New Refuge in North Carolina
April 23, 2015 – A new national wildlife refuge has been established in western North Carolina. Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge – the 563rd refuge in the National Wildlife Refuge System - will be devoted to the conservation of southern Appalachian mountain bogs, one of the rarest and most imperiled habitats in the United States. There are 11 refuges in North Carolina; Mountain Bogs Refuge is the first one west of Charlotte.
“While western North Carolina has beautiful swaths of conserved public lands, mountain bogs, which are home to several endangered species, are largely unprotected,” explained Mike Oetker, Deputy Regional Director for the Service’s Southeast Region. “People have worked for decades to conserve these bogs, and creating this refuge was an opportunity to build on that effort in a significant way.”
The Nature Conservancy donated an easement on a 39-acre parcel owned in Ashe County to officially establish the refuge.
Mountain bogs are typically small and widely scattered across the landscape, often isolated from other wetlands. Important to wildlife, they’re home to five endangered species – bog turtles, green pitcher plant, mountain sweet pitcher plant, swamp pink (a lily) and bunched arrowhead. They also provide habitat for migratory birds and important game animals, including mink, woodcock, ruffed grouse, turkey and wood duck. Bogs are breeding habitat for many species of amphibians, especially salamanders, for which the Southern Appalachians have the greatest diversity in the nation. In addition to their wildlife importance, bogs provide key services to humans. They have a natural capacity for regulating water flow - holding floodwaters like giant sponges and slowly releasing water to nearby streams, thus decreasing the impacts of floods and droughts.
In addition to The Nature Conservancy, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy has been very supportive of the new refuge, and has long been active in bog conservation.
The refuge may eventually grow to 23,000 acres, depending on the willingness of landowners to sell and the availability of funds to purchase those lands. To guide acquisition, and bog conservation in general, the Service has identified 30 sites, or Conservation Partnership Areas, containing bogs and surrounding lands. These sites are scattered across Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Clay, Graham, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Transylvania, Wilkes and Watauga counties in North Carolina, and Carter and Johnson counties in Tennessee. The Service will look primarily within these Conservation Partnership Areas to acquire land and/or easements. For those acres that won’t be acquired, the Service will work to support private landowners in their stewardship activities. Funding to acquire land and easements would likely come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, funded by fees collected from the sale of publicly-owned offshore oil and gas drilling leases.
While some parts of the refuge would likely be too fragile for recreation, the Service anticipates other parts would be open for wildlife-based recreation, including hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, education, and interpretation.