Southern Appalachians Highlands Conservancy Protects 187 Acres at Wilkins Creek

Just beyond the rush of traffic on Interstate 40 near the Tennessee-North Carolina line, steep hillsides and forested knolls shelter a vibrant community of wildlife.

Southern Appalachians Highlands Conservancy recently purchased 187 acres in this part of Haywood County near the Pigeon River to protect a corridor for wildlife grazing and movement.

Encircled by the Pisgah National Forest and adjoining the NC Welcome Center on I-40, the Wilkins Creek property is very near a large box culvert under the Interstate, which provides a way for wildlife to travel safely from one side of the interstate to the other. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and other partners identified this property in the Pigeon River Gorge as a conservation priority because it provides a key corridor for elk and other animals to move in the landscape.

“Protecting the Wilkins Creek tract represents a long-term, important investment in the well-being of wildlife throughout the Southern Appalachians,” says Jeff Hunter, Senior Program Manager with National Parks Conservation Association. “Ongoing wildlife monitoring by National Parks Conservation Association and Wildlands Network indicate that black bear, bobcat, white-tailed deer, and migrating bird species including a variety of wood warblers frequently use this property. Protecting the land also advances wildlife connectivity efforts throughout the Pigeon River Gorge, between Pisgah National Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We will continue to support progress in restoring landscape connectivity and reducing wildlife-vehicle conflicts by working in partnership with groups like SAHC.”

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