Blue Ridge Conservancy is a private, non-profit, non-governmental organization incorporated in North Carolina. Since our founding, we have protected over 20,000 acres in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey Counties. In addition to protecting working farmland, BRC’s efforts have resulted in the creation of state natural areas like Beech Creek Bog, Bear Paw and Bullhead Mountain. We continue to help Elk Knob State Park and Grandfather Mountain State Park expand their borders and we led the way in establishing a 3,600-acre State Game Land preserve on Pond Mountain in Ashe County.
Blue Ridge Rural Land Trust was formed in 1997 out of a recognized need to protect the rapidly vanishing rural landscape and farmland in North Carolina’s seven northwestern counties – Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey. During its fourteen years, the organization operated under the guiding principle that the “land is the stage on which we build our lives, where children form an identity as they grow up, and a large part of what we call home. The landscape is a constant reminder of the personal and community occurrences. When the land is developed beyond recognition, we lose much more than a visual amenity; we lose part of our community and ourselves.”
High Country Conservancy began in 1995 with the formation of the Watauga Land Trust. The group was established by Appalachian State University students concerned with protecting Howard’s Knob, a mountain adjacent to the town of Boone. The new organization raised local awareness about the unprecedented pace of development not just around Boone, but across North Carolina’s northwestern mountains. These concerns galvanized the local community and in 1997 the Watauga Land Trust changed its name to High Country Conservancy and expanded its jurisdiction to include Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties. The organization’s mission was “to protect the natural resources of Appalachia by conserving land with significant ecological, cultural, recreational, or scenic value in the North Carolina High Country.”
In May of 2010,Blue Ridge Rural Land Trust (BRRLT) based in West Jefferson, North Carolina and High Country Conservancy, based in Boone merged to create Blue Ridge Conservancy (BRC).
According to John Turner, then President of the newly combined organization, “The merger of these two highly respected groups created an enhanced organization with the capacity to advance land preservation in our northwest mountains to an unprecedented level. By joining forces, we strengthened our staff and board and also maximized our efficiency by eliminating previously duplicated administrative costs, conservancy functions, and overlapping service areas.”
Walter Clark, Blue Ridge Conservancy’s former Executive Director, remarked that “challenging economic times demand that conservation organizations carefully plan how to best utilize public and private dollars to fulfill their missions. The board and staff of BRC feel that we took a huge positive step forward in meeting our stewardship responsibilities to the lands we serve and the donors who make our work possible.”
Blue Ridge Conservancy has protected over 20,000 acres in its seven-county jurisdiction. And like its two predecessors, BRC continues to partner with private landowners to voluntarily protect farmland and lands with scenic and ecological value using conservation easements. Land protected by conservation easement remains in private ownership, can be sold, passed to heirs and remains on county tax rolls.
BRC also continues to work closely with state, federal and private partners to expand the public’s access to land with significant recreational, cultural and ecological value. Through these partnerships, BRC has helped protect critically important areas including:
Bear Paw State Natural Area
Beech Creek Bog State Natural Area
Tater Hill Bog Preserve
Bullhead Mountain State Natural Area
Pond Mountain Game Land
Three Top Mountain Game Land
Valle Crucis Community Park
Sugar Mountain’s J. Douglas Williams Park
Elk Knob State Park
Blue Ridge Parkway lands