The Black & Craggy Mountains

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Home to Mt. Mitchell – at 6,684 feet the tallest peak in the Eastern United States – the Black and Craggy Mountains host some of the most biologically rich habitat in the Southern Appalachians. With many unfragmented areas still remaining, the high-elevation peaks and associated valleys create a forested landscape home to black bears, sharp-shinned hawks, peregrine falcons and pigmy salamanders. Since the days of Elisha Mitchell and Big Tom Wilson, these mountains have been a cornerstone of conservation efforts in North Carolina.

Threatened Natural Heritage, Recreation, and Economic Landscape

Over twenty-three miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway wind through the globally outstanding ecological system of the Black and Craggy Mountains, making them a haven for Asheville locals and tourists, who flock to the Blacks and Craggies for their expansive views, biking opportunities and extensive trail systems. Not surprisingly, these natural heritage and recreational treasures generate significant tourism dollars for the area; a recent economic study revealed that Parkway visitors alone add $2.3 billion to the regional western North Carolina economy. However, sprawling development is pushing closer to the Blacks and Craggies, spotting the mountains with houses and roads and disrupting wildlife movement corridors.

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Biological Diversity

In addition to playing a paramount role in maintaining biodiversity in the Southern Appalachians, the Black and Craggy Mountains uphold national and global biodiversity. The area contains 517 Natural Heritage Element Occurrences of rare and endangered species, and Mount Mitchell State Park is an International Biosphere Reserve. The area is also designated an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International.

 Drinking Water

The high elevation Black and Craggy Mountains hold countless tributary streams of the French Broad River Watershed, which provides drinking water for a population over 390,000 people, including The City of Asheville’s watershed (protected by Conservation Trust for North Carolina). The Toe and Cane Rivers are identified as nationally significant aquatic habitat.

A History of Protection

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Once a National Park candidate, the Black Mountains lost out to the Great Smoky Mountains, now the most-visited National Park in the country. Additionally, the first National Forest Service purchase in the Eastern United States was located in the Black Mountains, and many tracks are still suitable for sustainable forestry practices. Locals and visitors alike both greatly value the area, accessing a significant portion of the Mountains-to-Sea trail, Mount Mitchell State Park, and countless other recreational opportunities via the Blue Ridge Parkway.

With sprawling development crawling towards the Black Mountains, many large areas of biological habitat, old-growth forests, and Blue Ridge Parkway scenic views are at risk. Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC), The Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC) and Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina (FCNC) have done significant work within the Black and Craggy Mountains Focus Area, including a 17,000-acre CTNC easement protecting the Asheville watershed, a 1,800-acre SAHC easement on the Woodfin watershed, a 2,400-acre SAHC easement protecting recreational trails, water quality, and habitat in Montreat Wilderness, and 1,400 acres protected by Foothills for the adjoining Catawba River headwaters. Today, including federal and state protected lands, there are over 125,000 acres of contiguous protected forestlands. Continuing protection work within the Black and Craggy Mountains will preserve drinking water resources, protect critical habitat, and provide recreation and scenic opportunities for generations to come.

LEAVE YOUR LEGACY

There are few ways that you can leave a greater legacy than through land conservation. Please consider a tax-deductible gift to preserve the magnificent landscape of the Black and Craggy Mountains. Each donation brings us one step closer to conserving this imperiled high-elevation landscape.

LAND TRUSTS SERVING BLACK & CRAGGY MOUNTAINS

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Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy
34 Wall St., Suite 502, Asheville, NC 28801
828-253-0095 www.appalachian.org

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Conservancy Trust for North Carolina
1028 Washington St., Raleigh, NC 27605,
919-828-4199 x16 www.ctnc.org

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Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina
P.O. Box 3023, Morganton, NC 28680
828-437-9930 www.foothillsconservancy.org