Stewarding WNC’s Various Landscapes

Member: Laura Bochner

Service Position: Stewardship Associate

Host Site: Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, Hendersonville, NC

I hail from the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania. The Lehigh Valley is in the Great Appalachian Valley, a continuous valley that stretches from Quebec to Alabama and includes the storied Shenandoah Valley. My experiences with Appalachian physiography prior to the start of Project Conserve were largely valley-focused; what a treat to live in the southern Appalachian Mountains and work for their protection!

My host site, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC), has helped protect over 22,000 acres of land in Henderson, Transylvania, Buncombe, Rutherford, Jackson, Haywood, and Polk Counties and holds conservation easements (voluntary agreements with landowners that restrict certain land uses and types of development in order to safeguard natural resources) on 85+ properties. CMLC must visit these easements at least once per year, and that’s where I come in! During CMLC’s fall monitoring season (October-December), I spent a lot of time on conservation easement monitoring.Before going monitoring, I scheduled visits with landowners and the monitoring volunteers who accompanied me on the inspections, prepared our GPS unit and maps of the properties, and reviewed in-house documentation on the history of the easement and its natural features. During the monitoring visits, the volunteers and I walked the properties (some fewer than five acres, some hundreds of acres) and documented any change on the properties with notes and photographs. Upon returning to the office, I wrote up easement monitoring reports about the inspections.

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A photo from one of the easements I visited this fall!

Sometimes, the landowner/s of a property would join us for the inspection. I always looked forward to the inspections in which the landowner/s would walk with us, because I came away with a deeper appreciation for the properties and their plant and animal inhabitants after hearing their stories from the landowners. Generally, the property owners CMLC works with are very passionate about their land and have a strong, infectious conservation ethic. I’m excited to resume monitoring in March with the start of CMLC’s spring monitoring season!

In addition to easement monitoring, I have been helping with the management of the properties that CMLC owns. One of these properties, Lewis Creek, contains a 6.5 acre Southern Appalachian Mountain Bog. This fall, with hundreds of hours of volunteer help, CMLC installed a walking trail through the Lewis Creek bog complete with boardwalks over the standing water.  Working with volunteers to restore CMLC’s lands and increase access to natural areas has been incredibly rewarding.

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A Lewis Creek volunteer workday photo of me (far right), the other CMLC Stewardship staff, and some of the volunteers who helped us put in the trail

To quote the magnet on the CMLC kitchen fridge: “Yay! Mountains!”

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