warns campers that an afternoon thunderstorm is approaching.

“I just love Gwynn Valley,” says Bebe as she starts to head to her next activity after Thor signals again, indicating the coast is now clear. Sudden shifts in the weather are a common part of summer life in western North Carolina. “I love everything about camp, even the rain.”


Letterboxing Workshop

FRIDAY, JULY 28, 6:00 p.m.

Conserving Carolina Hendersonville Office

 

Join AmeriCorps member Adrienne Brown for a Letterboxing Workshop on Friday, July 28 at 6:00 p.m.  At this workshop, you will learn about the basics of Letterboxing and how to carve your own rubber stamps! But what is letterboxing? To explain it simply, it is like Geocaching met stamp collecting and decided to go on a hike. It is a family-friendly outdoor activity that will help you explore the places you love in a whole new way. Letterboxing fosters a deeper connection with nature and satisfies a natural curiosity, all while also engaging your creative flare!

This Workshop is free and open to the public, but space is limited. You will need to bring your own rubber and carving tool if you would like to participate in the stamp carving portion of the Workshop. For more information email adrienne@carolinamountain.org or call the Conserving Carolina Office at (828) 697-5777 (ext. 220). If you would like to RSVP for the workshop please email Adrienne (adrienne@carolinamountain.org). 


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. 


WANTED: Strong Legs, Positive Attitudes, Wagging Tails

Interested in hiking with your dog while supporting local nonprofits? Well bring your best human or non-human buddy (better yet, both) with you on Saturday, July 8 @ 11:00 AM, for a charity hike down the Oklawaha Greenway.

Proceeds benefit Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy & Blue Ridge Humane Society. The registration is $25 and includes an event shirt. 

Check-in will begin at 10:30 AM at the Patton Park pavilion next to the basketball courts before the walk. (Be on the lookout for directional signs.) All participants–humans and their furry friends–must check in prior to the start of the walk. The walk will begin at 11 AM through Patton Park, with a pit stop and water break at Martin Luther King Park, and then circle back to Patton Park.

Register by visiting: bit.ly/wagandwalk  or by stopping by the registration table the day of the event.

NOTE: The deadline to register in time to have your t-shirt available by July 8 has passed. You may still register for the hike but you will receive your t-shirt after the event. 

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In 2017, CMLC expanded the Ruth Jones Memorial Scholarship to make two $1,500 awards each year - one for a graduating senior at Brevard High School and one for a graduating senior at Rosman High School.

The Ruth Jones Memorial Scholarship was established in 2015 to honor Ruth Elaine Jones. Ruth loved the outdoors and had a deep appreciation of the natural world. She was also actively engaged in the community, known for her willingness to help educate others.

The scholarship in her name provides financial assistance to selected individuals who will be attending an accredited institution and wish to pursue a degree in health or environmental sciences. The students who are honored exemplify her passion for community service and learning.

Kieran Roe, CMLC executive director, proudly presented the scholarships to the awardees at the Transylvania County Scholars Banquet on May 18.

Brevard High School's Halee Thomas of Pisgah Forest received the scholarship. Halee has demonstrated both academic achievement and a commitment to community service. She undertook many honors courses throughout her high school career and received the Transylvania County Scholars award her junior and senior years. Halee became a certified nursing assistant and was certified in vision screening in her senior year while completing several nursing classes and an internship with a registered pharmacist. Halee intends to become a registered nurse through the RIBN program, which is a joint program of Blue Ridge Community College and Western Carolina University.

Rosman High School's Allison Whitmire of Rosman received the other scholarship. Allison has demonstrated both academic achievement and a commitment to community service. She undertook many honors courses throughout her high school career, is a N.C. Scholar and was inducted into the National Technical Honor Society. Whitmire intends to study pre-medicine at Western Carolina University and also intends to become a nurse.

Congratulations to Halee and Allison! We wish you the best for bright and promising futures!  

Halee Thomas (left) and Allison Whitmire (right)


“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.” 

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