The LandTrust and the N.C. Zoo have officially purchased the largest remaining known stand of old-growth Piedmont longleaf pine in North Carolina, located in northern Montgomery County. Longleaf pine forests historically covered more than 90 million acres all along the southeastern United States, but have been reduced to only 3% of that acreage currently. This newly preserved tract is a truly one-of-a-kind forest, with some trees near 200 years old. Many of the trees here have been “boxed” and bear the old scars from the turpentine industry of the past when tar and resin from the trees was used on naval ships. Longleaf forests are a unique ecosystem home to a whole suite of endemic species.
On December 30th, the NC Zoo acquired half of the 116-acre property and The LandTrust purchased the other half. The Zoo obtained grant funds through the NC Natural Heritage Trust Fund, which preserves natural areas and rare species across our state. The LandTrust obtained interest-free loan funding through the Norcross Wildlife Foundation to purchase the remaining acreage, and will continue to work with the Zoo to find grant funding to pay off the loan for eventual Zoo ownership of the entire tract. Funds were also provided by Fred and Alice Stanback to purchase a 2-year option in summer of 2010 with the family members who inherited the property, previously owned by the late Margaret Nichols. Ms. Nichols lived here until her death, and she loved the longleaf pines and would not let them be cut down. She was a naturalist herself, and knew the importance of longleaf forests for wildlife. A relative recounted that when she was young, a very old man told her he remembered a time when he could leave that property and ride all the way to Fayetteville and never be out from under the shade of a longleaf pine.
The Zoo will develop hiking trails and partner with local schools to develop an outdoor environmental education program here. Some neat critters who call this special place home are spotted salamanders, timber rattlesnake, and Kentucky warbler. For more info you can visit our website at www.landtrustcnc.org or call us at 704-647-0302. Please contact us if you want to learn more about the project or to donate towards its completion.