An Asheville-based land conservancy has bought 324 acres in the Roan Highlands that will protect the northern slopes of Hump Mountain near the Appalachian Trail.
The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service have worked for decades to conserve the family-owned property, which adjoins Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee.
The Appalachian Trail crosses the grassy balds on Hump Mountain, yielding 360-degree views. The newly acquired tract is part of that view, reaching 5,000 feet in elevation just below the trail.
Over the years, its former owner, the late Oscar Julian, turned down offers from developers who wanted to turn the area into a resort, the conservancy said. The Forest Service bought 1,400 acres on the North Carolina side of Hump Mountain in the early 1980s, but conservationist wanted to also protect the remaining land.
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The tract is surrounded by Important Bird Areas designated by the National Audubon Society and contains the headwaters of a creek and tributary streams.
The conservancy used a gift from Salisbury philanthropists Fred and Alice Stanback, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant and a loan from the Conservation Fund, a national group, to buy the land for an undisclosed amount. The conservancy hopes to eventually transfer ownership to Cherokee National Forest.