Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy recently purchased 139 acres along Beaverdam Creek, further protecting water quality and wildlife habitat in eastern Haywood County, said officials for the nonprofit organization.

Combined with prior conservancy purchases, there are now 1,120 acres of protected lands within the Beaverdam Creek watershed, providing permanent protection for wildlife habitat, water quality in streams and scenic views from public trails, said SAHC Conservation Director Hanni Muerdter in a press release.

“This 139-acre tract includes portions of Beaverdam Creek and its tributaries,” Muerdter said. “The property fills a protection gap within the watershed, directly connecting Canton’s Rough Creek watershed conservation easement to the west and a SAHC-owned preserve to the north.”

The newly acquired acreage will improve surface water quality by permanently protecting 2.5 miles of stream from being developed, said SAHC Communications Director Angela Shepherd.

Haywood Waterways Association Executive Director Eric Romaniszyn said the water quality of Beaverdam Creek is considered to be on the decline, and the SAHC acquisition complements Haywood Waterway’s work to combat that decline.

“Haywood Waterways works to maintain and improve water quality throughout Haywood County through voluntary initiatives,” Romaniszyn said. “Our Pigeon River Watershed Action Plan specifically recommends conservation of critical headwater areas, such as the tract recently acquired by SAHC, for the long-term protection of water quality.”

The Beaverdam waterways will be taken care of using best management practices for water quality, an established system that aims to reduce sedimentation, bacteria levels and runoff, Shepherd said.

Furthermore, the purchase contributes to the Beaverdam Watershed Action Plan, originally produced by the Haywood Waterways Association and the Pigeon River Fund of The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, Shepherd said.

Although the recently purchased tract will not be available for public recreational use, it does connect to the town of Canton’s Rough Creek Watershed, which contains 870 acres of protected mountain woodland open to the public for hiking and mountain biking, Shepherd said in an email.

Beaverdam Road runs through the property, which includes a dwelling, garage and several barns, according to a survey map from the Haywood County Register of Deeds. The property is being managed for conservation purposes, and SAHC will evaluate the use of those buildings as a management plan is developed, Shepherd said.

“We are currently continuing to work with a local farmer who has been grazing cattle on the property,” Shepherd said.

The 138.62 acre purchase was acquired from a private landowner for $960,000, according to documents from the register of deeds recorded Sept. 16. The purchase was funded by private citizen donations, SAHC members and a $25,000 grant from the Pigeon River Fund, Shepherd said.

“This land has been passed down in the same family for over 150 years, and we are so grateful that the previous landowner wanted to see it permanently protected,” Muerdter said. “We look forward to managing this land for future generations.”

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