The Black Mountains Program

In Public Hands | Private Opportunities | Goals | Maps | Old Growth Survey | Outreach | Culture
What's Going On? | Get Involved | Info on SAFC and SAHC

The Black Mountains of North Carolina, located near Asheville in the western end of the state, are home to the highest peaks in the eastern United Sates. They are also home to an abundance of plant and animal species, many of which have less and less habitat available to them. The Blacks are one of the last wild areas of any significant size in the Southeast. While other areas have suffered from rampant roadbuiling and development, ill-advised timber harvesting, and other impacts, the Blacks have, for the last 70 years, been relatively well taken care of.
This picture shows the Black Mountains as viewed from Roan Mountain. Bryan Hodges.

In Public Hands

Much of the Black Mountains area is in public ownership--within Mt. Mitchell State Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, or Pisgah National Forest. These lands form a sizable core area of wild plant and animal habitat. Much of the old growth forest in the area--usually on steep slopes that 1920s loggers could not profitably scour--is on National Forest land. Many of the highest peaks, with their spruce/fir forests (currently suffering from acid rain), are in Mt. Mitchell State Park. Because of this public ownership and a current trend of private landowner support, the opportunity exists to conserve the invaluable pristine lands of the Black Mountains for the greater public.
Photograph taken from Black Mountains Crest Trail. Ben Walters.



Plan Revisions

An important opportunity to influence the Forest Service's management of their land in the Blacks is the public comment period of the Service's plan revision process. In a little over a year, the National Forests in North Carolina will revise their management plans and the public will be given a chance to express opinions about the appropriate manner in which to manage different parts (management areas) of the Forests. The Service draws up a series of "alternatives" for each area and then chooses one from this list. With good planning and preparation, we can influence every alternative (by submitting issues, which are common to all alternatives) in addition to drawing up a comprehensive, viable conservation alternative.

To learn a little about the history of national forests in the east and more about the plan revision process, read this article submitted by Terry Seyden. Mr. Seyden is the Public Affairs Officer for National Forests in North Carolina. Or, to view the current Draft Alternatives for the plan revision process, visit this site.

Roadless Areas

The U.S. Forest Service has proposed a time-out on road construction in some of the most remote, steep and rugged areas on the lands it manages, including most national forests of the southern Appalachians. These places are called "roadless areas." The moratorium is a very modest step, especially in the East, where undeveloped land is becoming scarce. The time-out may last up to 18 months, during which time the Forest Service also will revamp its overall transportation policy.

The remaining fragments of unroaded forest in the southern Appalachians are some of the best hiking, camping hunting and fishing lands in the nation. They're also unprotected and increasingly scarce. Speak out today! Let's keep our options open and give these lands a chance to remain natural.
Photograph by Ben Walters.

Click here to support roadless areas!

Private Opportunities

Though the public lands occupy most of the region's high elevation areas, private lands are also critical pieces of the wildland puzzle. Two of the most significant private landowners in the Blacks recently established conservation easements on their land, protecting large tracts in exchange for a tax break. One of these owners is the city of Asheville, which just protected the watershed which serves the city with clean, pure water. Conservation easements offer the potential for everyone to gain and are a useful tool in the effort to protect this land.

The Program's Goal

The goal of the Black Mountains Program is threefold:

(1) Build an identity for the Black Mountains as a discrete and recognizable region, unique in its biological value as a rich wildland.

(2) Provide education about the area and its virtues

(3) Work with local communities to develop a conservation plan for the area that would ensure the protection of its inherent values.

Part of our work in providing education about the Blacks includes our continued exploration of the natural values of the mountains. The Citizen's Old Growth Inventory, the results of which are represented in the clickable map below, is part of that exploration. Rob Messick, working with the Western North Carolina Alliance and with SAFC, was responsible for collecting the old growth data represented by that map.

Map of Black Mountains Area
Map of Old Growth in Grandfather Ranger District (see section below on Big Ivy)

More about the mapping involved with the Black Mountains conservation project can be found here.

Old Growth Survey of Big Ivy

An inventory of the Big Ivy area within the Blacks has been completed by Alan Smith, a biologist out of Mars Hill College. Alan was contracted by the Black Mountains Program to conduct this survey - his results come as good news to those who have known that quality old growth sites exist in Big Ivy. Click here to read his report.


Outreach within the communities surrounding the Black Mountains is a large portion of the program. This consists of giving presentations to civic groups, hosting speakers, providing information about private and public land conservation, and working with the local schools.

If you would like for someone to give a presentation to your local group or class, please contact us at 828-253-0095 or 828-252-9223 or email us using the links at the bottom of the page. We can arrange for a video presentation, lectures on a variety of topics, or help with fieldtrips. These services are available in Buncombe, Mitchell, Yancey, Avery, and McDowell counties and are free of charge.

To read about a past fieldtrip, click on the picture to the upper right.

Culture, History, and Recreation

The Black Mountains are rich in history and lore, including events stories and personalities. We will be gradually adding items to this section of the web page.
Big Tom Wilson (son of Big Tom Wilson).
The Trees of Mount Mitchell

Now available -

Get yours today!!

The Black Mountains Interactive CD-Rom

Renowned for their dramatic natural beauty, the Blacks are a treasure trove of biological diversity, cultural richness, and recreational opportunities. Along with exploring the abundant resources of the Blacks, this CDROM examines ways this important mountain chain can be protected for future generations. You will learn about:
- culture and history - music, art, storytelling, and more
- biological resources - forests, plants, and animals
- recreation opportunities - hiking, fishing, camping, and more
- conservation - what threatens these resources and what is being done to preserve them

Explore and enjoy the majesty and wonder of the Black Mountains with this CDROM. It is an adventure you will not forget!

Send $12 to The Black Mountains Program, 34 Wall St., Suite 805F, Asheville, NC 28801-2710 and we will send you a copy to enjoy. The $12 covers the CD and shipping and handling.

Mackey Mountain Trail Guides

Trail guides for the Mackey Mountain Wild Area.
The closest town to Mackey Mountain is Old Fort, which is on I-40 east of Asheville a little more than 20 miles. To receive a copy, send a check for $4 to the Black Mountains Program, 34 Wall St., #805-F, Asheville, NC 28801. This $4 will cover the map and shipping and handling. Please make your check out to SAHC/SAFC.


What's Going On?

To find out what is happening in the Blacks and throughout the Southeast, click here. This page is continually updated with recent events concerning our area.

Get Involved

If you are interested in getting involved in the Black Mountains Program, or if you would like more information, please contact SAFC or SAHC by clicking below. We encourage you to let us know why you're interested, how you think we should proceed, and what you feel you could bring to the project.


Visit the web site for the Black Mountains Initiative, a photographic documentary project of the Black Mountains area.

Also, please visit the Black Mountains Program's sponsors web sites. Both have recently been updated and are full of timely, quality information.

SAFC's Web Site | SAHC's Web Site

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