SE Trust Creates Much Needed Habitat for “Near Threatened” Golden-winged Warbler
Southeast Trust for Parks & Land (STPAL) and their Wildlife Consultant, Vic Vansant, is undertaking a project with Ecoforester, Carolina Audubon, USDA Equip program, and State of North Carolina Forestry and DENR to create 16-acres of habitat for the “near threatened” golden-winged warbler (GWWA) on 750 acre Bald Mountain Creek Nature Preserve in Yancey County NC. This bird’s population has declined 98% in the Appalachians in the past 45 years, primarily due to habitat loss. However, one was heard at this site in 2014 by regional Audubon Conservation Biologist Aimee Tomcho, which lead to prioritizing this habitat expansion project, as GWWA often return to the same breeding sites year after year. The NC Wildlife Resources Commission’s (NCWRC) Technical Assistance Biologist Clint Barden helped advise and secure cost-share funding from the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).
The neo-tropical GWWA winters is Central and South America but returns to the eastern US to breed every summer. For its breeding habitat, this bird relies on 5- to 25-acre patches of early successional habitat (ESH; i.e., young forests, meadows, and shrublands) with 10-15 large “perch” trees per acre, surrounded by mature deciduous forest. The existing power line on the property was providing some of this ESH for the GWWA but expanding this by creating more adjacent young forest in a more natural shape and size for the bird was key.
EcoForesters’ forest restoration crew established the initial 2-acre young forest habitat block this year by felling many of the common dense trees near the powerline with little to no economic value and herbiciding the stumps to prevent these trees from resprouting to maintain the habitat for the GWWA for a longer period of time. An additional 14-acres of adjacent more mature forest will be harvested by a logger to create more habitat and help fund the project. EcoForesters also controlled all the non-native invasive plants on the site so that they will not overtake the newly created growing space. This is an essential step before any planned forest disturbance.
ESH is an underrepresented habitat type across our forested landscapes. It is estimate that 100+ years ago 5-10% of forests used be maintained in this early successional state through native grazing (elk, bison), fire, wind, ice, and natural tree mortality. However, since around 1900 native grazers have been extirpated, fire has been suppressed, and widespread clearcuts have regenerated into an even age forest without much structural diversity, which benefits many declining species of wildlife, not just the iconic, near threatened golden-winged warbler.
The primary goal for the project is to create habitat for this at-risk bird species. Therefore, the timber harvesting will need to be done by very skilled loggers. Other advantages to the timber harvest are to improve the many poorly designed and eroding old logging roads on the property, to protect water quality in the nearby trout stream, and to establish better access to this permanently conserved nature preserve to allow for public hiking and maintaining the habitat for the bird. Without regular disturbance (controlled burning, cutting, grazing, or herbiciding) the habitat will grow up and no longer be suitable for the GWWA.
All wildlife friendly trees – oaks, in particular, but also cherry, hickory, beech, hawthorns, apples, witch hazel, and standing dead trees – were left to increase the value of the ESH for all associated wildlife species. The vast majority of the trees marked for harvest are the very common yellow-poplars. Smaller trees were also left scattered or in clumps to create more habitat diversity. And of course, no harvesting can happen during the breeding season for all birds (April-July). Furthermore, a proposed stream crossing was avoided and stream buffers of at least 50’ were left untouched to ensure high water quality was maintained and to break up the ESH for more edge habitat which is especially important to all wildlife.
Aimee Tomcho reported the following on April 25, 2021: I enjoyed visiting the GWWA restoration site Friday afternoon. There were a bunch of songbirds using the restoration area already (Blue-headed vireo, Black-throated green warbler, Hooded warbler, Black-and-white warbler…)! GWWAs are not back yet but I will go up there in a few weeks and conduct surveys. Lots of Fringed Phacelia blooming along the forest road.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the American Bird Conservancy, Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture, Audubon North Carolina, Fundacion Proaves-Colombia, numerous universities & states’ wildlife departments, as well as private foundations are collaborating to help restore this species by aiming to double its population in the Appalachians in 40 years. Read more at: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/bbimages/clo/pdf/GWWA-APPLRegionalGuide_130808_lo-res.pdf.
We’re feeling the love as we countdown to Valentine’s Day What a perfect week to introduce you to a couple of STPAL sweethearts and share their fun story with you.
Meet Evelyn and Tim. Their love story began more than 40 years ago in Ohio. In that four decades, they married, raised a family, and retired to Pickens County. They love each other. And…they love the outdoors
They enjoy hiking, camping, and exploring natural lands. Tim is a mountain biker, cave diver, and officially serves as the unofficial trail boss at @TalkingRockNaturePreserve
He cuts the grass in the common areas.
He clears trees that fall across trails after a storm.
In the summer, Tim relentlessly battles the blackberry bushes.
He clears the pine straw from the trails when it gets too slick.
He installed the bike repair station.
He helped frame the new pavilion.
While “in real life,” Tim is retired, we assure you he’s still working hard for Talking Rock Nature Preserve (but, no paycheck for this job!) He does this because he loves Talking Rock and the community it serves.
So, when Evelyn was scratching her head a few months ago for the perfect Christmas gift, she thought of TRNP. She reached out to our Executive Director and together they schemed up a perfect gift to honor her love for Tim, and Tim’s love for the park. Evelyn made a gift to buy the supplies … and Voila! If you enjoy mountain biking at TRNP, you’ll notice a pretty cool new feature – a wood banked turn (berm) across a section of the trail. These are super fun to ride and we know you’ll enjoy it! It was the perfect project to honor Tim and his dedication to this park. Y’all – this isn’t your typical Hallmark-motivated Valentine’s – this is love in action. Evelyn and Tim – thank you. For your creativity, generosity, and hard work.
Have any of our parks been part of your love story? Send us a message. We’re featuring love stories all year!
Bald Mountain Creek Nature Preserve is 750 acres of beautiful nature land located about 25 miles due north of Asheville NC up against the Tennessee state line and the Appalachian Trail. It is perpetually conserved to remain natural and to have no cost public recreation.
In 2020 STPAL invested over $17,000 as a phase 1 the trail system restoration process. The restoration is for the purposes of improving public hiking use and for stream protection. The restored trails total about 4 miles. There is about another 4 miles to be restored in 2021. Ultimately additional trails will be built that are optimized for mountain bike usage.
In partnership with the Carolina Climbers Coalition a 3 phase project has begun to facilitate bouldering and other climbing activities. To date there have been 6 distinct bouldering areas inventoried with each having at least 50 problems (routes). The boulders are particularly well suited based on their locations, sizes, variety, and mineral composition. Upon completion of the 3 phases this site will likely become a regionally significant climbing resource.
In partnership with the Audubon Society, the USDA, and NC Forestry a project has begun to establish a habitat zone for migratory birds with a specific focus on the threatened Golden Wing Warbler. This project will be completed in 2022.
In 2020 the Friends of Bald Mountain Creek Nature Preserve was successfully launched. This group will provide support for STPAL’s mission related activities at the preserve.
2020 was a good year for Bald Mountain Creek Nature Preserve!
General Position of Organization
2020 Top Internal Priorities
2020 Top Mission Priorities and Updates
STPAL, Sassafras GOSP Grant Application, September 29, 2020
Earlier this year STPAL began the process to apply for a large grant through the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Program (GOSP). This is the second year of the program which designates a portion of sales tax revenues related to outdoor recreation to fund new outdoor recreation opportunities for Georgians. The grants are awarded to ambitious and regionally significant outdoor recreation projects. The Sassafras property is 1,000 acres and our intended plans will make for an attractive application and ultimately a high quality regionally significant park. Terry Palmeri took the lead with the local project committee and made great progress towards the effort. She has lined up local volunteer, government, and funding support for the project. However, with the application deadline arriving soon on October 16th we will wait to apply next year for the following reasons.
This is disappointing but ultimately a positive step.
The following is a draft narrative description of the project.
Executive Director, STPAL
August 27, 2020
Sassafras GOSP APP
Project Narrative (500 word max)
Sassafras Nature Preserve and Park consists of over 1,000 acres of natural land in Gilmer County, Georgia owned by 501-C-3 non-profit public charity Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land, Inc, (STPAL). The initial phases of its transformation into a no cost public use recreation area will create regionally significant impact in the areas of economic development, public outdoor recreation, environmental stewardship, and public health.
The primary outcomes of the GOSP funding will be the acquisition of priority contiguous land, development of common area amenities, construction of 30 – 50 miles of multi-use (mountain bike, equestrian, hand cycle, hike, trail running) natural surface trail system, nature education elements, and habitat enhancement. The environmental stewardship efforts will prioritize Georgia DNR priority plant and animal species. Following this first phase of park creation there will be ongoing improvements such as: wildlife habitat projects; native plant propagation; primitive, family, and RV camping areas; championship level disc golf course; adventure obstacle course; competition level archery range; radio controlled car and truck course; geocaching, demonstration garden and trellised apple orchard; playground; climbing walls; and other elements to be determined by user interest, environmental priorities, and remaining available land.
The planning and construction of the park will diligently adhere to prioritizing functionality balanced with minimal initial and ongoing expenses. For example, the trail system will be designed and constructed to fun and safe for all its user types. The rolling nearly southernmost Appalachian Mountain terrain advantageous to create a trail system appropriate for our objectives. The trail construction will utilize the most up to date best practices to be sustainable using proven techniques to mitigate the impact of heavy rain and usage. The trail system and common areas will be designed to accommodate regional and state level National Interscholastic Cycling Association competitions, mountain bike and trail running competitions including ones attracting out of state competitors, and other natural land appropriate events and festivals. The recreational elements will conform to their relevant and appropriate ADA requirements. Diversity of users is a priority goal.
The land acquisition achieves an optimal access point to a County road. It has advantageous terrain and past land usage adaptations for the common areas. The primary 100-acre acquisition tract includes the remnant of a long-time family home, large garden area, fishing pond, pastureland, and various age mixed hardwood pine forested areas. The dilapidated homeplace will be removed but the foundation will be used as the basis for a multi-use pavilion which will be the foundation of the cultural and historic elements.
Upon final site plan adoption +/- 500 acres of the site will be permanently conserved to remain natural and available for free public recreation usage. Upon park competition the balance of the Preserve will be conserved as appropriate. For example, the parking areas and park structures would be excluded. This conservation will in the form of a binding deed restriction and not create any tax related or other financial benefit to any entity. The only financial impact is STPAL’s loss of asset value which has a minimum value deduction of $2,000 per acre.
Sassafras Nature Preserve and Park will function as a local resource that will improve the day to day quality of life for the people of Gilmer, Fannin, Dawson, and Pickens counties. It will be beneficial for outdoor recreation enthusiasts and adventurous families from across Georgia. The trail system’s size, quality, variety, and common areas will attract day, weekend, and even full week visitors. Its usage for regional, state, and southeast US outdoor recreation-based events and competitions will bring sustained economic and community development to the north Georgia area. And it will enhance the “Mountain Bike Capital of Georgia” House Resolution 1611.
July 31, 2020
Burke County (Georgia) Nature Preserve
Today STPAL finalized a contract to plant an additional 70 acres with long leaf pine seedlings at Burke County Nature Preserve. The planting will occur in spring of 2021. This will be the third consecutive year of planting.
For more information:
STPAL Mid-Year Report July 20, 2020
General Position of Organization
2020 Top Internal Priorities
2020 Top Mission Priorities and Updates
June 06, 2020
Something good happened today!
We appreciate the efforts of the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and Osprey Initiative with funding from Google. Today they installed and will maintain a buoy and drop net trash trap just after Annawakee Creek enters STPAL’s 287 acre Turnipseed Nature Preserve property in Douglas County, Georgia. Annawakee Creek flows into the Chattahoochee River about 5 miles from the preserve and ultimately into the Gulf of Mexico at Apalachicola Bay.
For more information about trash traps: https://chattahoochee.org/our-work/in-stream-trash-removal/
With apologies to the Beatles: When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Nature comes to me. Speaking words of wisdom. Let it be. Let it be.
Mission Statement: Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land makes use of natural land to foster natural land conservation; environmental stewardship; science education and research; and public recreation for the benefit of individuals and communities.
In times of trouble look for peace in nature.
A red bird visiting on a sad anniversary.
A cool breeze during an uphill hike in July.
A wildflower’s bloom in an unexpected place.
A deer that pauses to share a moment before continuing its foraging.
The quiet of a forest.
The noise of a mountain stream.
These things bring us closer to home when we find ourselves in times of trouble.
If you are interested in volunteering; firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are interested in supporting our mission: https://stpal.org/donate/