Nantahala National Forest to grow with land conserved by Asheville land trust

When you stand on a ridge or mountaintop in Western North Carolina, maybe from Wayah Bald in the Nantahala National Forest or Waterrock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway, it might look like miles of rippling green and blue mountains.

But what you’re really looking at is a checkerboard, said Carl Silverstein, executive director of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, an Asheville-based nonprofit land trust. Visualize these forests as black and white boxes of public lands and private lands, he said.

And blending them into a beautiful, sustainable, cohesive landscape is more like a high-stakes game of chess, or Monopoly – making the right move at the right time with the right amount and source of money.

The movers, shakers and money-makers were able to pull off a win in two recent deals. This summer the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy purchased two parcels totaling 219 acres that will eventually be added to the Nantahala National Forest and open to the public.

One of the tracts contains Big Creek, a headwater tributary of the Chattooga National Wild and Scenic River. The other is located on Tanasee Ridge and can potentially provide an alternate gateway to Panthertown Valley, a popular area for outdoor recreation. Both have long been priorities for addition to the Nantahala National Forest.

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