FRANKLIN, NC — President Obama signed legislation last week that will be used to purchase private land and give the public access to a gorgeous waterfall in Pisgah National Forest. The funding will also be used to expand the Uwharrie National Forest, give North Carolinians more fishing and hiking opportunities and protect wildlife habitat.
“Because of this funding, there is finally public access to Catawba Falls,” said Brent Martin, a conservationist in The Wilderness Society’s North Carolina office. “Western North Carolina hasn’t received land funding for almost 15 years, so it’s a pretty big deal for us.”
A partnership comprised by The Land Trust for Central North Carolina, Foothills Land Conservancy and The Wilderness Society helped make this possible. Rep. Heath Shuler (D-11th), Rep. David Price (D-4th), Rep. Howard Coble (R-6th) and Senator Kay Hagen (D-NC) also pushed hard for access to the waterfall and the additional land in Uwharrie National Forest.
Jason Walser, the executive director for the Land Trust for Central North Carolina, said waterfalls are a “shared cultural heritage for North Carolinians” as the state has several dozen remarkable falls.
Now that Obama has approved the funding, nonprofit organizations such as the Trust for Public Land and The Nature Conservancy will work with the federal government to acquire the land.
Below are details from the new legislation that fully explain the benefits for the people of North Carolina.
- Pisgah National Forest: Located on the major highway to the Blue Ridge Mountains and western North Carolina, the tourism from the waterfall will help economic development of Old Fort and McDowell County. Additionally, the project will protect the high water quality of the Catawba River and open its pristine trout waters to anglers.
- King Mountain/Uwharrie Tract: King Mountain is the highest point in the Uwharrie National Forest. The protection of the King Mountain property will provide a vital link in the historic Uwharrie National Recreational Trail. Filling in the gaps in the Uwharrie Trail will protect significant wildlife species, provide for recreational opportunities, and maintain a scenic view in this rapidly developing area. Located in the Barnes Creek and Poison Fork watershed, the property hosts rare and endangered mussels, a Piedmont Monadnock Forest, as well as a federally endangered plant, the Schweinitz’s Sunflower and a state rare species, Piedmont Indigo Bush.