In 1995, a group of visionaries began meeting informally in Franklin, North Carolina to discuss the rapid pace of development in Western North Carolina. Over coffee, they discussed the impact that growth could have on the mountains, streams and ancient farmlands. By 1997 they had officially formed a nonprofit that is now Mainspring Conservation Trust.
With a modest budget and a strategic plan that encouraged thoughtful conservation within positive economic development, the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee (LTLT) took off.
Under the leadership of founding director Paul Carlson, the nonprofit originally focused on promoting conservation and stewardship of private lands, first in the upper Little Tennessee Watershed, then expanding into the Tuckasegee and Hiwassee watersheds.
In 2012, the Little Tennessee Watershed Association merged with LTLT, broadening its mission to incorporate stream restoration and monitoring water quality, while building an education program designed to help both youth and adults understand this unique and significant region.
In 2016, LTLT changed its name to Mainspring Conservation Trust to reflect what the organization has grown to be: the motivating force for conservation in the heart of the Southern Blue Ridge. The organization celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2017 and continues its mission to conserve the water, forests, farms and heritage of the Little Tennessee and Hiwassee river basins.