The Uwharrie Region may be a hidden gem among recreationists, but the high water quality and presence of rare mussel species in this part of the Piedmont is well known among biologists. That is why when the last stretch of private land on Panther Branch, an outstanding resource water, came available for purchase, Three Rivers Land Trust acted quickly to secure the property. And just as eagerly, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) agreed to take over ownership of the site.

In October, 92 acres of land were transferred to NCWRC in Montgomery County, near Troy, NC. This unique tract of land contains 1,200 feet of frontage on Panther Branch and 2,500 feet of frontage on Barnes Creek, both of which are classified as outstanding resource waters, the highest quality classification that the State of North Carolina gives to any stream.

The tract was originally purchased by the Salisbury-based TRLT from Jordan Lumber in 2021 because of its ecological significance and location as a USFS inholding. With the transfer to NCWRC, the entire stream is now permanently conserved, protecting several species of rare mussels with it. These freshwater mussel species, such as the Green floater (Lasmigona subviridis), are indicative of high-water-quality given their sensitivity to water pollutants.

“The conservation of this property has water quality, wildlife habitat and public access implications,” says Crystal Cockman, Associate Director of TRLT. “Currently, loblolly pines cover the majority of the property, but soon the forest stand will be converted into a more natural forest type, most likely short-leaf pine, which will provide high habitat value to many wildlife species. We are excited to know this land and its rare mussel species will now be permanently conserved.”

“The transfer of this tract combines two of our core tenants here at Three Rivers Land Trust,” states Travis Morehead, Executive Director of TRLT, “and that is expanding public lands and protecting local waters. We were excited for the opportunity to protect this tract and transfer it to the NCWRC to protect water quality and for the public’s use as game lands.”

A ribbon cutting open to the public celebrating this transfer will take place on October 20th at 10:00am. This event will occur at the Uwharrie Trail trailhead located on Tower Road in Montgomery County, and attendees can follow the Land Trust event signs.

An approximately 2-mile round trip hike to the newly transferred property will be offered. This project was completed with funding from TRLT Members, Jack Horan, Fred and Alice Stanback, and the NC Land and Water Fund.

To learn more about how to conserve your lands or how you can support Three Rivers Land Trust in their conservation mission, please contact Emily Callicutt, Senior Land Protection Specialist at Three Rivers Land Trust by calling 704- 647-0302 or by email at

About Three Rivers Land Trust

Three Rivers Land Trust works with private landowners and public agencies to conserve the most important natural areas, scenic rivers, family farms, and historic places in a 15-county region of the central Piedmont and Sandhills. Since 1995, The Land Trust has worked to offer reasonable and attractive options to landowners who want to save their lands for future generations to enjoy. Our mission is to work thoughtfully and selectively with property owners, conserving land that is essential to our region. For more information about Three Rivers Land Trust, please contact the Land Trust at 704-647-0302 or or visit their website at