A private-public partnership to protect critical lands within the Maggie Valley watershed was celebrated Friday.
The Maggie Valley Sanitary District, along with numerous state, regional and federal partners, have embarked on a multi-year effort to protect the headwaters of Campbell Creek and Jonathan Creek in Haywood County.
The first phase of the conservation effort, which totals more than 700 acres within the watershed, has been completed.
The celebration brought together state, local, federal and nonprofit partners, as well as residents and former landowners, to honor the partnerships and commitments to the ongoing conservation in the area.
Made possible in part with funding from the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program, through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and North Carolina’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund, the multi-phase land protection project will help to preserve Maggie Valley’s pristine drinking water supply, provide expanded public access for recreation and ecotourism, and conserve habitat for wildlife, including elk, bear and threatened species like the Southern Appalachian black-capped chickadee.
The partners will continue plans to work with willing landowners over the next few years to protect at least 1,000 additional acres.
“When you look at the beautiful tree-covered mountains surrounding Maggie Valley, it’s easy to overlook the important role these forests play in providing assured supplies of clean drinking water to the residents and visitors of Haywood County,” said the Fund’s North Carolina State Director Bill Holman. “The Conservation Fund has worked with state and local partners to prioritize land and water protection efforts in Haywood County and across Western North Carolina that benefit local communities, economies and businesses. By protecting these natural assets, we are securing the natural resources of the region that attracts millions of outdoor lovers each year.”
Neil Carpenter, Maggie Valley Watershed district manager, said protecting the high-quality drinking water in Campbell and Jonathan Creeks is critical to public health and the future prosperity of the citizens of Maggie Valley.
He thanked the U.S. Forest Service, the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, Pigeon River Fund and private donors for their help, along with those in Congress and state legislators for appropriating funds to the Land and Water Conservation Fund and North Carolina’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund, respectively.
Funding through the LWCF was leveraged with state and philanthropic dollars from the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund, the Pigeon River Fund, and Fred and Alice Stanback. In addition, the former landowners, the Queen family, sold their property at a discount to help facilitate this conservation effort.
A bipartisan, federal program for more than 50 years, LWCF uses a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties — not taxpayer dollars — to acquire critical lands and protect our country’s best natural resources and recreational access.
LWCF, which includes the Forest Legacy Program, is annually funded by the U.S. Congress, and receives strong support from North Carolina’s Congressional delegation.
“North Carolina is home to the largest variety of natural landscapes in the Southeast and preserving these natural treasures requires smart, sustainable conservation efforts,” said U.S. Senator Richard Burr. “That’s why I’ve been proud to support the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for more than a decade. By supporting the LWCF and its programs, we are not only preserving the natural landscapes of Maggie Valley, but we are also expanding access to clean drinking water for years to come. I applaud The Conservation Fund and the Maggie Valley Sanitary District for their efforts to complete this first conservation phase.”
The Forest Legacy Program is administered by the U.S. Forest Service to implement state priority projects. The program provides funding to states and private landowners seeking to protect environmentally valuable forest areas from the threat of conversion to non-forest uses. Forest conservation yields additional community benefits such as watershed protection, outdoor recreational access and wildlife habitat conservation.
“We’re thrilled to see the Forest Legacy Program and partners protect the Maggie Valley watershed,” said Michael Murphy, Forest Legacy Program Manager for the U.S. Forest Service. “Additional Forest Legacy funding will continue to build upon the community’s long-term efforts to safeguard its pristine drinking water supply and vulnerable working forestlands in a sustainable and future-focused way.”
“North Carolina’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund provides state financial resources to protect land important for water quality, habitat for rare plant and animal communities and land that will be open to the public for recreation,” said Walter Clark, North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund’s Executive Director. “The first phase of protecting the headwaters of Campbell and Jonathan Creeks alone protects 10 miles of stream buffer, habitat for 11 rare plants and animals and will be open to public recreation through trails.”
The Conservation Fund is also working with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, North Carolina Wildlife Federation and others to provide much needed habitat for North Carolina’s growing elk population and other species and increase recreational opportunities — including hiking, wildlife viewing, and trout fishing — at the William H. Silver Game Land also in Haywood County.