By Dave Russell
Mainspring Conservation Trust recently closed on an inholding property, referred to as Judaculla Ridge, in the Caney Fork Valley of Jackson County.
“It’s the headwaters of Caney Fork, a really robust watershed full of brook trout,” said Emmie Cornell, a land conservation associate with Mainspring. “This and all other Mainspring-owned properties are open to the public.”
An inholding is a tract of privately owned land surrounded by public land.
Rules prohibit the U.S. Forest Service or N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission from working with property owners to purchase property, but organizations like Mainspring can step in and act as a middle man to buy land and preserve it for public use.
Mainspring paid $375,000 for the 43-acre tract, according to the Jackson County Register of Deeds.
“We bought it at fair market value because other land developers were looking to purchase it at the exact same time,” Cornell said. “Mainspring also owns another 26 acres just south of this parcel.”
Mainspring might not own the property in the future, but could hold a conservation easement on it to ensure it remains preserved as public land and its uses based on conservation.
“We’ll be passing the title on to the U.S. Forest Service or the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission within a few years,” she said. “If it goes to the Wildlife Resources Commission, then we will sell an easement to the state and then transfer it to the WRC, but that is to be determined.”
The property sits in a highly visible place within the Blue Ridge Parkway viewshed. Its red spruce topped peaks are visible from the Lone Bald overlook on the Parkway. It also lies a couple of miles from the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
Conservation efforts would protect several other properties in the future, she said.
“This is part two of several phases of conservation within a multi-parcel Forest Service inholding that Mainspring and several other landtrusts in the region have prioritized,” Cornell said. “A lot of these inholdings are within the viewshed of the Blue Ridge Parkway.”