May 19, 2013

Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) announced former Congressman Charles Taylor and his family, Dick Ludington of The Conservation Fund, and N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler as winners of the organization’s prestigious 2013 Lela McBride Award. The award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to land conservation and stewardship in the region.

The 2013 recipients won the award due to their role in the creation of the new Headwaters State Forest in the East Fork watershed of the French Broad River in southern Transylvania County.  The Taylor family contacted CMLC in 2009 about their interest in selling the land, named Headwaters due to the many streams that rise on the property, for conservation.  CMLC partnered with The Conservation Fund and its NC Director Dick Ludington, who led the negotiations for acquisition of the Headwaters tract. 

Commissioner Troxler has made acquisition a high priority for the N.C. Forest Service.  That agency now owns 1,319 acres that will become the State Forest. The award was given out at CMLC’s Annual Meeting at Camp Tekoa in Hendersonville on Sunday afternoon.

In early 2013, the NC Forest Service in partnership with The Conservation Fund acquired 977 acres of the Headwaters tract for the formation of the State Forest. Last week, the NC Forest Service purchased an additional 342 acres there. Added to 786 acres purchased by The Conservation Fund in late 2010, 2105 acres are now in conservation ownership. This property will form the core of the new State Forest. Funding for the acquisition has come from the N.C. Natural Heritage Trust Fund, N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund, a private donation by Fred and Alice Stanback, and settlement funds provided to North Carolina by the Tennessee Valley Authority.  Thanks to the leadership of United States Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan, additional funds are expected to be awarded soon from the fiscal year 2013 Land and Water Conservation Fund’s Forest Legacy Program, which is administered by the U.S. Forest Service.

The East Fork Headwaters project will ultimately protect 8,000 acres of working forest land Transylvania County. This tract is one of the largest remaining privately owned tracts in western North Carolina. The property has particular significance as it connects more than 100,000 acres of existing conserved lands in North and South Carolina. The project has expanded opportunities for public recreation by protecting the final privately-owned nine-mile section of the venerable Foothills Trail and providing a future opportunity for more than five miles of additional public trout streams.

The Headwaters State Forest will preserve more than 60 miles of streams classified as High Quality Waters. The French Broad River is a major drinking water source for residents in Asheville, Hendersonville, and Brevard. The tract will also protect documented occurrences of a federally endangered plant species and other plant and animal species of concern, such as the native strain of the Southern Appalachian Brook Trout and Appalachian Mountain Bogs.

The property will be managed as a working Stewardship Forest by the NC Forest Service and as a State Game Land in cooperation with the NC Wildlife Resource Commission. The forest will continue to be part of the commercial timber base and the wildlife habitat that will favor both game and non-game species. Management of this property will serve as a model for multi-use natural resource management, blending sustainable forestry, wildlife conservation, habitat management, and restoration with educational and recreational opportunities for the enjoyment of all North Carolina citizens.  

Five acres on the north side of the summit of Sassafras Mountain, the highest point in South Carolina, were conveyed by The Conservation Fund to that state in 2012 to enable the S.C. Department of Natural Resources to develop a visitor observation tower in coming years.

During the ongoing acquisition phase of land that will comprise Headwaters State Forest, the property—excluding the Foothills Trail corridor—will remain closed to the public. Access to the property as public game land will occur after the acquisition phase is complete, and after the Land Management Plan (LMP) is completed. The NCFS hopes to complete acquisition of the entire tract in the next three to five years.

Lela McBride, the award’s namesake, was a community leader and conservationist that enabled the completion of Henderson County’s first Natural Heritage Inventory. She subsequently created the Henderson County Natural Heritage Trust, which grew to become CMLC. 

Additional Information
The Fund's North Carolina Work

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.

Press Release Contacts
Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 |
Kieran Roe, Executive Director, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy; 828-697-5777 x-201
Brian Haines, Public Information Officer, North Carolina Forest Service; 919-857-4828
Bill Holman, North Carolina State Director, The Conservation Fund; 919-967-2223 x-137