February 3, 2014

Transylvania County, N.C. —Today the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, The Conservation Fund and the U.S. Forest Service announced the latest achievements of a private-public partnership to conserve nearly 8,000 acres along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Transylvania County.  In 2013, the department’s North Carolina Forest Service acquired and protected more than 3,200 acres of working forestland and a significant section of the headwaters of French Broad River’s east fork.  This acquisition was made possible with a grant from the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program—which is funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)—as well as state and private funding.

Located on the border of North and South Carolina, the newly-protected lands will eventually become part of the prospective Headwaters State Forest.  When conserved in its entirety, the future state forest will span over nine miles and will expand opportunities for public outdoor recreation by protecting and making publicly-accessible the last privately-owned section of the storied Foothills Trail. It is adjacent to more than 100,000 acres of existing conservation lands in both states and provides habitat for federally endangered plant species and other federal plant and animal species of concern.

“This project may be the last opportunity to conserve a landscape-scale portion of our beloved mountains and their precious natural resources,” said N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Acquisition will help to connect large swaths of existing conserved land and create wildlife corridors for bear, deer and various bird species.”

Ranked 7th on the 2013 national Forest Legacy Program priority list, the future Headwaters State Forest received a $3 million grant from the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program for the state’s purchase of 711 acres. The federal funding was matched by $5.4 million in private and state funding to protect an additional 1,186 acres. Combined with the state’s two additional acquisitions in 2013, a total of more than 3,200 acres of the East Fork Headwaters have been conserved.

U.S. Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan and U.S. Representative Mark Meadows supported federal appropriations for the Forest Legacy Program and the Land and Water Conservation Fund in fiscal year 2013. The Conservation Fund and the State are seeking additional Forest Legacy and LWCF funds to complete the conservation of this magnificent landscape and to ensure that the land is publicly available for hunting, fishing, hiking and other outdoor pursuits.

 “The Blue Ridge Mountains are a true national treasure, and I applaud the U.S. Forest Service, The Conservation Fund and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture for working together to preserve additional surrounding lands,” said Senator Hagan. “Like so many North Carolinians, my family and I love to participate in outdoor activities like hiking, camping, hunting and fishing, and I will continue to support robust funding for programs like LWCF and Forest Legacy that ensure future generations have the same opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors.”

“This Forest Legacy project is a model partnership demonstrating the importance of working together to restore and conserve working forests for future generations,” said U.S. Forest Service Regional Forester, Liz Agpaoa.

The N.C. Forest Service plans to create a multi-use management plan that will enable the property to be sustainably managed for timber production, while allowing for a variety of public recreational uses, including hunting and hiking. In 2011, hunters spent $525 million and wildlife-watching participants spent $930 million in North Carolina. The project will also protect five miles of trout streams. Trout fishing contributed $146 million to North Carolina’s economy and supported almost 2,000 jobs, according to a study conducted on behalf of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

Working with the N.C. Forest Service and the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, The Conservation Fund began the effort to conserve East Fork Headwaters in 2010. The Conservation Fund negotiated a contract to purchase the entire 8,000 acres for the State in a bargain sale from former Congressman Charles Taylor and his family.

“This is a significant step forward for the East Fork Headwaters. In less than a year, more than a third of the landscape has been conserved,” said Justin Boner, The Conservation Fund’s real estate director for North Carolina. “We’re grateful to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Senator Burr, Senator Hagan, Representative Meadows and all of the partners for their continued commitment to this multi-phase, multi-year effort that will benefit North Carolina’s economy and environment for generations to come.”

The conservation project is poised to make additional acquisitions in 2014. In mid-December, the project was awarded a $2.75 million grant from the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund to purchase an additional 687 acres of forestland. 

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states to protect more than 7.5 million acres of land since 1985.

About The NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services provides services that promote and improve agriculture, agribusiness and forests; protect consumers and businesses; and conserve farmland and natural resources for the prosperity of all North Carolinians. www.ncagr.gov

About the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program

The Forest Legacy Program works with state agencies and local landowners to protect environmentally important forests that are threatened with conversion to non-forest uses. It is funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a federal land protection program that receives funds from the development of federally-owned offshore oil and gas resources. LWCF does not use taxpayer dollars and has been protecting forests, natural resources, state and local parks and recreation areas since 1965.

Press Release Contacts
Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 | asimonelli@conservationfund.org
Brian Long | N.C. Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services | 919-707-3007 | brian.long@ncagr.gov
Brian R. Haines | N.C. Forest Service | 919-857-4828 | brian.haines@ncagr.gov