Sandy Mush Collaborative Forest Restoration

Photo credits: Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy
Photo credits: Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy

Improving forest stewardship and resiliency

In the Sandy Mush Community of Western North Carolina, we are partnering with Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) and EcoForesters to increase capacity to restore native species habitat and improve forest stewardship. Our goal is to foster healthy and resilient forests that protect environmental values, cultural heritage, economic opportunities, and quality of life for community residents. We are working to: 

  • Restore native species habitat on SAHC owned land, SAHC easement land, other permanently conserved lands, and family forestland, in that order. This includes controlling non-native invasive plants, enhancing forest health and developing forest stewardship plans. 
  • Host events and outreach, virtually and otherwise, to connect landowners with resources to restore their forest. This includes a description of cost-share programs, tax incentive programs, and technical services available.
  • Form a lasting Sandy Mush Forest Restoration Coalition (the Coalition), by bringing together diverse stakeholders in the community and creating a collaborative platform for shared decision-making.

Sandy Mush is a high priority conservation area occupying approximately 51,000 acres in the mountains of western North Carolina. Ninety-two percent of forestland in Sandy Mush is privately owned, and the rest is owned by SAHC and NC Wildlife Resources Commission. SAHC has protected 11,575 acres in Sandy Mush, and much of their conserved land has been heavily degraded by invasive, non-native plants.

As a focal area for timber production due to its rich cove forests, much of the forestland in Sandy Mush has been harvested heavily at some point in its past and needs some degree of forest restoration to promote biodiversity and ecosystem health. With limited economic resources, many landowners don’t have the disposable income necessary to invest in forest stewardship activities to promote forest health and restore native habitat. 

The project’s target outcomes include: 

  • Enhanced forest ecosystem health and resiliency through increased forest restoration activities and reduced presence of non-native, invasive plants. 
  • Empowered family forest landowners who implement responsible forest management and take advantage of cost-share assistance programs.
  • Increased social capital and common good through community participation in the Coalition and an increase in shared decision-making across ideological backgrounds. 

Project contacts

For more information on the Guild’s work with this effort, please contact

Jen at 828-772-7992 or by email: jen.chandler@forestguild.org.

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