BOONE — Local conservation nonprofit Blue Ridge Conservancy has transferred ownership and management responsibilities of 26 acres along Backbone Ridge along the Blue Ridge Escarpment in Caldwell County to the North Carolina Forest Service, announced July 9.

“Conservation of this ridge has been ongoing for many years by The Conservation Fund, and BRC helped expand protection adjacent to the Pisgah National Forest and the buffer along Curtis Creek,” BRC stated.

The Blue Ridge Escarpment is described as the dramatic contrast in topography where the mountains are visibly reduced to foothills with rugged features including gorges, steep cliffs and thick vegetation. It is a biological hotspot for rare plants and wildlife. Backbone Ridge is part of the Wilson Creek — Linville Gorge Important Bird Area, home to species such as peregrine falcon, Canada warbler, wood thrush and Acadian flycatcher.

“Through BRC’s strategic land protection efforts, existing conservation lands are expanding and more land is becoming available for public use,” said Charlie Brady, BRC’s executive director said in a statement. At the same time, we are also focusing on ecologically significant areas to protect the biodiversity and pristine natural resources we value in Western North Carolina.”

Curtis Creek, which flows along the eastern boundary, contains “Catherine Falls,” a waterfall approximately 15 feet high. A number of other headwater streams and springs flow through the property and are protected by forested buffers.

Owners Bern and Ellen Schumak sold the property to BRC at a discount as they were committed to seeing it protected forever.

“After owning and enjoying the property for years and raising my family it only seemed appropriate that others should be able to enjoy the beauty of Backbone Ridge and the peacefulness of Catherine Falls,” Bern Schumak said in a statement. “Hopefully the Backbone Ridge area can be enjoyed by the public in the future.”

Funding for this purchase was made possible by Fred and Alice Stanback and the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund. The N.C. State Forest Service will manage the land as part of the Backbone Ridge Educational State Forest and be open to the public for education and recreation.

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