The Highlands of Roan Conservation Area on the Roan Mountain massif straddles thousands of acres on the North Carolina and Tennessee border, encompassing sections of both the Cherokee and Pisgah National Forests. For three decades, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) has led broad partnerships to protect and restore threatened high elevation Appalachian bald communities in the Highlands of Roan — which is registered as a State Natural Area in both states, a National Audubon Society Nationally Significant Important Bird Area, and one of the most crucial repositories of biological diversity in the United States.
With the generous help of the National Forest Foundation's Matching Awards Program, SAHC garnered more than 1500 hours of volunteer labor to restore 21 acres of Appalachian grass and shrub bald habitat. One of SAHC’s new recruits for balds management, Sean Rubin, summarized the volunteer sentiment well when he said, "I'm happy to participate in maintaining the world's oldest mountains, right in our backyard."
The grant also enabled SAHC to revisit previously restored sites and assess our impact on the golden-winged warbler, a neotropical migratory songbird that has experienced catastrophic population decline. We were excited to find that habitat management has allowed golden-winged warbler populations in the Roan to remain stable.
However, the most important accomplishment made possible by this grant was the establishment of the Roan Highlands Feral Hog Working Group — a group of more than ten agency and private partners focused on the threat of recently introduced feral hogs on the fragile high elevation ecosystems of the Roan Highlands. The group developed a feral hog monitoring program, removed more than 40 feral hogs, and engaged local universities who began research into feral hog behavior and impacts. We educated local landowners about the ecological, agricultural, and human health impacts of this destructive invasive species, and many landowners are now eager to be involved in the project.
Thank you to the NFF for your support, making it possible for SAHC and our partners to continue protecting, managing, and restoring globally significant native communities in the Highlands of Roan!