Smoky Mountains


The Smoky Mountains are world-renowned for their amazing biodiversity. No other temperate area of equal size hosts as many species of plants, animals, and invertebrates. Approximately 12,000 species have been identified within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and new species are discovered every year – over 5,000 species since 1997. Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the entire Smoky Mountain range also host a rich human history, including countless sacred areas of the Cherokee Indians, multi-generation self-sustaining family farms, and over 70 years of National Park employee family histories. Much of this culture is accessible to the nine million annual visitors to the National Park.

Threatened Natural Heritage, Recreation, and Economic Values

Protection of areas surrounding Great Smoky Mountains National Park and within the entire Smoky Mountain range is not only critical for wildlife habitat, but also for the local economy. Visitation to Great Smoky Mountains National Park relies heavily on the surrounding view-shed, but new development proposals increasingly threaten these lands. Consequently, conservation potential and need are at an all-time high for the Great Smoky Mountains. Protecting land east of the Smokies in Haywood County, North Carolina, will extend valuable unfragmented biological corridors for large wildlife, as well as buffer Cataloochee Valley from further development.

Biological Diversity

An estimated 100,000 species of organisms live within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This extremely high level of biodiversity is not found in any other temperate region in the continent. This biodiversity is facilitated by the wide elevation range (75 to 6,643 feet) and rainfall amounts (up to 85 inches on some mountain peaks) paralleling those of temperate rainforests. 25% of the forests in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are identified as old-growth forests. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a designated International Biosphere Preserve by the United Nations.

Cultural Heritage

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited National Park in the nation with over nine million annual visitors. Rich in cultural history, Cataloochee Valley lies on the eastern edge of the Smoky Mountains in Haywood County. This rare valley hosts some of the richest cultural remnants of the park, including a 19th century school – house, church, and farm houses. The area just outside the park remains settled by long-time Haywood County residents.

With sprawling development crawling towards the Smoky Mountains, many large areas of biological habitat, old growth forests, and significant Great Smoky Mountains scenic views are at risk. Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) has protected significant tracts within the Smoky Mountains Focus Area, including sites at Cataloochee Ranch, and the headwaters of the Tuckaseegee River. Continuing protection work within the Smoky Mountains will preserve critical habitat, drinking water resources, and provide recreation and scenic opportunities for generations of visitors and locals to come. The North Carolina State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) and other data sources are being used to set priorities for land and habitat protection.

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 Smoky Mountains. Each donation brings us one step closer to conserving this imperiled high elevation landscape.

Land Trusts Serving the Smoky Mountains

Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy
34 Wall St., Suite 502, Asheville, NC 28801