The area is an inholding surrounded by existing national forest land, and is located in a popular recreation area on the Tusquitee Ranger District. Laurel Creek is a tributary to Fires Creek.
Mainspring purchased the property in 2017, and the Forest Service bought it using funding from the N.C. Threatened Treasures FY 2020 Land and Water Conservation Fund Appropriations.
“We are thrilled that the Laurel Creek inholding is forever part of the National Forest, after more than a decade of uncertainty,” said Mainspring Executive Director Jordan Smith. “Mainspring is grateful to the landowners, who were willing to seek a conservation solution for this incredibly significant property, the organizations and supporters who helped donate to this project so the property could become public land and for our partners at the U.S. Forest Service, who recognized what this inholding means to hikers, hunters and people who love the Fires Creek Area. This project exemplifies what can happen when everyone works together for permanent conservation.”
The parcel is an important area for hunting and wildlife and includes a section of the Rim Trail, a 25-mile foot and horse path that traverses the rim of the Tusquitee Mountains and Valley River Mountains, which form the Fires Creek watershed. The Rim Trail loop starts at the Fires Creek Recreation Area and connects to other trails including the Shinbone, Sassafras, Phillips Ridge and Bristol Horse Trails.
The purchase also protects the headwaters of Fires, Laurel and Phillips Creeks, all of which flow into the Hiwassee River Basin, which is the primary source of drinking water for North Carolina and Georgia residents.