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Hikers to Catawba Falls and anglers along the Catawba River have 10 more acres of Pisgah National Forest to call their own.
Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, a regional land trust, has sold and transferred the private in-holding property to the U.S. Forest Service for $105,200. The land shelters views and pristine trout waters along the way to spectacular Catawba Falls.
The Forest Service acquired the 10-acre tract from the land trust using Federal Land and Water Conservation Funds set aside for acquiring in-holdings – unique properties mostly surrounded by existing public conservation lands.
“This is a big accomplishment for Foothills Conservancy, which brought together partners from the county, state and federal levels to ensure public access to this beautiful property,” said Nick Larson, Pisgah’s Grandfather District ranger. “I appreciate the Conservancy’s efforts in transferring this loved landscape to the Forest Service for future generations to enjoy and connect with the forest.”
The U.S. Forest Service and McDowell County opened and dedicated a new parking area and trailhead to Catawba Falls in July 2012.
The transferred in-holding property is within close view of the trail and includes almost one-quarter mile of additional Catawba River frontage for public trout fishing.
In 2011, Foothills Conservancy stepped in to quickly purchase the 10 acres from a Florida couple using a contribution from Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury designated for that purpose.
The land trust earlier acquired and then sold in 2010 to the U.S. Forest Service the 88 acres comprising the access to Catawba Falls. Tens of thousands of residents and visitors of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains have since hiked the one mile trail to enjoy the cool waters and scenic splendor of the waterfall.
“Small in-holding tracts surrounded by public conservation lands are important pieces of the conservation puzzle, particularly where natural scenery and outdoor recreation are enjoyed by people and families,” said Tom Kenney, Foothills Conservancy’s land protection director. “We are thankful for the Stanbacks’ contribution that made our purchase of the tract possible and will use the proceeds from the sale to the U.S. Forest Service to acquire and protect additional lands in the area, further benefiting the public.”
In-holdings and other strategic tracts connecting sections of Pisgah National Forest are reasons why additional funds budgeted by the U.S. Congress are needed now for the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) program. Senator Burr is a lead co-sponsor of legislation in Congress to fully fund LWCF. Senator Kay Hagan and Representative Mark Meadows have also been supportive of full funding for the program.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund program is due to expire in 2014. The original enabling legislation passed into law in the 1970s authorizes and sets aside a portion of oil and gas royalties from off-shore oil leases for the conservation and acquisition of public land. Without new legislation to re-new LWCF, improving our national forests, parks, and wildlife refuges – and securing additional public access to them - will be hampered.
Foothills Conservancy has permanently conserved almost 1,900 acres which adjoin Pisgah National Forest in the headwaters of the Catawba River near Old Fort. This work has been accomplished with the support of many partners at the local, state and federal levels, including private landowners, other conservation groups, and the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund.
Based in Morganton, Foothills Conservancy is a non-profit regional land trust working with willing landowners and communities to protect significant natural areas and open spaces, including watersheds, forests and farm land, across the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains and their foothills in eight counties: Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Cleveland, Lincoln, McDowell, and Rutherford.
Since 1995, Foothills Conservancy has protected more than 46,500 acres, including lands acquired for state parks at South Mountains, Lake James and Chimney Rock; state game lands, including those at Wilson Creek and below the Linville Gorge; and for Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway. In addition, the land trust assists landowners who wish to permanently conserve privately-owned farm and forest lands with conservation agreements.
Other information and ways you can help support Foothills Conservancy can be found on-line at foothillsconservancy.org or by calling 437-9930.