OSI and Partners Secure Climate-resilient Lands for North Carolina’s Headwaters Preserve
Three Southeast regions chosen for landmark conservation initiative to protect resilient habitat in the face of climate change.
MORGANTON, NC — With support from the Open Space Institute
(OSI), Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina has announced the protection of
259 additional acres in the Catawba River’s headwaters, to be added to the
Catawba Headwaters Preserve.
Acquisition of the tract, called “Sank Gap,” also conserves
a significant portion of the Edmondson Mountain Natural Area, identified by
North Carolina’s Natural Heritage Program for its range of natural communities
similar to those found in nearby Pisgah National Forest. Known for its high
resiliency, the Sank Gap tract will continue to provide habitat to sensitive
plants and animals even under changing climate conditions.
A $155,000 grant from OSI’s Southeast Resilient Landscapes
Fund, in recognition of the property’s high level of climate change resilience
and biodiversity, helped secure the property. The land falls within the
Southern Blue Ridge Focus Area identified in OSI’s Resilient Landscapes
Initiative, which seeks to identify and fund the protection of places that are
best able to recover from climate-related disturbance, ensuring biodiversity
for years to come.
“The resiliency of Sank Gap will make it an invaluable haven
for wildlife and human communities as the climate changes,” said Peter Howell,
OSI’s executive vice president in charge of the Conservation Capital Program.
“This project demonstrates the important role that land conservation can play
in protecting places that are not just important today but will endure far into
the future. Foothills and its many
partners, including landowner Tim Sweeney, are to be commended for their vision
“This property has been a high priority for us
for a while, and we are very pleased that it is now protected,” said Tom
Kenney, Foothills Conservancy land protection director. “It is important not
only because it contains streams that impact the water quality of the Catawba
River—a source of drinking water for millions of North and South
Carolinians—but also because it ranks highly as a resilient landscape as
climate change occurs. We are grateful to all who contributed to make this
Significant streams on the tract
drain into Little Crooked Creek, a tributary that joins the Catawba River
downstream of Old Fort. The Catawba River Basin is one of North Carolina’s most
important river basins. More than two million Carolinians from Marion to
Charlotte and downstream to Columbia, South Carolina, rely on the river for
their drinking water supply.
Private funding also included a generous commitment of
$81,300 from conservationists Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury, among other
local citizen donors. Duke Energy contributed the final $8,500 needed to
complete the project’s funding as a tribute gift in memory of longtime
Foothills Conservancy supporter Paul Braun, who passed away in early January.