Crescent Resources, the real estate developing arm of Duke Power, announced in December that it has accepted a letter of intent from the North Carolina Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to purchase the properties known as Needmore in Macon and Swain counties for just over $19 million. If completed, the purchase would protect one of the last intact wild places in western NC from development.
With support from Crescent and TNC, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has submitted an application to the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund for funding of a portion of the acquisition. In August, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave the Wildlife Resources Commission $2 million toward the purchase of the tract. TNC, which has 12 months to close the purchase of the property, will look to other public and private funding sources to raise additional funds.
“For nearly three years, Crescent has worked closely with TNC to understand potential land uses from a conservation perspective. We are pleased with TNC’s decision to purchase the property,” said Scott Munday of Crescent Resources.
Needmore is the collective name for multiple parcels totaling 4,400 acres on a 27-mile stretch of the Little Tennessee River between Franklin, N.C., and Fontana Lake. The largest parcel, 4,000 contiguous acres, consists of 3,400 acres in Swain County and 600 acres in Macon County. Twelve non-contiguous parcels in Macon County account for the remaining 400 acres.
According to TNC, Needmore is one of the last remaining pristine wild places in western North Carolina. The properties are home to outstanding biological resources, including two federally endangered mussels, the Appalachian elktoe and the little pearlywing, as well as the endangered plant, the Virginia sweetspire. The Little Tennessee River supports populations of four federally listed and 12 state-listed species of animals and plants. The area is also rich in cultural history.
“The protection of Needmore has involved the public, private, and non-profit sectors working together to safeguard our state’s quality of life. This is conservation at its finest,” said Katherine Skinner, executive director of the North Carolina Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. “We are proud to offer this nationally significant part of our heritage as a holiday gift to current and future generations of North Carolinians.”
The Needmore property was transferred to Crescent Resources in 1999 by Duke Power, formerly Nantahala Power & Light, a division of Duke Energy. Since early 2000, Crescent and TNC have met with local governments, environmental organizations and area residents as part of a process to study potential land uses.
Skinner credits the Little Tennessee Land Trust with generating community support for the project. “We appreciate the efforts of the Little Tennessee Land Trust and the Southwestern Council of Governments,” she said. “Bill Gibson with the Council of Governments has worked to secure county and municipal support for the protection of Needmore, which is vital to the success of the project.”