Protect NEPA: Speak Up for Your Right to Speak Up!

Protect NEPA: Speak Up for Your Right to Speak Up!

The Trump administration is threatening the right to speak up about government projects that affect our communities and the mountains we love in Western NC.

What’s NEPA?

The National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, is such a basic part of our lives that we usually don’t even think about it. It’s what allows citizens to have a say about the plans for government projects that will affect the places they live, and requires the government to consider the environment when making critical decisions about road building, land management, permit applications and more.

It’s NEPA that allows everyday people to comment on the Forest Service’s Nantahala-Pisgah Forests Management Plan, or to know the costs and impacts of projects like the I-26 expansion before they occur. NEPA keeps these decisions from being made in the dark, and by requiring plan alternatives, it saves tax dollars.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is proposing revisions to NEPA that will undo the core principles of the act. We have until August 20 to submit public comments to defend NEPA. 

A photo from the Cut the Clearcutting campaign by WNCA, one of the organizations that merged to become MountainTrue. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) protects the right for communities to have a say about government projects affecting their local environment, and the NEPA process later prevented the type of clearcutting shown in this photo from occurring in the Sugar House Cove and Bluff Timber Sales.

Act Now So We Can Keep Acting in the Future. Use your own words, but remind the White House Council on Environmental Quality:

  • Your voice deserves to be heard when the government makes decisions that affect your community.
  • We should know the alternatives for government projects before spending billions of taxpayer dollars.
  • Knowing how projects will affect low-income communities and communities of color helps protect people who for too long have not had meaningful protections.
  • NEPA has been critical to protecting WNC’s communities and environment for decades, including for the north shore of Fontana Lake, the Bluff Mountain, Sugar House Cove, and Upper Santeetlah Timber Sales, and the I-26 Connector Project.

When you click the button below, you will be redirected to the formal comment page for the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Then, click the “Comment Now!” button on the upper right corner of the page to leave your public comment. There are additional directions on this page that you may read if you like, but you can comment without reading them.

How Has NEPA Helped Western North Carolina? A Few Examples:

1. “The Road to Nowhere”

NEPA analysis showed that the “Road to Nowhere” along the north shore of Fontana Lake in Smoky Mountains National Park was too expensive and too destructive to build. This resulted in the preservation of the largest roadless area in the Southern Appalachians (pictured here) and a $52 million dollar settlement for Swain County to fund schools and other services.

2. The Sugar House Cove Timber Sale

The NEPA process documented a wealth of rare species at the Sugar House Cove Timber Sale in Pisgah National Forest in Big Ivy in 1994. The plans for the timber sale were changed to avoid rare species habitat.

3. The Upper Santeetlah Timber Sale

The NEPA process documented old-growth forests rivaling those at Joyce Kilmer during the Upper Santeetlah Timber Sale in 2010, allowing these trees to gain legal protection.

4. The I-26 Connector Project

NEPA allowed for consideration of additional alternatives for the I-26 Connector Project, including a community-designed alternative that ended up being chosen for the project. NEPA also provided the opportunity for community advocates and the NC Department of Transportation to work together to address concerns so that the final project will be better and cheaper.

5. Bluff Mountain Timber Sale

The NEPA process documented the potential harms of building six miles of road on Bluff Mountain, and allowed Pisgah National Forest to redesign the Bluff Timber Sale so that it would not impact water quality or the Appalachian Trail.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

MountainTrue and Mainspring to Host Blackrock BioBlitz at Pinnacle Park in Sylva

MountainTrue and Mainspring to Host Blackrock BioBlitz at Pinnacle Park in Sylva

MountainTrue and Mainspring to Host Blackrock BioBlitz at Pinnacle Park in Sylva

Sylva, NC – On June 2, MountainTrue and Mainspring Conservation Trust will sponsor the Blackrock BioBlitz, a citizen-science program that will pair residents with more than a dozen expert naturalists to document the diverse natural communities of Sylva’s Pinnacle Park and its highest point, Blackrock Mountain.

What: Blackrock BioBlitz, sponsored by MountainTrue and Mainspring Conservation Trust.
Where: Pinnacle Park in Sylva
When: Meet up on Saturday, June 02 at 9 a.m. at the carpool location: Bryson Park, 585 Chipper Curve Rd, Sylva, NC 28779
This event is free and open to the public. For more information and to sign up, visit: https://mountaintrue.org/event/blackrock-bio-blitz/

The Blackrock BioBlitz is an opportunity for people who love the great outdoors and want to learn more about the plants and creatures who call Blackrock their home. The park has a significant range of elevation, rising from its base at 3,000 feet to over 5,600 feet.

“BioBlitzes are great citizen-science programs that help people connect with and learn about the natural world around them,” explains MountainTrue Public Lands Biologist Josh Kelly. “We’re going to be documenting a broad range of life at Pinnacle Park, including butterflies, beetles, aquatic invertebrates, vascular plants, bryophytes, lichens, birds, mammals, mushrooms, and more.”

Expert hike leaders will include faculty from UNC Asheville, Western Carolina University, Mars Hill University as well as naturalists from the U.S. Forest Service’s Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory, NC WRC, Asheville Mushroom Club, Joe Pye Ecological Consulting and MountainTrue.

We will lead groups for all fitness levels, from relaxed hikes through the areas closest to the the base of the park to vigorous ascents of Blackrock. Participants are encouraged to bring at least two quarts of water, rain gear, sturdy footwear and their own lunches.

To sign up, visit: https://mountaintrue.org/event/blackrock-bio-blitz/

About MountainTrue:
MountainTrue is the oldest grassroots environmental non-profit in North Carolina and champions resilient forests, clean waters and healthy communities. We engage in policy advocacy at all levels of government, local project advocacy, and on-the-ground environmental restoration projects across 23 counties in our region.

About Mainspring Conservation Trust:
Located in the heart of the Southern Blue Ridge, the mission of Mainspring Conservation Trust (formerly the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee) is to conserve the waters, forests, farms and heritage of the Upper Little Tennessee and Hiwassee River Valleys. We are dedicated to three core initiatives: conserve the land, restore the water, and connect the people to these valuable resources.


Participants of MountainTrue’s 2016 BioBlitz of Bluff Mountain in Hot Springs on the lookout for rare plant and animal species.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Series of Expert Panels to Discuss Future of Nantahala & Pisgah National Forests in Sylva, Boone, Brevard and Andrews this March

Series of Expert Panels to Discuss Future of Nantahala & Pisgah National Forests in Sylva, Boone, Brevard and Andrews this March

Series of Expert Panels to Discuss Future of Nantahala & Pisgah National Forests in Sylva, Boone, Brevard and Andrews this March

Media Contact:

Eliza Stokes, MountainTrue Advocacy & Communications Associate
Email: eliza@mountaintrue.org      Phone: 828-258-8737 ext. 218

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Sylva, N.C. – Experts representing a diverse group of conservation, recreation and business interests will take part in a series of special panel events on the future of the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests this March. The panels, which will be held in Sylva, Boone, Brevard, and Andrews, will present visions for a win-win forest management plan that allows all interests to co-exist and thrive in Western North Carolina’s national forests.

The Forest Plan Determines the Future of Our Forests

This year, the U.S. Forest Service will release the first draft of a new forest management plan for Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests. This big-picture plan sets the ground rules for all activities in the forests for the next fifteen years or more: from wildlife management and timber sales on public lands to the hiking, fishing and mountain biking for which our region is famous.

Comprising more than a million acres combined, Nantahala and Pisgah are a central part of our natural and cultural heritage and a driver of our region’s economy. Everyone who loves our forests has an issue they care about that will be impacted by the new forest management plan.

We’re Working Together for a Plan That Benefits Everyone

In the spirit of cooperation, the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership was formed to gather all forest interest groups into the same room at once: timber, water, wildlife, recreation, wilderness and more. We don’t leave anyone behind, and we believe it’s critical that everyone be willing to support everyone else’s values with the expectation that the support will be reciprocal. For the past five years, the Partnership has come up with a vision and a set of recommendations for a forest plan that supports all forest interests at once. The Forest Service has also received recommendations from other groups participating in the forest plan revision, and now we want to share the best of those ideas with the wider public.

The panel schedules are as follows:

Sylva

March 15 at the Jackson County Public Library, 6-7:30pm

Panelists: Josh Kelly, Public Lands Field Biologist for MountainTrue

Tommy Cabe, Tribal Forest Resource Specialist for the Eastern Band of Cherokee  Indians

Andrea Leslie, Habitat Conservation Coordinator for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Bill Kane, Board Member of the NC Wildlife Federation

Boone

March 22 at the Watauga County Public Library, 6-7:30pm

Panelists: Josh Kelly, Public Lands Field Biologist for MountainTrue

Julie White, Director of the Southern Off-Road Mountain Bicycle Association (SORBA)

Jim Sitts, Appalachian Timber Manager for Columbia Forest Products

Curtis Smalling, Director of Conservation for Audubon North Carolina in Boone

Deirdre Perot, Representative of BackCountry Horsemen of Pisgah

Brevard

March 27 at the Transylvania County Public Library, 6-7:30pm

Panelists: Tom Thomas, President of Back Country Horsemen of NC and Member of

North Carolina Horse Council

Megan Sutton, Southern Blue Ridge Program Director of The Nature Conservancy

David Whitmire, Fish & Wildlife Conservation Council and Co-Owner of Headwaters Outfitters

Kevin Colburn, National Stewardship Director of American Whitewater

Fred Hardin, Forester with Gilkey Lumber Company

Andrews

March 29 at the Andrews Community Center, 6-7:30pm

Panelists: Callie Moore, Executive Director of the Hiwassee Watershed Coalition

Tommy Cabe, Tribal Forest Resource Specialist for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

Sophia Paulos, Economic Development Director of Graham County

Chris Coxen, District Biologist for the National Wild Turkey Federation

The panels in Sylva, Boone and Andrews will be moderated by journalist and professor of economics at Blue Ridge Community College Jack Igelman. The panel in Brevard will be moderated by Lee McMinn of the Transylvania County Resources Council. The events are free and open to the public, and will include a question-and-answer portion with the audience at the end. Refreshments will be provided.

The panel events are sponsored by MountainTrue and the following members of the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership: Access Fund, American Whitewater, Backcountry Horsemen of NC, Carolina Land & Lakes RC&D, Columbia Forest Products, Defenders of Wildlife, Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition, International Mountain Bicycling Association, North Carolina Horse Council, North Carolina Youth Camp Association, Root Cause, Southern Appalachian Mineral Society, Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards, Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, the Wilderness Society, and Wild South. The panel in Brevard is also sponsored by the Fish & Wildlife Conservation Council.

For more information, visit: https://mountaintrue.org

RSVP for the event on Facebook:

Sylva: https://www.facebook.com/events/192008638062642/

Boone: https://www.facebook.com/events/152570672114961/

Brevard: https://www.facebook.com/events/170391063741025/

Andrews: https://www.facebook.com/events/340141849725131/

About MountainTrue:
MountainTrue is the oldest grassroots environmental non-profit in North Carolina and champions resilient forests, clean waters and healthy communities. We engage in policy advocacy at all levels of government, local project advocacy, and on-the-ground environmental restoration projects across 23 counties in our region.

About the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership:
The Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership strives to create a lasting voice for innovative management and public investment in the public forests of North Carolina’s mountains for the future. We envision a thriving, resilient forest within its natural range of variation, able to support healthy ecosystems, wildlife populations, local economies, and traditional uses. We envision a forest with the connectivity and integrity to remain resilient in the face of the changes and challenges of the future.

About the WNC Fish & Wildlife Conservation Council:

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Council, formed by a variety of sportsmen and other wildlife interests, supports the sound management and conservation of all wildlife resources in the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest and provides support and positive guidance to ensure a diversity of wildlife thrives there.

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Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Deciding the Next 15 Years for Western NC’s Forests: The Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Management Plan

Deciding the Next 15 Years for Western NC’s Forests: The Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Management Plan

Deciding the Next 15 Years for Western NC’s Forests: The Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Management Plan

This year, the National Forest Service will share the first draft of a new management plan for Western North Carolina’s two national forests, Nantahala and Pisgah.

This big-picture plan changes every 15 years, and is incredibly important because it sets the ground rules for all activities in the forests: from wildlife management and timber sales on public lands to the hiking, fishing and mountain biking for which our region is famous. Everyone who loves our forests has an issue they care about that will be impacted by the new forest management plan.

Comprising more than a million acres combined, Nantahala and Pisgah are a central part of our natural and cultural heritage and a driver of our region’s economy. Generations of people stretching back to the first inhabitants of the Blue Ridge have depended on our beautiful mountains, forests, rivers and streams for their livelihoods. Our crafts, cuisine and culture reflect this deep connection to the land. Nantahala and Pisgah are also among the most biodiverse temperate forests on earth, with more than 2,000 species of plants, over 400 bird species (over 220 that rely on these forests for nesting,) and more than 100 species of mammals that attract attention from biology experts and enthusiasts from all over the world.

 

Looking Glass rock amidst Western NC’s famous fall colors. 
The blackbelly salamander, a native to the Appalachian Mountains.

To honor this heritage and range of virtues, MountainTrue’s approach to our public lands seeks balance and sustainability. We want a forest plan that:

  • Protects our wild places and unique natural habitats for future generations,
  • Benefits our region’s economy,
  • Includes timber harvest as a tool for restoration and habitat creation,
  • And continues to offer inspiration, adventure and solitude to all of us who enjoy these mountains.  

Previous management plans for Nantahala and Pisgah have come up short. The 1987 plan tilted too far toward resource extraction and put our wild places and sources of clean water and recreation at risk. The Western North Carolina Alliance (now MountainTrue) appealed that plan, eventually prompting the Forest Service to add a 1994 amendment with protections for streams and springs, and to begin restoration for old-growth forests that had been decimated at the turn of the 20th Century. But the goals of the 1994 amendment were not realized due to decreasing federal budgets, lack of political leadership for protective designations, and a lack of ecosystem specific priorities for timber harvest and restoration.

Fast forward to recent years: the early draft of the forest management plan released in 2014 would have zoned almost 70% of the forest for timber management. MountainTrue again pushed back, with thousands of our supporters asking the Forest Service for a more balanced forest plan.

Those of us who care about our forests are trying something different this time: coming to the Forest Service with a win-win vision first.

That’s why MountainTrue is an enthusiastic participant in the Nantahala Pisgah Forest Partnership, a collaborative group that has gathered in the spirit of cooperation and compromise to bring all forest interest groups into the same room at once: timber, water, wildlife, recreation, wilderness and more. We don’t leave anyone behind, and we believe it’s critical that everyone be willing to support everyone else’s values with the expectation that the support will be reciprocal. For the past five years, the Partnership has come up with a vision and a set of win-win strategies for a forest plan that allows all of our interests to co-exist and thrive.

The Forest Service has also received recommendations from other groups participating in the forest plan revision, and now we want to share the best of those ideas with you. Check out our events calendar for upcoming panels, presentations and information sessions about the forest plan.

With the forest management plan expected to be released this year and the draft environmental impact statement expected this spring, this is your chance to take part in constructive dialogue with other voices that rely on our forests. These forests are valuable national treasures that deserve the best plan around – we hope you’ll help make that vision a reality!


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

MountainTrue Defends Old-Growth Forest in Jackson County

MountainTrue Defends Old-Growth Forest in Jackson County

MountainTrue Defends Old-Growth Forest in Jackson County

By Josh Kelly, Public Lands Field Biologist

On the steep, rocky slopes of Savannah Ridge in Jackson County, there is an ancient oak forest that has weathered centuries.

The oak trees are short and generally twisty; not worth much at the sawmill despite being hundreds of years old. These trees have stood, well-protected by the rugged terrain and their scant commercial value, even as the surrounding forests were logged in the early 20th century. Now, they are among the oldest and rarest trees in the Eastern United States.

Less than 0.6% of forests in the East qualify as old growth. In the Blue Ridge Mountains, we are blessed with a greater percentage, but still less than 5 percent. These old-growth forests hold a host of values: wildlife habitat, scientific information, undisturbed soils and genetics that have stood the test of time. Because these trees are so rare, so ecologically valuable and take hundreds of years to form, MountainTrue believes that existing old growth on public land should be protected from logging.

The Forest Service is not required by the current forest management plan to evaluate the old-growth condition of the stands they identify for timber sales. That’s where MountainTrue comes in. Our Public Lands staff reviews all timber projects in Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests for the presence of old growth.

We had a victory in protecting old growth just this past year. The story begins in 2016, when the Mossy Oak timber sale was put forth for public comment. The Mossy Oak Project included 235 acres of proposed logging in 10 separate units spread out over 9,500 acres. Most of the project made sense in balancing ecological and economic considerations, and the logging was designed to benefit species like deer, grouse and golden-winged warbler. However, two of the units caught our eye. Unit 6 overlapped with an important natural area identified by the NC Natural Heritage Program, and Unit 7 – part of that same ancient oak forest on Savannah Ridge in Jackson County, with the short, twisty trees – looked like a potential site of old-growth forest.

It turns out that Forest Service records indicated that Unit 7’s trees are, on average, over 150 years old. To increase the size of the unit, eight low-value acres of the ancient forest had been packaged with eight acres of younger, higher value forest. Beginning in April 2016, MountainTrue notified the Forest Service that we had identified old growth in Unit 7 of the Mossy Oak Project.

Counting the rings from the core sample allowed us to determine that this tree is part of an ancient old-growth forest.

After over a year of input, a visit to the site with the Forest Service and a formal objection to the Forest Supervisor, the eight acres of ancient oak forest from Unit 7 are no longer on the chopping block. Instead, the Forest Service and MountainTrue will work together to protect and enhance the old-growth characteristics of this small but invaluable forest. We hope that in the future it will not require such persistence to protect old growth on public land, but if there’s one thing MountainTrue has in spades, it’s persistence and love of the land.

In that spirit, we are working to ensure that old-growth forest is far more than an afterthought in the new Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Management Plan, which is due to be drafted in early 2018. We’ll fight to make sure the new plan has language to make the protection of existing old-growth forest just as important as creating young forest habitat through logging.

 

Stay tuned: The future of our region’s ancient forests hangs in the balance.

Want to join our Forest Management Plan campaign? Sign up for updates and action opportunities at mountaintrue.org/get-involved.

You Can Help Make This Work Possible!

Our Members Fuel Our Work


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Fires Creek Tract Acquired For Permanent Conservation In Nantahala National Forest!

Fires Creek Tract Acquired For Permanent Conservation In Nantahala National Forest!

Fires Creek Tract Acquired For Permanent Conservation In Nantahala National Forest!

Nov. 30, 2017

MountainTrue is thrilled to celebrate victory in a successful campaign to protect a 50-acre inholding within the Fires Creek watershed in Cherokee and Clay counties for permanent conservation as part of the Nantahala National Forest. We thank the Mainspring Conservation Trust and Fred and Alice Stanback for purchasing this stretch of forest, which will have a tremendous impact in protecting wildlife, water quality, recreation and wilderness in our public lands.

MountainTrue first joined the fight to preserve Fires Creek in 2008, after a proposal to build an access road within just a few feet of Fires Creek. The land, which had been privately owned, was the Fires Creek watershed’s only inholding – a term describing privately owned land inside the boundary of a national forest. The road construction would have required cutting into acid-bearing rock, a process that threatens water quality and has been shown to kill wildlife downstream. Our Public Lands Director & Ecologist, Bob Gale, expressed our opposition to the Forest Service. 

We spoke up again when the Forest Service was prepared to use a provision that did not apply to North Carolina – the Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) – in order to build the road, and again when emergency funds that had been allocated following severe storm damage were illegally used to expand a road near Fires Creek. We lead educational trips to Fires Creek, meeting with the Forest Service’s Tusquitee District Ranger and the Roads Engineer of the project to express our concerns, and we made public comments at every stage of the Forest Service’s environmental review process.

This designation will preserve Fires Creek for pristine trout fishing by protecting waters in Laurel Creek and Fires Creek drainages from sediment and acid-producing rock pollution. It will restore the ridge line section of the popular Fires Creek Rim Trail, increase recreational opportunities so more people can enjoy the incredible forests we share, and protect Fires Creek for generations to come. As Bob Gale said recently in the Asheville Citizen-Times, “It’s a win-win for the environment, for ecology, recreation values, the economy, the contiguous ownership of the Forest Service and the protection of water quality.”

For full coverage of the Fires Creek victory in the Citizen-Times, click here.

Want to get involved in our upcoming Forest Management Plan to help us win more conservation victories? Sign up for action opportunities here.  


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.