Foothills Conservancy protects 93 acres along the “wild and scenic” river

From personnel reports

MORGANTON – Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina acquired 93 acres along 1.5 miles of Wilson Creek, a nationally designated Wild and Scenic River in Caldwell County, from Duke Energy and subsequently entered a protection easement held by the North Carolina Land and Water Fund for permanent protection of land and water resources.

“Foothills Conservancy is proud to permanently protect another major section of Wilson Creek,” said Executive Director Andrew Kota. “As a National Wild and Scenic River, Wilson Creek is an important outdoor recreation area for Caldwell County and our region, and a significant watershed for our Land Trust as we and our partners continue to protect the water quality of the upper reaches of the Catawba River. ”

From 2007 to 2009, Foothills Conservancy directed the permanent protection of more than 850 acres of land along six miles of Wilson Creek. These lands are now owned and managed by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission or held under permanent conservation easements by the State of North Carolina.

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In 2021, Foothills Conservancy donated a 333-acre property with two miles of Wilson Creek adjacent to the popular Pisgah National Forest Day Use Area.

“With these conservation achievements, 87% of the land in the Wilson Creek watershed and 80% of the National Wild and Scenic River is officially protected,” said Land Protection Director Tom Kenney. “We are proud to have contributed to the lasting protection of this beautiful resource.”

Foothills Conservancy and its partners and stakeholders such as Duke Energy, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC), the US Forest Service (USFS) and other local groups will work together in planning efforts for future public recreation activities such as river access and fishing on the newly acquired Property.

“Sixteen years ago, Duke Energy, Foothills Conservancy and 68 other stakeholders signed the Comprehensive Relicensing Agreement (CRA) – a landmark document that sets out the region’s vision for conservation initiatives to protect the Catawba River and Lake System for a 50-year planning horizon. said Tami Styer, Duke Energy’s Hydro Licensing Manager for the Catawba-Wateree Hydroelectric Project. Styer continued, “This particular 93-acre tract on Wilson Creek was reserved by the CRA for potential conservation and public recreation, but a partner was needed to make this a reality. We are so fortunate and grateful to have a dedicated partner like Foothills Conservancy to continue to implement this regional vision.”

The purchase and conservation easement were funded by a state grant from the North Carolina Land and Water Fund, a grant from the Catawba-Wateree Water Management Group, and private funding from conservationists Brad and Shelli Stanback.

“From its headwaters at Grandfather Mountain through land managed by the National Park Service, the US Forest Service, NC State Parks, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and the Foothills Conservancy, Wilson Creek offers myriad opportunities for public access,” said Will Summer, executive director of the North Carolina Land and Water Fund. “Classified as Outstanding Aquatic Habitat, these pristine waters support a collection of sensitive aquatic species indicative of very high water quality, including the best-known population of Carolina Foothills Crayfish. We are excited to work with these partners to add more permanent protection to Wilson Creek,” added Summer.

This project is the latest in a series of conservation efforts in Caldwell County by Foothills Conservancy. Earlier this month, the Conservancy announced the donation and protection of a prospect corridor property along US 321 in the town of Blowing Rock, and the Land Trust is currently raising funds to permanently protect a larger property adjacent to the donated property on the headwaters of the Johns River.

Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina is a nationally accredited regional land trust that inspires conservation in western North Carolina by permanently protecting land and water for the benefit of people and all living things. Foothills Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and has preserved more than 65,000 acres in its eight counties: Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Cleveland, Lincoln, McDowell and Rutherford, in three major river basins: the Broad, Catawba and Yadkin. Information about Foothills Conservancy, including ways to support their work, is available online at www.foothillsconservancy.org or by calling 828-437-9930.

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