Southern Highlands Reserve (SHR) is honored to announce that it has been awarded the Open Space Preservation Grant from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area (BRNHA). SHR will use this $16,000 grant to help restore red spruce to endangered spruce-fir ecosystems on public lands in Western North Carolina.
BRNHA is a nonprofit organization charged with preserving, interpreting, developing, and celebrating the rich and unique natural and cultural heritage in the 25-county Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. This year, the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership awarded 21 grants totaling $180,000 to help support projects across the North Carolina mountains and foothills, focusing on craft, music, natural heritage, Cherokee culture, and agricultural traditions. These five facets of the region’s heritage earned the 25 counties of Western North Carolina a Congressional designation as the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area in 2003.
“These grant awards will support community projects across Western North Carolina,” said Angie Chandler, Executive Director of BRNHA. “By spotlighting our cultural traditions and natural wonders, we help sustain these assets, build community pride, draw more visitors, and grow the regional economy.”
Grant funding will be used to support SHR’s red spruce restoration activities including seed collection, spruce propagation in SHR’s Nursery Complex, tree planting, public outreach, volunteer management, and project management. Restoring red spruce to Western North Carolina will help sustain the integrity of habitat and wildlife populations, sustain the priceless ecological services red spruce helps to provide, and protect the scenic and natural resources that support the tourism economy in Western North Carolina.
Spruce-fir forests of the Southern Blue Ridge ecoregion have been in decline for more than 100 years primarily due to logging activity and wildfires that compounded their inability to recover from human disturbance. These high-elevation spruce-fir “cloud forests” are considered the second-most endangered ecosystems in the United States and are home to species of conservation concern such as spruce-fir moss spider, the Carolina northern flying squirrel, the northern saw-whet owl, brown creeper, black-capped chickadee, and several salamanders.
SHR welcomes community members to get involved with its red spruce restoration activities. Please contact SHR at firstname.lastname@example.org to become a volunteer. To donate to the Reserve and support spruce restoration activities, visit www.southernhighlandsreserve.org and follow the link to “Support the Reserve.” For more information about Southern Highlands Reserve and its role in the Southern Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative, please visit www.southernhighlandsreserve.org/southern-appalachian-spruce-restoration-initiative.
For more information about the BRNHA, visit www.blueridgeheritage.com.