Conserved land along Blue Ridge Parkway to protect water quality, hiking

The blue mountain views from Deer Lick Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway have never been sweeter. The scenic spot in northern McDowell County looking out over a sweeping mountain forest known as Wildacres will now look wild forever.

On Dec. 20, 2017, in a years-long collaboration, the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, Conservation Trust for North Carolina and Wildacres Retreat completed conservation easements, or agreements, on 1,076 acres of the privately owned land adjoining the parkway and Pisgah National Forest.

The $1 million easements allow the mountaintop retreat to stay in operation, but with restrictions that keep the land and the views forever protected from development. They will also protect public hiking trails, water quality, and serve as a safe haven for species in the face of climate change.

“A common misconception about the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Pisgah National Forest is that just because it looks undeveloped right now, doesn’t mean it always will be,” said Mary Alice Holley, communications director with the nonprofit CTNC.

“This is why it’s important to support lands trusts. We’re actively working to preserve these lands, not only to protect the pristine views when you’re out driving or hiking, but to protect wildlife habitat and clean water resources, which is important for all of us in North Carolina,” Holley said.

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