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Pisgah National Forest gains ground

Henderson County's portion of Pisgah National Forest grew by 177 acres with Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy's January donation to the U.S. Forest Service of the Hoot Owl tract along Sitton Creek, a tributary of the North Mills River. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Pisgah National Forest is now a little bit bigger, thanks to a land donation near Mills River.

Henderson County's portion of Pisgah National Forest grew by 177 acres with Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy's January donation to the U.S. Forest Service of the Hoot Owl tract along Sitton Creek, a tributary of the North Mills River.

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The addition means an another parcel of national forest, formerly an island of public land surrounded by private property, is now connected to the main body of the forest. Thanks to the work of CMLC, the US Forest Service and partnering individuals and agencies, the unspoiled water quality in Sitton Creek will remain clean as it flows into the Mills River, a regional drinking water source.

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The land also contains a unique forest feature.

"It's a really interesting, different landscape amid what appears to be just regular forest. It's a wetland environment, provides habitat for numerous species of plants, animals and other wildlife," Owen Carson, of Equinox Environmental, said.

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CMLC coordinated the transfer of the Hoot Owl property to the U.S. Forest Service and secured conservation easements on two other adjoining tracts. These are the 77-acre property known as Grey Heaven north of the Hoot Owl property that encompasses the upper reaches of Sitton Creek and a protective easement that longtime Mills River physician Dr. Howard Norton donated on 91 acres of his land just south and east of the Hoot Owl tract.

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