Donation sets the stage for protection of Headwaters tract

The quest to protect the 8,000-acre Headwaters tract in Transylvania County — one of the last undeveloped tracts of its size in the Southern Appalachians — is celebrating its first milestone.

A donation from Fred and Alice Stanback — conservation champions who have saved thousands of acres of mountain land from development with their large donations — allowed The Conservation Trust purchase a 786-acre portion of the Headwaters tract for $5.5 million. The N.C. Clean Water Management Trust fund contributed $1 million of the total.

Preserving this property is the first phase of what conservation advocates hope will be a multi-year, multi-phase effort to protect the whole tract, which is privately owned. Owners of the tract are willing to sell at less than market value to see the tract protected.

But success is contingent on funding from state and federal conservation agencies, which have pledged a philosophical but not a concrete commitment to the project.

The tract selected for this first phase includes a last unprotected leg of the 70-mile Foothills Trail and a nine-mile stretch of the Blue Ridge crest.

“The completion of this initial Headwater acquisition is an exciting first step that conserves some of the most significant features of the larger tract,” said Kieran Roe, executive director of the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy.

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