September 29, 2023

Conservation Effort Nearly Triples Land Area Protecting Western North Carolina's Maggie Valley Watershed

HAYWOOD COUNTY, N.C. — The Conservation Fund and the Maggie Valley Sanitary District recently announced the protection of an additional 1,250 acres within the Maggie Valley watershed priority conservation area just west of Asheville. The acquisition will nearly triple the amount of land protected by The Conservation Fund and the Sanitary District in the valley, totaling roughly 2,000 acres made up of dozens of properties. Thanks in part to a multi-year effort to protect open forestland within the watershed, the water found in Maggie Valley at the headwaters of Campbell Creek and Jonathan Creek is some of the cleanest drinking water in the nation. In fact, the Sanitary District was awarded the “Best Tasting Water of North Carolina” earlier this year.

“If you like drinking clean water, one of the best investments you can make is protecting forests in your watershed,” said Maggie Valley Sanitary District Manager, Jason Herbert. “Our partnership with The Conservation Fund is helping enhance our community’s public health and prosperity, as well as opportunities for recreation and protected habitat for our beloved wildlife.”

By working with private landowners, the partners have secured a critical corridor adjacent to various other protected, public land such as Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the William H. Silver Game Land. This region is a hot spot for outdoor recreation and wildlife including elk, bear and threatened species like the Southern Appalachian black-capped chickadee.

“Our conservation work in Maggie Valley is a great example of how environmental and economic solutions can be one in the same,” said Bill Holman, North Carolina state director at The Conservation Fund. “This valley is one of the only places east of the Mississippi where elk can be spotted grazing and heard bugling all around you. People travel far and wide to experience the natural beauty of Haywood County, and it wouldn’t exist without the ongoing visionary work of this partnership.”

Funding for the acquisition was provided by the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program, through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and North Carolina’s Land and Water Fund. In total, the Maggie Valley watershed priority conservation area has received more than $8 million in federal funding from the Forest Legacy Program for the state’s purchase of nearly 4,000 acres, including the 2,000 acres secured by The Conservation Fund and Maggie Valley Sanitary District. Congressionally authorized, LWCF helps support critical land conservation efforts across the nation. The Forest Legacy Program provides funding to states and private landowners seeking to protect environmentally valuable forest areas from the threat of conversion to non-forest uses.

Thanks to support from North Carolina’s U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, U.S. Senator Ted Budd, as well as U.S. Representative Chuck Edwards, funding through the LWCF was leveraged with $4.8 million of state and philanthropic matching dollars from the North Carolina Land and Water Fund, the Pigeon River Fund, and Fred and Alice Stanback.

The public, private, nonprofit and community partners that have been essential to this effort came together at the Maggie Valley Town Hall Pavilion on September 29 to celebrate this important milestone.

About The Conservation Fund
The Conservation Fund protects the land that sustains us all. We are in the business of conservation, creating innovative solutions that drive nature-based action in all 50 states for climate protection, vibrant communities and sustainable economies. We apply effective strategies, efficient financing approaches, and enduring government, community and private partnerships to protect millions of acres of America’s natural land, cultural sites, recreation areas and working forests and farms.

Supporting quotes:

“The Maggie Valley Watershed is one of North Carolina’s natural treasures, and I am committed to protecting and preserving it for future generations,” said U.S. Senator Thom Tillis. “The Balsam Range Forest Legacy Program project makes critical investments for the watershed’s future, including expanding the watershed by nearly 2,000 acres, ensuring quality drinking water, and protecting animal habitats.”

“Clean water is critical for enhancing Maggie Valley’s regional health and development. This milestone investment will go a long way to further protect Western North Carolina’s natural resources and enhance the community’s wildlife heritage. I was proud to support the Great American Outdoors Act while I served in the U.S. House, which helped make investments like this one possible,” said U.S. Senator Ted Budd.

“This historic effort led by The Conservation Fund will help maintain the elk habitat, high-quality drinking water and natural beauty in Maggie Valley for years to come. As an outdoorsman myself, I know that our recreation economy is critical and that our natural environment is one of Western North Carolina’s greatest treasures,” said U.S. Congressman Chuck Edwards (NC-11). “Thank you to the many community partners who helped achieve this exciting milestone and preserve the unmatched beauty of WNC for the next generation.”

“It is not every day you have the opportunity to protect a drinking water supply watershed, elk habitat, trout streams, and create recreational opportunities at this scale,” said Will Summer, director of the North Carolina Land and Water Fund. “We are thrilled to partner with the Maggie Valley Sanitary District, The Conservation Fund, the USDA USFS Forest Legacy Program, and many others to make this project happen.”

“Receiving USDA Forest Legacy funding requires hard work, dedication, and a strong will from all parties involved.  These are the characteristics of our partners (USDA Forest Service, NCLWF, The Conservation Fund, Maggie Valley Sanitary District, and private landowners).  NCFS is honored to work with these partners.  We are excited that the Balsam Range project area will protect multiple environmental natural resources while allowing for a working forest in perpetuity,” said Jonathan Murray, stewardship coordinator at the NC Forest Service.