MORGANTON, N.C. (July 3, 2018)—Thanks in part to a grant from the Open Space Institute (OSI), a celebrated North Carolina nature preserve is now 303 acres larger. The successful conservation project, completed by the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, secured the land for its ability to protect plants and animals under a changing climate, and its role in protecting the local watershed.
The undeveloped forested property — named Rock Creek for the part of a stream that flows through the land — adjoins the conservancy’s South Mountains Headwaters Preserve, in one of the state’s most rugged outdoors areas. The acquisition expands the total size of the preserve to 1,796 acres.
OSI supported the project through its Resilient Landscapes Initiative because of the land’s high resilience, or its ability to protect habitat for plants and animals, even as the climate changes.
“The Open Space Institute is proud to support the protection of the Rock Creek property, and prouder still to continue to protect lands in North Carolina that will be a critical stronghold for wildlife and humans for generations to come,” said Peter Howell, the Open Space Institute’s executive vice president. “We congratulate Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina on their permanent protection of this amazing place.”
Located in the South Mountains of Burke County, a portion of the property’s surface waters drain into the Henry Fork River watershed while other streams contribute to the Jacob Fork River.
The property features two waterfalls, a record of the State Significantly Rare Golden Banded-Skipper butterfly, and a small population of the federally threatened species Hexastylis naniflora, more commonly known as dwarf-flowered heartleaf.
Foothills Conservancy purchased the property from conservation philanthropist and conservancy supporter, Tim Sweeney. In addition to OSI’s grant, funding for acquisition and transaction costs was provided by the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and private contribution from long-time conservationists Fred and Alice Stanback.
Looking forward, Foothills Conservancy plans to enhance an existing trail on the property for occasional public access to an overlook with expansive views of the Preserve and South Mountains State Park.