On May 16, 2012, an advisory committee to the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program recommended that the state enter into a protective agreement with the owner of Box Creek Wilderness.
The 3300 acre tract of land links the Blue Ridge and the south mountains just east of Asheville and is home to an abundance of rare and endangered species including numerous rare plants and a crayfish found nowhere else on the planet.
Box Creek Wilderness straddles the border between McDowell and Rutherford Counties in what is one of the last remaining areas in the state of North Carolina that still harbors largely undisturbed natural habitats. It's the third largest privately held forest tract in McDowell and Rutherford Counties.
This area was spared when a mountain development concept failed to come to fruition, partly due to the weak economy. A conservation minded buyer acquired the property under foreclosure.
Now owned by Tim Sweeney, founder and CEO of Cary-based Epic Games, the site should soon be recognized through NHP's "significant natural areas" registry, which administers voluntary agreements with landowners who wish to preserve the high conservation value of their land.
Agreements with private individuals are crucial to protecting our states important natural areas since government funds cannot permanently protect all of them.
Sweeney is assisted by Durham-based Unique Places, LLC, which provides expertise to landowners in conservation planning, land stewardship, and the protection of natural and cultural resources. Unique Places has helped to protect other regions of land in our area including tracks that later became part of the nearby chimney Rock State Park.
Setting aside this area of land does not permanently protect it, however. Invasive species, exotic pests, and even ATV users can devastate the area over time.