Acres for America grant to conserve 12,000 acres

Our land protection in the Blue Ridge Mountains is getting a major boost thanks to Walmart’s Acres for America program.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation(NFWF), using funds from the program, awarded a $500,000 grant to partners including CTNC to help protect more than 12,000 acres in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee.

The grant will help conserve a network of six tracts with native brook trout and golden wing warbler habitat, provide public access for people to enjoy the outdoors and protect the natural resources that local communities depend on for clean drinking water and economic vitality. The properties include 36 miles of streams and adjoin hundreds of thousands of acres of existing public lands.

The grant was secured through a collaborative effort by the Blue Ridge Forever coalition of land trusts, CTNC, The Conservation Fund, and Appalachian Trail Conservancy, with support from Trout UnlimitedAppalachian Mountains Joint Venture and others.

“We are thankful to NFWF and Walmart for making this contribution to the future of our Blue Ridge mountains, home of some of the most biologically rich temperate forests in the world,” said Kieran Roe, executive director of Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, one of the 12 conservation organizations that make up the Blue Ridge Forever coalition. CTNC is also a Blue Ridge Forever member.

The largest single tract targeted for the grant funds is Rocky Fork in Tennessee, at nearly 10,000 acres. The Conservation Fund, Cherokee National Forest, and the State of Tennessee acquired it in 2008 in cooperation with Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The grant money will assist in the protection of the final section of Rocky Fork later this year.

The remaining five tracts total 2,240 acres with 21 miles of streams in North Carolina’s Ashe, Avery, Henderson and McDowell counties. They include a 520-acre tract in Avery County that CTNC is actively working to protect.

Acres for America is a 10-year, $35 million commitment that began in 2005 between Walmart and the NFWF to preserve one acre of wildlife habitat in the United States for every acre of land developed by the company through 2015. To date, Acres for America has invested in projects in 24 states, protecting more than 687,000 acres.