Feb. 3, 2015. Local nonprofit Blue Ridge Conservancy (BRC) added more than 410 acres of protected land to Pond Mountain Game Land in January, creating one of the largest public access game land properties in northwest North Carolina.
Pond Mountain borders Virginia and Tennessee with elevations ranging from 4,000 to 5,000 feet. In January 2015, through a generous contribution from Fred and Alice Stanback, BRC purchased more than 340 acres adjoining the Cherokee National Forest, and after several years of negotiations, purchased 71 acres adjoining the southern boundary of Pond Mountain.
In 2008, Blue Ridge Conservancy (BRC) partnered with NC Wildlife Resources Commission to create the Pond Mountain Game Land in northwest Ashe County. Through several acquisitions over the past seven years, the game lands have expanded to encompass more than 2,800 acres. Pond Mountain contains the headwaters of Big Laurel Creek, Little Horse Creek and Big Horse Creek which flow into the North Fork New River and are classified Outstanding Resource Waters. All of the stream sources originate on the game lands.
Through the years, funding partners have included Clean Water Management Trust Fund, Natural Heritage Trust Fund, Environmental Enhancement Grant Program, Acres for America, Community Foundation for WNC, and private donors. In addition to protecting the game land, BRC has also protected over 1,000 acres through conservation easements in the immediate area, which permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Landowners can continue to own and use their land, as well as sell it or pass it on to heirs.
“Pond Mountain is still somewhat of an unknown treasure. Its high elevation meadows boast some of the best views in western North Carolina,” said Walter Clark, executive director of BRC. “From its summit you look directly at two of Virginia’s highest mountains to the north, Mount Rogers and Whitetop mountains. To the east and south are Mount Jefferson, Bluff Mountain, Three Top Mountain and Grandfather Mountain. And on clear days, you can see Mount Mitchell and the Black Mountain range far to the south.”
It is thought that Pond Mountain was named in 1749 by Peter Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson’s father, as he surveyed the North Carolina/Virginia border. Mr. Jefferson was so intrigued by the numerous small pools on the summit that he named the area Pond Mountain. Many of those small ponds are still evident today although they have been altered over the years for irrigation purposes.
The acquisition of these properties will further protect several rare and threatened wildlife species including Native Southern Appalachian Brook Trout and Golden-winged Warbler. Following the purchase, the property will be transferred to the State of North Carolina for inclusion in the Pond Mountain Game Land.
“Adding protected land to Pond Mountain furthers one of BRC’s goals to protect land for recreational purposes,” said Clark. “Pond Mountain offers hiking, hunting, birding, cross country skiing, and wildlife viewing that makes the area a year-round destination. If managed well, the mountain can be an economic engine for northwestern North Carolina and Ashe County.”
In 2011, Blue Ridge Conservancy completed the five-year acquisition process of the original 1,800 acres which became the Pond Mountain Game Land. With 2,800 acres of land protected on Pond Mountain to date, BRC continues to look for opportunities to expand the land.
To learn more about Pond Mountain, please visit blueridgeconservancy.org.
About BRC: Blue Ridge Conservancy is a private, nonprofit, non-governmental organization incorporated in North Carolina that works with willing landowners and local communities to permanently protect land and water resources with agricultural, ecological, cultural, recreational, and scenic value. BRC has protected over 18,000 acres in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey Counties.