A conservation success story
Land trust saves 28-acre forest, trout streams in Vengeance Creek
By Philip Moore
A century from now, a child will still have the opportunity to catch her first speckled trout in the cold, plunging waters of Ramp Cove Branch. Hikers and hunters will still climb the steep ridges above the creek. And springtime will continue to witness wake-robin trilliums and halberd-leaved violets emerging beneath poplars near the water’s edge.
Thanks to a willing landowner, the support of the local US Forest Service District Office, and the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee, 28 pristine wooded acres in the Vengeance Creek community will be protected from development. The land will eventually be added to the National Forest System.
Jackie McClure, a local realtor, heads a small company that owned the land. McClure felt that the wild, rugged property was not the best site for development and should be conserved if possible. He contacted the Forest Service last year with an offer to sell the tract, which is entirely surrounded by National Forest land. The Forest Service showed interest in the property, but was unable to purchase it at the time, and referred McClure to the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee (LTLT), a non-profit land conservation group based in Franklin.
Thanks to McClure’s commitment to conserving the land and his willingness to sell it below market value – and to the Forest Service’s pledge to ultimately accept the tract – LTLT was able to purchase the property in June. LTLT will convey the property to the Forest Service once the agency has acquisition funds available.
The property is a true conservation prize. Lying in Ramp Cove in the Valley River watershed, the tract shares a mile of boundary with National Forest. Over a half mile of clear mountain streams flow across the property, including Ramp Cove Branch which is designated as wild trout waters by the Wildlife Resources Commission. Hemlocks, tulip poplars, and wildflowers are particularly abundant on the land, which is fully forested. Portions of a rock wall and foundation are all that remain of an old homesite near the upper end of the tract, while the highest point on the property affords a spectacular winter view of the Snowbird Mountains.
In not selling the property for development, McClure realizes he chose the less lucrative option. He feels he made the right decision, however. “I’m glad the Forest Service can get the land. I didn’t want to see [houses] go in up there.”
The mission of the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee is to conserve the waters, forests, farms, and heritage of the upper Little Tennessee and Hiwassee River valleys in western North Carolina. LTLT occasionally purchases property but typically conserves land via donated conservation easements, which allow landowners to retain ownership of their land while voluntarily agreeing to avoid or limit development, and which often generate significant tax benefits. LTLT’s representative in our area is Philip Moore, who grew up in Clay County. He can be reached at 361-7884 or at [email protected].