This is great news. Press release here:
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) has accepted a donated conservation easement on 526 acres in Swannanoa owned by Chemtronics, Inc. The conservation easement permanently protects land adjoining Pisgah National Forest, as well as scenic views from the Blue Ridge Parkway, I-40 and NC Highway 70.
“This landscape is important to the surrounding Swannanoa community, and we are pleased to be able to permanently protect these ridges,” says Carl Silverstein, SAHC’s executive director. “The conservation easement area provides important wildlife corridors and will create an undeveloped buffer adjoining other protected lands.”
The forested, steep slopes of the property rise to elevations over 3,580 feet. The tract adjoins a large block of contiguous, protected land in the Black Mountains that includes the Asheville Watershed, Pisgah National Forest, Mount Mitchell State Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is located less than a mile away. The Audubon Society’s Black and Great Craggy Mountains Important Bird Area covers a portion of the property. This Important Bird Area provides habitat for a wide variety of species, including: Black-throated Blue warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Canada Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Pine Siskin, and Dark-eyed Junco.
The conservation easement property was separated from a larger tract owned by Chemtronics, Inc., in which the remaining 535 acres are classified as a Superfund site. Superfund sites are contaminated sites that qualify for cleanup by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The conservation easement is located on upper slopes above and surrounding the Chemtronics Superfund site. The EPA issued an Amended Record of Decision in September 2016, in which the Chemtronics Superfund boundary was redefined to divide the original 1,065-acre property into two separate areas: the Superfund site containing 535 acres and the remainder of the property, which no longer carries the Superfund designation. The landowners voluntarily donated a conservation easement on the 526-acre tract separated from the Superfund site. Extensive site analyses indicate the land within the conservation easement boundary is not contaminated.
“This land has been a long-time priority for conservation for nearly 20 years, and I’m thrilled to see this project finally come to fruition,” says Michelle Pugliese, SAHC’s land protection director.
The land will continue to be owned by Chemtronics, Inc, and will not be open to the public. SAHC stewardship staff will monitor the conservation easement area annually, and the property will be managed for forest health, according to a forest management plan.
About Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy:
The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy is a non-profit land trust headquartered in Asheville, NC. Since 1974, SAHC has protected over 73,000 acres of unique plant and animal habitat, clean water, farmland and places for outdoor recreation of the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina.