The Conservation Fund, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, announced on Friday the protection of more than 1,680 acres of high-elevation ridges and pristine headwaters in the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains. Located in both North Carolina and Tennessee, the conservation acquisition was made possible with funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and connects more than 127,000 acres of public lands from Cherokee National Forest to Mount Rogers National Recreation area in Virginia.
From the property's highest elevations, including the 4,325-foot Bald Knob, one can see three states and many high peaks, including Mt. Rogers and Whitetop in Virginia, as well as Snake Mountain, Elk Knob and Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. The land, known as Cut Laurel Gap, features some of the best remaining stream habitat for Southern Appalachian Brook Trout and will eventually be open to the public for fishing as well as hunting for ruffed grouse, turkey, white-tailed deer and black bear.
The Conservation Fund purchased the Cut Laurel Gap property in December 2013, serving as the temporary owner until funding could be provided for its permanent protection. The conveyance of the final acreage in Tennessee to the U.S. Forest Service this month was made possible with funding from the LWCF. Private contributions from Fred and Alice Stanback and a grant from Trout Unlimited also enabled the protection of land in both states.
The headwaters located on the property, together with one linear mile of perennial streams also now conserved, are tributaries to South Holston Lake, which provides drinking water to residents in Bristol, Tennessee and Virginia, and popular water-based recreation for more than four million visitors and surrounding communities along the Tennessee-Virginia border annually.
The Conservation Fund strives to create conservation solutions that make environmental and economic sense. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, the Fund has worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect nearly eight million acres of land. Visit www.conservationfund.org.