On December 22nd, Three Rivers Land Trust (TRLT) closed a 92 acre project in Montgomery County – one that will help protect the high water quality designation along Barnes Creek and Panther Branch. Both tributaries are designated as outstanding water sources, which is the highest water quality designation that the state of North Carolina gives any stream.

This property is exceptional because of the water frontage, rare species, being in viewshed of the Uwharrie Trail and almost completely surrounded by U.S. Forest Service land. Knowing this, the previous owner (Jordan Lumber Company) came to Three Rivers Land Trust and offered TRLT a unique opportunity to purchase the property.

“This property is definitely a special one,” stated Crystal Cockman, TRLT Associate Director. “We are elated that the previous owner approached us with their interest in ensuring this property’s protection. This is the only private land on the entirety of Panther Branch, and now that it is conserved, we are protecting this water resource in its entirety.”

“Mussels are indicator species, which means they are used to determine the water quality in an area,” said Emily Callicutt, TRLT Land Protection Specialist. Callicutt described that “there are numerous species of rare mussel found in this stream, including a species previously believed to be extinct, the Carolina elktoe. The presence of rare mussels, like the Carolina elktoe, show the pristine water quality of this area because the mussels cannot exist in areas with poor water quality.”

“We are extremely proud of conserving this property, especially with its proximity to the Uwharrie Trail,” commented TRLT Executive Director Travis Morehead. “We [TRLT] have the long term plan of adding this property to the public trust. At Three Rivers, it is part of our mission to provide access for public recreation, and this project will do just that.”

This project was made possible in part by funding from Fred and Alice Stanback, and Jack Horan, along with other private donations from Land Trust supporters.

To learn more ab out how to conserve your own lands or how you can support Three Rivers Land Trust in our conservation mission, please contact Crystal Cockman, Associate Director of Three Rivers Land Trust at 704-647-0302 or crystal@threeriverslandtrust.org.