• Laurel Contributor

3,400 Acres of Conservation

by Gary Wein

Thanks to remarkable donations of magnificent patches of land, Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust is preserving the Plateau’s precious natural heritage.

Piece by piece, our mountain vistas, waterways, forests and trails are being conserved by Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust.

Over the last 110 years, HCLT has protected over 3,400 acres in over 100 places. In 2019, we completed three conservation easements (landowner retains ownership) and two land donations, each has high conservation value, such as rare species, diverse habitat or landscape connectivity but also holds special significance to the donor.

Michael and Sheila Padgett donated a 34-acre easement adjacent to national forestlands and an existing HCLT conserved property. The site has an amazing population of Fraser’s sedge. Michael is the son of Ranger Bob Padgett for whom the magnificent Padgett Poplar, located in Horse Cove, is named.

The second easement is 10-acres and owned by Glenda Zahner. It acts as a buffer to another existing conserved property. Glenda, a beloved local conservationist, was married to Bob Zahner, who was a highly revered forester and conservationist.

The third easement is home to many small streams and four rare plant species, along with a couple of grotto caves and rock outcrops.

HCLT has accepted two land donations that we are very excited about.

Alan and Helen (Butchie) Neely donated 6.6 acres that contain a natural bridge. This natural bridge is a giant granite slab 150 feet long and 20 feet in diameter that is suspended above the ground by boulders at each end. This acquisition was funded by a Mountain Revolving Loan Fund mini-grant from the Conservation Trust of NC. We use the word “aquisition” because for every property we accept, we ask for a stewardship donation. This helps us with the stewardship costs incurred – everything we protect is conserved forever and of course there’s a cost involved. This is one reason we are very choosy about what we conserve, it goes through several committees, the board before approved.

The second property is a game changer for the Land Trust and was donated by Hillrie Quin. It encompasses some 30 acres of land, and also includes a tractor, Polaris Ranger UTV and wood working shop –– all housed within a barn located on the donated property. The valuable equipment means we are no longer dependent on others for mowing and grading our roads. Kyle Pursel, our stewardship coordinator, is excited about monitoring HCLT properties from the comfort of the Polaris, which will be a big help as a couple of our easements are large and require miles of walking.

We are already working on projects for 2020. Stay tuned! To learn more visit hicashlt.org.

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