Watauga Democrat
May 14, 2007

Beech Bog may get wetlands status
By Scott Nicholson

Beech Creek Bog, the focus of a preservation effort five years ago, is now on the state’s list for consideration as a “unique wetlands.”

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources is holding hearings later this month in Raleigh and Carolina Beach on the roster of wetlands proposed for designation. Beech Creek Bog, on Beech Mountain, is one of 33 properties on the list.

The reclassification of the wetland areas offers additional protection for sites “of exceptional or national ecological significance.”

The 120-acre Beech Creek Bog was preserved through an effort of the Blue Ridge Rural Land Trust after a Texas developer purchased the property and began planning a lake on the site to increase value of a proposed development. Land trust director James Coman said the site was one of the rarest ever preserved in BRRLT’s 10-year history.

“Beech Creek Bog is probably the most significant site we’ve ever worked on,” he said. “It’s one of the largest such bogs in the Southern Appalachians and is almost pristine.”

The land trust worked with the developer on access issues, and the group came up with the appraised value of $680,000 and began a whirlwind fund-raising campaign. The state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and the Clean Water Management Trust Fund eventually came up with the money and the deal was closed in November 2002.

The property was transferred to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation to become the Beech Creek Bog State Natural Area and biological inventory of the site continues.

Coman said the process of protecting the bog created a ripple in the community that led to other conservation efforts and an interest in the mountain habitat. That resulted in a number of other land protection projections beginning on or near Beech Creek. The land trust has explored six additional inquiries about conservation easements or sales of properties for which protection will serve to protect the watershed of the bog itself and the Beech Creek watershed.

BRRLT is about to finalize conservation of a 62-acre tract that almost touched the bog area, containing lots of water that serves as a buffer for the creek.

The bog is at an elevation of 5,000 feet and contains habitat for the Northern flying squirrel, which is on the federal endangered species list. It also contains the rare saw-whet owl and a variety of rare flora and fauna.

The bog is considered “nationally significant” and, unlike bogs of glacial origin, the Beech Creek Bog formed in a poorly drained mountain depression.

The 33 wetlands proposed for designation are considered high-quality natural communities that provide habitat for state or federally listed threatened or endangered species.

About 3,800 acres of wetlands in 11 different river basins are up for reclassification. Under the designation, if approved, permitted impacts would be limited to projects that meet a public need.

Comments can be mailed to: Adriene Weaver, DWQ Planning Section, 1617 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1617.


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