South Mountains to Dysartsville

Located in the transition zone between the Blue Ridge Mountains and Piedmont region of North Carolina, the South Mountains cover nearly 100,000 acres and contain expansive areas of contiguous, natural forests providing critical, large-area habitat for a host of native wildlife and plants. Expanding protection from the 45,000+ acres of existing state conservation land offers a nationally significant opportunity for securing entire intact landscapes.

A Rare Biological Island & Wildlife Corridor At Risk

The unique geography and western piedmont location of the South Mountains help the area support a vast array of at-risk and rare species. As an eastern outlier range of the Blue Ridge Mountains with elevations up to 3,000 feet, the South Mountains serve as a convergence point for biodiversity and as a wildlife corridor to the Blue Ridge. Like all of Western North Carolina, the South Mountains are experiencing intensive residential development of large tracts traditionally used for forestry, hunting or open green space. Conversion of large private tracts between the South Mountains and Blue Ridge are fragmenting connected wildlife habitat and important migration corridors.

Biological Diversity

Protecting nationally significant natural areas, such as those of the South Mountains, is a key strategy of the State Wildlife Action Plan. Included in the numerous exemplary vegetation communities found there is the globally rare low elevation rocky summit. The exceptional ecosystems of the South Mountains host the federally threatened, white irisette, small whorled pogonia, dwarf-flowered heartleaf, and the bog turtle. Four additional plants and two animals are federal species of concern. The pristine headwaters of several watersheds in both the Catawba and Broad River basins originate in the South Mountains and provide drinking water to millions in North & South Carolina

Working Lands Heritage

The South Mountains served many important roles to the native peoples, explorers and settlers. The fertile river bottomlands continue to support farming communities through – out the area. The fabric of farms and forests stitch together state park lands and new, critical protection opportunities to enlarge state-owned wildlife gamelands. Preserving the rich, rural heritage serves as an effective protection buffer.

Economic Significance

The South Mountains are home to North Carolina’s largest state park, South Mountains State Park, offering visitors passive recreation on nearly 19,000 acres in a wilderness setting. The park is adjacent to over 20,000 acres of public game lands that attract sportsmen from all over the state. The South Mountains Scenery Scenic Byway (NC 226) provides motorists with beautiful views of low elevation mountains, rural farms and forestland. With its proximity to world furniture capitals Hickory and Drexel, the area’s hardwood forests provide an important source of timber for forestry-related products, North Carolina’s second largest industry.
Since 1997, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina (FCNC) has protected 29,000 acres in the South Mountains, representing an investment of almost $25 million in public funds and $1.5 million in private contributions. Nearly all of this protected land was transferred to the state for public use. Currently, over 45,000 acres comprising South Mountains State Park and the adjacent N.C. Wildlife Resources South Mountains Game Land are open to public use.
In addition to the natural areas protected, FCNC received funding from the N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Trust Fund in 2008 to complete the second phase of a conservation agreement that will protect 900 acres of the historic Bovender farm in Rutherford County.
FCNC is working with N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and other partners to secure the large amount of funds needed for new public land purchases or acquisitions of conservation agreements in this focus area.

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 help protect and conserve the geographically unique and biologically rich South Mountains.


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Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina
PO Box 3023, Morganton, NC 28680