USFWS Proposes to Expand Mountain Bog Conservation in North Carolina

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeks public input on its proposal to expand the acquisition boundary for Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge.

“Since Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge was established in 2015, we’ve heard from numerous private landowners interested in supporting the refuge through land sales and donations,” said Andrew Hammond, Refuge Manager. “If approved, this proposed expansion would increase opportunities to work with those landowners. It also brings some keys sites into our focus areas.”

The Service currently has 30 sites, or Conservation Partnership Areas (CPAs), where it focuses conservation efforts for Southern Appalachian bogs – a rare habitat that is home to several imperiled plants and animals including the threatened bog turtle, the endangered mountain sweet pitcher plant, and the endangered bunched arrowhead.

Service work in these areas follows a two-pronged strategy: supporting interested landowners in their land management, and acquiring land for Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge through purchase and donation from willing landowners. The proposal would create two new CPAs, one that lies in parts of both McDowell and Rutherford counties, and another in Macon County; and expand five of the existing Conservation Partnership Areas to include additional habitat for rare species.

This would expand the acquisition boundary of Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge.  A refuge acquisition boundary limits where the Service can acquire interest in property- either fee simple, a conservation easement, or cooperative agreement – and make it part of a National Wildlife Refuge. In order to be considered for inclusion in a National Wildlife Refuge, land must be within an acquisition boundary. Being within an acquisition boundary does not change any landowner rights or responsibilities unless and until a willing landowner decides to donate or sell all, part, or an interest in their property to the Service for inclusion in a refuge. Otherwise, landowners still manage their land as they always have and may sell to anyone they choose at any time. Being within an acquisition boundary provides willing and interested landowners the option of selling or donating land to the Service to become part of a National Wildlife Refuge if Service funding permits and both the Service and landowner are willing.

The Conservation Partnership Areas within the refuge acquisition boundary currently include 45,000 acres, with the Service authorized to purchase up to 23,000 of those acres to add to Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge. The Service is considering increasing the acreage within the acquisition boundary to approximately 95,000 acres, with authorization to purchase up to 65,000 acres pending funds and landowner interest.  However, exact acreage of the proposed expansion is yet to be determined, as the Service considers the extent of rare species populations, conservation efforts by other organizations, and landowner interest.

While the refuge acquisition boundary includes sites in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, all of the proposed additions and expansions are in North Carolina.

Conservation Partnership Areas proposed for creation are:

  • Box Creek CPA in McDowell and Rutherford counties, which would include habitat for federally-protected bog turtles and several rare species.
  • Black Rock CPA in Macon County to help conserve a Southern Appalachian purple pitcher plant population.

Proposed CPA expansions include:

  • Bluff CPA in Ashe County to include bog acreage inadvertently left out of the original partnership area boundary.
  • Sparta CPA in Alleghany County to include additional bog turtle habitat.
  • Pinnacle CPA in Watauga County to include a recently-discovered maternity site for North Carolina’s only endangered Virginia big-eared bat population.
  • Three Peaks CPA in Watauga County to include Gray’s lily habitat.
  • Butt CPA in Henderson County to include an endangered bunched arrowhead population.
  • The Service currently seeks public input on the proposed expansion.

There will be five open houses across the region to receive comments and answer questions about the proposed expansion:
FranklinMacon County
4:30 – 6:30 p.m., December 12; Macon County Public Library, 149 Siler Farm Rd., Franklin, NC 28734

Hendersonville, Henderson County
4:30 – 6:30 p.m., December 12; Henderson County Public Library, 301 N Washington St., Hendersonville, NC 28739

Rutherford County
5:00 – 7:00 p.m., December 13, 2016; Mountains Branch Library, 150 Bill’s Creek Road, Lake Lure, NC 28746

Boone, Watauga County
4:30 – 6:30 p.m., December 14, 2016; Watauga County Public Library, 140 Queen St., Boone, NC 28607

West Jefferson, Ashe County
4:30 – 6:30 p.m., December 14, 2016; Ashe County Public Library, 148 Library Dr., West Jefferson, NC 28694

Marion, McDowell County
4:30 – 6:30 p.m., December 15, 2016; McDowell County Public Library, 90 W. Court St., Marion, NC 28752

Comments may also be emailed to; mailed to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 718 Juliette Road, Round Oak, GA, 31038; or telephoned to 478/986-5441.

Southern Appalachian Mountain bogs can be found from southwest Virginia to north Georgia, though most are found in western North Carolina. A handful of extremely rare plants and animals depend on them for survival, including carnivorous plants like the mountain sweet pitcher plant, and the bog turtle, North America’s smallest turtle. Within the current Conservation Partnership Areas, Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge consists of 39 acres with bog conservation efforts primarily focused on working with private landowners, including stream and wetland restoration at sites in Henderson County, rare plant research in Transylvania County, and management of invasive plants at several sites.

Article by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.