Tags:The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), through Walmart’s 2012 Acres for America program, has awarded a $500,000 grant to the Blue Ridge Forever coalition for the protection of more than 12,000 acres in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. The grant will help conserve a network of six tracts with native brook trout and golden wing warbler habitat, provide public access for people to enjoy the outdoors and protect the natural resources that local communities depend on for clean drinking water and economic vitality.
“We are thankful to NFWF and Walmart for making this contribution to the future of our Blue Ridge mountains, home of some of the most biologically rich temperate forests in the world,” said Carl Silverstein, executive director of Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, one of the 12 conservation organizations that make up the Blue Ridge Forever coalition.
At nearly 10,000 acres, Rocky Fork, located just over the border in Tennessee, is the most prominent of six tracts in the project. The Conservation Fund, Cherokee National Forest, and the State of Tennessee acquired it in 2008 in cooperation with Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Rocky Fork was one of the largest unprotected high-elevation parcels remaining in the Southern Appalachians and is home to an array of rare and endangered species. The grant money will assist in the protection of the final section of Rocky Fork later this year, conserving a haven for wildlife, safeguarding water quality and supporting economic opportunities for neighboring communities.
The remaining five tracts total 2,240 acres with 21 miles of streams in North Carolina’s Ashe, Avery, Henderson and McDowell counties. These tracts add to the conservation value of thousands of acres of adjoining public lands and protect headwater streams providing prime habitat for native brook trout. The five tracts will be protected by Blue Ridge Forever coalition members – Blue Ridge Conservancy, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, Conservation Trust for North Carolina, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina and Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.
“These lands make-up an important part of the Blue Ridge heritage, and the Acres for America grant will support our collective efforts to protect them for the enjoyment of future generations,” said Ralph Knoll, field representative for The Conservation Fund, also a coalition member.
The grant was secured through a collaborative effort by the Blue Ridge Forever coalition of land trusts, Conservation Trust for North Carolina, The Conservation Fund, and Appalachian Trail Conservancy, with support from Trout Unlimited, Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture and others. Working together they will protect a patchwork of more than 12,000 acres of high priority conservation lands with 36 miles of streams and adjoining hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands.
“It is estimated that America loses nearly three million acres of open space each year,” said Jennifer May-Brust, Walmart vice president of realty supplier management and compliance. “Our strategic partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is helping save important wildlife habitats and fits perfectly with Walmart’s larger goal to bring sustainability into the communities we serve.”
By supporting the conservation of land and wildlife in the Blue Ridge, Walmart and NFWF are also making a sound economic investment in the region. A 2009 study by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission shows mountain trout angling to have a $174 million per year economic input, and directly supported a total of 1,997 jobs in western North Carolina.
Acres for America is a 10-year, $35 million commitment that began in 2005 between Walmart and NFWF to purchase and preserve one acre of wildlife habitat in the U.S. for every acre of land developed by the company through 2015. To date, Acres for America has invested in projects in 24 states, protecting more than 687,000 acres. For more information on Acres for America, visit www.nfwf.org
Blue Ridge Forever is a collective campaign led by local land trusts and national conservation organizations to engage the public and raise financial resources to safeguard land and water in the Southern Blue Ridge for present and future generations. Blue Ridge Forever’s land trusts members are Blue Ridge Conservancy, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, Conservation Trust for North Carolina, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust, Land Trust for the Little Tennessee, National Committee for the New River, Pacolet Area Conservancy, and Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy (NC Chapter), and Trust for Public Land serve an advisory role. www.blueridgeforever.org
At The Conservation Fund, we combine a passion for conservation with an entrepreneurial spirit to protect your favorite places before they become just a memory. A hallmark of our work is our deep, unwavering understanding that for conservation solutions to last, they need to make economic sense. Top-ranked, we have protected nearly 7 million acres across America. www.conservationfund.org
The Conservation Trust for North Carolina promotes, represents, and assists North Carolina’s 23 local land trusts so that they can protect more land in the communities they serve. Land trusts preserve land and water resources to safeguard your way of life. We work in local communities to ensure critical lands are protected for clean drinking water, recreation, tourism, and working farms and forests. www.ctnc.org