How do you engage a community in a conversation?
Sandy Mush Collaborative Forest Restoration Project
The Sandy Mush Forest Restoration Project is a pilot program. EcoForesters sees similar trends threatening forests in other communities and our goal is to demonstrate success in Sandy Mush before implementing this program in other forest communities in need.
From our time providing forestry services in the Sandy Mush region of Western North Carolina, we knew that the rich soils and past agricultural history made for suitable conditions for Non-Native Invasive Species (NNIS). Pasture lands converting back to forest and other areas impacted by humans were opening the door for Oriental bittersweet, multi-flora rose, kudzu, tree of heaven, and other NNIS to flourish. Left unchecked, they can take down healthy trees and blanket the shrub layer of a forest, rendering it incapable of regeneration. We also have a healthy appreciation for the time, expense, and planning involved to mount a defensive and control these aggressive plants.
Knowing that this issue impacted both private and conservation lands, we set out to engage the Sandy Mush community. To seek solutions and learn more about how to help with the stewardship of an area with high conservation and cultural value. To do so, would require partners, expertise, and a group willing to identify the needs of the community and seek innovative solutions. The Sandy Mush Forest Restoration Coalition was formed by EcoForesters and our key partners, the Forest Stewards Guild and the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. Our three groups brought together a coalition of government agencies, nonprofits, private businesses, and members of the Sandy Mush community to formulate an action plan that would sustain landowners while outwardly showing a community what was possible.
Coalition members met three times in year one to discuss the stewardship challenges facing landowners. Through those meetings, a Coalition Action Plan was written that included a vision for Sandy Mush that maintained vibrant forests, cultural heritage, and a quality of life for community residents. It also provided clear strategies to engage landowners in stewardship training and assistance while helping them meet their individual stewardship goals. Hard work was put into year one planning and we are excited about year two filled with implementation opportunities.
Year One Accomplishments
- Restore Native Species Habitat on Conservation Lands
- Formed the Sandy Mush Forest Restoration Coalition
- Increase the capacity for landowners to steward their forest
- Formulation of the Coalition Action Plan
- Host the first annual Forest Stewardship Gathering
Year Two Goals & Objectives
- Control invasive plants, pests, and pathogens
- Create and promote neighbor-to-neighbor learning networks
- Assist landowners to gain access to existing cost share resources
- Provide virtual and in person outreach to landowners
Sandy Mush Forest Restoration Coalition Partners
- Buncombe County Soil & Water
- Madison County Soil & Water
- Natural Resource Conservation Service
- NC Forest Service
- NC State Extension
- NC Wildlife Resource Commission
- Blue Ridge Natural Heritage Area
- Hemlock Restoration Initiative
- Land of Sky Regional Council
- Mountain True
- Sandy Mush Community Center
Email us if you would like to learn more about the Sandy Mush Forest Restoration Project.