BURKE COUNTY — The Conservation Fund and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) announced the addition of 205 acres to Pisgah National Forest at Linville Gorge, buffering the adjacent Wilderness Area. Its protection secures iconic viewsheds, enhances access for recreation and preserves wildlife habitat and water quality for the area.
In 2018, The Conservation Fund purchased the property and transferred it to USFS for their permanent protection at the end of 2020. This effort was made possible with support from the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Conservancy and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, as well as funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and Fred and Alice Stanback.
An iconic destination in North Carolina, Linville Gorge is one of the deepest, most rugged and scenic gorges in the eastern United States. Sitting atop of Long Arm Mountain, this 205-acre property is visible from Linville Gorge and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Now part of the Pisgah National Forest, the land will be protected from any development that could hinder these stunning natural viewsheds. It also preserves a valuable watershed — specifically Bull Branch Creek which starts on the property and flows into Linville River—and secures public access on the east side of the gorge.
“Linville Gorge is a popular place for recreation like hiking, camping, hunting and climbing,” said Bill Holman, The Conservation Fund’s North Carolina State Director. “Conserving land within the gorge not only preserves an important environmental ecosystem, but it enhances these recreational opportunities, protects a stunning viewshed, attracts visitors, and supports North Carolina’s robust outdoor tourism economy.”
“The Forest Service is grateful to The Conservation Fund and all of our many partners for the addition of this critical tract of land at Linville Gorge,” said James Melonas, Forest Supervisor for the National Forest in North Carolina. “The addition of Long Arm Mountain will protect views and enhance access to Linville Gorge for current and future generations, as well as protect wildlife habitat and water quality.”
This project utilized funds from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). With the signing of a historic bill in August 2020, the U.S. Congress and President enacted the Great American Outdoors Act, ensuring full and permanent funding for LWCF and supporting future projects like this one for generations to come. North Carolina’s Congressional delegation, including U.S. Senator Richard Burr, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, and U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, played an instrumental role in securing LWCF’s ongoing success for the state’s residents, economy, environment, and cultural and historical values.
“Linville Gorge has served as an important recreational center in North Carolina for decades,” said Sen. Burr. “The transfer of this tract of land to the Pisgah National Forest demonstrates the success of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a vital program that was fully and permanently funded by Congress in 2020. I applaud The Conservation Fund, the U.S. Forest Service, and the many stakeholders for their efforts to enhance public access and protect the iconic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains for years to come.”
“Pisgah National Forest at Linville Gorge is an iconic destination that many North Carolinians and visitors have enjoyed for decades,” Sen. Tillis said. “Our great mountains merit significant protection so future generations can continue to enjoy their beauty, which is why I am proud to have co-sponsored the Great American Outdoor Act. I applaud The Conservation Fund and U.S. Forest Service for their commitment to this permanent safeguard.”
The Linville Gorge Wilderness Area was designated by Congress in the Wilderness Act of 1964. It was one of the first wilderness areas in the eastern United States. Linville River drops 2,000 feet as it cuts through the Blue Ridge on its way to join the Catawba River at Lake James. This acquisition helps adjoin the existing 11,786-acre Linville Gorge Wilderness Area in Pisgah National Forest.
“Partnerships are critical when it comes to protecting our natural treasures,” said Andrew Kota, Executive Director for Foothills Conservancy. “Foothills Conservancy is proud of the longstanding partnerships it has developed with The Conservation Fund, U.S. Forest Service, Blue Ridge Conservancy, NC Wildlife Resources Commission and so many other people and groups who work toward a common goal of permanent land preservation. The Conservation Fund carried the heavy load on this crucial acquisition, and our land trust is honored to support the preservation of additional acreage around the iconic Linville Gorge.”
“So much of conservation work is about building lasting and trusting relationships within the community,” said Blue Ridge Conservancy Executive Director Charlie Brady. “The landowner initially reached out to Blue Ridge Conservancy through a board trustee to discuss protecting this unique tract in the Linville Gorge. We’re thrilled to be a partner in this project to add the land to Pisgah National Forest.”
Pisgah National Forest consists of over 500,000 acres of hardwood forestland, pristine waterfalls, and whitewater rivers—including the popular 50-foot Linville Falls. The Cherokee called the gorge “Eeseeoh,” meaning “river of many cliffs.” It was later given the name Linville after William Linville—a frontiersman who, when hunting in the gorge with his son, met an untimely death in the middle of a battle between the Cherokee and Shawnee.
The gorge provides habitat for black bear, ruffed grouse, wild turkey, neotropical migratory birds—such as the black-throated green warbler—and federally endangered plant species, including the Virginia spiraea and northern beech fern. Today’s addition will expand protected habitat for these species and enhance accessible game lands for recreational hunting.
“The Long Arm Mountain tract adds great conservation value to the Linville Gorge area, and we are excited about this addition to Pisgah Game Land,” said Paul Thompson, Northern Mountain Land Management Biologist, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “We look forward to our continued partnership with U.S. Forest Service that will allow us to actively manage several large openings on the tract for the benefit of wildlife and the public.”