"A coalition of nine land trusts says it will reach a five-year goal of protecting 50,000 acres in Western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains.
The coalition, Blue Ridge Forever, said it expects to surpass the goal by up to 8,000 acres when land transactions are completed by year’s end.
The trusts closed on nearly 350 properties in the past five years. Landowners donated $196 million in cash and property value, leveraging more than $150 million in public grants and private donations.
The Southern Appalachians, which include the Blue Ridge chain, have the most biologically rich temperate forests in North America. Hundreds of species are found nowhere else. The mountains also protect headwater streams that provide drinking water to millions of people.
Developed land in the southern Blue Ridge, meanwhile, has grown 77 percent over the past two decades."