Wildlife habitat, water quality protected in Sandy Mush

When locals speak of Sandy Mush, it’s often in the same breath with words like “sacred land,” “pure,” and “paradise.”

So protecting this bucolic expanse of farmland amid North Carolina’s Newfound Mountains of northwestern Buncombe County has been a life’s work for many who live in or who just love the area.

The Ellis family recently worked with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy to protect 88 acres of their land in Boyd Cove with a conservation easement that ensures plant and animal habitat and water sources will remain forever undisturbed and free from development.

The cove is covered in montane oak-hickory and rich cove forests ranging in elevation from 2,920 to 3,840 feet, is splashed with seeps and springs and more than 5,580 feet of streams that feed Long Branch, a tributary to Sandy Mush Creek, which is a direct tributary of the French Broad River.

Long Branch and Sandy Mush creeks are classified as protected trout waters for their ability to sustain year-round trout populations.

Protecting the land through a conservation easement – which allows the landowners to maintain ownership but restricts development – will help prevent sedimentation and other types of pollution from entering the French Broad River watershed, and will protect habitat for wildlife, including rare and endangered species, said Michelle Pugliese, SAHC’s land protection director.

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