DURHAM — The Nature Conservancy announced July 9 that it had acquired 549 additional acres on the summit of Phoenix Mountain in Ashe County. Three federally listed plant species are found on the tract, and its forest provides a corridor linking headwaters’ streams on the flanks of the mountain to the North Fork of the New River.
“We’ve worked in the New River Headwaters for four decades,” said Fred Annand, the Conservancy’s Director of Conservation Resources. “This is prime property in an area prized for second homes and would likely have been developed at some point. This acquisition is important to our efforts to protect North Carolina’s northwest mountains known as the ‘Amphibolites.’”
Phoenix Mountain is the northernmost site in the six-mountain Amphibolite Range spanning Ashe and Watauga Counties and the last to have some measure of protection. The mountains are named for their Amphibolite rock.
The rock produces more neutral soils than are typically found in the region, which supports a rich diversity of plants, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. Three federally listed plants–Spreading or Mountain Avens (Geum radiatum), Gray’s Lily (Lilium grayi), and Roan Mountain Bluet (Houstonia montana)–are found on Phoenix.
The acquisition was funded by grants from the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF) and the Open Space Institute (OSI) as well as through private donations.
“This is precisely the kind of special place the Clean Water Management Trust Fund was established by the NC General Assembly to protect,” said CWMTF Director Walter Clark. “Protecting this tract helps build a network with publicly owned lands including Three Top Mountain Game Lands, Paddy Mountain, Mount Jefferson, and Elk Knob State Parks.”
“OSI is overjoyed by the conservation of a key section of this stunningly beautiful and ancient mountain range,” said Joel Houser, OSI’s Southeast Field Coordinator. “This project will conserve habitat for wildlife not only today, but on into the future, even as the climate changes. We commend TNC’s commitment to this landscape and are proud to have supported their latest victory in the region for land protection.”
The property will become part of the Conservancy’s Phoenix Mountain Preserve, which was established in 2012 and now includes more than 1,000 acres. The Conservancy was the first private conservation organization to work in the Amphibolites, purchasing a tract at Bluff Mountain in 1978.
Bluff Mountain Preserve now stands at more than 3,000 acres. The Conservancy also helped protect Elk Knob, The Peak, Three Top Mountain and Paddy Mountain.