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2014 Spring Newsletter & Annual Report

FLC Spring Newsletter_Page_01

2013 FLC Conservation Easement Projects

 

FLC Celebrates a Record Setting Year in 2013!

At the end of December, Foothills Land Conservancy celebratedthe completion of 14 conservation easements totaling 11,271 acres – a ‘best ever’ record for the organization. To date, FLC now has a total of 47,000 acres preserved – projects that span 26 counties in Tennessee with one project recently completed in Wautauga County, North Carolina.

We could not have come this far without the support of our Friends of the Foothills! Thanks to your generous contributions, FLC is able to expand our preservation efforts across this diverse region. Here are a few highlights about FLC’s 2013 conservation easement partnerships:

FLC now has a conservation easement agreement on 120 acres in Wauguga County, North Carolina. This is the first time Foothills has partnered on a conservation easement agreement out of state. The property is adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway and provides an important scenic backdrop to one of the most visited National Parks in the U.S. Since the easement is situated high on a mountain ridge, it can be seen from long distances. The owners say that on a clear day they can see the city of Hickory, NC, which is close to 35 miles away.

Rock Creek is a beautiful property in Morgan County that encompasses 1,369 acres. This tract includes hemlocks, rock walls, several creeks and is easily visible from parts of Frozen Head State Natural Area which is just south of the Property 10 miles.Less than 2 miles off of the Property, Rock Creek joins the Upper Emory River.

5 of the projects are located in Van Buren County, totaling 3,860 acres. The largest of these tracks, called Flatbush (2127 acres), is adjacent to Fall Creek Falls State Park on the park’s west side. Parkview is an 118 acre project, also in Van Buren, that is adjacent on the east side of Fall Creek Falls. Parkview is also adjacent to the 346 acre Cane Creek Property on which Foothills Land Conservancy holds a conservation easement. The Bridgestone/Firestone Centennial Wilderness, totaling almost 15,000 acres, is less than ten miles away from Parkview.

Another Van Buren County property, High Point (840 acres) is located within 10 miles of Savage Gulf Class II Natural-Scientific State Natural Area and the South Cumberland State Recreation Area. Both High Point and another tract called, TOT (637 acres), are two properties that are adjacent to the historic Trail of Tears. Regarding High Point, the property’s northern boundary for almost two miles is a section of the Northern Route of the Trail of Tears, as noted by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation – Division of Archaeology. This section of the Trail of Tears was part of the overland route used by eleven Cherokee removal parties who opposed the removal treaty in 1838, as well as some earlier voluntary removal groups.

Additional project details are included in the media links within this eNews. For updates, pictures and additional descriptions in the coming days, please friend us on FLC’s Facebook page. We will also post all of the project information in our upcoming 2013 Annual Report/2014 Spring Newsletter.

 About Conservation Easements: For private landowners who wish to ensure their property stays in its natural state or as a working farm ‘in perpetuity’, or forever, they can opt to enter into a conservation easement agreement with a land trust. This contract describes the activities allowed on the property like hiking, camping, firewood cutting, and farming but often prohibits things like clear-cutting, landfills, mining, and further development – according to the landowner’s wishes. Landowners who place a conservation easement on their property can continue to own, use, sell, live on or bequeath their land. 

 About Foothills Land Conservancy: FLC is dedicated to promoting, protecting and enhancing the lands and environments of the Southern Appalachian region and promoting the character of the land for the general public, now and in the future.   FLC is a 501(c)(3) and does not receive any financial assistance from local, state or federal governments. They rely on individual and corporate contributions solely to sustain their organization, land acquisition and stewardship funds.

For more information about Foothills Land Conservancy and their projects and programs, please contact the Foothills office at 865-681-8326.

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To make an online donation to FLC, please click on our PayPal Link:




FLC is in the News! Check out the media buzz surrounding our record setting year: 

Maryville Daily Times – A Record Setting Year for Saving Land: FLC Protected 11,000 Acres In 2013
 
Knoxville News Sentinel – Foothills Land Conservancy Chalks Up Banner Year in 2013

The Associated Press picked up the article ‘The Record Setting’ article from The Daily Times and here are a few publications that highlighted FLC’s amazing year: 

  Times Free Press – Chattanooga

TN State News.Net

Charlotte Observer

Houston Chronicle

Seattle, Washington

 

Hey Folks,

The staff at the Foothills Land Conservancy needs your help! Every year we cover thousands of acres across 23 counties here in Tennessee. This includes visits to new projects and also the monitoring of over 115 conservation easement properties. That’s a lot of ground! So, we have started a ‘Save Our Dogs’ campaign. Our goal is to reach $10,000 worth of donations to fund an all terrain vehicle and related costs. This much needed piece of equipment ensures that we can continue to expand our conservation efforts and preserve more land.  We hope that you will view our 30 second video or the longer version that allows staff to truly highlight our acting skills.

30 Second PSA – ‘Save our Dogs’

2 Minutes (Extended Version) – ‘Save Our Dogs’

To make a donation through PayPal, click here





A very special thank you to the amazing Heartlands Series videographer, Doug Mills, for his directing, producing and editing assistance. A shout out also goes to Heartland Series host and East Tennessee legend, Bill Landry, for his ideas and narration. We couldn’t have done this project without them! For updates on the campaign’s success, visit this page or like us on Facebook!

Find Us on Facebook

Thank you! - The Foothills Team

A few images taken during our 'Save our Dogs' video shoot!

A few images taken during our ‘Save our Dogs’ video shoot!

FLC Receives Native Tree Planting Grant

FOOTHILLS LAND CONSERVANCY RECEIVES NATIVE TREE PLANTING GRANT FROM ALCOA FOUNDATION AND AMERICAN FORESTS

Foothills Land Conservancy (FLC) is pleased to announce it is the recipient of a native tree restoration grant through Alcoa Foundation and American Forests’ Partnership for Trees Program. FLC and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) anticipate planting a total of 3200 native trees and shrubs as part of an East Tennessee restoration initiative to enhance the regional environment. Knox and Blount County Alcoa employees will provide the initial tree planting assistance and subsequent volunteer opportunities for the community will be forth coming.

Tree planting projects include:

  • Forks of the River Wildife Management Area (Knox County) – Forks of the River is also managed by TWRA. The goal is to plant along established greenway, creating an edge between greenway and native grass fields. Another goal is to establish a soft edge for wildlife cover and soft mast for food. It will also add beauty for the many greenway users. 
  • Kyker Bottoms Refuge (Blount County) – Kyker became a refuge 15 years ago with the help of several agencies and organizations – including Foothills Land Conservancy. Kyker now covers 500 acres in Blount County and is managed by the TN Wildlife Resources Agency. Kyker is primarily managed for wetlands and early successional habitat – which offers a variety of native grass and shrubs for over for over 220 bird species. Trees/shrubs are to be planted next to the road way and along existing native grass fields and forested areas for a soft edge effect. Much of this area is visible from the road and would help many wildlife species and the beauty of the area. Another area requires a shortleaf pine border leading to an observation blind to prevent wintering waterfowl from being spooked before observers can reach the blind. This area receives periodic control burning so it would need to be a fire resistant evergreen species.
  • Additional Native Tree & Shrub Planting Sites – Sites will be qualified, managed and monitored by designated FLC grant partners, staff and/or board members.  Focus areas on these properties include sites with stream bank erosion and locations where enhancement of native bio-diversity will increase wildlife habitat, view sheds, and restorative measures to the immediate surroundings/eco-system.

Over the last three years, Alcoa Foundation and American Forests have worked to enhance, beautify, restore and protect forests in 15 countries and nine U.S. states through 29 unique projects. With the dedication of local communities and partners and hundreds of Alcoa employees, more than 520,000 trees were planted in the first two years of the partnership. The Partnership for Trees Program is part of Alcoa Foundation’s commitment to plant 10 million trees by 2020, with five million trees planted to date. It is estimated that these trees will absorb 250,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually in their lifetime. The reforestation projects also meet a variety of critical goals, including restoring wildlife habitat, augmenting carbon storage via forests to combat climate change and using trees in the purification of water and air. 

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About Foothills Land Conservancy FLC is dedicated to promoting, protecting and enhancing the lands and environments of the Southern Appalachian region and promoting the character of the land for the general public, now and in the future.   FLC is a 501(c)(3) and does not receive any financial assistance from local, state or federal governments. They rely on individual and corporate contributions solely to sustain their organization, land acquisition and stewardship funds. In 2013, Foothills Land Conservancy celebrated the completion of 14 conservation easements totaling 11,271 acres – a ‘best ever’ record for the organization. To date, FLC now has a total of 47,000 acres preserved – projects that span 26 counties in Tennessee with one project recently completed in Wautauga County, North Carolina. The public should contact their office with any interest or questions at 865-681-8326 or info@foothillsland.org. To learn more about FLC, visit www.foothillsland.org.

About Alcoa Foundation Alcoa Foundation is one of the largest corporate foundations in the U.S., with assets of approximately US$460 million. Founded 60 years ago, Alcoa Foundation has invested more than US$570 million since 1952. In 2012, Alcoa Foundation contributed more than US$21 million to nonprofit organizations throughout the world, building innovative partnerships to improve the environment and educate tomorrow’s leaders for careers in manufacturing and engineering. The work of Alcoa Foundation is further enhanced by Alcoa’s thousands of employee volunteers who share their talents and time to make a difference in the communities where Alcoa operates. Through the Company’s signature Month of Service program, in 2012, a record 60 percent of Alcoa employees took part in more than 1,050 events across 24 countries, benefiting more than 450,000 people and 2,050 nonprofit organizations. For more information, visit www.alcoafoundation.com and follow @AlcoaFoundation on Twitter.

About American Forests American Forests restores and protects urban and rural forests. Founded in 1875, the oldest national nonprofit conservation organization in the country has served as a catalyst for many of the most important milestones in the conservation movement, including the founding of the U.S. Forest Service, the national forest and national park systems and literally thousands of forest ecosystem restoration projects and public education efforts. In the last two decades, American Forests has planted more than 44 million trees in forests throughout the U.S. and in 44 countries, resulting in cleaner air and drinking water, restored habitat for wildlife and fish, and the removal of millions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Learn more at www.americanforests.org.

CONTACT:

Elise Eustace, Communication & Development Director

Foothills Land Conservancy

Office (865) 681-8326; Cell (865) 201-5806

eeustace@foothillsland.org

Foothills Land Conservancy is pleased to announce that it is applying for accreditation in September 2013.  After completing an extensive review and update of all policies, records, and practices, Foothills is ready for the extensive review and rigorous standards of the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.

“We’re excited to be going through the accreditation process.  When the process is over with, we will be a stronger land trust, and we’ll have the proper policies and procedures in place to best serve landowners and the general public more efficiently,” said Executive Director Bill Clabough.

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, conducts and extensive review of each applicant’s policies and programs.  The land trust accreditation program recognizes land conservation organizations that meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever.

According to the Land Trust Accreditation Commission’s website, “The accreditation seal is a mark of distinction in land conservation. It recognizes organizations for meeting national standards for excellence, upholding the public trust, and ensuring that conservation efforts are permanent.”

A public comment period is now open.  The Commission invites public input and accepts signed, written comments on pending applications.  Comments must relate to how Foothills complies with national quality standards.  These standards address the ethical and technical operation of a land trust.  For the full list of standards, see http://www.landtrustaccreditation.org/tips-and-tools/indicator-practices.

To learn more about the accreditation program and to submit a comment, visit www.landtrustaccreditation.org, or email your comment to info@landtrustaccreditation.org.  Comments may also be faxed or mailed to the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, Attn: Public Comments: (fax) 518-587-3183; (mail) 36 Phila Street, Suite 201, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.  Comments on Foothills’ application will be most useful if submitted before October 28, 2013.

Due to it's density, gamma grass has a swift, steady hot burn. Ideal weather conditions contribute to the smoke's straight rise above the field.

Dick Conley (left) and Ken Goddard observing a switchgrass field post-control burn.

*Please note – this article is not to be utilized as a resource or guide for planning your own control burn but simply for educational purposes only. Any control burn must go through the proper safety measures, permits and notifications specified under local, state and federal laws and regulations.

Most of us, when we see a field engulfed in flames tend to tense up, hope things don’t get out of hand, and are glad it is not our project to tend to! For one man in East Tennessee, the responsibility is often found on his shoulders. When you need a control burn expert for warm season native grasses, the person to call is retired TWRA wildlife habitat biologist and FLC Board Member, Dick Conley.
For 39 years Dick Conley worked for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Retired in 2007, Mr. Conley currently provides services as a biologist/forest consultant for several land owners in East Tennessee. He specializes in restoring native warm season grasses and soil building legumes.
In March of 2013, Dick Conley provided a control burn within several sections native warm season grasses within Gene Hartman’s farm. Back in 2008 Mr. Hartman and his wife Becky, partnered with FLC on a conservation easement covering 920 acres on their farm in Roane County.   Also there to learn more about these type of control burns was Ken Goddard, Extension Biofuels Specialist with the University of Tennessee.
According to Conley, the most important question to ask before you begin a control burn is, “What is your overall objective for your farm? And in this case it is for us to promote quail management. And as a result of that, you are also managing for a multitude of different species like song birds, deer, and turkey.” Once the bird’s nesting period is over, burns are then planned. One of the strategies that Conley applies is a checkerboard pattern of burning to allow for standing wildlife cover. For quail and song bird management you don’t want to burn everything.   The next year, fields that were not burned the previous year will be evaluated for burning.

Dick Conley ignites the perimiter of a dense field of gamma grass.

As Conley explains, “Fields become too dense and wildlife habitat can’t thrive, populations decline.” When these dense fields are not controlled, food for the birds like beggar lice, ragweed, and lespedeza can’t be sustained. The general rule of thumb for production fields of warm season grasses utilized for hay and biofuels is one clump per one square foot. For wildlife habitat you want one clump of grass per six square feet, allowing the necessary room for habitat to move around while still being covered.
So what are the optimal weather conditions for burning? Conley says there are several major components of a controlled burn – wind velocity should not exceed 4-5 miles , humidity levels should be really no higher than 40-50%  and temperatures are close to 40 degrees, and lastly the amount of fuel that is being burned. You want lots of fuel on the ground so it will ‘burn hot’. The time of year for a control burn like this is generally from February 15th through the end of March/1st of April.
Once all of these conditions are met, how does Conley approach the actual burn? He places a fire line around the perimeter of the field, letting it burn towards the center. He makes sure that there are open spaces around the field so that if the fire moves towards an adjacent area, the site easily be handled utilizing tools and a water tank.
What can be another benefit to a control burn? It can make the removal of invasive exotics very easy! In this case, Conley was able to take out a hedgerow of privet quickly. Any invasive shrubs still left standing can be sprayed and removed easily. A short while after the burn, a soil test will be conducted and sent in to the University of Tennessee Agriculture Extension Office.  Whatever nutrients the report indicates is lacking within the soil can be added in. For perennial grasses, like switchgrass and gammagrass, the fields will come back post-burn and without any supplemental planting.
A note about the UT Biofuels Initiative…
The biofuels contract program for farmers has expired. The program benefitted farmers that grew switchgrass, so that it could ultimately be ground up and converted into ethanol. Folks at the Hartman farm are moving towards keeping most, if not all, of the grass fields for its wildlife cover instead of harvesting a portion of the hay for livestock.
According to Goddard, farmers are looking into the use of native grasses and examining the optimal time to plant and cut for hay, ensuring the maximum nutrition for the cows. Right now, UT is looking into funding research through competitive grants to grow these grasses. Planting native warm season grasses could ultimately help fill in the grazing gap for cool season grasses, like fescue and orchard grass, which are heavily utilized in the livestock business. Goddard mentions that, “in the summer farmers typically have to use hay or plant some annual warm season grasses such as sudan grass. It’s nice to have a perennial, like switchgrass, so they don’t have to plant every year.” In this way, Goddard sees the planting of switchgrass as having a major benefit while the demand for biofuels kicks back up. He adds, “the marketplace for biofuels will move forward by creating both the crop and the demand… and so until the biofuel market becomes viable/ commercialized, finding varied, useful ways to incorporate switchgrass makes sense.” For additional information about native warm season grasses, please visit The Center for Native Grassland Management.

Tour of Roane County Conservation Easement

Folks get the full tour experience while sitting atop 'Monster Truck'!

This past fall FLC took a few employees with Strata-G, an environmental and consulting company in Knoxville, on a tour to one of our many remarkable conservation easement properties. With 106 of these partnerships covering 21 counties deciding which one to tour can be difficult! We decided to highlight Hartman’s property in Roane County and what a tour it was.  Many thanks Dick Conley and the all- terrain vehicle, known as ‘Monster Truck’, for the transportation and the wind in our hair! (Periodically, FLC does provide tours like this one to groups or individuals, so please contact us with any interest at 865-681-8326 or info@foothillsland.org.)

Back in 2008 Mr. Gene Hartman, and his wife Becky, partnered with FLC on a conservation easement covering 920 acres of their farm in Roane County.  Mr. Hartman is an ongoing Foothills supporter and his company, Duo Fast of Knoxville, has been an annual sponsor of FLC’s Celebration for many years. Several times a year, Mr. Hartman offers up his property for various conservation fundraisers and for use by disadvantaged youth, providing them with camping, fishing and other hunting activities.

FLC Board Member, Dick Conley, is the Land Manager for Hartman’s farm and provided the tour.  He kicked things off with an aerial photo and brief history of the property. FLC’s Land Director, Meredith Clebsch, explained the data gathering and photo collecting that goes into the annual monitoring of these easements. Mr. Conley spent 39 years with TWRA as a wildlife habitat biologist, his specific areas of expertise is in restoring native warm season grasses and soil building legumes.  A major interest of Conley’s is also helping to develop and monitor quail habitat.

Prior to the property’s current use as a commercial hunting preserve, it once housed a cattle farm, dairy operation and pasture lands. Close to 700 of the acres are in open fields with 300 in woodlands. Since the early 90’s Mr. Conley as helped to create a wildlife and native grass oasis amid neighboring cow pastures. Here are just a few of the projects that he has worked on over the years and in recent months:

Dick leads the tour through the various native warm season grasses on Hartman's property.

Native warm season grasses were converted from fields of fescue, sericea lespedeza, and bermudagrass to grasses like big bluestem, little bluestem and indiangrass. Since 1999, 400 acres have been converted to warm season grasses.

Planting native grasses assist in providing habitat needed for wildlife . The root systems of these grasses aids in soil structure and water infiltration. Mr. Conley is always exploring what grass works best with the conditions on the property and he has seen an increase in wildlife species, like quail and rabbits, as a result of the plantings.

Controlled burns are conducted on half of the grass fields annually in a checkerboard type pattern. This ensures that there is always food and habitat for wildlife on the property.

Conley has removed hedgerows that contained privet and replaced them with wildlife loving shrubs such as American beautyberry, hazelnut and persimmon trees.

A few years ago 50 acres of the property were planted in switchgrass, primarily as part of UT’s biofuel switchgrass program. This contract has expired so plans are in the works to manage the current fields from ‘maximum yield’ to ‘wildlife benefit’, reducing the stand density to about 1 plant per 6 square feet.

There are 13 man-made ponds on the property that are spring fed. They are designed for the purpose of benefiting fish and wildlife. 2 waterfowl areas have been created with the planting of several grains such as corn, Japanese millet and grain sorghum.

Spring fed ponds abound on the Hartman property providing for many different wildlife species.

50 acres of Hartman’s property has switchgrass. Until recently, the acreage was part of UT’s biofuels initiative.

Quail habitat is an indicator of a large, diverse habitat that benefits many other species like song birds and butterflies. Quail require 4 different habitats within a 40 acre area – brooding/nesting, escape, feeding, and cover. Outside temperature humidity levels also need to be between 20-30% when the hen sits on a clutch of eggs or the heat kills the eggs. Predators such as possums, skunks and raccoon are also a constant threat to the vulnerable quail eggs.

Did you know Dick Conley is also a Consultant Wildlife Habitat Biologist for Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge? In the coming weeks, FLC will also post entries about current projects at Seven Islands by Dick Conley, the folks at TWRA and the Refuge’s Land Director, Nora Hassell. Stay tuned…

 

2012 Conservation Easements

News Release (March 2013)FLC Applauds Renewal of Conservation Tax Incentive

FLC Celebrates Another Record Setting Conservation Year!

Maryville, TN – It’s been another banner year for Foothills Land Conservancy. In December of 2012, FLC completed 12 conservation easement projects totaling 6625 acres – surpassing last year’s acreage number of 4400. To date, FLC has a total of 36,000 acres preserved. The total number of conservation easement agreements stands at 105, covering 21 counties! Here are the easement descriptions, primarily grouped by county:

Blount County

FLC’s 100th Easement ● Jarvis Property – 62 acres

Dr. Craig Jarvis helped FLC celebrate mark the organization’s 100th conservation easement agreement Friday by signing his second easement with Foothills to mark the occasion! FLC also has another reason to celebrate. Dr. Jarvis will be a returning Board Member in 2013. He has been associated with FLC since it started and has served intermittently on the Board throughout the years.

December’s signing will protect a 2nd property, which is in Blount County. The 62 acre tract is 50% wooded with most of the remainder in hay fields. The property is very close to Chilhowee Mountain and the 11,000 acre Foothills Wildlife Management Area (WMA), a vital buffer between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the developed areas outside the Park’s perimeter. Other natural areas in the vicinity include the 350 acre Kyker Bottoms WMA and the 8000 acre Tellico WMA3. The proximity of the Jarvis property to these areas adds a safe buffer habitat for maintaining healthy populations of resident and migratory wildlife species and as a reservoir of native plant species.

For Dr. Jarvis, the timing was right for the second easement, “we didn’t want it to change and we felt like because of that it was time to go ahead and give the easement on it also – so that we know from this moment on it won’t change.”

Back in 2007, Jarvis permanently preserved close to 478 acres in Monroe County. Located in the wooded foothills of the Unicoi Mountains, the majority of the acreage from the first easement is forested with 2nd and 3rd growth oak, hickory and pine.  Views from the west side of that tract offer sites of Starr Mountain and the Cherokee National Forest.

Loudon County

Cline Property (56 acres) Also celebrating their second conservation easement with Foothills are Drs. Richard & Kim Cline. Back in 2008, the Cline’s put close to 220 acres in an easement with FLC. 120 acres of that tract are woodlands that consist primarily of 100-150 year old oak and hickory trees. The remainder is in pasture and crop land.

Both practicing physicians, the Cline’s wanted to continue to protect their land from development emerging in the area by placing a second easement on an adjoining 56 acre tract. Portions of Loudon County that include Tellico Village and Lenoir City are becoming quite popular. The Cline’s property sits on an area that is subject to development due to its proximity to Highway 321. The property also lies close to three Tennessee Valley Authority reservoirs: Fort Loudon Lake, Watts Bar Reservoir on the Tennessee River, and the Tellico Reservoir on the Little Tennessee River.

About 2/3 of the second tract is currently in hay fields with at least two wildlife plots under current cultivation. The forested sections contain both evergreen and deciduous trees.

Warren County

The Dry Creek conservation easement is located in Warren County. The 433 acre tract is south of the town of McMinnville and within 20 miles of Fall Creek Falls State Park. The vast majority of the site is forested. Gently rolling plateau tops allow for scenic views. The easement will help to protect these high areas which provide part of the view shed for the valleys below.

Within 15 miles of the property, there are Several Class II Natural-Scientific State Natural Areas. Hubbard’s Cave, considered by the Nature Conservancy as a “foremost cave preserve” (nature.org), is found within 4 miles of the Property. This State Natural Area is comprised of the cave and 50 surrounding acres and is home to large populations of endangered gray bats and Indiana bats. Within 10 miles is the Savage Gulf Class II Natural-Scientific State Natural Area, part of South Cumberland State Park. Big Bone Cave, 15 miles from the Property, is a National Natural Landmark.

Myers Cove- 460 acres – The property, located southeast of McMinnville, TN, is situated within the southwest portion of the Cumberland Plateau. Within a short driving distance from the Warren County property there are numerous parks including:  the northernmost portion of South Cumberland State Park, the 16,000 acres of Fall Creek Falls State Park and Rock Island State Park (which encompasses nearly 900 acres). The property’s location is also in close proximity to Cumberland Caverns, the fourth largest cave in the U.S.

This property is roughly 70% wooded with the remainder composed of fields in varying degrees of succession. Some of these fields consist primarily of native grasses; others are composed of a variety of grasses and forbs. Trees species include sourwood, tulip poplar, Virginia pine and shrub, dwarf sumac

The tract is drained by creeks that are part of the Collins River watershed. This watershed supports 28 known rare, threatened or endangered species of plants and animals, with 20 of these species known from within a four mile radius of the property. At least two year-round streams found on the property provide plentiful water to resident and migratory species. At this time these streams are minimally impacted by activities both on and off the property and so provide a high quality resource to the Collins River watershed area.

Van Buren County

The Goforth conservation easement, also situated in the Cumberland Plateau, is located in Van Buren County, Tennessee. The 395-acre tract is south of the town of Spencer and less than a mile from Fall Creek Falls. The property contains a creek, open fields and several groves of mature trees.  The proximity of both these preserved properties to these natural areas adds to a regional wildlife corridor. Continuity is an important ecological concept for sustainable habitat for plant and animal species.

The 500 acre Harper Branch property is situated on the southwestern portion of the Cumberland Plateau (south of Spencer, Tennessee). Within a short driving distance from this property, lies the northernmost portion of South Cumberland State Park, Fall Creek Falls State Park and Rock Island State Park.

Roughly 2/3 of the Harper Branch property is in early-successional grasses, forbs and shrubs with the remainder in mature loblolly pine plantation. Grasses such as Broomsedge, Rabbit Tobacco, Green Sawbriar, Dwarf Sumac, and Canada Goldenrod are prominent.

Adjacent to 1.5 miles of the Property’s southern boundary includes the more diverse habitat and culturally historic Trail of Tears (Northern Route), which is a narrow band of about 200’ wide of older growth timber in largely mixed hardwoods and some pines.  The forb and sub-canopy layers on the Trail of Tears are fairly diverse in natives and together provide quality food sources, nesting and cover for many native wildlife and invertebrate species.

Headwaters for three streams that drain to the nearby Rocky River originate on the Property. The Harper Branch tract lies within the immediate watershed of the Rocky River which was classified in the Tennessee Department of Environment and
Conservation’s Tennessee Rivers Assessment Report of 1998 as being of regional significance.  24 rare aquatic species are noted within the watershed.

Cane Creek – 345 acres  – The property is nearly 100% in woodland with about 75% in planted pine plantations and the remainder in mixed oak forest (within the drainages and riparian areas). The large areas of public lands in the region include the 20,000 acres of the Fall Creek Falls State Park and Natural Area which is less than one mile from the Property, and the Bridgestone/Firestone Centennial Wilderness totaling almost 15,000 acres less than ten miles away.

As an almost completely forested landscape, the Cane Creek property functions as an especially important buffer to the adjacent conservation areas and is a critical component in the support of regional continuity and ecological viability of wildlife corridors between these vast protected public lands on the Cumberland Plateau, Cumberland Escarpment and Cumberland Mountains. The property is located within the Caney Fork River watershed and contains the source of the Whetstone Fork of Cane Creek, which then flows into nearby Fall Creek Falls State Park and supports Cane Creek Falls, a popular destination in the Park.

Currently a 60,000 acre wilderness corridor is envisioned by Conservationists who hope to link Scott’s Gulf to Bledsoe State Forest and Fall Creek Falls State Park. The Cane Creek Property would at lease serve as a buffer, and therefore conserving the property in its natural state would further the goal of establishing a vast, unbroken corridor.

Piney Cumberland (439 acres) -This easement adjoins another conservation tract of 464 acres, called Meadow Creek. These tracts are located in close proximity to Fall Creek Falls State Park, providing a regional corridor for wildlife.

The easement protects a reach of Piney Creek and associated tributaries. Piney Creek is a major tributary for Cane Creek, which flows into Fall Creek Falls State Park.

The majority of the site is forested and dominated by oaks with white oak appearing to be the most dominant tree, followed by red, black and occasionally southern red oaks. As these oak trees mature, they begin to produce mast acorns that provide winter food important for survival.A population of worthy shield lichen was found within the easement. Although this species is not on the Tennessee list of rare species, it has Federal status as a Federal Species of Concern. A short list of plant species was compiled during the field survey. A total of 121 species were recorded. The list includes 26 species of trees, 23 species of shrubs and vines, 57 herbaceous species and 15 non-vascular species.

Van Buren & Bledsoe Counties

The Meadow Creek property adjoins the Piney Cumberland tract (439 acres). The majority of Meadow Creek’s 466 acres is forested and located in close proximity to Fall Creek Falls State park, providing a regional corridor for wildlife. The easement protects a reach of Piney Creek and associated tributaries. Piney Creek is a major tributary for Cane Creek, which flows into Fall Creek Falls State park. Numerous species of trees, shurbs, vines, plants (including non-vascular species) are found on the property.

Coffee & Grundy Counties

3 adjacent FLC conservation easements totaling 3469 acres in Coffee & Grundy Counties! Wild Boar – 1112 acres; Pull Tight – 1130 acres; Land South – 1227 acres

For Keith Thompson, the Manager of all three preserved tracts listed above, the idea to have large, permanently conserved acreage in the Cumberland wilderness surrounding a 100 acre camp and ministry is a dream come true. “Once we started to explore the property we found quail and duck habitat. We look forward to starting a timber/forestry management program. The former sand mines now house springs that stay full all the time and are full of fish. It’s perfect for fly fishing and even teaching someone how to flyfish! We hope to break ground on the ministry sometime in 2014.”

Roughly two thirds of all 3400 acres consist of mixed hardwoods, with one third consisting of lakes, open fields and a former sand mine. Throughout the three tracts ephemeral wetlands have been noted. Much of the perimeter of the property includes the cliffs and ledges of the Cumberland escarpment – offering up a diversity of wildlife, plants and habitat types. Several rare plants have been noted near or on the property including American smoke tree and Fameflower.

According to Meredith Clebsch, FLC’s Land Director, “the Cumberland Wilderness properties may be the most ecologically diverse easements FLC holds to date. The Cumberland Escarpment, the Cumberland Plateau and the valley below together offer a great variety of habitat types and opportunities for diversity of flora and fauna. The steep slopes of the escarpment tend to be less disturbed and so retain many elements of the unique communities that have naturally evolved there. Geologic diversity is an important factor in the complexity of the flora on the properties and also creates an incredibly scenic environment. The sandstone cliffs and rockhouses are simply dramatic and exciting to explore. We are looking forward to learning a great deal from these properties.”

For more information about these conservation easements or other FLC projects/programs, please contact Bill Clabough at 865-755-3883 or by email at bclabough@foothillsland.org.

Mission Statement – Foothills Land Conservancy is dedicated to protecting, preserving, and enhancing the lands and environments of East Tennessee and promoting the character of the region for the benefit of the general public, now and in the future.

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Foothills Land Conservancy ● 865-681-8326 ● 373 Ellis Avenue ● Maryville, TN 37804 ● www.foothillsland.org

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Clarence Coffee, 2nd from left, discusses the savanna flora with workshop attendees. Clarence, retired TWRA, was instrumental in promoting the need to restore these landscapes to support threatened wildlife and plant species.

Workshop participants investigate the effects of burning on Catoosa WMA.

On September 5-6 FLC’s Land Director, Meredith Clebsch, attended the Woodland and Savanna Management Workshop in Crossville, TN.  The program was put on by the Central Hardwoods Joint Venture and TWRA to support the restoration of landscapes, especially in the plateau region, to historical woodland/savanna communities that support grassland bird species. Grassland birds are among the most imperiled of all North American birds primarily due to loss of historical habitat.  It is estimated that less than 1% of this habitat remains.  Included in this group of birds are Northern bobwhite quail, a number of sparrow species, Prairie and Blue-winged warblers and yellow breasted chats.

These communities are known to have occurred across large acreages in the middle Tennessee and western Kentucky region priorto human habitation.  Many of thesecommunities have been vastly altered from their original state due to fire reduction practices and agricultural activities and may no longer be readily recognized on the landscape. However the structure and diversity of plants they support are critical to many declining grass and shrub-land species.
The workshop was developed to aid land managers in understanding the components of woodland and savanna communities, the value these vanishing landscapes provide, and how best to restore these critical habitats.  The information presented provided land managers and consultants with resources to better understand savanna and woodland community types and the knowledge to better manage these forgotten ecosystems.
In a nutshell, what has to happen is the reduction of the tree canopy to something less than 50% to allow enough light to the ground for a diverse mix of grasses and other herbaceous species as well and shrubs to flourish.  This means most of the sub canopy is removed.  Much of the discussion focused on the use of fire and what the most effective burning schedule is to establish and maintain these landscapes. We observed the results of various fire management regimes in a tour of Catoosa Wildlife Management Area which has been working to restore these landscapes since the mid-1980s.  Burning in the growing season, August and September, is now being recommended as most effective for reducing the woody cover.
Now that FLC has thousands of acres in easements on the plateau and more to come, we hope this information will be useful to those concerned about wildlife habitat management for this important community.
For more information about this topic visit the Central Hardwood Joint Venture.
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