Formerly Part of Chemtronics Superfund Site
The Southern Appalachians Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) recently accepted a donated conservation easement on 526 acres in Swannanoa owned by Chemtronics, Inc. The land was separated from a larger tract, the remaining 535 acres of which is still a federal Superfund site. Although the property was once used to manufacture explosives, propellants, incapacitating agents, and a variety of specialty chemicals, extensive site analyses indicate the land within the conservation easement boundary was not contaminated. The Environmental Protection Agency removed the Superfund designation from that portion of the property in 2016, clearing the way for the conservation easement.
In its announcement of the donation by Chemtronics, SAHC noted that the conservation easement permanently protects land adjoining Pisgah National Forest, as well as scenic views from the Blue Ridge Parkway, I-40 and NC Highway 70. “This landscape is important to the surrounding Swannanoa community, and we are pleased to be able to permanently protect these ridges,” said SAHC Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “The conservation easement area provides important wildlife corridors and will create an undeveloped buffer adjoining other protected lands.”
The forested, steep slopes of the property rise to elevations over 3,500 ft. The tract adjoins a large block of contiguous, protected land in the Black Mountains that includes the Asheville Watershed, Pisgah National Forest, Mount Mitchell State Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is located less than a mile away. The Audubon Society’s Black and Great Craggy Mountains Important Bird Area covers a portion of the property. This Important Bird Area provides habitat for a wide variety of species, including Black-throated Blue warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Canada Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Pine Siskin, and Dark-eyed Junco.
“This land has been a long-time priority for conservation for nearly 20 years, and I’m thrilled to see this project finally come to fruition,” said SAHC Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. The land will continue to be owned by Chemtronics, and will not be open to the public. SAHC stewardship staff will monitor the conservation easement area annually, and the property will be managed for forest health, according to a forest management plan.