News & Events: News

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.”

        


Now Recruiting for the 2017-2018 AmeriCorps Project Conserve Service Term

AmeriCorps Project Conserve seeks dedicated individuals to fill 34 full-time positions serving critical conservation needs of western North Carolina. Each member will serve 1700 hours during an 11-month term, from September 2017 through July 2018.

Members connect people with nature and enhance quality of life through conservation education, volunteer recruitment/coordination, trail creation/improvement, and disaster preparedness training. Members improve environmental conditions in WNC through activities including habitat restoration, monitoring and management of conserved lands, water quality monitoring, and public land and river improvements projects.

Project Conserve positions provide unique opportunities for members to develop leadership and professional skills to support their future career goals. In addition to serving on individual projects outlined by Project Conserve host sites, members participate in required trainings and service days up to three days per month with the full Project Conserve team. Trainings may cover a broad range of topics including conflict resolution, wilderness first aid and CPR/AED, project planning and management, non-native invasive species identification, trail construction, volunteer management, and environmental education program development training.

Project Conserve Host Sites
The program places members in service with one of 18 nonprofit organizations or governmental agencies working to protect the unique natural resources of the southern Blue Ridge Mountain region. See a list of our host sites by visiting www.americorpsprojectconserve.org/about/host-sites

Position Requirements
Applicants must:

·         Be at least 18 years of age at the commencement of service

·         Fulfill minimum education requirements (Please see individual service descriptions)

·         Be a citizen, national, or lawful permanent resident alien of the United States

·         Be available between September 5, 2017, and July 31, 2018, and commit to full-time service

·         Consent to a criminal history check and be cleared for service

·         Meet additional qualifications and essential functions listed in the individual service descriptions.

Compensation
Members earn a living stipend of $13,470 over the 11-month term of service.  Upon successful completion of the program, each member will also receive an education award of $5,815. This award can be used to pay off existing school loans or to apply to future education. Other benefits include health insurance reimbursement and child care assistance.

To Apply
Application deadline is May 31, 2017. Visit www.americorpsprojectconserve.org/apply/how-to-apply for Application Instructions, 2017-2018 Service Descriptions, Eligibility, Compensation, and more. Please contact Amy Stout, AmeriCorps Project Conserve Program Director, with any questions at (828) 697-5777, ext. 217 or projectconserve@carolinamountain.org.  AmeriCorps Project Conserve is an Equal Opportunity Employer.  Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply.  Reasonable accommodations will be provided to individuals with known physical/mental disabilities.

Administered by Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, Project Conserve is an AmeriCorps program supported through grants from the North Carolina Commission on Volunteerism & Community Service in the Office of Governor Roy Cooper, and from the Corporation for National & Community Service.

Check out our FacebookInstagram, and Twitter pages to stay up to date on all things Project Conserve!


With the help of a conservation buyer, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, Trout Unlimited and the U.S. Forest Service seal a decade-long effort to protect a critical piece of Pisgah National Forest.

The trees are still mostly bare except for thickets of rhododendron adding dense green along the Mills River’s North Fork just inside Pisgah National Forest. The landscape’s hue is the drab greyish brown of late winter, but the creeks whisper the promise of spring as anglers wade into the clear, chilly waters, hoping to snag a feisty rainbow or brown trout.

As winter segues into spring and rhododendron buds burst into pink glory, the anglers will continue to fish the rocky riffles and placid pools. Families will spread picnics on the concrete tables of the North Mills River Recreation Area, as they have for generations. Mountain bikers will pedal their way up and glide breezily down the recently rerouted Trace Ridge Trail between the campground and the miles of multi-use trails upstream.

Anglers, bikers, equestrians, hikers and families no longer need to worry about the fate of an island of private property next to the campground. The land, once threatened with development, is permanently protected now, and the public guaranteed access to the surrounding forest, thanks to a deal closed last year by CMLC, U.S. Forest Service and a cooperating private landowner.

It’s been exactly 10 years since a developer bought the historic Big Creek Lodge property inside Pisgah National Forest and announced plans to build up to 86 homes on these 84 acres. The plans alarmed the public who feared their longtime access to the land would be gated off – and that a subdivision would be built adjacent to the campground, muddying the trout stream that runs through it and destroying the area’s unspoiled character.

Thanks to CMLC and its conservation partners, 78 acres of this former inholding is part of Pisgah National Forest. It will be permanently protected for public enjoyment, guaranteeing a key access point to prized trout streams and trails. How it happened is a story involving a century-old historic home, a convicted swindler, an aborted development, and organizations that worked tirelessly for years to conserve the tract.

Big Creek Lodge, also known as the M.M. Stuart Home, is a two-story frame house with a trout pond in its front yard where the Rocky Fork tumbles into the Mills River’s North Fork. In 1899, George Vanderbilt, the railroad magnate who owned much of what today comprises Pisgah National Forest, sold 11 acres here to Melvin Stuart for $44, according to “Gun Fights, Dam Sites & Water Rights,” a history of the area written by James E. Brittain. Stuart operated a sawmill and lived his life here. He is buried along with many relatives in the nearby Maple Grove Cemetery.

During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps established a work camp and built North Mills River Recreation Area as part of a New Deal work project. The campground and picnic area opened in the summer of 1938. The adjacent Stuart Home and surrounding acreage remained in private hands.

In January 2001, Candler tomato farmers Robert and Viki Warren bought Big Creek Lodge and 84 surrounding acres for $875,000, according to records filed at Henderson County Register of Deeds. The Warrens owned the property until July 2004 when they pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to a scheme to defraud the Federal Crop Insurance Corp. out of millions of dollars.

The property was auctioned along with other Warren holdings later that month. CMLC tried at the time to find a conservation buyer for the property. But Kent Smith, a real estate investor from Taylors, S.C., won a bidding duel with another potential buyer, landing the lodge tract for $2,175,000.

In 2007, Smith submitted plans to Henderson County to build as many as 86 homes on the 84 acres. But he withdrew plans to build the subdivision after county planning staff said the project would violate several county ordinances and be incompatible with the county’s 2020 comprehensive plan. That came after the public deluged the county with calls of concern about the fate of the property.

For the U.S. Forest Service to acquire the land to add to Pisgah National Forest, an intermediary needed to buy and hold it until funding became available. That’s where CMLC, Trout Unlimited (TU) and a conservation-minded benefactor made the difference.

In 2009, Tom Oreck of Asheville purchased the Big Creek Lodge tract and began working with CMLC and TU on conservation plans. Oreck learned about the property and its previous close call with development from John Witherspoon of Conservation Advisors and Platt Architecture in Brevard. CMLC was aware that development plans at the tract had stalled and had reached out to Witherspoon for assistance finding a cooperative buyer willing to step in and work toward a conservation outcome.

“The previous owner had intended to develop the property which I understand from Trout Unlimited as well as CMLC would have pretty much destroyed that river as a trout fishing river,” Oreck said. “So John brought it to my attention, and working with CMLC and Trout Unlimited wanted to know if I would get involved. The property was going to be going in foreclosure and the hope was to get the bulk of the land into the national forest so it would be protected for perpetuity.”

In 2012 he signed an option to purchase contract with the groups. This was the second local conservation project Oreck made possible – in 2011 he bought 65 acres that later became part of DuPont State Recreational Forest.

The groups and their supporters, meanwhile, advocated for the Forest Service to acquire the property using funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. Funded through fees gas and oil companies pay the government for offshore drilling, LWCF is a federal program to conserve irreplaceable lands and improve outdoor recreation opportunities throughout the nation.

Of course the most critical piece of the puzzle was coming up with $1.56 million in federal funding to purchase the land at its appraised fair market value. This is where the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and support for the fund from Western North Carolina’s Congressional delegation, made the difference. Both Congressman Mark Meadows and Senator Richard Burr have been champions of LWCF.

“When I hear about the good work of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, it drives me to fight even harder to ensure that Congress makes good on the promise to make this fund permanent,” U.S. Sen. Richard Burr said. “And naturally, I’m ecstatic when North Carolina groups can leverage this popular and important program for preserving our natural heritage.”

“Preserving North Carolina’s one of a kind natural treasures is one of the most important promises we can keep, and each year in North Carolina, the LWCF helps local communities preserve land like this for future generations,” Burr added. “I’m proud to be an avid defender of the LWCF in the Senate, because it helps all of us more fully enjoy our great state.”

In June 2015, CMLC purchased 56.28 acres of the Big Creek Lodge tract and immediately sold it to the Forest Service for $970,000. Then last July CMLC bought 21.71 acres and sold it to the Forest Service for $590,000. All the funds were provided by the Land and Water Conservation Fund through appropriations to the U.S. Forest Service, CMLC Executive Director Kieran Roe said.

As is often the case in conserving land, the deal required patience and the support and cooperation of numerous partners. For instance, in 2012 TU raised $30,000 and provided it to CMLC to enable the organization to purchase the option on the property from Oreck.

“This option gave us time to work with USFS staff to seek the LWCF funds, which are appropriated annually to federal agencies,” Roe said. “Due to other USFS priorities in North Carolina and elsewhere, initial funding for a purchase at Big Creek Lodge was not available until 2015. The acquisition was broken into two phases, as funding was insufficient to enable purchase of the entire property at once.”

“Conserving this threatened treasure was important to the public and CMLC and TU were instrumental in making that happen,” said Allen Nicholas, Forest Supervisor of the National Forests in North Carolina. “It’s a great example of what we can do when we all work together towards our common goals of providing access to public lands and ensuring healthy watersheds.”

Another issue was that the Forest Service was not interested in owning an historic structure like the Big Creek Lodge.

“Early on we began to understand the Forest Service is not interested in owning structures,” Roe said. “Tom Oreck who acquired it to be a helpful partner began to enjoy having that house as a family getaway and decided he would keep it.”

As for Oreck, what compelled him to step in and assume the critical intermediary role in this 10-year saga?

“It was very simple,” he said. “I had been living in Asheville for five or six years and Asheville was the first place I ever moved not for business, but because it was where I wanted to live.”

Oreck said he and his family were attracted to the area by Asheville’s vibrant arts community and Western North Carolina’s gorgeous natural environment. Helping preserve a little bit of this paradise “was something I could do….to procure this property for future generations and to protect the river for sportsmen.”

He also got involved because he wanted to help protect public access via the campground to the surrounding public lands for horseback riders, anglers, hikers, bikers and everyone who uses the land. Both Yellow Gap Road, which runs from the North Mills River Recreation Area to the Pink Beds/Cradle of Forestry area, and an old road bed running upstream along the North Fork, had access issues tied to the land. If the property had been developed, both could have been gated off, Oreck said, “So one of the first things we did was give perpetuity access to the Forest Service.”

Oreck says he is looking forward to spending time at the historic lodge with his four children, who range in age from 11 to 42, and two grandkids, ages 4 and 6. And though he is not a trout fisherman himself, he’s willing to learn.

“Trout Unlimited has offered to teach me how to fly fish,” he says.


Adrienne Brown wakes up every morning in the 400-square-foot cabin her father built in 1971 when he was in high school. Its weathered walls sit amongst the trees on the farmstead of her late grandmother, Frieda Brown, in Pisgah Forest.

“The property is a shadow of what it was when I was younger and my grandmother was looking after it fulltime,” shares Adrienne. “The barns and sheds that the horses used to call home need repair, but when I look at them I don’t see that. I see them for what they were when I was younger. Walking around the property now, there’s an overwhelming sense of nostalgia for those days, but the nature that existed back then still remains. The hemlocks are still surprisingly healthy, and I truly think sometimes that my grandmother’s spirit continues in those trees.”

A small stream still trickles between two laurel banks where Adrienne would wander as a young girl. “If you look for it you can even find a tiny waterfall no more than two feet high. It was a secluded spot where I used to go when I wanted to be alone in nature as a child.”

Frieda spent the majority of her time outside, working around the farm, caring for her horses and managing a half-acre vegetable garden on her own until she was 85.

“The first image of her that comes to my mind is from atop a tractor where she would happily cruise along cutting grass,” says Adrienne.

The tiny cabin on the property offered respite after a hard day’s work, a place to wind down and relax. Adrienne recalls sitting next to her grandmother with her younger brother sprawled across their laps, while her grandmother read from her own novel, Last Hurdle, to curious minds. Frieda’s fictional story about living on an old farmstead with a horse is nearly autobiographical.

The beauty of the mountains drew Frieda to the area, but she loved the location of the farm for its seclusion and its space where her animals could roam. She worked with local land trust, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC), to permanently conserve the property in 2004.  

“Mom always had sort of a ‘hate/hate’ relationship with subdivisions,” says Adrienne’s father Doug Brown, with a smile. “She wanted the place to be a haven for wildlife and not fall into the hands of developers.”

Doug reflects on the changes he has witnessed in the 41 years coming to the area. An old southern town transformed into an art and recreation tourist destination. “I remember drinking coffee at the lunch counter of what is now O.P. Taylors, to shopping there for toys with my two young children,” says Doug. “All these generations called this place home—my grandparents, great aunt, parents, and now, my own family.”

Adrienne feels like she is adding on to her family legacy. “For my father it was a place to live while he was getting his feet under him during and after college,” says Adrienne. “Now, I am doing the same. Even if it falls into disrepair again, the cabin will continue to be here, the land will continue to be here. I will always have this to fall back on.”

Currently, the cabin is in its most modern state, but the experience of rural living lingers. There is no cell phone service. Clean laundry is lugged up the path with the hopes that a sock or pair of pants does not fall too far behind.

“Having to throw your pajamas on the heater before jumping in the shower, because the only heat source comes from two electric heaters…” Adrienne says, with a laugh. “These are some experiences that I now relate to and share with my father.”

Frieda passed her love of nature down from Doug to Adrienne. “It was engrained in everything she did. She had a hatred for plastic bags before it was a movement,” Adrienne says, with a chuckle. “She always recycled and composted. Being able to visit her in the summer and stay in the cabin played a very direct roll in my love of nature and desire to pursue Environmental Studies in college.”

A recent graduate of Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, Adrienne returned to her grandmother’s land to join CMLC’s AmeriCorps Project Conserve program as Community Outreach & Education Associate.

Inspired by her grandmother’s own service with the American Red Cross during World War II, Adrienne serves with AmeriCorps Project Conserve as a way to thank her grandmother for conserving her land. “She left my father, and eventually my brother and I, this amazing gift and I did nothing to earn it,” says Adrienne. “I wanted to give back to her by honoring her memory.”

CMLC started AmeriCorps Project Conserve in 2004 in response to growing conservation needs in Western North Carolina. Each year, AmeriCorps Project Conserve places more than three dozen dedicated members with local environmental nonprofits. Since its inception, 268 members have served more than 455,600 hours, increasing community understanding of conservation and the environment and creating sustainable improvements to at-risk ecosystems in our communities.

AmeriCorps Project Conserve provides young adults like Adrienne with valuable experience out of college. The program sets them up for success moving forward with the skills they need to land a job pursuing their goals and dreams in the environmental field and beyond.

“There has been a significant increase of requirements for entry level work in our world and it can be really hard to get work right out of college,” admits Adrienne. “AmeriCorps Project Conserve helps to bridge that gap in experience many college graduates face. It’s chock-full of professional development opportunities and the education award helps many who struggle with student debt. From hiking with kids outside to improving the water we drink, we make a direct impact on the communities we work with.”

Adrienne feels fulfilled to help preserve and protect the mountains her grandmother so dearly loved. “She moved a lot as a young person, something she and I have in common, and I can respect her wishes to have a peaceful resting place,” says Adrienne. “I’m giving back to an area we both eventually came to call home.”

Doug is proud of Adrienne’s passion for service. “I think it is terrific that Adrienne is participating in AmeriCorps Project Conserve as an ode to her grandmother,” shares Doug.  “I think Mom would have gotten a kick out of it.”


Position Title:
Southeast Regional Director
 
Reports To:
Executive Director
 
Position Summary:
This Polk County-based position ensures a coordinated fundraising strategy with the Hendersonville office and leads community engagement efforts in the southeast service region.
 
JOB DESCRIPTION
In close coordination with the Executive Director and other staff:

• Advance the mission of the conservancy in its southeast region

• Initiate and deepen relationships with various community stakeholders, including donors, volunteers, and partnering organizations

• Serve as conservancy liaison with community leaders, local media, elected officials, and agency staff

• Build financial support from Polk and neighboring counties through individual and business memberships, major gifts and planned gifts

• Identify and pursue grant opportunities including research, proposal writing, administration and reporting

• Refine conservation priorities in the region and assist in acquisition of new land and conservation easements

• Build on the strong foundation of existing southeast region volunteer programs and further grow the base of volunteer support

• Develop and coordinate the conservancy’s southeast region advisory council

• Advance the conservancy’s community engagement goals by reaching out to diverse constituencies and finding opportunities to change lives through conservation

• Supervise Tryon office administration staff and volunteers

• Other duties as needed

 
Essential Job Requirements:
EDUCATION
Undergraduate degree
 
EXPERIENCE
Proven success with building non-profit community support; successful grant-writing experience; familiarity with Polk and adjoining parts of Greenville and Spartanburg counties; familiarity with land conservation desirable.
 
REQUIRED SKILLS
Strong interpersonal, organizational, and time-management skills reflected in an ability to work effectively with professional colleagues, supporters, and stakeholders in a team-oriented environment; a high degree of detail orientation, commitment to accuracy, and the ability to manage multiple projects at once; highly proficient with Microsoft Office and ability to learn and use various software; ability to work independently with minimal management oversight; a commitment to professional growth and responsibilities, unquestioned integrity and fiscal accountability, ability to plan and achieve long and short-term goals; exceptional written and oral communication skills.
 
PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS
Ability to work at a computer, sit for extended periods of time, operate office equipment, attend meetings outside of the office.
 
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 position-40 hours per week. Competitive pay commensurate with experience; health benefits; retirement benefits; supportive and engaging work environment with opportunities for professional development.
 
TO APPLY:
Send resume, cover letter, and references by email to:
Human Resources
Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy
847 Case Street
Hendersonville, NC 28792
 
Open until filled.
 
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.

You protect our mountains and rivers, now it's time to protect AmeriCorps Project Conserve!

Protect AmeriCorps Project Conserve

 

The Corporation for National & Community Service--the federal agency that supports the AmeriCorps service program--is at risk! It is one of 18 agencies that are recommended for elimination in the White House's budget proposal recently sent to Congress. The Corporation for National & Community Service makes up less than 0.025% of the federal budget.

CMLC started AmeriCorps Project Conserve in 2004 in response to growing conservation needs in WNC. Each year, AmeriCorps Project Conserve places more than three dozen dedicated members with local environmental nonprofits. Since its inception, 268 members have served 455,600 hours, increasing community understanding of conservation and the environment and creating sustainable improvements to at-risk ecosystems in our communities.

Young adults like Trudie Henninger depend on AmeriCorps to gain valuable experience out of college. The program sets them up for success moving forward with the skills they need to land a job pursuing their goals and dreams in the environmental field and beyond.

"My experiences with Project Conserve helped me gain a deeper understanding of the communities, wildlife and beauty of WNC. I was lucky enough to be able to continue as an Environmental Education Specialist at my host site after my AmeriCorps service. Today, I am still playing outside with children, catching crawdads, measuring salamanders, counting birds and weighing turtles. Project Conserve gave me the opportunity and experience necessary to land my dream job, working outdoors providing students with meaningful, hands-on activities that will aid scientific research, connect them with nature, and help promote the conservation of WNC plants and animals."  

-Trudie Henninger

2012-2013 AmeriCorps Project Conserve Citizen Science Education Specialist at The NC Arboretum

These members are absolutely vital to environmental organizations like CMLC and The NC Arboretum, providing on-the-ground support to nonprofits that simply do not have sufficient funds to hire several additional full-time staff.

It is an invaluable partnership which cannot be broken. We support each other. We grow together. Please take a moment to call your Congress members and let them know about the difference AmeriCorps is making in your community.

NC Senator Richard Burr (202) 224-3154

NC Senator Thom Tillis (202) 224-6342

 

NC Representative Mark Meadows (202) 225-6401

NC Representative Patrick McHenry (202) 225-2576

 

Click here to find your Senator.

Click here to find your Representative.


My time at CMLC AmeriCorps Project Conserve with Asheville GreenWorks has been spent in waterways more than in offices. The more that I frequent the waters of western North Carolina, the more I recognize the need to be increasingly mindful of the anthropogenic impact on organisms, and the functions of the French Broad River Watershed. 

Though the water quality throughout most of the basin is good, agriculture and urbanization are impairing the middle and lower parts of the basin. These happen to be the areas where I work the most. The habitat necessary for the survival of the many species in the French Broad is sensitive, and slowly succumbing to the pressures of poorly managed development, pollution and urbanization. I am grateful for the flexibility of my position at Asheville GreenWorks, because it lets me pursue methods to alleviate some of these pressures on the waters of western North Carolina that I know and love.  

When I began my position at Asheville GreenWorks, I became responsible for the maintenance of our four trash booms, which are construction booms installed in four tributaries of the French Broad that collect litter without compromising the movement of aquatic organisms. Since my time at GreenWorks, and with the help of volunteers, we have retrieved 459 pounds of trash from these booms in just a few months. Seeing how effective these booms have been at reducing the amount of litter that flows into the French Broad River, efforts have been made to create a litter trap of a larger scale to prevent greater amounts of trash from being moved into the river.

This year, I am assisting with the installation of this new “Trash Trout” litter trap system. I am also working to restore eroding riverbanks along Hominy Creek. With the reduction of waste and sedimentation, I am gathering water quality data of Hominy Creek to determine how healthier the water is.

I am grateful for the opportunities that have opened up for me through CMLC AmeriCorps Project Conserve, and I am eager to see what I can do with the rest of my time to improve this lovely community that I call home!

Lillian Lovingood

CMLC AmeriCorps Project Conserve

Clean Communities Coordinator at Asheville GreenWorks

 


river restoration“I would like to make that my home one day,” Woody Platt would say, whenever he passed by the white, 1930s farmhouse nestled between rolling hills with the East Fork of the French Broad River winding behind it. Platt, an avid life-long angler, admired the land’s access to trout-filled waters. It’s a pastoral property that brings a quiet sense of peace to balance Platt’s busy career as a member of the Grammy award-winning bluegrass band, Steep Canyon Rangers. 

Platt made that dream a reality when he and his wife and fellow musician, Shannon Whitworth, purchased the property in 2010. “This whole East Fork Valley has a very rural feel, a lot of open farmland and a lot of water,” shares Platt. “I was just really drawn to the river and to have this old farmhouse on some open pastureland—it’s pretty wonderful.”

But, like most good things, land is a work in progress. Platt and Whitworth knew that their beloved river was struggling to stay healthy.

During times of heavy rainfall, large chunks of riverbank slid into the water and heavy sediment built up, choking the rare plants and wildlife that live in the river.

“I’ve seen 10-20 feet erode into the stream in several locations. Any time we would get a lot of rain, the water would immediately be muddy in color and you would see large clumps of sand just falling off the bank,” says Platt.

Platt and Whitworth, along with their neighbors across the river, Carl and Lois Ganner, knew something needed to be done to save the integrity of the riverbanks and the quality of the water. The Ganners operate Z-Z-Zip Canopy Tours, a zip-line adventure business, on their property. Making sure their land is healthy is important in protecting those aerial views when clients are soaring overhead.   

This area along the East Fork lacked natural vegetation that helps hold soil in place along the floodplain and the riverbanks. Historic ranching operations removed the native plants and trees, replacing them with non-native grasses for livestock that have shallow roots and are unable to hold soil well during higher river flows.

“Once a bank becomes unstable, it can undercut and destabilize trees upstream, which may fall in the river and cause debris dams,” says Anita Goetz, a biologist at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who worked on the project. “The river may cut around these and into a farmer’s field. It’s a domino effect. Lesson number one I give landowners is leave your trees alone along riverbanks and provide as much forested buffer as possible in adjacent floodplains.”

hellbender salamander

All rivers are in a constant state of flux, shares Torry Nergart, Conservation Easement Manager at Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. “Unfortunately, they also do not follow deeded private property rights. The river was oxbowing and would have eventually formed a new channel. This erosion would have created a loss of acreage for Platt, Whitworth and the Ganners, as well as impact all wildlife. Both landowners are conservation-minded, and did not want to just sit by and let the river keep on taking away sediment.”

Platt, Whitworth and the Ganners jumped into action, rounding up the necessary parties to make restoration possible. Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy was a key fundraising player, securing lead grants that private landowners cannot access on their own from the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Before restoration work began, Anita and her team relocated aquatic species from the water for protection, including seven Hellbenders, one freshwater leech and several trout. The Hellbenders were a significant and surprising discovery, as they are a candidate for listing as Federally Endangered and weren’t previously documented in that section of the river. “As Anita says, we want to do all we can to keep them off the list,” says Nergart.

The high riverbanks were excavated to reduce the bank height from 10 feet to about 2.5 feet. Willows and alders were planted. The most severe meander was re-aligned to have a gentler curve. Root wads (dead tree trunks with their roots still intact) and tree limbs were buried along the toes of the banks.

“These logs and root structures add excellent habitat features and help to maintain proper pool depths,” says Grant Ginn with Wolf Creek Engineering, who designed and oversaw construction of the restoration project. “Additionally, the reshaping of the river bed profile provided the opportunity to reconstruct the riffles out of the native gravel and cobble that had been buried below years of silt and sand deposition.”

East Fork Restoration

The East Fork, along with the North, West and Middle Forks, contain the headwaters of the French Broad. As the river flows, it is a source of agriculture irrigation and outdoor recreation, two major drivers of our local economy.  

“People used to say the French Broad was ‘too thick to swim, too thin to plow’ for all the pollution and sedimentation,” says Nergart. “Nowadays, with some management, water quality has improved. The East Fork watershed is more than 60% protected by the newly forming Headwaters State Forest, sending clean mountain water downstream.  That level of clean water means the threatened Hellbender salamander can call the East Fork home. Trout also require that same degree of oxygen-rich, sediment-free cold water.”

After the two-month restoration work was completed this past fall, the river has made a significant rebound.

“We’re watching it every day,” says Platt. “The water is running clear; you can really see the cobble and ripples again. The water now has some place to go; it’s not hitting a wall. In high water it naturally swells up and flows back down. You can see the health of the stream coming back.”

Platt, Whitworth and the Ganners are currently working with Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy to permanently conserve the re-vegetated streambanks at the restoration site. Placing a voluntary conservation easement on the land ensures the important restoration work cannot be undone. The trees that were replanted along the stream to help stabilize the banks cannot be cut down nor can the riverbank be reshaped at the whims of a future landowner.

Tour of Restoration Work

“If you’re going to work to stabilize a piece of property like this and try to restore it for the natural health, it makes a lot of sense to put a perpetual easement on it so the long-term health of the property is protected,” says Platt.

The project featured a lot of moving parts made successful by several partners including the Transylvania County Soil and Water Conservation District, Conservation Advisors of North Carolina, North State Environmental, Resource Institute, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Clean Water Management Trust Fund, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NC Department of Justice Ecosystem Enhancement Grants Program,Wolf Creek Engineering and NC Division of Water Resources.

“Everyone worked together really well,” says Platt. “I’m looking forward to working with Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy moving forward to maintain the conservation easement, making sure that everything stays healthy.”

With cleaner water and happier trout, bets are Platt will be reaching for that fishing pole more often.


What do you love about our lands and waters?

Show us how much saving these special places means to you! Post a photo or tell us what your favorite CMLC-conserved land is on our Facebook page or use #carolinamtnlandconservancy in your Instagram post. You’ll be entered for a chance to win a REI Flash 18 lightweight daypack to make your dates with nature even more enjoyable! Get busy sharing!

The winner will be announced February 21st.


Little White Oak Mountain: A Collaborative Conservation Venture

The scenic ridgeline and south facing slopes of Little White Oak Mountain, slated as the site for an 687-unit residential development north of the Town of Columbus known as the Foster Creek Preserve in the mid-2000s, will now be permanently protected thanks to the cooperative action of local organizations. Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC), working closely with the Pacolet Area Conservancy (PAC), purchased the 1,068-acre property in December 2016 to conserve its dramatic views, rare species, wildlife habitats, and opportunities for outdoor recreation.

A major gift from Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury, NC and a $1.86 million loan from the Conservation Trust for North Carolina enabled Hendersonville-based CMLC to close on the purchase with the sellers, American Land Fund of Philadelphia. The conservation organizations are now pursuing a strategy to fundraise and convey sections of the property to collaborating agencies in order to be made whole on the purchase.

Over coming years CMLC and PAC hope to transfer portions of the property to the capable management of state and local partner organizations including the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, the Polk County Recreation Department, and the Housing Assistance Corporation, a nonprofit Hendersonville-based developer of affordable housing.

The Tryon-based Pacolet Area Conservancy has targeted the tract as a conservation priority for over a decade and at one point worked with the previous owner on a plan to protect the high-elevation part of the property with a conservation easement. Although the easement never came to fruition, PAC maintained periodic contact with the owners and, working with CMLC, approached the American Land Fund (ALF) once again in 2015. The dialogue initiated then led ultimately to the offer by ALF to sell for a price below market value if the transaction could be completed by the end of 2016.

“PAC is excited to be working with CMLC to create an outcome on the Little White Oak tract that conserves its outstanding natural features while also addressing other community needs,” said PAC President Rebecca Kemp. 

The Polk County Recreation Complex could expand by 300 acres to provide local residents and visitors with greater recreational opportunities. The recreation complex currently provides access to recreational sports fields and walking paths, and the expansion would facilitate more extensive hiking and mountain biking trails.

Thirty to sixty acres adjoining Highway 108 could be developed as a residential workforce housing development intended to help younger families and middle-income workers, such as police officers and teachers, get a start with home ownership. The homeowners help build the homes themselves, which keeps the cost of the homes more affordable. Each home is anticipated to have a value between $180,000-$200,000, which will result in increased property tax revenue for the Town and County.

Plans call for the majority of the tract – up to 600 acres -- to be added to the adjoining Green River Game Lands. The 14,000-acre game land located in and around the Green River Gorge in southeast Henderson and western Polk counties is managed by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and is primarily used by anglers, hunters and hikers. Though the game land has expanded many times since its creation in 1950, this addition will be the first since 2008 and will provide a point of public access from Houston Road.

The conservation partners hope to initiate a master planning process involving public input to determine how the long-term uses of the property can best benefit the community. For instance, Polk County Middle School adjoins the County Recreation Complex and the Little White Oak property. Planners will look for opportunities to create trails that might link the school to conserved land, and provide teachers and students with educational and recreational access.

According to CMLC executive director Kieran Roe, “Due to the substantial change in the local real estate market that occurred after the 2008-09 recession, the extensive residential development once envisioned for the site will never come to pass. CMLC looks forward to working with PAC and numerous other collaborators on a different, and perhaps better, long-term outcome there for the community.”

These projects provide vital protection of natural areas, federally-endangered species, clean water, and stunning mountain views in Polk County. The projects also expand recreational access to the outdoors, making the work of CMLC and PAC relevant to the wider public. The expanded recreational opportunities may draw more tourists to the area, strengthening the local economy.

When the plans to develop Foster Creek Preserve were originally proposed in 2006, community members made it clear they cared deeply about the property. CMLC and PAC are excited to be part of this important project. 


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