News & Events: News

HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. – North Carolina’s 24 local land trusts bestowed their annual awards on deserving winners during a lunch celebration at the land trusts’ annual meeting at the Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville on May 15th. The NC Land Trust awards are given annually to businesses, nonprofits, governments, and individuals who lead efforts to protect the state’s streams and lakes, forests, farms, parkland and wildlife habitat, thereby protecting clean drinking water and air quality, local food, and outdoor recreation.

Five years ago, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) began pursuing a complement to our budding conservation efforts in the Hickory Nut Gorge: the development of an extensive hiking trail network that would provide public access to visitors seeking to enjoy these natural treasures as well as connectivity to enable them to traverse the ridges, hollows, and forests that link them together. This trail network—which has now reached nearly 10 miles in length—enables nature seekers of all abilities and interests the opportunity to enjoy our conserved lands, and ultimately make the connection between the importance of natural resource protection and public access and recreation. CMLC quickly discovered that public trails quickly increased the immediate relevancy and the direct tangibility of land conservation.

This trail network—and its incalculable benefit on land conservation in our region—would not be possible without the tireless efforts and dedicated service of the Carolina Mountain Club (CMC). Simply put, the CMC has put these trails on-the-ground. Since our initial partnership with the CMC on the Bearwallow Mountain Trail in 2010, to the completion of the Trombatore Trail linking conserved lands of CMLC and SAHC in 2013, to the extension of the Little Bearwallow Trail in 2015, the CMC has created—from scratch—the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trail and brought its planned 15-mile length to 66% completion. And they’re still just getting started.

To do this, the volunteers from the CMC donated an astonishing 5,563 hours to Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. That is the equivalent of one volunteer building trail eight hours a day, every day, for nearly two straight years. And while their donated hours are impressive, the demanding nature of their selfless work is even more impressive. Volunteers endure extreme temperatures and challenging weather conditions all while carrying heavy tools in particularly rugged and steep terrain. Their work is mentally daunting, sometimes often dangerous, and always physically taxing. Bugs, snakes, poison ivy, falling rocks, dirt and mud, sweltering humidity to frozen ground, and long arduous hikes to the work sites—no obstacle is too much for the CMC in their pursuit of building trail to enable others—for generations to come—to enjoy our natural heritage and cherished conserved lands.

The CMC has defined selfless devotion to facilitating the enjoyment of our natural heritage among the community. Land conservation is more known, appreciated, and directly “touched” thanks to the immense involvement of the CMC in the Hickory Nut Gorge. And thanks to their hard work, the stage is set for much more of it to come.

For their incomparable, selfless contribution of time, effort, and energy to CMLC’s Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trail network—as well as their ongoing steadfast stewardship to the trails they have created—the NC Land Trust Council and CMLC are honored to recognize the Carolina Mountain Club as the 2015 Community Conservation Partner of the Year.

Why Use Goats?

Using livestock to control non-native invasive plants is an ecologically friendly technique. Using no machinery, and little to no herbicide, animals can browse a variety of vegetation, including woody plants, to control and rid that site of non-native invasive plants. Goats in particular are excellent browsers in the gorge. Their small body size, agility at navigating steep terrain, and their large appetite make them good candidates for the job. Goats will browse above eye level, de-foliating trees as well as ground cover vegetation. They also aerate and fertilize the soil.

Because of all of the benefits of goat herbivory and the growing need for this type of control, the Weed Action Coalition of the Hickory Nut Gorge (WAC-HNG) facilitated the start of a new goat business in the Hickory Nut Gorge – KD Ecological Services, run by CMLC’s own David and Kristen Lee. This unique partnership allows WAC-HNG to facilitate projects in the gorge using the goats, by renting goats out to landowners to help control invasive plants on their own land. As the popularity of the goats has picked up recently, WAC-HNG has created an “Adopt a Goat” program to allow community members to support the goats off-season, and contribute to future projects. 


Adopt A Goat

On average, $365 will support one goat for one year - just $1 per day.

Adopt A Goat

  • Yearly
  • Monthly
  • One Time

Click to view WAC-HNG's Adopt A Goat page.

Say 'Hello' to Some of our Goats!

Anna Lee                               Jasper



Bonnie                                   Jill


Cassidy                                  Max


Daisy                                     Clyde


Goats provided by KD Ecological Services.

If you have questions about WAC-HNG, how you can help fight invasives, or are interested in adopting a goat, please contact WAC-HNG at or 828-625-9983 ext. 506.

Mills River Watershed - The River Connects us

Learn more about the Mills River Watershed, and the work that the nonprofit, Mills River Partnership, is doing to collaborate with organizations and individuals to improve the water quality in the Mills River.

Video from

A look at the habitat and species of the Hickory Nut Gorge in North Carolina. By Sean Keuroghlian-Eaton and Evan Lamb, students in a Warren Wilson College documentary class.

Video from

On Monday, April 27th, 30 AmeriCorps Project Conserve Members teamed up with the Weed Action Coalition of Hickory Nut Gorge (WAC-HNG) and several local landowners for 2 Disaster Mitigation Service Projects. Disaster Preparedness Training and Mitigation are new focus areas for the environmental-based AmeriCorps program, which it expects to expand in the future as a response to the increased need for disaster services across the nation.

WAC-HNG is a CMLC initiative that works as a coalition of area partners to protect the natural communities and scenic beauty of the Hickory Nut Gorge by managing the establishment and spread of non-native invasive plant species.

The projects were executed in Bat Cave, NC, located in the far eastern corner of Henderson County and just within the scenically beautiful Hickory Nut Gorge.  The area, with its steep and rocky slopes, narrow roads and even narrower stream corridors, is highly vulnerable to hazards including severe thunderstorms, landslides, high winds, riverine erosion, and flooding.  According to the 2010 Henderson County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan, there are 236 buildings in the Bat Cave Area that are vulnerable to landslides, representing nearly $20 million dollars in value. In the past, there has been significant damage in the area caused by excessive rain events (severe thunderstorms and hurricanes) and one death has been attributed to falling debris during one of these events. Small to large landslide events, downed trees, and rock falls are not uncommon after a heavy rain which can (and often) block transportation routes, damage property, and put residents in danger of bodily harm.

There are some methods for lessening the impact of these hazards including education of residents and early warning of a potential disaster, enforcement of higher building code standards, scaling (and other methods of reducing loose debris), and regulation of development in hazard prone areas. With guidance from WAC-HNG,

Project Conserve focused on control of non-native invasive plants in the area, which reduces loose debris and has other benefits not outlined in the Henderson County plan, and which are described below.

English Ivy (Hedera helix) is a non-native invasive plant species that was introduced into the Bat Cave area in the early 1900’s as an ornamental ground cover. Over the years, once small populations have grown to cover dozens of acres of forest. These places are called Ivy Deserts, because native plant and tree seeds cannot germinate under the thick layer of ivy. The vine readily grows high into the tree canopy, putting stress on the trees and eventually killing them. The shallow, spreading root system does not do well to hold in the soil during a heavy rain event, and the dead and/or stressed trees are prone to fall, especially during a weather event. Project Conserve Members relieved stress on nearly 100 large trees by using hand tools to cut chunks out of the ivy vines that were scaling the trees, and herbicide to prevent regrowth. Later, WAC-HNG will work with the landowner to manage the ivy still covering the ground.

Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) is another non-native invasive plant that has established itself in the Hickory Nut Gorge. It prefers stream banks and ditches, but will grow almost anywhere. It looks similar to bamboo, and will grow vigorously from seed and small fragments of plants damaged in floods or from human activity. Because of this, the plant must be handled carefully and disposed of correctly. Often times Knotweed forms very dense infestations that outcompete native plants and narrow the stream corridor. Then it dies back in the fall, leaving an exposed shoreline and large dead stalks that can clog the stream. Project Conserve Members cut out and burned the vegetation, and chemically treated the bases with aquatic herbicide.

AmeriCorps Project Conserve is a national service program in which members come from across the nation to dedicate themselves to serving western North Carolina for an 11 month service term.  Members are selected based on skill, education, experience, passion and commitment to service.  Project Conserve was founded in September of 2004 as an initiative of Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) to respond to the growing conservation needs in western North Carolina.  The program focuses on collaboration with nonprofit organizations, community groups and local governments to provide service throughout the region. AmeriCorps Project Conserve is administered by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the NC Commission for Volunteerism and Community Service in the office of Governor Pat McCrory, and the critical support of our host sites and community partners.

AmeriCorps Project Conserve

Project Conserve Expands Focus Areas


Project Conserve welcomed many new members and several returning members to the AmeriCorps program in September 2014. The 2014-2015 program year marks the 10th term of Project Conserve since it was founded by CMLC in 2004. Changes in the priority areas by the program funder, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), motivated Project Conserve to expand its Environmental Stewardship focus to begin incorporating Disaster Services activities.  Team disaster-focused trainings have included Wilderness First Aid and CPR, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), and trainings with the Salvation Army and Red Cross. Members use the training they receive to design disaster preparedness trainings for their host site organizations and the greater community, increasing awareness of local hazards and encouraging preparedness. Additionally, members educate the community about proactive disaster mitigation projects and engage volunteers in mitigation activities such as storm water drain marking and erosion control.

AmeriCorps Project Conserve places 32 members at 18 environmental and conservation organizations across western North Carolina—including five members at CMLC. Members serve 1,700 hours over eleven-month terms and lead efforts to improve at-risk ecosystems and build community support for conservation through education, volunteer engagement, and direct service on rivers, trails, and public lands.


In this issue:

  • Halfway Home: Headwaters State Forest Surpasses 4,000 Acres;
  • More Bearwallow Mountain Conserved;
  • New Trail Open in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge;
  • 2014 Annual Report;
  • Calendar of Events.

Lela McBride was a community leader and conservationist that enabled the completion of Henderson County’s first Natural Heritage Inventory. She subsequently created the Henderson County Natural Heritage Trust, which grew to become CMLC in 1994. The Lela McBride Award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to land conservation and stewardship in the region. Former winners include CMLC founding fathers John Humphrey and Rep. Chuck McGrady, Congressman Charles Taylor, and NC Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler.

Beginning nearly a decade ago, John Myers and Jane Lawson have partnered with CMLC on multiple conservation projects that have been a catalyst for a growing network of land protection and public hiking trails in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge. The couple first conserved 35 acres of their property adjacent to the Hickory Nut-Forest Eco-Community in Gerton via conservation easement in 2006.

Myers and Lawson worked with CMLC again in 2011 with the sale of 31 acres of their property with frontage on Gerton Highway (US 74A) for the establishment of a new public trailhead to CMLC’s Florence Nature Preserve. The Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trailhead is now a Henderson County park. It is the primary jumping off point for the developing trail network in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge. In an effort to both protect the land and ensure public access to the area’s trails, Myers and Lawson generously accepted well less than its market value.

In 2013, Myers and Lawson partnered with CMLC once more to permanently conserve the 103-acre Wildcat Rock tract on the north slopes of Little Bearwallow Mountain. Protection of the tract not only safeguards dramatic cliff faces, a 100-foot waterfall, and a plethora of biodiversity, it made possible the construction of the Little Bearwallow Trail, a new public footpath that will connect the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trailhead to the popular summit of Bearwallow Mountain. To again further conservation and trails in the region, Myers and Lawson sold the tract to CMLC for nearly half of its market value.

While Myers and Lawson directly have protected 169 acres of mountain lands in Henderson County, their impact has stretched far beyond their own property holdings. Their enthusiasm for the importance of preserving the region’s natural heritage spread to neighboring landowners who followed suit in conserving their own properties with CMLC. Persuasion from Myers and Lawson led the Barnwell family to conserve 170 acres atop Bearwallow Mountain and the Brock family to protect 25 acres at the Chimney View tract. Both tracts are adjacent to the conserved Wildcat Rock property, expanding a contiguous corridor of protected lands in the Gorge.

While Myers and Lawson can be personally associated with 364 acres conserved in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge—with the protection of up to 300 more acres at Bearwallow Mountain still in progress—it may be their wider vision to connect these treasured lands by public foot trails that will endure as their most impactful legacy. Myers and Lawson are the visionaries for the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trail, a 15-mile continuous footpath that will circumnavigate the Upper Gorge and community of Gerton. The hiking circuit will link protected lands conserved by CMLC—including Bearwallow Mountain, Wildcat Rock, and Florence Nature Preserve—as well as those protected by the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. One day, the trail network may connect conserved lands in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge to Chimney Rock State Park and Lake Lure.

For their enduring commitment to the conservation of the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge and their innovative vision to connect its forever-protected natural treasures by public trails, CMLC is proud to present the 2015 Lela McBride Award to John Myers and Jane Lawson.

 Gerton Duo, McGrady, Community Volunteers Honored at CMLC’s Annual Meeting

HENDERSONVILLE, NC—Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) announced John Myers and Jane Lawson, of Gerton, as winners of the organization’s prestigious 2015 Lela McBride Award. The award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to land conservation and stewardship in the region.

The award was given out at CMLC’s Annual Meeting at Camp Tekoa in Hendersonville on Sunday, April 12. Bestowed annually, Myers and Lawson are the 21st recipients of the award. Former winners include Rep. Chuck McGrady, Congressman Charles Taylor, and NC Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler.

Beginning nearly a decade ago, t have partnered with CMLC on multiple conservation projects that have been a catalyst for a growing network of land protection and public hiking trails in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge. The couple has directly protected 169 acres of their own land in Henderson County are are the visionaries of the region’s budding trail network.

Lela McBride, the award’s namesake, was a community leader and conservationist that enabled the completion of Henderson County’s first Natural Heritage Inventory. She subsequently created the Henderson County Natural Heritage Trust, which grew to become CMLC. 

CMLC also recognized Representative Chuck McGrady and his wife Jean for their two decades of commitment to CMLC’s conservation efforts. McGrady was one of CMLC’s early board presidents. He played an instrumental role in the organization’s involvement in the conservation of DuPont State Recreational Forest.

Also honored at the meeting were 23 community volunteers for donating at least 70 hours of volunteer service to the land trust in 2014. CMLC recognized John Humphrey, David Brown, Diana Richards, Al and Barb Pung, Mike Knoerr, Genien Carlson, Bill Imhof, Fred Weed, Jerry McAninch, Wes Burlingame, Patrick Horan, Connie Backlund, Amos Dawson, Chris McDonnell, Bob Lindsey, Skip Sheldon, Jim Neal, Mary Beth Hayes, Brenda Hillyer, Tom Weaver, Mickey Kilpatrick, and Tom Davis.

Volunteers donated a total of 5,743 hours in 2014 which made it possible for CMLC to conserve more than 1,000 acres of land last year.

CMLC conserves land and water resources to benefit the quality of life of residents and visitors in Henderson, Transylvania, and surrounding counties. Since 1994, the land trust has protected more than 28,000 acres of natural lands in western North Carolina. For more information, visit


Members, volunteers, and friends of CMLC! Join us for our 20th Anniversary Annual Meeting and Volunteer Recognition Event on Sunday, April 12th from 2:00-4:30pm. 

The meeting will be held in the dining hall of Camp Tekoa in Hendersonville, NC and will include the following:

  • CMLC year-end summary
  • Guest speaker - NC Representative, 117th District, Chuck McGrady
  • Special recognition of CMLC founders and early supporters
  • Volunteer recognition awards
  • Lela McBride Award presentation
  • Nature hike

For more information, please contact CMLC Volunteer Program Associate Caroline Ketcham at, or call the office at 828-697-5777.

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