Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina purchases 96 acres for addition to South Mountains Game Lands

On March 5, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina purchased 96 acres in Burke County for permanent conservation. The conservancy plans to donate the property to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission for addition to the South Mountains Game Lands off Enola Road in Morganton.

Thanks to a private contribution, the conservancy purchased the property from Sharon and Terry Winters.

The property will be available for public use like the adjacent South Mountains Game Lands. The Wildlife Resources Commission manages these lands for conservation of wildlife species and to provide public access for hunting, fishing, trapping, and other passive recreation. Since 1995, Foothills Conservancy has permanently protected more than 19,000 acres as part of the South Mountains Game Lands.

The land has a long and interesting lineage. It was settled by Anderson Denton in the early 1800s and after his death, Noah, one of Anderson’s two sons, inherited the property. During the Great Depression, Noah sold the property to Isaac Taylor, the father of singer and guitarist James Taylor. Isaac Taylor moved to Massachusetts but eventually returned to North Carolina with his family where he worked at UNC Chapel Hill as a professor and later served as dean.

Following Taylor’s death, his family members liquidated much of their assets, including land holdings. Sharon Winters, a descendent of the Dentons, received a letter offering the property for sale and purchased the 96-acre tract — called the Isaac Taylor Estate at the time of purchase — in the 1990s.

“When I read an article about Foothills Conservancy in the paper, I knew that was my best option when I was ready to sell,” said Winters.

For her, conserving the integrity of the property was most important.

“You can gift your kids money, but eventually it is spent,” she added. “This land will always be there. By selling it to the conservancy, I knew they would take care of it.”

Acquisition of the Winters property ensures permanent protection of Little Cedar Mountain. Its summit offers long range views of Grandfather Mountain, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and beyond Hickory. Conservation of the property also includes protection of headwaters of the Henry Fork River, an Outstanding Resource Water in North Carolina. This classification identifies waters considered to be high quality with exceptional ecological significance.

“Foothills Conservancy greatly appreciates the Winters working with us to permanently conserve their land on Little Cedar Mountain,” said Tom Kenney, the conservancy’s land protection director. “This project fills in a significant gap between state-owned wildlife game lands.”