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. 
  • Events and outreach to connect landowners with resources to restore their forest. This includes a description of cost-share programs, tax incentive programs, and technical services available.
  • Improve strategic planning of conservation outcomes by creating a list of high priority forest restoration areas through remote sensing and digital mapping of Sandy Mush. 
  • Form the Sandy Mush Forest Restoration 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. SAHC has protected 11,575 acres in Sandy Mush. Much of SAHC’s conserved land has been heavily degraded by non-native plants. The remaining 39,425 acres in Sandy Mush is owned primarily by family forest landowners. Many landowners don’t have the resources or capacity to implement forest management 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 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

Nick at 828-772-7992 or by email:

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