The Southern Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative

red spruce, restoration, native plants, conservation

SHR works with local, state and federal partners to help restore red spruce to the forests of Western North Carolina.

A primary example of an observed decline in regional biodiversity is that of the spruce-fir forest. SHR’s Red Spruce Project has been designed in response to this marked decline, caused by such human-created problems as extensive logging in the 1900s and the introduction of deadly pests from foreign regions. At one time, the spruce covered vast expanses of the mountain landscape, but now is only found in sparse populations.

Spruce-Fir Forest Report (NCWRC) (185 KB)

The Nature Conservancy and The Southern Highlands Reserve have a vision to restore red spruce throughout the mountain ranges of the Southern Appalachians. Increasing the viability and size of these spruce-fir islands in the sky, as well as restoring their connectivity to one another, means a better chance of survival for the forests and all species that inhabit them.

In September of 2013, The Southern Highlands Reserve and The Nature Conservancy committed to a formal partnership for five years to develop the Southern Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative (SASRI) with a focus on the restoration of the endangered high elevation spruce-fir forests through reintroducing red spruce to the mountain environments. SASRI released a Spruce Restoration Plan in 2015, identifying key sites and strategies for successful spruce restoration in Western NC and other sites in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

SASRI Spruce Restoration Plan (link)

Additionally, the Reserve has been working with Chris Kelly, a wildlife biologist with North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, to propagate thousands of red spruce seedlings since 2009. Many of these seedlings have been planted in the Unicoi Mountains in an effort to increase the spruce population in support of rebuilding the plant community crucial to the Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel’s (CNFS) survival in this area. This area hosts one of only nine known populations of the CNFS in all of North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee. As a result of the degradation of its primary ecosystem, the CNFS is a federally listed endangered species.

NFSquirrel Wildlife Profile (329 KB)
Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel 5-Year Review (USFWS) (9251 KB)