Protection of the South Mountains range starts close to home. The ancient mountains rise from the foothills just south of Morganton and encompass nearly 100,000 acres including portions of Rutherford, Burke, Cleveland, McDowell, Catawba and Lincoln counties.
The nationally significant “heart of the South Mountains”, representing almost half the range, is now protected thanks in large measure to Foothills Conservancy’s protection efforts.
In 1995, Foothills Conservancy’s protection work began in the South Mountains when the 18,000-acre Rollins Tract was threatened by development. In 1998, Foothills Conservancy partnered with the N.C. Chapter of The Nature Conservancy to raise funds and acquire this important tract for $13.2 million and then convey it to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission to form the South Mountains Game Land. In later years, Foothills Conservancy led efforts which added more than 9,000 acres to South Mountains State Park, making it the largest state park in North Carolina. To date, Foothills Conservancy has permanently protected more than 28,000 acres of the South Mountains.
In 2010, Foothills Conservancy completed the South Mountains Outstanding Resource Waters Riparian Corridor Conservation Plan identifying priority areas in a 53-square mile study area where protection will benefit overall stream and watershed health. We continue to focus our protection efforts on special places in and surrounding the South Mountains, especially the crucial Catawba and Broad River watersheds that originate in the range and supply drinking water to millions of people.