Saturday, May 15, 2004



The North Carolina NATURE PRESERVES ACT states that the continued population growth and land development in North Carolina have made it necessary and desirable that areas of natural significance be identified and preserved before they are destroyed.

These natural areas, the text goes on to report, are irreplaceable as laboratories for scientific research, as reservoirs of natural materials for uses that may not now be known, as habitats for plant and animal species and biotic communities, as living museums where people may observe natural biotic and environmental systems and the
interdependence of all forms of life, and as reminders of the vital dependence of the health of the human community on the health of the other natural communities.
In North Carolina, we have established a Natural Heritage Program to provide assistance in the selection and nomination for registration or dedication of natural areas. This program includes classification of natural heritage resources, an inventory of their locations, and a data bank for that information. There are so many amazing real properties that qualify as outstanding natural areas.

YOU can take part in funding and founding nature preserves by investing in such a property. The owner of a qualified natural area even may transfer fee simple title or other interest in land to the State. Nature preserves may be acquired by gift, grant, or purchase.

The North Carolina Chapter of The Nature Conservancy has protected more than 100 beautiful sites across the state. Most of the sites, while full of natural charm, also have adequate public access but are situated such that public exploration will not endanger fragile natural communities.

One of the sites within hours of Asheville is MOUNT MITCHELL. When you come to explore our area of the country, this is ONE place you will not want to miss! The State of North Carolina established its first state park at Mount Mitchell in 1915 to protect the area's virgin Fraser fir from timbering. The North Carolina Chapter purchased 84 acres of additional land for Mount Mitchell State Park in 1997.

At 6,684 feet above sea level, Mount Mitchell is the highest peak in the eastern United States and contains an extensive area of spruce-fir forest, one of the country's rarest ecosystems. Spruce-fir forest is abundant in a large region of northern North America, but south of New England the forest type is only found in a narrow band in the Appalachian Mountains. This natural community is characterized by evergreens, particularly red spruce and Fraser fir, and harbors many species that are closely related to species in the spruce-fir forests of New England.

In North Carolina, spruce-fir forest occurs at elevations above 5,500 feet where cool temperatures and high moisture are prevalent conditions. The forests are remnants from the last ice age some 18,000 years ago and have become refuges for species that cannot tolerate warmer, drier conditions. This forest type is declining due to the negative effects of air pollution, in particular, acid rain.

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