News & Events: News

“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."


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.


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.

 


At 89 years old, Dr. Howard Norton climbs into his pickup truck and drives the rutted and narrow four-wheel drive road from his home near the intersection of Hwy 191 and Hwy 280 in Mills River to his cabin a few miles up the mountain.

His thick glasses get a little jostled on the adrenaline-inducing journey, but Norton knows the road’s twists and turns like the back of his hand. He makes this trip three or four times a week.  

The three-bedroom, pine log cabin has offered a peaceful refuge for the retired Mills River physician since the early 1970s. It houses an impressive collection of artifacts Norton has acquired over the years from his travels around the world.

“I’m a collector… or hoarder. Something like that,” Norton says with a chuckle as he shows off one of his 600 bolo ties, a silver piece engrained with the head of a moose that is as eclectic as Norton himself.

Norton’s cabin on the hillside lacks the noise of a telephone or television, just the sounds of lively conversation between family and friends mingled with chirping birds and rustling leaves.

“This whole area is important to me,” says Norton, who recently worked with Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) to permanently protect 91 acres of land on Allen Gap adjacent to his cabin. “When I got out of the office in the afternoon and was tired, I could go up on the mountain and relax.”

Norton would see anywhere from 30 to 40 patients a day, serving as the area’s general practice physician for 37 years until his retirement in 1994. He delivered babies, performed minor surgeries, and alleviated the aches and pains of local residents from his cozy office a stone’s throw away from his home. If someone knocked on his door at 2 a.m., he was available and eager to help.

He continues to run into old patients around town. “They are still really appreciative of me,” says Norton.

“They don’t remember how horrible they felt when they saw me, they just remember me helping them feel better,” he adds, with a smile.

Norton’s love affair with Mills River sparked at a young age. He was born in Spartanburg, S.C. in 1927, and in 1934 his parents purchased a place in Lake Junaluska, N.C. as a summer escape.      

“Going to Junaluska, we discovered we could avoid the traffic of Asheville and get there a little quicker if we went Highway 191 to Enka and over,” says Norton.

“We travelled through Mills River. The corn was higher than a man’s head here. The farmhouses were neat. This was a different place. People took care of their homes and grew good crops. At 10 years old, I decided I wanted to settle here in one of the prettiest valleys in the mountains.”

The Road Back to the Mountains

While studying chemistry at Wofford College in Spartanburg, the draft board chairman approached Norton one Sunday after church. “He said, ‘I’ve got to send you your draft notice this week,’” Norton recalls. “I asked if he could wait until Friday and he agreed.”

Norton finished his class exams by Wednesday, joined the Navy on Thursday and received his draft notice that Friday as promised. He served in the Hospital Corps during WWII, where he got his first dose working in medicine. He was hooked. 

After the war, Norton returned to Wofford and changed his major to pre-med. He went on to medical school in Charleston and worked in Philadelphia and California for brief stints before saving enough money to return to his beloved mountains in western North Carolina with his teenage sweetheart.

“This area is special to me because I raised my kids here and this was my recreational area,” says Norton. “I did not want to see it developed like you see other developments around here. I like mountains. I like trees.”

A Conservation Corridor

Norton and his family arrived in Mills River in the late 1950s, when land was still cheap. But, after living in the area for more than 60 years, he has witnessed significant changes.

“Back in the 1880s, if they built a railway through a town it became a city, if they bypassed it, it remained a little village,” says Norton. “Same happened here with the five lane highway, an airport and an interstate. It all expanded quickly. Acres are now terribly expensive and they’re getting fewer and fewer.”

Norton and his children decided they did not want to ever see their land subdivided, but wanted CMLC to conserve Hoot Owl, a 177-acre tract that borders the property to the north, first.

“I told the Conservancy if they ever got Hoot Owl I’d talk with them about my land, because Hoot Owl continues the undeveloped land on Middle Ridge, with Seniard Creek on one side of the ridge and Hoot Owl on the other,” Norton says.

CMLC successfully acquired Hoot Owl last year and transferred the land to Pisgah National Forest this past January, connecting what had been a separate island to the main body of the National Forest, enhancing outdoor recreation opportunities, protecting our drinking water, and providing critical wildlife habitat. 

“That means there is a swath from the main Pisgah National Forest, through Middle Ridge, through Hoot Owl and me that will never be developed,” says Norton, proudly. “We are thankful and appreciative to the Conservancy for all they do and all they have done for us.”

Norton’s land is part of a chain of three conserved properties. CMLC worked with the Streadwick family to conserve Grey Heaven, the northernmost property that is home to the pure, clear headwaters of Sitton Creek.

Sitton Creek flows through Hoot Owl, through Norton’s property, and into the Mills River, providing drinking water for more than 100,000 households and safeguarding the federally-endangered Appalachian elktoe, a freshwater mussel, and the rare eastern hellbender salamander.

“The quality of the water we drink relies on the people who live on the land it flows through,” says CMLC Land Protection Director Tom Fanslow, who worked on these projects.

“There is a paradigm shift happening in Mills River with these landowners. They are the torchbearers for the generations to come. Dr. Norton and Streadwick, and the other landowners we have worked with in the Mills River area, are setting the standard for conservation for the rest of us to follow.” 

With Hoot Owl transferred to Pisgah National Forest, and Norton and Streadwick’s properties to the north and south conserved and remaining in private ownership, these lands together create a larger conservation corridor and will continue to be in their current natural forested state in perpetuity.

Norton has a sense of peace that his five children, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren will continue to enjoy cookouts at the cabin and walks through the surrounding protected forest for generations to come.

“The area captured my heart when I was seven or eight years old,” says Norton. “And, it has kept it.” 


Position Title:

Summer of Service AmeriCorps Program Coordinator

Reports To:

AmeriCorps Project Conserve Program Director

Position Summary:

The Summer of Service AmeriCorps Program Coordinator is a temporary full-time position responsible for the design and implementation of the pilot year of CMLC’s Summer of Service program, engaging 5 young adult participants in environmental service-learning based primarily in Henderson County. Program participants will gain leadership and work skills while also earning a wage and an education award. The Summer of Service AmeriCorps program will run from June 19-August 18, 2017. The Summer of Service Coordinator position may begin as soon as hired. The Summer of Service program will continue in 2018 dependent on grant funding. 

Key Responsibilities:

• Works with AmeriCorps Project Conserve (ACPC) Program Director and Coordinator and other staff to develop Summer of Service programming for 5 participants ages 17-19

• Coordinates recruitment, application, and selection process of Summer of Service participants

• Provides leadership and support to Summer of Service participants, focusing on mentoring and developing defined core-competencies. Goals of the program include building confidence, trust, camaraderie, and work-ethic among participants

• Oversees day-to-day activities of Summer of Service participants including field work and training days

• Coordinates with CMLC staff to support day-to-day activities of the program. Field work will include: invasive plant management, trail-building, and installation of natural play-scape

• Ensures safety, health and wellbeing of program participants, natural environment, and community

• Work closely with the ACPC Program Director and Coordinator to comply with all AmeriCorps regulations and reporting requirements

• Collects information and prepares reports related to the evaluation and other needs of the Summer of Service program

• Provides recommendations for program improvements

Essential Job Requirements:

EDUCATION

Bachelor’s degree in social work, mental health, education, or related field or comparable work experience.

EXPERIENCE

• Experience working with/leading diverse youth and/or young adults including service learning activities

• Demonstrated leadership experience

• Demonstrated conflict management skills

• Conservation and/or environmental service a plus

• National Service experience a plus

• General office experience demonstrating strong technical skills

REQUIRED SKILLS

Outstanding communication and leadership skills; must be comfortable working outdoors; ability to motivate, inspire, and mentor young adult participants; must have a valid driver’s license, be able to drive a minivan or 15 person van, and have a clean driving record; Must consent to and be cleared through the National Service criminal history check process.

PREFERRED SKILLS

CPR and First Aid; Must be willing to obtain CPR and First Aid certifications if not previously certified.

PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS

• Must be able to lift 50 lbs

• Must be able to hike in strenuous terrain and carry tools

• Must be about to work outdoors in summer heat

• Must be able to do standing work up to 5 hours/day

LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMER

This job description does not represent an exhaustive or comprehensive list of all possible job responsibilities, tasks and duties. Responsibilities, tasks, and duties may differ from the job description, as assigned.

WORK HOURS/COMPENSATION

Full-time, temporary position (exact start and end dates negotiable); 40-45 hours/week average. Pay commensurate with experience; supportive and engaging work environment.

TO APPLY:

Send resume, cover letter, and references by May 5th to:

info@carolinamountain.org

Human Resources

Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy

847 Case Street

Hendersonville, NC 28792

 

Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy is and Equal Opportunity Employer.

Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) prohibits any discrimination in carrying out its mission on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national or ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation or marital status. This includes all programs, projects, events and any other related activity sponsored by CMLC.

CMLC recognizes and honors diverse cultures and traditions. CMLC proactively seeks individuals for all aspects of its work from varied backgrounds for the greater enrichment of the organization. It is the goal of CMLC to have a membership, staff, volunteer base, and board that reflects the diversity of ethnic and demographic groups of our service area, and for CMLC programs to encourage involvement of groups that are underrepresented in CMLC.


When Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy set out to protect hundreds of acres of forestland in North Mills River back in 2009, nobody could have envisioned all the twists to come

Henderson County’s portion of Pisgah National Forest recently grew by another 177 acres with the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy’s (CMLC) January donation to the U.S. Forest Service of the “Hoot Owl Tract” along Sitton Creek, a tributary of the North Mills River.

The addition means another parcel of national forest, formerly an island of public land surrounded by private property, is now connected to the main body of the forest. Thanks to the work of CMLC, the U.S. Forest Service and partnering individuals and agencies, the unspoiled water quality in Sitton Creek will remain clean as it flows into the Mills River, a regional drinking water source.

CMLC coordinated the transfer of the Hoot Owl property to the U.S. Forest Service, and secured conservation easements on two other adjoining tracts. These are the 77-acre property known as “Grey Heaven” north of the Hoot Owl property that encompasses the upper reaches of Sitton Creek, and a protective easement that longtime Mills River physician Dr. Howard Norton donated on 91 acres of his land just south and east of the Hoot Owl tract.

Dr. Norton, a family doctor who cared for generations of local residents starting in 1957, still lives in Mills River. He donated the conservation easement that now permanently precludes development on most of the 125 acres his family owns on and around Middle Ridge.

The 89-year-old retired physician and founding member of Mills River Volunteer Fire Department bought the property, a former scout camp, decades ago. He was hoping CMLC would succeed in getting the adjacent Hoot Owl property transferred to the U.S. Forest Service.

“My kids and I decided that we never wanted to see the backside of our mountain developed like you see over at High Vista,” says Norton, who has five children, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. “We thought the best way to do it is to put it into conservation.”

A map of the area shows not only these newly protected lands, but hundreds of additional acres CMLC has worked to conserve or add to Pisgah National Forest since 2008. These include conservation easements on 436 acres along nearby Seniard Creek owned by the family of the late George “Howard” McElrath; and the recent expansion of the forest to include 78 acres around the historic Big Creek Lodge next to North Mills River Campground.

Hoot Owl Property

As in the case of the recently-announced Big Creek Lodge property acquisition, CMLC worked for many years – in this case since 2009 – to add the land to Pisgah National Forest. Also in common with the Big Creek property, the Hoot Owl tract was once owned by Robert Warren, the former Candler tomato farmer whose lands were seized after he was charged with millions of dollars in federal crop insurance fraud.

Warren and his wife Viki were among eight people who pleaded guilty in July 2004 to swindling the government and insurance companies out of more than $9 million in bogus insurance claims from 1997 to 2003.

Ironically, McElrath had wanted to conserve the Hoot Owl property as a wildlife preserve, says Tom Fanslow, land protection director for CMLC. That’s one of the details that came out in a civil trial over a lawsuit McElrath’s family filed claiming that Warren conned the elderly landowner out of the Hoot Owl property. The trial was held in 2010, shortly after McElrath passed away at the age of 95.

The Hoot Owl tract was part of lands the McElrath family owned along Seniard and Sitton Creeks originally acquired by Howard McElrath’s father in the early 1900s. McElrath’s family claimed in the lawsuit that Warren befriended and conned McElrath into giving him the land, however a jury sided with Warren.

Streadwick, McElrath’s daughter, appealed the case to the N.C. Court of Appeals, but it upheld the verdict. CMLC’s plan had been to work with Streadwick if she prevailed in the lawsuit to permanently protect the Hoot Owl property with a conservation easement. In 2010 CMLC secured a $400,000 grant from the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF)for that purpose. 

When Warren prevailed in the suit however, CMLC, through its attorney Sharon Alexander, initiated contact with Warren’s civil attorney in Asheville. After a lengthy period of on and off communications with Warren and his representatives and attempts to find a viable path to conserving the tract, in late 2014 CMLC made contact with then-Assistant U.S. Attorneybased in Asheville, Paul Taylor, whose office was receptive to finding a win/win outcome for the public and for conservation.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office worked out a settlement agreement with Warren and his attorneys. Under the agreement, the government allowed Warren to donate his property to CMLC for transfer to the U.S. Forest Service, and Warren received credit for the gift towards some of the millions in restitution he owed the government.

Closing in on Conservation

With the settlement agreement in place, grant funds from CWMTF, the Duke Energy Water Resources Fund and Fred and Alice Stanback helped CMLC to pay a variety of transaction costs, consummate the deal for the Hoot Owl tract and secure conservation easements on the adjoining Grey Heaven and Norton properties.

“We had to pay off numerous outstanding liens on the Hoot Owl property, as well as over $45,000 in Henderson County back taxes owed,” Fanslow says.

The deal was finalized Jan. 31. Now the Hoot Owl property adjoins the main part of Pisgah National Forest on the west and the previously isolated 1,500 acres of Pisgah National Forest at the end of Foster Creek Road on the east.

A mountain bog, elusive turtles and house on the line

In a final twist in the story, CMLC was able to secure a rare mountain bog that could be home to the rare bog turtle, listed by the federal government as a threatened species, thanks to a house Warren built on a property line.

Warren had built and partially finished a large house that straddled the property line between the Hoot Owl tract on a separate parcel that he owned. When the U.S. Marshal’s Office auctioned off that tract, a Hendersonville family ended up with the land and half the house, which was falling into disrepair.

“They got half a house, we got the other half,” Fanslow says. This turned out to be another bit of synchronicity in favor of land conservation. CMLC agreed to swap its part of the house and some pastureland to the family for eight acres of a rare swamp forest bog on the adjoining parcel. And that forest bog is now part of Pisgah.

“It’s big for a mountain wetland,” Fanslow says, noting that there is a similar mountain bog across the ridge on property owned and conserved by long-time CMLC leader John Humphrey. “Turtle surveys haven’t been done yet, but it is known bog turtles will crawl over mountain ridges – they don’t follow drainages. They could make their way.”

For now, it’s another mystery of the wild and beautiful land that makes up Pisgah National Forest where it adjoins the farm fields along the valley of the North Fork of the Mills River.

The Hoot Owl property acquisition will benefit the public in perpetuity in tangible ways. Wildlife such as black bear, deer and turkey will continue to roam the forests, and trout and other aquatic species that depend upon clean water will continue to thrive in Sitton Creek. Along with Seniard Creek, which is also protected forever, these mountain streams will keep on flowing clear and pure to add their waters to the Mills River, to fill the community’s need for clean water – for now and into the distant future.

In addition to the funders that supported conservation of the three Sitton Creek properties, the Mills River Partnership and Trout Unlimited also made grants to put in place erosion control best management practices on the Grey Heaven and Hoot Owl properties. 

“We have done our share of complicated projects but this one has taken an extra-long and winding path to completion,” CMLC Executive Director Kieran Roe says. “Tom Fanslow deserves a special prize for persistence. He overcame obstacle after obstacle to achieve a conservation outcome at Hoot Owl when at numerous points that seemed unlikely.”

Roe also cites the willingness of funders to extend grants that would otherwise have expired, particularly the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund, which originally made an award for the project in 2010.  

“We deeply appreciate the cooperation of each and every one of the diverse partners who made the Sitton Creek projects possible,” Roe says. “Without the cooperation of each, we would not have accomplished the outcome which we are now finally celebrating.”

        


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