April 2, 2014
Blowing Rock, N.C. — The U.S. Forest Service (USFS), in partnership with The Conservation Fund, has acquired an important inholding within Pisgah National Forest with funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), America’s premier land conservation program. Surrounded almost completely by National Forest lands, the protected property will help reduce the amount of USFS resources used on boundary management and allow for expanded public recreational access, including hunting, fishing and hiking.
Located within the headwaters of Racket Creek in the Johns River watershed, the newly acquired 212 acres were previously part of a larger property called Backbone Ridge. Visible from Grandfather Mountain, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Blowing Rock, Backbone Ridge is a top conservation priority for the USFS as well as the North Carolina Forest Service for its pristine waterfalls and streams that provide ideal home for native brook trout, as well as lush forests that house rare plant and animal species.
Previously slated for development, the entire 752-acre Backbone Ridge was purchased in phases by The Conservation Fund in 2009 and 2010 and held by the nonprofit organization while funding is secured for its permanent protection. LWCF funding was approved by Congress in fiscal year 2013 for the USFS’s purchase. U.S. Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan and U.S. Representative Mark Meadows supported federal appropriations for LWCF in fiscal year 2013. LWCF is a bipartisan, federal program that uses a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties—not taxpayer dollars—to acquire critical lands and protect our country’s best natural resources.
“Few if any federal programs have played a more vital role in protecting our public lands than the LWCF,” said Senator Hagan. “I am so pleased that this acquisition will enhance public access to Pisgah National Forest and preserve the scenic views our state is known for. I will continue to support robust funding for the LWCF to ensure our treasured landmarks can be accessed and enjoyed by North Carolinians for generations to come.”
“I applaud The Conservation Fund and U.S. Forest Service for their success in acquiring this critical section of Backbone Ridge as an addition to Pisgah National Forest,” said Representative Meadows. “Protecting our forests, wetlands and recreational areas through commonsense conservation is essential to preserving our natural resources for future generations. This acquisition will serve as another key asset of existing federal lands that are so crucial to the Eleventh District’s local economy.”
“We are very excited about all the efforts of The Conservation Fund in getting this property under federal protection,” said Nick Larson, Grandfather District ranger. “It’s a truly great opportunity to restore part of a larger landscape and maintain some early seral forest conditions.”
“Protecting Backbone Ridge enables us to provide trails that connect Blowing Rock and the Johns River Valley. It also helps preserve more of the Johns River watershed and beautiful vistas from the Blue Ridge Parkway and Grandfather Mountain,” said Bill Holman, North Carolina Director of The Conservation Fund. “The public will soon have access to hunting, fishing, hiking and other recreation opportunities that were previously inaccessible.”
As funding becomes available, the U.S. Forest Service, the State of North Carolina and The Conservation Fund are looking to protect additional land at Backbone Ridge, part of which the state plans to use as a future educational state forest. The N.C. Forest Service has already acquired more than 250 acres for this purpose.
About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we combine a passion for conservation with an entrepreneurial spirit to protect your favorite places before they become just a memory. A hallmark of our work is our deep, unwavering understanding that for conservation solutions to last, they need to make economic sense. Top-ranked, we have protected more than 7 million acres across America.