LAKE LURE, NC (March 28, 2018)—With support from the Open Space Institute’s (OSI) Resilient Landscapes Initiative, Conserving Carolina land trust has purchased resilient acreage at the summit of Youngs Mountain, the scenic peak in western North Carolina’s Rutherford County. In addition to providing habitat for sensitive plants and animals even as the climate changes, the project will allow creation of trails where hikers can enjoy breathtaking views.
The newly protected land on Youngs Mountain, totaling over 300 acres, provides habitat for over 80 species of animals, from the southern flying squirrel to the pipevine swallowtail butterfly. It is also home to numerous rare or endangered animals, including the crevice salamander, the green salamander, and the Diana fritillary butterfly.
The Youngs Mountain Summit project is the latest in a series of projects supported by OSI’s Southeast Resilient Landscapes Initiative. Through $750,000 in support, the Southeast Resilient Landscapes Initiative has helped to protect 3,312 acres in the Southern Blue Ridge focus area, one of three focus areas in the southeast. To date, the Fund has approved $5.5 million in grants to help protect 30,000 acres.
“The protection of this property atop Youngs Mountain is a crowning achievement in this multi-year effort to conserve a climate-resilient corridor used by hikers and wildlife alike,” said Peter Howell, executive vice president of OSI. “We congratulate Conserving Carolina for their collaborative efforts to conserve this beautiful landscape.”
“The Youngs Mountain tract has long been a conservation priority for our organization, with the opportunity to protect habitat for hundreds of species as climate patterns are shifting,” said Rebekah Robinson, who directed this project for Conserving Carolina. “It also gives us the ability to build on the network of conserved lands and public trails in the Hickory Nut Gorge. When the opportunity arose, we sprang into action to permanently conserve the land for the future.”
Youngs Mountain is part of the dramatic Blue Ridge Escarpment, where the mountains rise from the Piedmont. This land of steep mountains, sheer cliffs, and rushing creeks is home to some of the richest biodiversity in the United States and has been recognized as a top national priority for conservation.
In 2014, Conserving Carolina worked with a private conservation partner to temporarily secure the property. Later, with the support of OSI, the North Carolina Clean Water Management Fund, and Fred and Alice Stanback, the land trust purchased the land in late 2017. Conserving Carolina then granted a permanent conservation easement on the property to the state, ensuring that it will be protected forever.
In the future, Conserving Carolina plans to build a trail network that will lead to the stone summit of Youngs Mountain with its breathtaking views over Lake Lure, Chimney Rock, Rumbling Bald, and the Piedmont to the east. These trails contribute to the Summits Trail, a vision for a long trail connecting a series of peaks around Lake Lure.